How to organize a team and to select the players--The various

positions--Curve pitching

Baseball is called the National Game of America just as cricket is

regarded as the national game in England. The game received its wide

popularity directly after the Civil War by the soldiers who returned

to all parts of the country and introduced the game that they had

learned in camp. Almost every village and town has its ball team, in

which the interest is general. It is not a game for middle-aged men to

play, like golf, but if one has been a ball player in youth the

chances are that he will keep his interest in the game through life.

Baseball is largely a game of skill. It does not afford nearly as much

opportunity for physical exercise as tennis or football, and because

of the professional games it is not always conducted with as high a

regard for sportsmanlike conduct, but it has a firm hold on the

American public, and the winning of a championship series in the

professional leagues is almost a national event.

Every boy knows that a baseball team consists of nine players, the

positions being pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, third base,

and shortstop, which are called the in-field, and right-field,

centre-field, and left-field, which positions are called the

out-field. The umpire has a very important position in baseball, as

his decisions in a close game may result either in defeat or victory

for a team. An umpire should always be some one who knows the rules

thoroughly and who is not too greatly interested in either team. He

should always try to be fair, and having once made a decision be sure

enough of himself to hold to it even if the whole opposing team may

try by "kicking" to cause him to change. Much of the rowdyism in

baseball can be attributed to this cause. A good ball player is first

of all a boy or man who shows himself to be a gentleman under, all


In baseball, like many games where winning is sometimes the important

thing rather than fair play, the real benefits of the game are lost

sight of in the desire to have a higher score than one's opponents.

Probably the most clean-cut games are played by school and college

teams, which should always be strictly amateur.

The pitcher has the most important position on the team. If by his

skill he is able to deceive the opposing batsmen and cause them to

strike out or to make feeble hits, the rest of the team will have but

little to do except of course to bat when their turn comes and try to

score runs. Baseball has become a very scientific game in recent years

and the sustained interest in it year after year is largely due to the

fact that the regular attendants at a game have learned to understand

and to appreciate the finer points of the game almost as well as the

players themselves. While it might appear to a beginner that the

battery does all the work in a game, as a matter of fact every man on

the nine is supposed to do his part in backing up every play and to be

in the right place at the right time.

[Illustration: The in-curve]

[Illustration: The out-curve]

A good pitcher must be able to pitch a curved ball. This art will only

come with constant practice. Until about forty years ago a curve was

unknown. In the old days the number of runs scored in a game was very

high, it being a common thing for a winning team to make twenty to

thirty runs. The rules of baseball are changed frequently and almost

every change has been made with a view to restricting the batsman. As

a consequence, in modern games the scores are very low and sometimes

neither side will score a single run in a tie game of ten or twelve


[Illustration: The drop]

[Illustration: The out-drop]

In modern baseball a team that plays together frequently has a

prearranged code of signals that are understood by each member of the

team. It is very important for every player on a side to know whether

the pitcher intends to deliver a high or a low ball or one that may

either be batted well into the out-field or probably be a grounder

that will be taken care of by some one on the in-field. Of course

these things do not always work out as is planned. The pitcher may not

have good control of the ball or pitch wild, the catcher may make a

bad "muff" and let the ball get by him, or what we expect to be a

bunted ball may be a home run, but all of this is part of the sport

and helps to make baseball one of the most interesting and exciting of

games. In any case there is no question that nine boys who are

accustomed to play together and who understand each other's methods of

play and signals will have a better chance of winning a close game

than nine other players who may have a shade the better of it in

individual work but who do not play together.

Most games are won or lost in a single instant at a crucial moment

when some one fails to make good, or who, usually in the case of a

pitcher, lets up on his speed or accuracy just at the critical time.

The National Championship of 1908 was decided in favour of Chicago

because one of New York's players in the deciding game of the season

failed to touch second base when the last man was out. The game had

been won by New York except for this mistake, and the result was that

another game was played, which Chicago won before the largest crowd

that probably ever assembled to witness a game of baseball.

