Old News: Base Ball Notes, April 1887

Apropos of nothing, except the brief abeyance of life’s crushing burdens, here are three lightly annotated passages from the Base Ball Notes in the April 16th edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal from 1887 (a full page of which one can read here) — upon which Notes the author happened while abeying the crushing burdens of his own life, for example.

Excerpt No. 1

The Ramsey in question here is Toad Ramsey, who would end up pitching 561.0 innings for the 1887 edition of the Louisville Colonels, the second-highest total in the league. Regarding the suggestion that he is a “fat boy,” that appears — according to Michael Clair et al — to be more fact than suggestion.

As for the “new rules” invoked here, here’s what they were (courtesy Baseball Almanac):

• The pitcher’s box was reduced to 4 feet by 5 1/2 feet.
• Calling for high and low pitches was abolished.
• Five balls became a base on balls.
• Four “called strikes” were adopted for this season only.
• Bases on balls were recorded as hits for this season only.
• The batter was awarded first base when hit by a pitch.
• Home plate was to be made of rubber only — dropping the marble type and was to be 12 inches square.
• Coaches were recognized by the rules for the first time ever.

Excerpt No. 2

This is the rare early instance of 19th century man both (a) vouching for the legitimacy of and (b) displaying public affection for a human child.

Excerpt No. 3

Because our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children need to know what is right from what is abominable trickery, allow me to transcribe this passage in full:

Welch tried an old trick yesterday, and endeavored to get hit by a pitched ball. This is a most abominable piece of trickery, and some day if Welch gets bored through the ribs there will not be many sorrowing tears. This trick is often played on Ramsey, as his drop curve is not a remarkably swift ball.

The Welch here is Curt Welch of the opposing St. Louis Browns — a player (i.e. Welch) who, according to reports aggregated by Baseball Reference, was one of the most impressive defensive outfielders of the 19th century game. What data we have from the period appears to bear this out: in each of his first four seasons (1884-1887), Welch was worth more than 10 runs above average defensively. He also appears to’ve died before his 35th birthday, as one did back then.

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This and the other turn of that century baseball game recap writing that Dayn unearthed is just spectacular.

It seems like bunting had also been outlawed based on this excerpt: “Latham and Robinson tried to bunt the ball, which is against the rules, but strikes were promptly called on them by the umpire.”.