This player is expected to catch or stop all balls pitched or thrown to the home base. He must be fully prepared to catch all foul balls, especially tips, and be able to throw the ball swiftly and accurately to the bases, and also keep a bright look-out over the whole field. When a player has made his first base, the Catcher should take a position nearer the striker, in order to take the ball from the pitcher before it bounds; and the moment the ball is delivered by the pitcher, and the player runs from the first to the second base, the Catcher should take the ball before bounding, and send it to the second base as swiftly as possible, in time to cut off the player before he can touch the base; in the latter case it would be as well, in the majority of cases, to send the ball a little to the right of the base. The same advice holds good in reference to a player running from the second base to the third. As the position occupied by the Catcher affords him the best view of the field, the person filling it is generally chosen captain, although the pitcher is sometimes selected for that honor. We would suggest, however, that some other player than the pitcher be selected as captain, from the fact that the physical labor attached to that position tends to increase the player's excitement, especially if the contest is a close one, and it is requisite that the captain should be as cool and collected as possible. We would suggest to the Catcher the avoidance of the boyish practice of passing the ball to and from the pitcher when a player is on the first base; let the discredit of this style of game fall on the batsman, if any one, as then the umpire can act in the matter; we have referred to this matter elsewhere, as it is a feature of the game that is a tiresome one. The Catcher, whenever he sees several fielders running to catch a ball, should designate the one he deems most sure of taking it, by name, in which case the others should refrain from the attempt to catch the ball on the fly, and strive only to take it on the bound in case of its being otherwise missed.
The player's position is behind a line four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to second base, and having its center upon that line at a point distant forty five feet from the former base. His movements, immediately preceding, and at the time of delivering the ball are to be confined to a space of ground bounded by the above line, and one three feet in the rear of it; ;and while in the act of delivering the ball both of his feet must be on the ground. He must pitch the ball, not jerk or throw it; and he must deliver the ball as near as possible over the home base, and for the striker, and sufficiently high to prevent its bounding before it passes the base. If he fails in this respect it is the umpire's duty to call balls upon him, as prescribed in Section 5 of the rules. When in the act of delivering the ball, the pitcher must avoid having either foot in advance of the line of his position, or otherwise a baulk will be declared; this penalty is also inflicted when he moves his arm with the apparent purpose of delivering the ball, and fails so to do. When a player attempts to run in to the home base while he is pitching, he should follow the ball to the home base as soon as it leaves his hand, and be ready at the base to take it from the catcher. The pitcher will frequently have to occupy the bases on occasions when the proper guardian has left it to field the ball. And in cases where a foul ball has been struck, and the player running a base endeavors to return to the one he has left, he should be ready to receive the ball at the point nearest the base in question, in order to comply with Section 16 of the rules The pitcher, who can combine a high degree of speed with an even delivery, and at the same time can, at pleasure, impart a bias or twist to the ball, is the most effective player in that position. We would remind him that in cases where a player has reached his first base after striking, it is the pitcher's duty to pitch the ball to the bat, and not to the catcher; and should the batsman refuse to strike at good balls repeatedly pitched to him, it will be the umpire's duty to call one strike, etc., according to Section 37 (39) of the rules.
This position on the field is a very important one, for on the activity and judgment of the Short Stop depends the greater part of the in-fielding. His duties are to stop all balls that come within his reach, and pass them to whatever base the striker may be running to-generally, however, the first base. In each case his arm must be sure, and the ball sent in swiftly, and rather low than high. He must back up the pitcher, and, when occasion requires, cover the third base when the catcher throws to it; also back up the second and third bases when the ball is thrown in from the field. He should be a fearless fielder, and ready and able to stop a swift ground-ball; and if he can throw swiftly and accurately, it would be as well to be a little deliberate in sending the ball to the first base, as it is better to be sure and just in time, than to risk a wild throw by being in too great a hurry. His position is generally in the center of the triangle formed by the second and third bases and the pitcher's position, but he should change it according to his knowledge of the striker's style of batting. He must also be on the alert to take foul balls on the bound that are missed on the fly by either the third baseman or pitcher, or indeed any other player he can get near enough to be effective in this respect. In doing this, however, he should be careful not to interfere with the fielder who is about catching the ball; so as to prevent him doing so, the catcher will call to that fielder who he thinks will best take a ball on the fly. An effective Short Stop and good first base player, especially if they are familiar with each other's play, will materially contribute to the successful result of a well-contested game.
