As you know, or should know, the organized game of baseball that we’ve all grown to love today once began in the mid-19th century, or probably earlier, as an entitlement relationship between the batter on offense and the pitcher on defense.
The Original Entitlement Rule. The batter had a right to tell the pitcher where he wanted the pitcher to throw the ball, inside down the middle or outside – low, medium, or high.The pitcher may have variably maintained the right to select the speed of his pitch, but he had no choice about the location. If the one governing “Blind Tom” official ruled that a pitch came in amiss of the batter’s location request, the game would either stand there as a potential “base on balls” (depending upon how many ball counts constituted a “walk” at a given time or locale, – or worse. The batter got to stand there until the crack of doom – if need be – to get the pitch of his rightfully requested location delivered.
Nobody liked the idea of standing motionless in a cow pasture or vacant city base ball ground until the crack of doom. Even in the 19th century. People had other things to do, even then, And other fish to fry, if you please.
Besides, the original entitlement request was there to jump start the action. The pitcher’s job was to intentionally help the batter see a baseball that he could swing and hit – and put in play – with the swinging of a wooden bat.
Once the striking of the ball deed was done, each time, the entitlement game ignition duties of the pitcher were done. – The pitcher and catcher were now only two of the nine men on defense now whose job it was to get three outs on the offensive team as quickly as possible, each inning, without allowing any runs to score, if possible.
The Late 19th Century Game Through Today. As pitchers developed pitches that moved differently by the aid of mechanical handling and the addition of scratches, saliva, and other substances to the ball – and as protective gear for the catcher’s hands, body, and face evolved, pitching moved totally away from its original “help the batter put the ball in play” role. It came to be the most dominant weapon a defense could literally or figuratively throw at the other team. Pitching became the counter-business to batting that the great Warren Spahn once described in this way: “The business of hitting is timing. The business of pitching is to upset the hitter’s successful timing in every way possible.” And so it is today in 2017.
The Sandlot Ball Variant on the Original Entitlement Rule. In the years that followed World War II, most of us who played pure sandlot baseball were still using the pitcher in a a quasi to almost complete modeling role of the original batter entitlement rule. (Although none of us in Pecan Park ever had even heard of Alexander Cartwright back in the 1946-52 era.) We often lacked a catcher’s mitt, seldom saw a catcher’s face mask, and never saw a a catcher’s chest protector at Eagle Field in Pecan Park. Allowing the batter to call for a pitch location was unheard of (we would never have approved that rule, but we did throw out the balls and strikes count in favor of a game that invited balls that would get put into play by contact with the bat. Older better hitters got to see harder pitching; younger, not-so-good hitters got to see pitches they could put in play, even if most of these were 1-3 soft ground outs. We also had to “waste” a second older kid to catch – but to make it worse – with frequent wild pitches and no back stop – we also had to add a speedy young kid to play hind catcher. It was that kid’s job to chase all the run-a-way pitches that raced east on Japonica on their way to the Flowers Street intersection where Mrs. Mancuso, the mother of Gus and Frank Mancuso once lived.
The Mid-20th Century Sandlot Ballers Creed
We sometimes lacked the talent – We sometimes lacked the speed
Our equipment was the scarcest – But that was all we’d need
To find our field where dreams could grow – In passion’s need to bleed
In Heart – And Hope – Neath Eagle’s Skies – Our Game – The Indelible Deed