Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Proposed New Base Ball Diamond

Towards the end of January cricket and base ball researcher Jimmy Leiderman posted a Baseball Field Diagram published in Venezuelan newspaper from 1895 on his Facebook page. With his permission I'm sharing it here.

It made me wonder what other base ball field diagrams were printed, and can we learn anything about the evolution of the game?  Off to my favorite haunts to research.  One of the first ones that I came across was an experimental diamond.

The Sporting Life - November 5, 1892

In 1892 civil engineer Clifford B. Spencer, of Rolla, Missouri, submitted a proposal to the Chicago National League club (then the Colts) for a new baseball diamond.  One with four bases and a home plate.  A transcription of the article from The Sporting Life follows the images below.

The Good and Bad Points of the Scheme and Probable Consequences of Adoption Pointed Out. 
  On this page we present for the consideration of the rule-makers, and the comment of all interested in the improvement of the same of base ball, a new diamond. This proposed new diamond is the creation of Mr. Cliff B. Spencer, of Rolla, Mo., who furnishes the diagram and specifications. It was first submitted to the Chicago Club and then turned over to THE SPORTING LIFE by President Hart with earnest request for publication and comment.

  In the accompanying diagram of this new diamond the dotted lines represent the present diamond, and the heavier black lines present the new diamond, which in appearance approaches nearer the true diamond form than what is now designated as a diamond, although really a square.

  The proposed new diamond is a startling innovation, but the more it is studied the more favorably it impresses. The new diamond provides for a home base and four additional bases instead of three as now. This extra base would not, however, necessitate an additional infielder unless it is desired to make the game ten men and ten innings, which increase has been repeatedly suggested for many years by some excellent critics. Under the new system four men could attend to the infield as now the first baseman and second baseman taking care of their usual bases, the short stop becoming third baseman, while the present third baseman would be fourth baseman. A glance at the diagram will show that the new base lines would throw first and fourth bases about ten feet further out than the present base lines, thus making a very much larger area for fair balls, thereby increasing the batting very considerably, besides reducing the number of foul balls.

  It will be observed that the distances from second base to third base and from third base to fourth base are each but 70 feet. This would give the base-runners better chance of stealing bases. It is true, the catcher's throwing distance is decreased from about 128 or 129 feet to 120 or 122 feet, and he is in a better position to throw the ball going diagonally across the diamond and there being no obstacle such as pitcher or umpire in the way. But the advantage would be still somewhat in favor of the runner, which is better than with the present dimensions, under which the ball, if properly handled, must inevitably and invariably beat the fleetest runner if the pitcher does not give him too much start.

  Increased base-running would not, however, mean so many more runs as to make games seem tedious and scores look bad, because the distance from the plate to first base and from fourth base to the plate is still ninety feet and the entire circuit thirty feet more than the present circuit. Thus, while there would be more base-running on the short lines, the additional circuit distance, and the long distances between home and first and fourth and home, would operate against excessive run-scoring.
  The palpable advantages of the proposed new diamond may be briefly summed up a follows:
* Increased batting even with the pitchers in their present position.
* A very marked decrease in the number of foul balls due to extended base lines and larger area for fair batted balls.
* Increased base stealing with better opportunity for good plays by catchers, and with less wear and tear upon the throwing arms of catchers.
* A livelier fielding game, owing to larger fielding area and more chances resulting from increase in batting.

  No decided disadvantage are apparent in this proposed new diamond except that it may operate to the extreme in batting, base running and run-scoring. The first-named objection, could, however be easily overcome by deadening the ball somewhat more should the batting become too heavy. The second and third detects may be neutralized by the greater opportunities afforded catchers for good throwing work and the increased length of the circuit of the bases.

  The proposed new diamond, if adopted, would be a radical innovation. But it may be that a radical remedy is requisite to restore the base ball patient to entire health and vigor. It is generally conceded that some changes in the game are urgently needed in order to make it more attractive, to lift it out of the rut of pitcher-domination into which it has fallen; in short that it is necessary to evolve some new feature to at once challenge and rivet public attention and favor. The proposed diamond would certainly achieve that much. The very novelty of it would arouse public attention and interest.  But whether it would hold that interest permanently can only be ascertained by a trial of the plan, which could be done in some of the April exhibition games.