The First Baseman should play a little below his base and inside the line of the foul ball post, as he will then get within reach of balls that would otherwise pass him. The moment the ball is struck, and he finds that it does not come near him, he should promptly return to his base, and stand in readiness, with one foot on the base, to receive the ball from any player that may have fielded it. The striker can be put out at this base without being touched by the ball, provided the fielder, with the ball in hand, touches the base with any part of his person before the striker reaches it. The player will find it good practice to stand with one foot on the base, and see how far he can reach and take the ball from the fielder; this practice will prepare him for balls that are thrown short of the base. In the same manner he should learn to jump up and take high balls. This position requires the player filling it to be the very best of catchers, as he will be required to hold very swiftly-thrown balls. The moment he has held the ball he should promptly return it to the pitcher, or to either of the other bases a player is running to, as in some instances two and sometimes three players are put out by promptitude in this respect. For instance, we will suppose a player to be on each of the first, second, and third bases, and the striker hits the ball to short field, the latter sends it to First Base, (he should, however, send it to the catcher, that being the proper play), in time to cut off the striker running to it; the First Baseman seeing the player on the third base running home, immediately sends the ball to the catcher, who, in turn, sends it to the third base; and if this be done rapidly in each case, all three players will be put out, as it is only requisite, under such circumstances, for the ball to be held-not the player to be touched with it-for each player to be put out. Should, however, there only be players on the second and third bases when the striker is put out at the first, and the ball is sent to the catcher as above, and by him to the third baseman, it will be requisite that each player be touched with the ball, as in the first case they are forced from their bases, but in the latter they are not. We give this as an illustration of a very pretty point of the game. For the rule in reference to it, see Sections 15 and 16.
This position is considered by many to be the key of the field, and therefore requires an excellent player to occupy it. He should be an accurate and swift thrower, a sure catcher, and a thorough fielder. He should play a little back of his base, and to the right or left of it, according to the habitual play of the striker, but generally to the left, as most balls pass in that direction. He should back up the pitcher well, allowing no balls to pass both that player and himself too. When the striker reaches the first base, the Second Baseman should immediately return to his base and stand prepared to receive the ball from the catcher, and put out his opponent by touching him with the ball, which it is requisite to do on this base as well as on the third and home bases, except in the cases of balls caught on the fly, or foul balls, in both of which instances a player can be put out in returning to the base he has left, in the same manner as when running to the first base-see rule 16. When the catcher fails to throw the ball with accuracy to the Second Baseman, the latter should by all means manage to stop the ball, if he can not catch it, in time to put out his opponent. He should also promptly return the ball to the pitcher.
The Third Base is not quite as important a position as the others, but it nevertheless requires its occupant to be a good player, as some very pretty play is frequently shown on this base. Its importance, however, depends in a great measure upon the ability displayed by the catcher, who, if he is not particularly active, will generally sacrifice this base by giving his principal attention to the second. A player who catches with his left hand will generally make a good Third Baseman. The same advice in regard to the proper method of practice for the first base is equally applicable to the second and third, but it is not quite as necessary to the two latter as to the former. Should a player be caught between the bases, in running from one to the other, it is the surest plan to run in and put the player out at once, instead of passing the ball backward and forward, as a wild throw, or a ball missed, will almost invariably give the player the base. All three of the basemen should avoid, by all fair means, obstructing the striker. We scarcely need to remind each of the basemen that whenever they ask for judgment from the umpire, on any point of play, that they should forbear from commenting on the same, be it good or bad, but receive it in entire silence. Such is the course a gentleman will always pursue.
This position requires the fielder who occupies it to be a good runner, a fine thrower, and an excellent and sure catcher; as probably three out of every six balls hit are sent toward the left field.
The same qualities are requisite also in this position, as necessary in the left field, but not to the extent required by the latter fielder. The Center Fielder should always be in readiness to back up the second base, and should only go to long field in cases where a hard hitter is at the bat.
This is the position that the poorest player of the nine-if there be any such-should occupy; not that the position does not require as good a player to occupy it as the others, but that it is only occasionally, in comparison to other portions of the field, that balls are sent in this direction.