Table of Tables

   Changing the Rules
   Chronology of Changes to Major League Baseball Official Rules

Table F: Rule Changes 1870-1899

Table F: Rule Changes 1870-1899
1870 A runner is allowed to overrun first base. 7.08
1870 The batter is given the right to call for a high or a low ball.  
1872 The pitcher is allowed to snap the ball during delivery, but he's restricted to a below-the-waist motion. 8.01
1872 The ball is required to weigh not less than 5 and not more than 5 1/4 ounces, with a circumference of not less than 9 and not more than 9 1/4 inches. 1.09
1872 An "injured" ball is to be changed only in even innings upon request of the captain of either team. 3.01
1875 The (unpadded) catcher's glove is introduced, by Charles G. Waite. 1.12
1876 The National League is established.  
1876 The umpire says, "Play" for the first time. 4.15A
1876 If an umpire is unable to see whether a catch has been fairly made, he may confer with spectators and players.  
1877 To choose an umpire the league selects "three gentlemen of repute" in each city where there is a team. At least three hours before a game the visiting team chooses the umpire from among them. 9.01
1877 A time at bat is not charged to a batter who walks. 10.16
1877 Canvas-covered bases are required. They are fifteen inches square, the same as today. 1.06
1877 Home plate is relocated to its present spot. 1.05
1878 Umpires get paid, by the home team: five dollars a game  
1879 The National League names twenty men living in or near cities where the league has teams as "fit" to be umpires, and each game is run by someone from the list. This rule remained in force until 1883. 9.01
1879 An umpire's fees and expenses are paid by the visiting club. An umpire is given the power to impose fines-of not less than ten dollars and not more than twenty dollars-when he thinks it's necessary.  
1879 An umpire may terminate a game after a rain delay of thirty minutes. 4.12
1879 The pitcher is required to face the batter when he pitches. 8.01
1879 All pitched balls must be called strikes, balls, or fouls. The number of strikes in an out is officially three. 6.05
1879 There are nine balls in a walk. 6.08A
1880 The runner hit by a batted ball is out. 7.08
1880 The catcher is required to catch a third strike on the fly 6.05
1880 The base on balls decreases to eight. 6.08A
1880 The limits of the fines an umpire may impose change. Now it's not less than five dollars and not more than fifty dollars.  
1881 The base on balls is seven. 6.08A
1881 The pitching distance is lengthened to fifty feet. 1.07
1881 The pitcher is fined for deliberately hitting a batter with the ball.  
1881 A spectator who "hisses or hoots" at or insults the umpire may be ejected from the grounds. 9.01E
1881 The base runner may no longer be put out when he is returning to his base on a foul ball. 5.09
1882 The three-foot base line is adopted. 1.04
1882 Umpires may not reverse decisions on matters of judgment. 9.02
1882 Umpires may not confer with spectators or players. [General Instructions to Umpires]  
1882 If an umpire imposes a fine or declares a forfeit, he must report it to the league secretary within twenty-four hours. 4.18
1882 Umpire corruption rears its ugly head for the first and only time: a National League umpire, Richard Higham, is expelled from the league for collusion with gamblers.  
1882 The American League is formed.  
1883 A foul ball caught on the bounce ceases to be an out. It must be caught before it touches the ground. 6.05A
1883 The first system of salaried umpires is introduced, under the same system that is in use today. The four men hired came from cities not represented in the league. 9.01
1883 An error is charged to the pitcher for a base on balls, wild pitch, hit batter, and balk. 10.13
1883 Pitching is allowed from anywhere up to shoulder height. 8.01
1884 Almost all restrictions on a pitcher's motion are lifted. He may throw the ball with virtually any motion he chooses, provided that his delivery is not higher than his shoulders and he is facing the batter at the moment of wind-up. He is allowed only one step before delivery. 8.01
1884 A base on balls is six. 6.08A
1885 Home base may be made of marble or whitened rubber 1.05
1885 The bat may have one flattened side. (This rule lasted only one year.) 1.1
1885 The pitcher is credited with an assist on a strike-out 10.11
1886 A base on balls is five. 6.08A
1886 The pitcher's box becomes four feet by seven feet. 1.07
1886 An umpire may introduce a new ball at any time. Before this year, when a ball was lost, the umpire gave the team five minutes to find it before he threw in a new one. An umpire must have two baseballs at his disposal at all times. 3.01