  If found satisfactory the new diamond might, and doubtless would, go a long way toward tilling the base ball parks next season, as the novelty would bring out all the old-time lovers and patrons of the game, if only out of curiosity. Once back, the merits of the sport under new conditions might once more make these old-timers permanent patrons and enthusiasts, as of old.  For the general public the innovation would also, for a time at least, serve as a magnet. The new diamond would also stir the amateur and semi-professional clubs and players into renewed activity everywhere. Last, but not least, the innovation would bring out many new points and complications in rules and practice, thus opening numerous avenues for discussion of the artistic aide of the game, and keeping it constantly before the public in its best and brightest aspect.
  Having shown in all fairness the apparent advantages and disadvantages of the proposed new diamond and the probable effects of its adoption, we submit the measure for the consideration of the press, public and magnates without further committing our selves thereto.

  It is not intended here to advocate, either reservedly or unreservedly, the adoption of this radical innovation, because there is an other less radical method available for achieving pretty much the same beneficial effects that have been pointed out above as a probable result of the adoption of the proposed new diamond. In perhaps our next issue we shall present at length and comment fully upon this other less radical and perhaps more certain method of placing the sport upon a permanent basis and restoring it to supreme popular favor and support. The choice of methods will then rest with the magnates.   EDITOR SPORTING LIFE.

Spencer's diagram and the article were later published in newspapers across the country.  I do not know if the proposed field was ever chalked out and played upon.  I'm not a math guy, but I'd be interested to know what the increased area would be for the Spencer's field.

1895 Venezuelan diagram courtesy of Jimmy Leiderman
The Sporting Life images from

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New old baseball guides

Major League Baseball Historian John Thorn shared today that Northern Illinois University has digitized more editions of Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player.  These are some very early base ball guides and rules books.

Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player - 1862
Nickels and Dimes - Northern Illinois University

Watchdog reporter, data journalist, and SABR's Baseball Database Guru, Sean Lahman, has assembled a rather comprehensive list of baseball guides available on the internet.  I've found a few more guides that Sean doesn't yet have listed.  Rather than keep them to myself, I figured I'd share them.  I'm using Sean's html format below.  I'm assuming that he will fold these in with his list.

1901 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1903 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1905 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1913 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1917 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1919 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)

Actually, they are on his list, just not easily found.  When the Internet Archive digitized these books, they probably took the info from the title page, but the bound volume might have multiple years.  So the above links go directly to the start of the book, which might be in the middle of a bound volume.

Things to read on a snowy day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Monte Irvin's High School

Monte Irvin slipped from this earth this week.  He was a great ball player and will be missed.

While doing some research about his early years I found his high school yearbook.  It is his senior year at Orange High School in Orange, New Jersey.

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

In my joy of finding this I sent it out over social media, mistakenly adding that it was from East Orange HS.

Now, why did I do that?  Because Baseball-Reference, Seamheads, and even the SABR BioProject entry for Monte Irvin have that info.  I had it in my head and that's what I wrote.  But I was wrong.

This clipping from the Trenton Evening Times says that "One of the newcomers is Monte Irvin, former Orange High School and Lincoln University athlete."

Trenton Evening Times - May 12, 1939
image from

Here's another photo of Monte from his yearbook.  He was a member of the Student Patrol.

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from
He's mentioned in the yearbook as being ill for track season.    On the basketball page it is mentioned that "Midway during the season Orange was dealt a severe blow when Monford Irvin was forced to the hospital with a streptococcus infection."

Here are the baseball, basketball, football, and track teams from that same yearbook.  Individual players aren't named and I am not good at identifying people in photographs.  I assume that he's included in these photos.

