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Old 28 May 2007, 04:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
As for the pitching mound, IIRC there really wasn't any guideline to build pitching mounds, period. Originally the pitching rubber replaced the pitcher's box in I think 1892 - before that point there was, literally, a little roped-out box where a pitcher could throw from. A lot of guys would stand at one far edge of the box and land on the far other edge when they threw. This, I think, was called the "crossfire" and could be very devastating to like-handed hitters (think of what sidearmers do today, only more pronounced). Gradually teams made the mound get a little taller and taller in order to give their guys an edge. Eventually the major leagues said that you couldn't make the mounds any taller than (whatever size they were). That being said, there has never been a time when umpires would physically go out and measure mounds. To this day, some teams sculpt them high and some have them very low. It's part of the allure of baseball, the subtle ways a groundskeeper can make one park play completely different than another.
From Ron Luciano's Remembrance of Swings Past pg 170:
"One season the American League was determined to standardize the height of all pitcher's mounds, so they sent each umpiring crew a tape measure, a stick and a level. We were supposed to put the stick on the rubber, use the level to make sure it was straight, then measure the height of the mound to the edge of the grass."

Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
The rubber was never 60 feet even away from home plate. It was always 60'6" (or, IIRC, 50 feet the year before). I believe that was a typo included in the rulebook but never corrected because what the heck, they'd already measured it out and what do 6 inches matter?
I think I may have misinterpreted my source and that you're probably right about the pitchers' box (at 50') was directly moved to a pitchers' plate at 60'6".
The pitchers started throwing underhand, but were gradually allowed to increase their arm angle until they were able to throw overhand by the end of the decade. Cy Young (who started in the majors in 1890) began his carrer throwing underhand and was known to occasionally uncork an underhand pitch now and then long after coming over the top was the norm.

Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
I don't think players knew much about the advantages of corking bats until Norm Cash had that monster year in the early 1960s. In Babe Ruth's era, the going wisdom was the bigger and heavier the bat, the better for power.
From The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pg 784 :
" in 1983 a travelling Hillerich and Bradsby exhibit featured a Babe Ruth bat. According to Dan Gutman in In Ain't Cheatin' If you Don't Get Caught, the Seattle players were admiring the bat "when Dave Henderson noticed that the round end of the bat didn't exactly match the wood of the barrel. The end was cracked, but the rest of the bat was not.
" 'That's a plug!' said Henderson. 'This bat is corked'"
... As I see it nothing could be more typical of Ruth than to use a corked bat if he could get by with it. Ruth tested the limits of the rules constantly; this is what made him who he was."

Same book pg 686 notes that the American league issued a policy prohibiting "trick bats" in 1923 after the Babe was caught using one.

Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
Before that, of course, he was one of the top left-handed pitchers in the AL. Imagine Johan Santana walking up to the Twins' front office and demanding that they convert him to the outfield.
Babe Ruth was just one of many players who were sucessful pitchers converted to position players in the 1915-1920 period, including a couple other Hall of Famers like George Sisler and Sam Rice.

These types of position changes still happen, though these days usually after failures as a pitcher (Rick Ankiel being the most recent example). But teams still let players do things that might not be in best interests of the player or the team (see Jose Canseco's major league pitching episode).

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Old 28 May 2007, 04:44 AM
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Johnny Slick Johnny Slick is offline
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Rafael Soriano's another example, although going the other way, and of course Brooks Kieshnick made a career out of being a C- player both at bat and with the glove. You *never* see a player who was a good pitcher moved to hitter nowadays though. The closest example to that I can think of was John Olerud, who was a very good college pitcher who didn't look to have much major league potential in that role and so was converted to 1st base (he played DH for the WSU Cougars when it wasn't his turn on the mound). Babe Ruth was 47-25 in 1917-18 with ERA+ of 158 and 128 for those two seasons. That's good. That 1917 was better than any one year Nolan Ryan ever had, save the strike-shortened 1981.

Ron Luciano... hmm. I'm not saying the story is false, but Ron had a penchant for kind of embellishing the truth. And I have never, ever heard a report of a team getting fined or otherwise disciplined for having a mound that was too high. You'd think it would have made the papers just once... I mean, look at the weird little flap over the Colorado Rockies and the humidor last year.

This is how lazy I am: my copy of the Abstract is in the bathroom and I don't want to go pick it up right now. I'll come back to that when I can. The Derek Zumsteg book that goes into some more depth about cork-center bats is in there as well.
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Old 11 June 2007, 08:49 PM
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As a pitcher for 25+ years, I can tell you that there's zero chance that a ball could be hit between the pitcher's legs and go over the fence, even if the pitcher was 8' tall.
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Old 15 June 2007, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Indeed, he had an odd shape, but he was quite a well-built athlete, and he underwent a rigorous personal training program before each season in the latter half of his career. Unfortunately, the pictures of him that predominate are the ones from the last few years of his playing days, when he could no longer work off the pot belly.

- snopes
Babe Ruth in 1914:
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Old 15 June 2007, 02:44 PM
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Let's do the math.

Regardless of the height of the pitcher's mound, most pitcher's follow-through will take them off the mound. Some from Ruth's era were knuckleballers and spitballers who threw without such a pronounced motion, but let's assume the "average" pitcher of the day and have him follow through so that his feet are maybe 56 feet away from home plate.

Let's assume the pitcher is not ridiculously tall or short, and that his inseam is no higher than 30 inches tall.

Without getting into too many details about where the batter is standing or how, let's just assume that he hits the ball when it is one foot from the ground. It could be higher, but it is not likely to be lower.

This produces a differential height of 1.5 feet between where the ball is struck, and where it is when it passes the pitcher. This produces a triangle of 56 feet base and 1.5 feet height.

Now, where is the centre fielder? This all depends on the park, but my baseball-playing co-workers estimate it as 360 feet or thereabouts. Let's say 364 feet, as this is 6.5 times 56 feet. Scaling this out to the distance of where the centre fielder would stand, will scale that triangle to have a base of 364 feet, and a height of 9.75 feet. A good centre-fielder can reach this height with his glove, assuming that the ball, once struck travels in a perfectly straight line. Even if it does this, the ball cannot start to rise at a higher angle than what was established by the position of the pitcher. In other words, for the ball to stay at a height of less than 30 inches when 56 feet away from the pitcher, it won't be more than 10 feet off the ground in the middle of centre field.

At a distance of 420 feet from the plate, the ball would be only 11.25 feet off the ground, which may clear the fence for a home run (depending upon the height of the fence), if there is a fence. (See below about big ballparks.)

Is it still possible to hit a home run between the pitcher's legs? Sure - the outfielders aren't necessarily on the same line as the pitcher, and could be shading left or right, or in some cases, have an extreme shift. If the ball is not struck directly at an outfielder, but is still struck hard enough to travel those 364 feet and still be only 10 feet off the ground, the ball will hit the ground, eventually, and roll. As others have noted, some parks in that day had ridiculous distances to their deepest reaches of centre field. If the ball rolls out there, the inside-the-park home run is very possible, even if the ball is hit between the pitcher's legs.
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