1886 A hit batsman is not charged with a time at bat. 10.02
1886 First and third base are moved within the foul lines.  
1886 No stolen base is credited to a runner for bases advanced by his own volition. 10.08
1887 The pitcher's box is 4 feet by 5 1/2 feet. 1.07
1887 . A pitcher must keep one foot on the rear line of the box and may not take more than one step in delivering the ball. Before delivery he must hold the ball in front of him so that it is visible to the umpire. 8.01
1887 No error is charged to the pitcher for a base on balls, wild pitch, hit batter, and balk. 10.13
1887 A batter hit by a pitched ball is entitled to first base and not charged with a time at bat 6.08b
1887 The umpire may call a game if the spectators are disorderly. The maximum fine for arguing with an ump or protesting a call is ten dollars.  
1887 The batter is no longer allowed to request a high or low pitch. 6.08b
1887 A strike-out is called on four strikes. (This rule lasted only one season.) 6.05
1887 Home plate is to be made of rubber and is to be twelve inches square 1.05
1887 A base on balls is scored as a hit and counted as a time at bat. This rule lasted one season only. 10.16
1888 A base on balls is not counted as a hit and not charged as a time at bat. 10.16
1888 If a runner is hit by a batted ball, the batter is credited with a hit 10.05
1888 The strikeout is back to three strikes. 6.05
1888 It is a ground-rule double instead of a home run if the ball is batted over the fence in fair territory where the fence is less than 210 feet from home plate 6.09
1888 The mandatory fine for a coach who leaves the coach's box to protest a call is $5.  
1888 An error is charged to the pitcher for a base on balls, wild pitch, hit batter, and balk. 10.13
1888 A hit batsman is awarded first base and credited with a hit. 6.08
1888 A batter is credited with a hit when his batted ball hits a base runner. 10.05
1889 No error is charged to the pitcher for a base on balls, wild pitch, hit batter, and balk. A pitcher is not credited with an assist on a strikeout. 10.13
1889 The sacrifice bunt is statistically recognized, but the batter is charged with a time at bat. 10.09
1889 A base on balls is four, and there it remains. 6.08A
1890 The ump is called "Mr. Umpire" for the first time  
1891 Substitutions are allowed at any time during a game, but once he has been substituted for, a player may not return. 3.03
1892 It's a ground-rule double instead of a home run if the ball is hit over the fence in fair territory if the fence is less than 235 feet from home plate. 6.09
1893 A batter credited with a sacrifice is not charged with a time at bat. 10.09
1893 The pitching distance is increased to sixty feet, six inches, where it remains today. 1.07
1893 . The pitcher's box disappears (never to be seen again) and is replaced by the rubber-a slab twelve inches long and four inches wide. 1.07
1893 The pitcher is required to place his rear foot against the slab. 8.01
1894 The batter is charged with a strike for hitting a foul bunt. 6.05D
1895 The pitcher's rubber is enlarged to its present size of 24 by 6 inches. 1.07
1895 The maximum diameter of the bat is increased to 2 3/4 inches, where it remains today. 1.1
1895 The infield fly rule is adopted: the umpire may call an infield fly when there is one out and first and second or first, second, and third base are occupied. 6.05E
1895 A strike is charged to a batter for a foul tip. 6.05A
1895 The limits on fines change again-to not less than $25 and not more than $100. If the crowd becomes so unruly that the game is sped for more than fifteen minutes, the umpire may declare a forfeit. (If that happens, the visitors win, 9-0.) 4.17
1896 A $25 fine is imposed on a coach or a player who uses vulgar language. It costs players $5 to $10 for any other first offense, $25 and possibly ejection for a second offense, and mandatory ejection for a third offense  
1897 Intentionally discoloring or injuring the ball is punishable by a $5 fine. The ball is replaced. 3.02
1897 The umpire has twelve hours to report a fine or an ejection to the league president, four hours for a "flagrant offense." [9.05A and 9.05B] 9.05A/B
1898 A stolen base is credited to the base runner when he reaches a base he attempts to steal without the aid of batting or fielding errors or a hit by the batter. 10.08
1898 The first official balk rule: a pitcher is compelled to throw to a base if he makes a motion in that direction. 8.05
1899 The balk rule is refined: a pickoff throw may not be faked; a pitcher must complete his motion. 8.05

Table of Tables

CBA menu

JCBA Vol. 20. Rule Changes (1870-1899)
Published: December 15, 2001
Copyright © 2001 by the Cosmic Baseball Association