Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
HILLARY SMITH: 'Base ball' laws prove nothing is forever

HILLARY SMITH: 'Base ball' laws prove nothing is forever

  • Updated

On Sunday, the original "Laws of Base Ball" were sold at auction for nearly $3.3 million after the seller originally purchased them for little more than $12,000 in 1999.

In addition to adding a new name to the founding fathers of American's Pasttime — Daniel "Doc" Adams wrote the three pages of papers in 1857 — the papers show that when the baseball rules were finally written, even then they were adjusted and altered as time went on.

Among the original rules, balls hit to the outfield or called foul, could still be called an out on the first bounce.

As strange as that may seem now, those used to the original rules would consider what we call the game today, well, odd.

According to, the original bounce rules were considered holdovers from the days of "jacks," in which bouncing is an important rule. But the bounce was also important in the days before a leather mitt.

So for purists who believe that the designated hitter rule in the American League isn't really baseball have to consider the other rules that were "base ball," but aren't any more either.

This young season in Major League Baseball has already shown the interesting aspects of the designated hitter rule.

On Wednesday, Oakland pitcher Kendall Graveman became the first pitcher to bat in the new Yankee Stadium, when the A's opted to give up their designated hitter after an injury to their third baseman.

Graveman said it was the first time he'd batted in eight years, proving that pitchers no longer put an emphasis on hitting.

Until this season, pitchers were considered a No. 8 or 9 hitter in the batting order, at the bottom where they can do the least amount of damage.

The Cubs, however, are reaping rewards from their pitchers, with three with multiple hits this season, including extra-base hits from Jake Arrieta, a homer, and Jason Hammel, a double.

After high school, hitting is rarely focused on by pitchers, who would have been called strikers while at-bat in the original rules.

While two extra-base hits from one position 19 games into the season wouldn't be considered impressive, were it any other position. The pitcher isn't counted on to be an offensive producer, even in the NL where pitchers are required to be "strikers."

The original rules of baseball lay out the basepaths, how far apart they should be and how big the bat can be.

They were voted on at a convention, and later conventions changed the rules.

Just as owners meetings change the rules now, like adding the replay options and changing how base runners slide.

The "laws" are a fascinating look at the past, and how the game was formed.

It's ever-changing landscape shows that Doc's document is living and breathing, and as flexible as an old, worn mitt.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News


Entertainment & Dining

Latest News

Local Sports

NWI Prep Sport News

Weather Alerts