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Official Rules

   03-28-2019

 

The 2019 Official Baseball Rules can be viewed via the Related Link located on this page.

Below is a sampling of baseball rules changes that occured between 1880 and 1975.

 

1880

  • The catcher had to catch the pitch on the fly in order to register an out on a third strike.

1883

  • The pitcher could deliver a ball from above his waist.

1884

  • Six "called balls" became a base on balls.

1885

  • One portion of the bat could be flat (one side).
  • Home base could be made of marble or whitened rubber.
  • Chest protectors worn by catchers and umpires came into use.

1887

  • Calling for high and low pitches was abolished.
  • Five balls became a base on balls.
  • Four "called strikes" were adopted for this season only.
  • Bases on balls were recorded as hits for this season only.
  • The batter was awarded first base when hit by a pitch.
  • Home plate was to be made of rubber only - dropping the marble type and was to be 12 inches square.
  • Coaches were recognized by the rules for the first time ever.

1889

  • Four balls became a base on balls.
  • A sacrifice bunt was statistically recognized.

1891

  • Substitutions were permitted at any point in the game.
  • Large padded mitts were allowed for catchers.

1893

  • Pitching distance increased from 50 feet to 60 feet 6 inches.
  • The pitching box was eliminated and a rubber slab 12 inches by 4 inches was substituted.
  • The pitcher was required to place his rear foot against the slab.
  • The rule allowing a flat side to a bat was rescinded and the requirement that the bat be round and wholly of hard wood was substituted.

1894

  • Foul bunts were classified as strikes.

1895

  • Pitching slab was enlarged to 24 inches by 6 inches.
  • Bats were permitted to be 2 3/4 inches in diameter and not to exceed 42 inches.
  • Infield-fly rule was adopted.
  • A held foul tip was classified as a strike.

1908

  • Pitchers were prohibited from soiling a new ball.
  • The sacrifice fly rule was adopted.

1910

  • The cork center was added to the official baseball.

1917

  • Earned-run statistics and definitions were added to the rules.

1920

  • All freak deliveries, including the spitball, were outlawed.
  • The number of runs batted in were to be included in the official score.

1925

  • The minimum home-run distance was set at 250 feet.

1931

  • Sacrifice fly rule was brought back, this time with a man scoring after the catch only.

1953

  • Players were to remove their gloves from the field (in 1954) when batting and no equipment was to show on the field at any time.

1959

  • Regulations were set up for minimum boundaries for all new parks, 325-400-325 feet.

1968

  • The anti-spitball rule was rewritten and tightened up because of the wave of moistened pitches that floated plateward the prior season.

1969

  • The pitcher's mound was dropped five inches.
  • The strike zone was shrunken to the area from the armpits to the top of the batter's knees.
  • The save rule was added to the official rules for the first time.

1971      

  • All major-league players were ordered to wear protective helmets.

1973      

  • The rule on glove size and color was minutely outlined for standardization.
  • The American League began using designated hitter for pitchers on an experimental basis.

1974      

  • The save rule was rewritten.

1975      

  • The ball was permitted to be covered with cowhide because of the shortage of horses.
  • Suspension for three days became mandatory if batter were to hit a fair ball with a filled, doctored or flat-surfaced bat.
  • The save rule was changed again.

To read more interesting rules changes over the years, please visit Baseball-Almanac.com.

 

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