Ground Rules and Short Porches Unleashed Ned

Back in the 19th century, through the 1883 season, Lakeshore Park in Chicago served as home to the Chicago White Stockings and fiery leader Cap Anson. Its outfield distances to the fences were 186′ in left, 300′ in center, and 190′ in right. Because of their short distances, balls hit over the fences prior to 1884 were scored as ground rule doubles.

In 1884, under the weight of an offense-demanding Cap Anson, the rules were changed for that season. ~ And they changed because back in that day, the home team leader possessed the authority to say what they were going to be. In this case, fair balls hit out of the park would then be ruled as home runs in 1884. ~ As a result, a slick fielding and pretty good hitting infielder named Ned Williamson dove into the arms of opportunity and hit 27 home runs over the course of the 114-game 1884 season ~ and 25 of those 27 homers came at home in the comforting nest of the short fences and the place’s generous new ground rules.

It must have been one-season thing because Williams only had 2 season homers in 1883 and 3 in 1885, while playing in the same place at home he hit 25 in 1884.

Williamson’s 27 homers in 1884 broke the new one-season HR record set the previous year by Harry Stovey, who hit 14 homers in 1883 for the Philadelphia Athletics. ~ Williamson’s new 1884 mark of 27 lasted 35 years ~ until it was broken by a fellow named Babe Ruth for the Boston Red Sox in 1919 with 29 homers in a 140-game season. ~ From there, as we all should know by now, the home run season mark would belong to Babe Ruth of the Yankees until it’s bronzed 1927 60-homer version was broken with 61 swats and an asterisk beside the name of another Yankee slugger named Roger Maris in the year 1961.

And the era of the pumped up record breakers to follow still awaited baseball at the turn of 21st century century.

Irony. It once was OK to give big leaguers a better shot at more home runs with ground rules that essentially gave grown men credit for homers by allowing them to play their games in a kid-sized ballpark, whereas, the consumption or topical use of PED chemicals would much later get them banned in shame from the game in ways that may not have been nearly as helpful as that “little league ballpark” effect from that earlier-than-little-league 19th century era. The White Sox were playing in a “performance enhancement park” ~ a PEP.

So. over time, what’s the message? ~ Is it that PEPs are OK, but PEDs are not? Where’s the consistency here?! ~ Better yet ~ it leads one to consider. ~ If, indeed, there’s anything consistent about the game of baseball, it’s our sport’s dedication to the long-term course of inconsistency.

And that course of inconsistency may just as well be the most consistent path we take in our loyalty and love for the game. As a thought, however, it is almost too cruel an issue to contemplate for any length of time.

Have a nice day, anyway, with this one. ~ Spring training is getting closer by the day.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


One Response to “Ground Rules and Short Porches Unleashed Ned”

  1. shinerbock80 Says:

    And not having to play against good African-American players doesn’t penalize them for the Hall of Fame. Betting on baseball (Cobb, Speaker for example) doesn’t penalize them. And above all, taking handfuls of amphetamines that were literally left out in bowls in the clubhouse doesn’t penalize them.

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