What you may not already know about baseball

One of the earliest known photographs of a baseball game was taken inside Fort Pulaski in 1862, and featured members of the 48th New York Volunteer Infantry.

Since childhood until about ten years ago, I have been an enthusiast (if not a fanatic) about baseball. Played it in high school and college, then coached it at two boarding schools in New England at which I taught English and also coached football and basketball.

In recent years, I have lost much of my interest in watching Major League Baseball. Why? Three reasons: what I view as (a) the exorbitant costs of attending a game, (b) the excessive delays to accommodate commercials, and (c) the greed of MLB and its team owners.

However, that said, I cherish watching (and then rewatching) Ken Burns’s documentary film and reading (and then re-reading) its companion volume.

According to John W. Miller, “The establishment of baseball as the national pastime began when, in the second half of the 19th century, baseball missionaries (mostly from New York) spread across a booming land along new railroads and canals. Hundreds of thousands of these men had been soldiers in the Union army during the Civil War; and after the war they journeyed to New Orleans to buy cotton, to Nicaragua with William Walker, to Cuba with the sugar trade, to the California Gold Rush, to the Upper Midwest via the Erie Canal, and to Washington, D.C., to serve in the government. All baseball roads ‘lead back to New York,’ asserts Thomas W. Gilbert [author of How Baseball Happened], who may love the city even more than he loves baseball.”

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Here are some especially interesting facts about baseball — provided by April Whitzman — that you may not already know:

1. The Ground Rule Triple: While the ground rule double is a common occurrence, a ground rule triple is possible as well. This occurs when a player attempts to use his hat to stop a ball on the ground or in the air. Using a hat is a penalty of three bases to both the batter and any runner(s) on base.

2. MLB Mud: Every MLB ball is covered in mud from a secret location in New Jersey. The mud is called Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing mud and allows pitchers to have a better grip on balls. Before this mud, baseballs were rubbed in water and dirt and sometimes tobacco juice and shoe polish.

3. A Big Trade: In 1957, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs conducted a huge trade. How huge? They traded their entire minor-league teams! As the Dodgers were preparing to move West and the Cubs were wanting a change, both teams decided to spice things up and traded their entire 25-man minor league roster.

4. An MLB Baseball Lasts Six Pitches: Whether it is due to a ball going out of the park, getting dirty or damaged, it has been said that a single MLB ball only lasts six-to-seven pitches. Interestingly enough, it is also been said that a typical game goes through five-to-six dozen balls, though a single club must have 90 on hand for each game.

5. 12 Seconds to Pitch: According to Rule 8.04(b) of the MLB Handbook, a pitcher has 12 seconds to pitch after he has received the ball back from the catcher when the bases are empty. If the pitcher surpasses this time, the umpire may choose to add a ball to the count, calling the occurrence a delay in the game.



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