Rules of the Game in 1864

The Gothams play base ball by the rules established in 1864, although we frequently play teams who abide by other rule sets. Typically, ballists will approach this situation as gentlemen and play a double-header—one game by 1864 rules and one game with the opposing team's preferred rule set.

By 1860, base ball was already well established as a pastime in New York. Play was set on a diamond with ninety feet between the bases, nine players on each team, nine innings of play, and many rules fans of modern baseball would recognize.

loc_baseball.jpgOf course, the differences are what attract and hold the attention of modern day fans:


  • The pitching area is 45 feet from home plate—not today's standard 60 feet, 6 inches—and is marked by two parallel lines 12 feet long drawn 45' and 48' from the plate.
  • The pitcher delivers the ball underhand.
  • The striker must stand straddling a line drawn through home plate.
  • A pitch delivered to the batter may be deemed a ball, strike, or not called by the umpire. A ball is a pitch that strikes the ground in front of the home base, is pitched over the head of the batsman, or cannot be resonably reached by the bastman.
  • The umpire gives a verbal warning to the pitcher ("warning to the pitcher!") on his first ball. Three subsequent balls constitute a walk.
  • With each walked batter, all runners advance one base, whether they are forced or not.
  • Just as the umpire warns the pitcher, he also warns the batter ("warning to the striker!") at the first strike thrown. Three subsequent strikes constitute an out.
  • A batted ball is determined fair by where the ball first hits the ground regardless of whether it passes first or third base.
  • Foul balls are not called as strikes, but a batter will be called out on any foul tip caught in the air or on one bounce, including by the catcher.
  • The batter is not awarded first base if he is hit with the pitch.


  • If a batted ball is caught on the fly or on one bound (bouncing on the ground once), then the batter is out.
  • If a batted ball is caught on the fly, then the base runners must return to their base before they can advance (as in the modern game). If caught on one bound, they may advance freely: there is no need to tag up.
  • It is not necessary to have control of the ball on a tag out.
  • There is no infield fly rule.
  • Runners cannot overrun first base.
  • Runners must return to their bases on a foul ball and will be considered out if the ball goes through the pitcher's hands and is held by a fielder at the base before the runner returns. In other words, a runner can never advance on a foul ball until he has returned to the base and the ball has been touched by the pitcher.


  • The first batter in the inning is the person who follows the player who made the last out—not necessarily the last batter.
  • Only team captains may speak to the umpire or call for time out.

In 1864, base ball was a gentleman's game. All in attendance dressed in their Sunday best, because a game was an important event (second only to the 4th of July parade). A parade, picnic, and performance by a brass band were often scheduled as part of game day festivities.