When a baseball team is organized, the first thing to do is to elect a

captain from one of the players, and after this is decided every boy

on the team should give him absolute support and obedience. A team

should also have a manager whose duties are to arrange games with

other teams of the same class, to arrange for the transportation of

players and, in fact, to attend to all the business duties of games

that come outside of actual playing. Usually a boy is chosen for

manager who is not a ball player himself, but who has shown an

interest in the team. The captain should be a boy who first of all

knows the game and who has the respect and cooperation of the other

players. The position that he may play on the team is not so

important, but usually it is better to have some one from the

in-field as captain, as he will be in a better position to keep close

watch on the progress of the game and to give directions to the other


In case of a disputed point it is better to allow your captain to make

a protest if such is necessary. Observance of this rule will prevent

much of the rowdyism that has characterized the game of baseball. No

boy should ever attempt to win games by unfair tactics. The day of

tripping, spiking, and holding is gone. If you are not able by your

playing to hold up your end on a ball team you had better give up the

game and devote your attention to something that you can do without

being guilty of rowdyism.

Strict rules of training are not as necessary for baseball players as

for some other branches of sport, because the game is not so strenuous

nor does it involve such sustained physical exertion, but any boy will

make a better ball player as well as a better man if he observes the

rules of training, such as early hours for retiring, simple food, and

regular systematic exercise.

The battery of a team is an exception to the rule regarding strict

training. Both the pitcher and catcher should be in the best physical

condition. A pitcher who stands up for nine innings is obliged to do

a tremendous amount of work and if he becomes tired or stiff toward

the end of the game he will probably be at the mercy of the opposing


Usually the pitcher of a team is a boy who is physically strong and

who can stand hard work. The other positions, however, are usually

assigned because of the build of the individual player. The pitcher,

however, may be tall or short, fat or thin, so long as he can pitch.

The pitcher is the most important member of a ball team. Most of the

work falls to him, and a good pitcher, even with a comparatively weak

team behind him, can sometimes win games where a good team with a weak

pitcher would lose. A good pitcher must first of all have a cool head

and keep his nerve even under the most trying circumstances. He must

also have good control of the ball and be able to pitch it where he

wants it to go. After that he must have a knowledge of curves and know

how by causing the ball to spin in a certain way to cause it to change

its course and thus to deceive the batsman. The art of curving a ball

was discovered in 1867. Before that time all that a pitcher needed was

a straight, swift delivery. The three general classes of curved balls

used to-day are the out-curve, the in-curve, and the drop. There are

also other modifications called "the fade away," "the spitball," and

others. Curve pitching will only come with the hardest kind of


In general the spin is given to the ball by a certain use of the

fingers and the method of releasing it. It is necessary to conceal

your intentions from the batsman in preparing to deliver a curve or he

will divine your intention and the effort may be wasted. All curves

are produced by a snap of the wrist at the instant of releasing the

ball. Excellent practice may be had in curving by pitching at a post

from a sixty-foot mark and watching to see the effect of various

twists and snaps. Pitching is extremely hard on the arm and practice

should be very light at first until the muscles become hardened. Even

the best professional pitchers are not worked as a rule oftener than

two or three games a week.

A good baseball captain always tries to develop several pitchers from

his team. It is of course very desirable to have a "star pitcher" who

can be depended on, but if the star should happen to be ill or to

injure his fingers on a hot liner or for some reason cannot play,

unless there is a substitute, the effect of his absence on his team

will be to demoralize it. For that reason every encouragement should

be given to any boy who wants to try his hand at pitching. If a game

is well in hand it is usually safe to put in a substitute pitcher to

finish it. This is done in college teams for the reason that no amount

of practice is quite like playing in an actual game.

It may be said to guide the beginner that the method of producing

curves varies greatly with different pitchers, but that in general the

out-curve is produced by grasping the ball with the first and second

fingers and the thumb. The grip for this curve should be tight and the

back of the hand turned downward. The out-curve can be produced either

with a fast ball or a slow one.

For the in-curve a swinging sidearm motion is used, the ball being

released over the tips of the first two fingers with a snap to set it

spinning. It may also be produced by releasing the ball over all four


The grip of the ball for the drop is very similar to the out-curve,

but in delivery the hand is brought almost directly over the shoulder.

