In selecting a suitable ground, there are many points to be taken into consideration. The ground should be level, and the surface free from all irregularities, and, if possible, covered with fine turf; if the latter can not be done, and the soil is gravelly, a loamy soil should be laid down around the bases, and all the gravel removed therefrom, because, at the bases frequent falls occur, and on gravelly soil injury, in such cases, will surely result to both the clothes and body of the player, in the shape of scraped hands, arms, knees, etc.
The ground should be well rolled, as it adds greatly to the pleasure of playing to have the whole field smooth and in good order; it will be found that such a course will fully compensate for the trouble and expense attending it.
The proper size for a ground is about six hundred feet in length, by four hundred in breadth, although a smaller field will answer. The home base must be full seventy feet from the head of the field. The space of ground immediately behind the home base, and occupied by the catcher, should be not only free from turf, but the ground should be packed hard and smooth, and free from gravel. To mark the position for the bases, square blocks of wood or stone should be placed in the ground, low enough to be level with the surface, at the base points, to each of which strong iron staple should be attached. If the blocks are of stone, have the staples inserted with lead; and if made of wood, let the staples be screwed in, not driven, for in the latter case they will either become loose, or ultimately driven into the wood altogether; in either case, becoming entirely useless.
There are several methods by which the ground may be correctly measured; the following is as simple as any. Having determined on the point of the home base, measure from that point, down the field, one hundred and twenty-seven feet four inches, and the end will indicate the position of the second base; then take a cord one hundred and eighty feet long, fasten one end at the home base, and the other at the second, and then grasp it in the center and extend it first to the right side, which will give the point of the first base, and then to the left, which will indicate the position of the third; this will give the exact measurement, as the string will thus form the sides of a square whose side is ninety feet. On a line from the home to the second base, and distant from the former forty-five feet, is the pitcher's point. The foul ball posts are placed on a line with the home and first base, and home and second, and should be at least one hundred feet from the bases. As these posts are intended solely to assist the umpire in his decisions in reference to foul balls, they should be high enough from the ground and painted, so as to be distinctly seen from the umpire's position.
The bases should be made of the best heavy canvas, and of double thickness, as there will be much jumping on them with spiked shoes, and if the best material be not used, it soon wears out. Cotton or sawdust will be the most suitable filling for the bases, as they will be lighter than if filled with sand, and consequently easier to carry to and from the field. The proper size of a base is about fourteen inches by seventeen; but as long as it covers one square foot of ground, when secured to the base post, the requirements of the rules will be fulfilled. The straps with which the bases are held in position should be made of harness leather, about one and a half inches wide. They must pass entirely around the bases, and securely fastened to them. New bases filled with hair and with patent fastening have recently been introduced.
The location of the pitcher's point and the home base are indicated by means of iron quoits painted white, and not less than nine inches in diameter. They should be cast with iron spikes running from the under side to keep them marked by the insertion in the ground of a piece of hard wood, six feet long, about two inches wide, and from six to eight deep. It should be inserted so as the umpire can see it.
The rule regulating the form and dimensions of the bat is as follows; "Section 2. The bat must be round, and must not exceed two and a half inches in diameter in the thickest part. It must be made of wood, and may be of any length to suit the striker." While all are limited to a particular size in diameter, it will be observed that no objection is made as to any particular length or weight. Bats are from thirty to forty inches in length, and from two to three pounds in weight being most desirable.
The description of wood most in use is ash, but maple, white and pitch pine, and also hickory bats are in common use, weight for the size governing the selection.
For a bat of medium weight, ash is preferable, as its fiber is tough and elastic. The English willow has recently been used and is favorably regarded by many. This latter wood is very light and close in fiber, and answers the purpose better than any other wood for a light bat.
In the choice of a bat, select a light one, as it can by wielded better, and in match games it is desirable that the player be able to strike quick enough to meet the rapid pitching that has recently come in vogue. We would not recommend a bat much under two pounds in weight, as some weight is required to overcome the resistance of the ball.
Players have different modes, and adopt different styles of batting; some take the bat with the left hand on the handle, and slide the right from the large end toward the handle; others grasp it nearly one-third of the distance from the small end, so that both hands appear near the middle of the bat; others again take hold with both hands well down on the handle, and swing the bat with a natural and free stroke, while great force is given to the hit: all give good reasons for their several styles. Practice with one bat, as a player thereby becomes more sure of striking than he would were he constantly to change his bat. In striking at the ball, do not try to hit it so hard that you throw yourself off your balance, but plant your feet firmly on the ground, and swing the bat in as natural a manner as possible. The secret of hard-hitting lies in the quick stroke and firm position of the batsman the moment the ball is struck. This will account for some small and light men being hard hitters. Let the left foot be placed on the line indicated as the striker's position, and then every ball that comes perpendicularly from the bat to the ground will be a foul ball; but should you stand back of the line, it will not.
The rule states that the ball must be composed of India rubber and yarn, covered with leather, the proper weight being five and three-quarter ounces avoirdupois, and its circumference nine and three-quarter inches. The balls are easily made, but it would be advisable to obtain them from some well-known maker, as there will then be no chance of their being wrong in size or weight. The covering is usually sheepskin, and on a turf ground this covering will last some time.
Base Ball is played by nine players on a side: one side taking the bat, and the other the field. The latter occupy the following positions in the field: Catcher, Pitcher, First Second and Third Basemen, Short Stop, and Right Left and Center Fieldsman. The side that wins the toss, have the choice of taking the bat or the field at their option. The batsman stands at the home base, on a line drawn through its center-parallel to one extending from first to third base-and extending three feet on each side of it. When he bats the ball, he starts for the first base, and is succeeded by player after player until three are put out at which time the side occupying the field take their places at the bat, and, in like manner, play their innings.
When the batsman succeeds in reaching the home base, untouched by the ball in the hands of an adversary, and after successively touching the first, second, and third bases, he is entitled to score one run; and when he hits the ball far enough to admit of his making the four bases before it is returned, he makes what is termed a home run. Nine innings are played on each side, and the part making the greatest number of runs win the match. In case of a tie, at the close of the ninth inning, the game by mutual consent, can be prolonged innings after innings until one or other of the contesting sides obtain the most runs. And if any thing occurs to interrupt or put a stop to the game before five innings on each side have been played, the game must be drawn. The rules and regulations of the game define all further particulars in reference to it.