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VolUmp

Batter's Box

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BPA 12u Tournament   OBR with a few safety mods.

Had a coach that was livid tonight who insisted that the part of the foul line that cuts through the batter's box is not "Fair Territory."

Here is my question ... so please don't think I'm asking a question to insult anyone:

In 2017, on a bunt play, there is no point along the foul line from the back corner of the plate to the Home Run Wall where a bunted or batted ball touched fair by a player or stopped right on the foul line is not fair and live.  I was asked how long that's been the case.  (Instead of answering "always," I said "for about 160 years.")

Has anyone who is a historian with OBR known of a time that this was not the case?  I'm not talking about a bunt that touches the batter in the fair portion of the box.  I believe that has always been considered a foul ball by tradition and/or interpretation.  So, has there been a stretch of time that if a bunt landed in the fair portion of the batter's box (including the foul line) that it was considered foul?

Edited by VolUmp
Typos

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My guess would be foul lines were there before batter's boxes. So no. At no time was that a foul ball.

One thing I do know for sure...There was a time when a ball that first touched the ground in fair territory (anywhere, even before 1B or 3B) remained fair no matter where it went after that or where a fielder touched it.

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6 hours ago, Richvee said:

My guess would be foul lines were there before batter's boxes. So no. At no time was that a foul ball.

One thing I do know for sure...There was a time when a ball that first touched the ground in fair territory (anywhere, even before 1B or 3B) remained fair no matter where it went after that or where a fielder touched it.

Now that's very interesting, Rich ... so ... just like today, when a batted ball touches 1st, 2nd or 3rd base, which makes the ball automatically fair (even if it bounces out of play), home plate used to be the treated the same way.  I can see how that makes sense.  I wonder what changed that rule?  Perhaps too many times a batted ball hit the plate, spun backwards,. and played "pinball" among the batter, catcher, and PU?

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3 hours ago, VolUmp said:

Now that's very interesting, Rich ... so ... just like today, when a batted ball touches 1st, 2nd or 3rd base, which makes the ball automatically fair (even if it bounces out of play), home plate used to be the treated the same way.  I can see how that makes sense.  I wonder what changed that rule?  Perhaps too many times a batted ball hit the plate, spun backwards,. and played "pinball" among the batter, catcher, and PU?

I think we're talking about the days when the umpire stood about 1/2 way up the 1B line, and the catcher was about 10--15 feet behind the plate.(circa 1860) I remember hearing or reading what was the major cause for the change but I can't recall. 

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2 hours ago, Richvee said:

I think we're talking about the days when the umpire stood about 1/2 way up the 1B line, and the catcher was about 10--15 feet behind the plate.(circa 1860) I remember hearing or reading what was the major cause for the change but I can't recall. 

PROTECTIVE GEAR. 

And the catcher stood closer to 25 feet back. Caught every pitch on “first bound..”

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5 hours ago, VolUmp said:

PROTECTIVE GEAR. 

And the catcher stood closer to 25 feet back. Caught every pitch on “first bound..”

Whci gets us to the "D3K" rule today -- every K was a D3K back then.

 

(And, no, I don't have personal experience in it from back then)

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To answer your question, not technically - there was a very brief period of time  where the batter's box was entirely in foul territory.

The batter's box was first drawn/enforced about 20 years after foul lines were.

At one point (mid 1870's?) , all of home plate, and all of the batter's box, resided in foul territory...then a couple of years later it was moved back to look like what it does today, and at that time a fair ball was a fair ball, even if it was in the box.  (except at that time the plate was a square...I think the plate we know today came to exist in the early 1900's)

When the batter's box was first enforced, if you hit the ball while out of the box you were charged with a strike, not an out.

This even predates the notion of ruling foul balls as "strikes" by about 30 years.

 

 

Edit: the rule about the ball touching fair first being always fair was also true for foul balls - whatever it touched first determined if it was fair or foul - that also ended the mid 1870's - this was fun for umpires because during that period of time there were years where the plate was entirely in foul territory, or entirely in fair territory, or half and half - so, enjoy determining which half of the plate a ball struck.

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If you can find the out-of-print Jim Evans Rules Annotated, it will probably give you the history of the rule(s) you are asking about.  Very hard to find, though.

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Yes, it would be nice to have a copy of the Jim Evans Annotated but it isn’t necessary to research the evolution of baseball rules. One can simply search the term vintage baseball rules or the term 19th century baseball and find several interesting sites. One of the best ones is found at 19cbaseball.com and here is what it says about the history of chalked foul lines and the batter’s box:

“Beginning in 1861, the rules required that Foul Ball Lines be marked on the playing field. They each began from the center of Home Base and ended at the 90' mark at first and third base. This aided umpires in determining fair or foul batted balls striking the ground near Home Base.

“The ‘Batter's Box’ was first instituted in 1874. It was six feet long and centered to the middle of Home Base. It was one foot from Home Base and three feet wide over all and required to be marked with chalk. The batter was required to be within the lines of his position during the act of striking and if contact was made and the batsman was outside the lines of the box, a foul strike and out was called and the ball was considered dead. Three foul strikes during a Batsman's time at bat put him out.”

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In addition to the website I mentioned earlier, there is a book by Eric Miklich titled The Rules of the Game and here is more of what can be found in the book and the website to answer other points raised in this thread:

"From 1845 through 1867 Home Base was circular, made of iron, painted or enameled white and 12 inches in diameter.

"From 1845 through 1876, a batted ball was determined fair or foul depending on where the ball first made contact with the ground. If a batted ball hit first in fair territory, the ball was fair even if it immediately moved to foul territory. If a batted ball first hit in foul territory, the umpire was required to declare a foul ball.

"In 1877, a batted ball was required to remain in fair territory until passing either first or third base, in which case the ball was allowed to move into foul territory and still be considered fair.

"From 1845 through 1874, if a batted ball struck Home Base, the umpire was tasked to decide if the ball hit the part of Home Base that was in fair territory or the part that was in foul territory. If the ball hit the portion of Home Base in foul territory he was required to announce loudly that the ball was foul. In 1875 and 1876, Home Base was moved entirely in to foul ground, making the umpire’s decision an easy one. Home Base was moved entirely into fair ground for the 1877 season."

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Good stuff...It's also interesting how often balls and strikes changed. Certainly wasn't always 4 balls and 3 strikes.  I love the evolution of this great game. It's a history lesson all on it's own.

Another great book that chronicles the great history of this game is "Our Game. An American Baseball History" by Charles Alexander. c1991. It touches on the rule changes, but covers the game from it's origins in the early 1800's through the 1989 series and the lockout of '90. Great read. Highly recommended.

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