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Unfair  1880s Pitchers Unfair 1880s Pitchers

Baseball before the Civil War - Don't Jerk the Ball

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Unfair  1880s Pitchers Unfair 1880s Pitchers

Early Pitchers in baseball history
'Unfair Pitches Delivered'

Like many changes to tradition, debates over the function of the pitcher were beginning to take hold in the 1870s, Was he to be a feeder - as was always the case in baseball - whose only duty was to put the ball in play, enabling the batter to hit it? Or was he to be a member of the defense and help the opponents from getting on base?

Consider the trajectory: in baseball before the Civil War, the first pitch was to be a "square pitch" - a high lob towards home plate. As a symbol of good sportsmanship, pitchers were forbidden to "jerk the ball" towards the batter; meaning they were to throw as stiff-armed as possible. If the pitcher did not deliver the ball directly over the plate, he was taunted for "using unfair pitches delivered." The pitcher was required "to throw the ball down the middle and somewhere between the shoulders and the knees."

Since most pitchers never had good enough control to comply with the rules, eventually the 3-strike, 4-ball rules evolved. The rules in place since the early 1800s stated that pitchers could not released the ball from above the waist; meaning they had to throw sidearm.

But as players were trying to professionalize the sport, the rules constantly changed. And pitchers started lifting their belts up to their armpits; enabling them to release the ball from a higher than ever point and at devastating speeds. The rules-makers finally allowed overhand deliveries. Fans' reaction was mixed - "Did this not give the defense an unfair advantage?" "Do the players have no shame for what they are doing?" Archives



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