May 2, 2019

Complaints About Not Playing The Game The Right Way . . . From 1858

Ball-Playing has become an institution. It is no longer a healthful recreation in which persons of sedentary habits engage for needful relaxation and exercise; but it is now an actual institution. Young men associate for this object, organize themselves into an association, with constitution and laws to control them, and then plunge into the amusement with a sort of "Young America" fanaticism. In almost every town throughout all this region there is one of these regularly formed and inaugurated ball-clubs, the members of which meet frequently to practice the art, for the sake of being able to worst some neighboring club whom they challenge, or by whom they are challenged, to a hot contest. The matter has become a sort of mania, and on this account we speak of it. In itself a game at ball is an innocent and excellent recreation but when the sport is carried so far as it is at the present time, it becomes a public nuisance. ... For these reasons we class ball clubs, as now existing, with circus exhibitions, military musters, pugilistic feats, cock-fighting, &c; all of which are nuisances in no small degree.
The Happy Home and Parlor Magazine, December 1, 1858

The first openly professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed in 1869. This complaint was published more than a decade before that!

h/t to Richard Hershberger, a fellow SABR member and author of the just-published Strike Four: The Evolution of Baseball, which (according to the publisher), examines "the national pastime's development, from the reasoning behind new rules and innovations to the consequences of these changes—both intended and unintended—that often led to a new round of modifications. Topics examined include the dropped third strike, foul territory, nine innings, tagging up, balls and strikes, tie games, equipment, the infield fly rule, and many more".

Hershberger may be against Robot Umps, but I'll overlook that because his book sounds fascinating.

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