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

So, I think that Monte Irvin attended Orange High School, in Orange, New Jersey.  How does one request change at other sites that have different information?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Branch Rickey Jr. reaching out to Japanese Americans

In February of 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration of people with Japanese ancestry.  Over 110,000 Japanese Americans were forced into interior camps in the Continental United States.

To pass the time sporting events were offered, with several teams popping up at each camp.

Baseball game, Manzanar Relocation Center, Calif. / photograph by Ansel Adams.
Part of the Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs collection at the Library of Congress

Somehow word got back to Branch Rickey Jr. that there were some quality players in the camps.

In a letter originally sent to Mr. Ira Holland in the School Health and Physical Education Department, Branch Rickey Jr. writes:
Dear Mr. Holland,
We will be most happy to have any boys that you might recommend in our baseball camps this summer if any of these boys have sufficient ability to play professional baseball, we will, of course, recommend them just as we would any other young man. The fact that these boys are American boys is good enough for the Brooklyn Club. Whether they are of Japanese, English, or of Polish ancestry makes no difference to us and I know that these boys would be treated with the greatest courtesy and respect. Unfortunately, I am afraid that the camps which we run this summer will not be too close to McGehee, Arkansas. Our nearest camp may be in Oklahoma somewhere around the latter part of August. We will hold camps in Des Moines, Iowa, Omaha, Neb., for these. There may also be a possibility that later in the summer we may conduct a camp at Little Rock, Ark. At any rate, if any of the boys are able to attend any of these camps we would be more than happy to have them.
Very Truly yours,
Branch Rickey Jr.
This letter comes from the Sports and recreation in camp section of the Densho Encyclopedia.

The letter was condensed and was mentioned in the Topaz Times of July 29, 1943.  This was a tri-weekly newspaper that served the Topaz camp in Utah.

Topaz Times - July 29, 1943
image from

From the same paper there are other mentions of baseball in the camps, along with a stories about golf and archery.  Gila is Gila River Camp in Arizona.  Tule Lake was located in California

Mr. Rickey sought (and gained) approval from the Dodgers Board of Directors in 1943 to begin the search for "the right man."  It is possible that the "right man" could have been of Japanese ancestry instead of Jackie Robinson.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tracking the 1885 NL Standings

Diagram of the Progress Made from Week to Week by the Clubs Competing for the Supremacy.

That's what the headline read on October 13, 1885.  140 years ago today.  There wasn't much drama after the sixth week for the top two clubs of the 1885 National League, but it was an interesting August and September for the bottom half.

I don't remember seeing a diagram like this for a league this early in baseball's history. 

New York Herald - October 13, 1885
images from

The Chicago club, the White Stockings, went on to play the St. Louis Brown in a post season series where they ended in a tie (3-3-1).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Yogi Nuggets

Earlier this week Yogi Berra passed away. There were many tributes to him on social media. I tossed up a few, finding a few not so well known nuggets.  These are what I put on my twitter account.

I'm always curious to see where people are from.  Using I was able to locate the Berra family in St. Louis in 1930.  Little Lawrence was not yet five years old.

1930 US Census - from

Boy's Life magazine featured a picture of a youngish Yogi in 1950.
Boy's Life - September, 1950

Columbia Records, in 1952, issued several records of baseball players giving advice about the game.  The four players were Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi, and Bob Feller.  Here's a review from Billboard Magazine.
Billboard Magazine -June 14, 1952

I was surprised to find out that Yogi was ejected from games in five decades.


Yogi as cover boy...

Boy's Life - April, 1963
Boy's Life - April, 1963
Boy's Life - April, 1963
If you'd like to read the whole story, here it is.

Did you know that Phil Rizzuto and Yogi had a bistro?  And that it had a discotheque?  And you couldn't dance?  Me, neither.
Billboard - August 14, 1965
Thank you, Mr. Berra, for adding so much to the game of baseball.  Rest in peace.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Whittier College Poets team photos

The Caltech teams have been posted and Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary, suggested that I might give a similar treatment to the Whittier College Poets baseball teams through the ages.  So here is a loose visual documentation of the varsity baseball teams of the Whittier College Poets.


















images from