November 14, 2002

OVERRUNNING THE BASES. 16

Twenty odd years ago George Wright suggested to the Chairman of the old
National Association's Committee of Rules that it would be a good plan to
allow base runners to overrun first base, giving them the privilege to
return and touch the base again without being put out, before attempting
to make another base. The suggestion was adopted, and the rule went into
effect in 1870, and it has been in operation ever since. When the
amendment was presented at the convention of 1869, a delegate wanted the
rule applied to all bases, but the majority preferred to test the
experiment as proposed at first base. The rule of extending the
over-running to all the bases was advocated at the last meeting in
1888 of the Joint Committee of Rules, but it was not adopted. The rule
is worthy of consideration, in view of the constant sprains and
injuries of one kind and another arising from sliding to bases. There has
not been a single instance of an injury occurring from the working of the
rule of overrunning first base since the rule was adopted, while serious
injuries are of daily occurrence in match games, arising from collisions at
other bases than first, and these are due entirely to the absence of the
overrunning rule. The most irritating disputes caused by questions involved
in sliding to bases and in running up against base players, are also due to
the same cause. Why not put a stop to these injuries and these disputes by
giving the base runner the same privileges in overrunning second, third and
home bases that he now has in overrunning first base? In every way will the
adoption of the rule suggested be an improvement, and not the least of its
advantages will be its gain to base running, which is, next to fielding,
the most attractive feature of our game.

THE PATRONS OF BALL GROUNDS.

There are two classes of the patrons of professional baseball grounds
which club Presidents and Directors have their choice in catering to for
each season, and these are, first, the reputable class, who prefer to see
the game played scientifically and by gentlemanly exemplars of the
beauties of the game; and second, the hoodlum element, who revel in noisy
coaching, "dirty ball playing," kicking against the umpires, and exciting
disputes and rows in every inning. The Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston
Clubs in the League have laid out nearly $200,000 within the past two
years in constructing their grounds for the express purpose of eliciting
the very best patronage of their respective cities. The Brooklyn Club have
excelled in this respect in the American Association by constructing their
grounds for a similar class of patrons. But all of the clubs have not
followed this example, the majority committing the blunder of considering
only the tastes and requirements of the hoodlum class apparently in
catering for patronage. This is a great financial mistake. Experience has
shown conclusively that it pays best to cater solely for the best class of
patronage. The work in doing this is so much more satisfactory for one
thing, and it is sure to be the most remunerative. If there is any sport
which yields a fair equivalent in the special attractions it presents for
an admission fee of half a dollar, it is such ball playing as was
exhibited during the past season on the grounds of the leading clubs of
the National League. A feature of the attendance at the League games of
1888 was the presence of the fair sex in such goodly numbers. Where the
ladies congregate as spectators of sports a refining influence is brought
to bear which is valuable to the welfare of the game. Besides which, the
patronage of ladies improves the character of the assemblages and helps to
preserve the order without which first-class patronage cannot be obtained.

THE VALUE OF TEAM WORK.

Nothing has been more gratifying to the admirers of the game in the
practical experience of improved points of play realized during the season
of 1888, than the growing appreciation, by the most intelligent patrons of
the game, of the value of team work at the bat, and its great superiority
as an element of success in winning pennants, to the old school plan of
record batting as shown in the efforts to excel solely in home run hitting
and the slugging style of batting.

So intent have been the general class of batsmen on making big batting
averages that the science of batting and the advantages to be derived from
"playing for the side of the bat" have been entirely lost sight of until
within the past year. Now, however, the best judges of play in the game
have begun to "tumble to" the benefits and to the attractions of team work
at the bat, as illustrated by skillful sacrifice hits, batting to help
base-runners around and to bring runs in, and not that of going to the bat
with the sole idea of trying to "hit the ball out of the lot," or "knock
the stuffing out of it," in the effort to get in the coveted home run.
with its costly expenditure of physical strength in the 120 yards spurt in
running which it involves.

There is one thing the season's experience has shown, and that is that
field captains of intelligence and judgment, like Anson, Comiskey, Ward,
Irwin, et al. have come to realize the fact that team batting is a very
important element in bringing about pennant winning, and by team batting
is meant the rule which makes everything secondary in the work of the
batsman to the important point to forward men around the bases and to
bring runs in. The batsman who excels in the essentials of the art of
batting is the true leader, though he may not make a three-bagger or a
home run more than half a dozen times in a season's batting. And a part of
team work at the bat is sacrifice hitting--sacrifice hits being hits
which, while they result in the striker's retirement, nevertheless either
forward runners to the bases or bring runs in. After a batsman has become
a base-runner, whether by a hit, a fielding error, or a battery error, if
he be forwarded to second by a safe bunt or a neat tap of the ball, both
being base hits; or by a sacrifice hit, the batsman is equally entitled to
credit if he forward a runner by such hit.

In regard to the slugging tactics which the batsman goes in for extra
hits at all costs, it may partly be regarded as a very stupid piece of
play at the bat to endeavor to make a home run when there is no one on the
bases to benefit by it, and for the reason that it subjects the batsman to
a violent sprinting of 120 yards, and professional sprint-runners who
enter for runs of that distance, even when in training for the effort,
require a half-hour's good rest before making another such effort. And yet
there are batsmen who strive to make hits which necessitate a 120 yards
run two or three times in a single game. Do field captains who go in for
this sluggish style of batting ever think of the wear and tear of a
player's physical strength in this slugging business?

EVILS IN THE PROFESSIONAL ARENA.

The two great obstacles in the way of the success of the majority of
professional ball players are wine and women. The saloon and the brothel
are the evils of the baseball world at the present day; and we see it
practically exemplified in the failure of noted players to play up to the
standard they are capable of were they to avoid these gross evils. One day
it is a noted pitcher who fails to serve his club at a critical period of
the campaign. Anon, it is the disgraceful escapade of an equally noted
umpire. And so it goes from one season to another, at the cost of the loss
of thousands of dollars to clubs who blindly shut their eyes to the costly
nature of intemperance and dissipation in their ranks. We tell you,
gentlemen of the League and Association, the sooner you introduce the
prohibition plank in your contracts the sooner you will get rid of the
costly evil of drunkenness and dissipation among your players. Club after
club have lost championship honors time and again by this evil, and yet
they blindly condone these offences season after season. The prohibition
rule from April to October is the only practical rule for removing
drunkenness in your teams.

PRIVATE SIGNALS IN COACHING.

The coaching of base runners by private signals is an improvement in the
game which is bound to come into vogue eventually. The noisy method of
coaching which disgraced most of the American Association club teams in
1888 is doomed to die out. In the case of the coaching of deaf mutes, like
Hoy and others, private signals had to be employed, and it can readily be
seen how effective these can be made to be when properly systematized.
There is not a single point in noisy verbal coaching which aids
base-runners. In fact, in five cases out of six, it is a detriment to
the runner. The fact is, the whole object of rowdy coaching is to annoy
and confuse the battery players and not to help base-running. The way to
rattle both the catcher and pitcher with the best effect, and to do it
legitimately, is by private coaching. In this way a pitcher is more likely
to get bothered in his endeavors to interpret the private signals than by
the noisiest of verbal coaching.

[Illustration: Brooklyn Grounds.]