In all curves the pitcher must have extremely sensitive fingers and be

able to control them with almost as much skill as one requires in

playing a piano. We must keep in mind which way we desire the ball to

spin to produce the required curve and then to give it just as much

of this spin as we can without interfering with our accuracy.

No two pitchers will have the same form or manner of delivery. In

learning to pitch, the main thing is to adopt the delivery that seems

most natural to you without especial regard to form, and with no

unnecessary motions.

A pitcher must always be on the alert and keep a close watch on the

bases when they are occupied. He must not, however, allow the remarks

of coacher or spectators to cause him to become rattled or confused.

Baseball at best is a noisy game, and a pitcher who is sensitive to

outside remarks or joshing will never be a real success.

The catcher is usually a short, stocky player with a good reach and a

quick, accurate throw. He is usually the acting general in a game and

signals to the whole team. The principal test of a good catcher is to

be able to make a quick, swift throw to second base without being

obliged to draw his arm fully back. Such a ball is snapped from the

wrist and should be aimed to catch the base runner who is attempting

to steal the base. This play is very common in ball games, and as

there is only a difference of an instant in the time that it takes a

runner to go from first base to second, who starts just as the

pitcher delivers the ball, and the time it takes a pitched ball to be

caught by the catcher and snapped to second, a game may be won or lost

just on this play alone. If the opposing team finds that it can make

second in safety by going down with the pitcher's arm, it will surely

take full advantage of the knowledge. To have a man on second is

disconcerting to the pitcher as well as a difficult man to handle. It

therefore follows that a catcher who cannot throw accurately to the

bases becomes a serious disadvantage to his team. In the old days a

catcher had to be able to catch either with bare hand or with a light

glove, but the modern catcher's mitt, mask, chest-protector, and

shin-guards make the position far safer, and almost any boy who is

quick and has nerve can be trained to become a fairly good catcher so

long as he has a good throw and is a good general.

The first baseman is usually a tall boy who is active and who can

cover his position both in reaching for high balls and in picking up

grounders. Of course in a baseball score the first baseman will score

the largest number of "put outs," because practically all he is

obliged to do is to cover the base and to catch the ball before the

runner gets there. It is in fielding his position and in pulling down

balls that are thrown wildly that the first baseman can show his

chief skill.

The positions of second base and shortstop are practically the same,

and these two players should understand each other perfectly and know

just when to cover the base and when to back up the other. Neglect of

this precaution often results in the most stupid errors, which are

discouraging alike to the team and the spectators. Both players should

be quick and active, with an ability to throw both over and under

handed as well as to toss the ball after picking it up on the run. The

shortstop is often the smallest man on a team, due no doubt to the

theory that his work is largely in picking up grounders.

The shortstop is often led into habits which are commonly known as

"grand-stand plays"; that is, he attempts to make difficult plays or

one-handed stops with an unnecessary display of motions, to bring the

applause of the spectators. No ball player was ever made by playing to

the audience. Good form is not only very desirable but very necessary,

but the main thing in ball playing is to play your part and to forget

that there is such a thing as an audience or applause. If your form is

good so much the better, but if by paying too much attention to it

you miss the ball and score an error, your team may suffer defeat on

account of your pride. The main thing is to get the ball and after

that to to do it as gracefully as possible. One-handed stops are well

enough when you cannot get both hands on the ball, but an error made

in this way is not only the most humiliating kind but also the most


It must not be inferred that grand-stand playing is confined to the

shortstop. Any member of the team can be guilty of it. No player, no

matter how good he may be, should be allowed to hold his position on a

team unless he is willing to do his best at all times and unless he

feels that the game is not lost nor won until the last man is out.

Many experienced players consider that the most difficult position to

play well is third base. This player has to be ready for slow bunts as

well as hard drives; he must cover a lot of ground and try to get

every ball that comes near him. At the same time he must cover his

base to stop the base runner from advancing home. He will be obliged

to stop hot liners with one hand and often while on the run to make an

accurate throw to first base.

