Early Fields and the Pitcher’s Dirt Path


So why, you may ask, did so many of those early 19th century baseball fields have those long dirt paths between the pitcher’s mound and home plate? And why did organized baseball continue to include these mysterious tracks on the infield until they variably started disappearing in the early 2oth century?

SABR member Rob Neyer probably supplies us all with the most common sensible answers to these and all other questions about them at Baseball Nation on October 4, 2011, when he in turn credited another SABR author, Peter Morris, for his explanations in an excellent specific baseball history book entitled: A Game of Inches: The Game Behind the Scenes.

Neyer notes that both Comerica Park and Chase Field today contain dirt strips between the pitcher’s mound and home plate as nods to old-time baseball.

The origins of the path are obscure, but researcher Tom Shieber has unearthed what is almost certainly the explanation, according to Neyer. Shieber explains that early baseball clubs often played on cricket grounds, where the two wickets were connected by a dirt path to ensure more reliable bounces. He speculates that early baseball clubs found that the path also led to fewer passed balls in their own game of baseball and made it easy for the strips to become customary in their own newer “strike the ball” game. Shieber cites a description that appeared in the New York Clipper in July 1860.

What this doesn’t explain is why baseball fields commonly featured the “pitcher’s path” well into the 20th century. Morris speculates – and Neyer agrees – that in the days of small grounds-keeping crews and limited technology, it was exceptionally difficult to keep a field in good shape; this fact should be apparent to any of you who have spent any time examining baseball field photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries. With pitchers and catchers frequently trodding back and forth upon that stretch of ground between the mound and plate, it was just easier to forget about grass and keep a dirt strip there instead. To put it mildly, baseball grounds-keeping knowledge and technology was hardly anything near the artful stage during baseball’s Garden of Eden era.

Read the full article here: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2011/10/4/2470036/so-whats-the-deal-with-those-dirt-strips for a more informative look at how things were and how the game has moved forward from the condition of those early times.


And speaking of old ruts, the Pecan Park Eagle hopes that you remain stuck in the rut of wishing your dad either a Happy Father’s Day wish 0r a smiling tip of your memory cap for what he meant to you in his lifetime – and that everything you share together today is honest, true, and freely extended in the name of love. And, even if you somehow didn’t seem to get it from your dad, try to keep in mind too that dads are often deficient in their abilities to show love in the ways we hope to receive it. Wherever possible, try to cut these emotionally blocked fathers some slack and give them your love in return regardless. It will be the same love Dad once hoped to give to you directly in no uncertain terms – when he still didn’t know how to hit the “send” button.




One Response to “Early Fields and the Pitcher’s Dirt Path”

  1. David Munger Says:

    Back at you, Bill, Happy Father’s Day.

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