1860 Rules

by Sir Fines A. Lot Bilderback

The rules and regulations adopted by the National Association of Base Ball Players in March 1860, govern the game of base ball as played by The Roosters, with some adaptations. There are less than 40 written rules for base ball of that era. All else was left to the codes of gentlemanly behavior of the time.

Prior to a Rooster match, the umpire assembles the opposing nine for a review of the rules and a few customs such as no bunting, no sliding, no leading off, no stealing, no betting, no swearing and a real gentleman never sweats.

The pitcher delivers the ball in an underhand throw to the striker. Strikes are called only on a clean swing and miss. Fouls don’t count as strikes. The umpire may warn a striker who is not swinging at good pitches and begin calling strikes. He may not call balls.

The umpire calls a baulk whenever the pitcher fails to complete a delivery after beginning his throwing motion or has either foot in advance of the line when delivering the ball. The umpire calls all baulks and foul balls immediately in a foreceful manner. Fair balls are not called.

By custom all fielders hold their initial positions until the ball is struck. Basemen may be one step off the sack. Outfield defense plays the middle of their field, no restriction on depth. The catcher is within 25 feet of home base. The short stop may make position adjustments depending on the striker.

A hit ball is considered fair or foul by where it first hits the ground. A fair ball remains in play anywhere. Trees, fences and privies don’t count.

A ball caught in the air or on the first bound, fair or foul, puts the striker dead. Base runners may advance at their own risk on a fair ball caught on one bound. On a fair ball caught on the fly, base runners may advance at their own risk after first returning to their base.

A baserunner is dead if he is forced at any base or tagged in a nonforce situation. He may not over run any base, including first. Running more than three feet from the base path to avoid making an out is not allowed.

There are no free backs to base for base runners. They may be doubled off base on a foul ball that is first returned to the pitcher. They may be doubled off base on a fair ball the fielder returns to the base before the runner reaches it; he does not have to return it to the pitcher first.

An ace is scored by the base runner successfully making all four bases. It is customary in 1860 vintage base ball to have the player report to the scorer and ring the tally bell to announce the score to the throng.

You are watching base ball when it was in its youth. It was truly a gentleman’s game played for pleasure, but soldiers returning from the Civil War camps brought the game home to their communities for all to enjoy.


1860 Base Ball Terms

Base Ball is two words

Match – game

Club Nine – team

Throng – fans

(later called cranks)

Artist – proficient player

Muffin – inexperienced player

Muff – error

Striker – batter

Mid Fielder –  center fielder

Hurler – pitcher*

Behind – catcher**

Bench – manager or coach

Tallykeeper or Scorer– keeps the score
Striker to the Line– batter up
Daisy Cutter – sharp grounder

Sky Ball – fly ball

Leg it – run to a base

Ace – run; crossing home base

Four Bases – home run***

Dead – out

Three Hands Dead – end of half inning

* The term “hurler” is a 20th century term according to the Dickson’s Base ball Dictionary. The term “pitcher” appears in the 1860 rules.

** The term “behind” was used in the 1840s and 1850s until it was replaced by the term “catcher” in 1858.

*** The term “home run” has been in use since the earliest days of base ball.