Out-fielders are usually chosen because of their ability to bat as

well as to be quick on their feet and catch fly balls on the run.

Fielders should practise if possible to catch the ball in a throwing

position, so that no unnecessary time may be lost in getting the ball

back to the in-field. Of the three fielding positions, right-field is

by far the most important. He must be sure of ground balls as well as

flies and also, in common with all the fielders, be a good judge of

the batsmen and try to be where the batted ball is going. The

centre-fielder must be especially quick on his feet, as he is expected

to back up both shortstop and second base as well as to run in for

line hits that just go over the in-fielders' heads. The ability to

start quickly when running for a ball can be greatly developed by

practice and will greatly improve the player's game.

Very often a fly ball will fall in such a position that the

out-fielders will be in doubt who is to take it. The result is usually

a collision, a missed ball and a chorus of groans from the spectators.

The remedy for this is to arrange beforehand for the second baseman to

call out who in the case of a doubtful ball is to take it. All of

these things are part of the finer points of the game and will only

come from practice. A boy who really desires to become proficient in

his position will try to avoid changing from one position to another,

but decide which position he likes to play best or is best fitted for

and try to get all the practice possible. An excellent opportunity

will come from studying the methods of a good player in the same

position, noting carefully what he does on each play, how he backs up

the other players and how he fits in the general plan of team work.

It is a great advantage to any player to learn as much as he can about

the skill and methods of his opponents. Some men cannot hit a low ball

or a high one, some will flinch when the ball comes close to them,

giving the pitcher a chance to deliver a straight, swift ball over the

inside of the plate, which the umpire will call a strike even though

the batsman devotes all of his energy to getting out of the way.

A left-handed thrower will seldom make a success as a ball player

except as pitcher or on first base. Left-handed batsmen, however, are

a distinct advantage to a team, as nothing will so disconcert a green

pitcher as to have batsmen standing first on one side of the plate and

then on the other.

Every boy who plays baseball must know the rules thoroughly to be a

success. It is in this way that advantage of every fair opportunity

can be taken. Nothing is so disheartening to a team as to lose a

closely contested game on a technicality of rules.

Batting and base running are two departments of the game where one

member of the team is as important as another. A good batsman must

have a quick eye and a quick brain. When he decides to strike at a

ball he must not change his mind and simply swing at it feebly after

it is in the catcher's hands. The best batters are not those who hit

the ball the hardest. Judgment in placing hits is far more important

than trying to knock out a home run every time you are at the bat. You

must remember that the pitcher is studying your batting methods and

you must try just as hard to deceive him as he is trying to deceive

you. Many a game has been won by a man who knew how to wait at the bat

instead of swinging wildly at everything just for fear of having

strikes called.

When you hit the ball there is only one rule--run. You will very soon

find out whether the ball is fair or foul or whether there is any

chance of making first base. A base runner should never stop trying to

make a base until the ball is in the hands of the baseman. One never

can tell when a ball may be fumbled or muffed.

A baseball diamond should be a part of a town just as is the public

square or a town hall. The distance between the bases should be ninety

feet and the four base-lines should form a square and all the angles

should be right angles. The three bases should be canvas bags filled

with sawdust and fastened to their positions by pegs that are driven

into the ground. The home plate should if possible be a piece of

whitened rubber. A board securely fastened will do.

[Illustration: How to lay out a baseball field]

The pitcher's box should be denoted by a strip of wood or rubber 24

inches long and 6 inches wide. This and home plate should be buried

so that they are flush with the surface of the field. The pitcher's

box on a full-sized field is exactly 60-1/2 feet from home plate.

The standard baseball is the kind used by professional players. It is

covered with horsehide, and is warranted to last an entire game

without ripping or getting out of shape. Baseball bats are made of a

variety of woods, the common materials being ash, willow, and hickory.

A bat must not exceed 2-3/4 inches in thickness at its thickest part.

There are a great many shapes and models named after the professional

players who use them. The shape of a bat does not make as much

difference as some poor batters are inclined to think. The

manufacturers of sporting goods make all the accessories for playing

baseball both in men's and boys' sizes. Every ball player should own

his own mitt or glove and become accustomed to it. The same is true of

his bat.

The art of becoming a good ball player depends largely on the boy

himself. No one plays ball naturally. It all comes with practice, and

it follows that the more practice we can get the better ball players

we shall become. It is a game where a loss of nerve is absolutely

fatal to good work. A player must keep his head no matter how trying

the circumstances may be. Cool-headedness is especially important and

the surest way to develop it is to be just as indifferent to the

criticism of the crowd or your fellow-players, so long as you know

that you have done your best, as you should be to their applause. Just

play the game for all there is in it, and you will be sure to become a

moderately good player even though you may not be a star. In field

practice, when some one is batting out balls to you, try just as hard

to stop and field each ball that comes within reach as you would if

the result of the game depended on it. It is only by this means that

you can hope to become a finished ball player. You can never learn by

lying around in the shade and telling your friends how good you are

going to be in the coming match game.

A regularly organized ball team should always adopt some club colours

and be provided with uniforms. Very good ones complete with shirt,

pants, stockings, belt, and cap can be purchased of sporting goods

outfitters for two or three dollars a suit (when ordered in lots of

nine or more). They can also sometimes be made more cheaply at home if

mothers and sisters are willing. The shirt should always be lettered

with the name or initials of the team. Baseball shoes are usually

provided with steel plates or leather knobs. Spikes are very dangerous

and should not be permitted. The regulation baseball shoe reaches just

under the instep.

The rules of baseball are too long and complicated to be published

here. Almost every year many important changes are made to improve the

sport and to make it harder for the batsmen to make runs. All of this

tends to make the game more interesting and to develop it from a

scientific side.

When a team is playing away from its home grounds the choice of

innings--i.e., who is to bat first--goes to the home team.

A game consists of nine full innings unless called by rain, darkness

or for some other cause. If five complete innings have been played

when the game stops, the score always stands and the team ahead is

declared the winner. In case of a tie at the end of the game the play

continues until at the completion of a full inning one team is ahead.

That ends the game and the team ahead is the winner.

In arranging games with visiting teams it is customary to make some

arrangement as to expenses, share of gate receipts or other guarantee.

It is very important in order to avoid unpleasant disputes to have

this matter fully understood and agreed upon by the managers of each

team before the game starts.

On account of fences, houses, and other obstacles that some baseball

fields have it is customary for the umpire to decide what are called

"ground rules" before the game starts. The principal thing that mars a

good game of ball next to kicking and wrangling is the tendency of the

crowd to get on the field and to interfere with the players. An easy

remedy for this is simply to call the game until the spectators take

their proper places.

Baseball is a good game if it is properly played. It is unfortunate

that so many amateur games are spoiled because some of the players

lose their tempers in their anxiety to have their wrongs righted. No

matter how good a ball player a boy is he will never get the real

benefit of the game unless he remembers that it is not the one who

loses his temper but "he who ruleth his spirit" that is really

entitled to the respect of his fellows. Make up your mind to abide by

the decision of the umpire just as a soldier obeys the orders of his

superior officer. It is the easiest thing in the world for an umpire

to make a mistake, but he will be far less likely to correct his

errors if nine angry boys are all talking to him at once than if your

captain quietly goes to him with the rules or the facts behind him

and states the case. It is an old saying but none the less true that

"oil catches more flies than vinegar."

A boy who has developed a healthy interest in baseball while young

will probably never lose it in after life even though his

opportunities to play or even to see a game are few. I once met a

mining man in the interior of Mexico, a hundred miles from a railroad

and in a town where only three people spoke the English language, and

this man had not been to his home town in ten years, but he had

followed his baseball team through the papers all those years and

could tell you more about the players than many a man living in the

town where the team played.

Such a man is what the newspapers call a "fan," which is an

abbreviation of the word "fanatic." There is no harm in being a

baseball enthusiast, provided that we do not allow it to interfere

with our work or allow our desire to witness games to take the place

of systematic exercise for ourselves.

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