Rules Differences for Vintage Base Ball (1858) Compared to Modern Baseball

Bats must be made of wood and not exceed 2½ inches in diameter at the thickest part.

The pitchers’ plate shall be 45 feet from home base.  A line shall extend 6 feet to each side of the pitchers’ plate.

The ball must be tossed or pitched underhanded (like a horseshoe) to the bat and delivered as near as possible over the center of home base.  The pitcher’s arm may not touch the body. 

The pitcher may run up to or stand anywhere along the 12-foot line, but shall not have either foot in front of the pitchers’ plate when delivering the ball.

A batted ball that first touches the ground or a player in fair territory is fair, even if it rolls into foul territory.

A batted ball that first touches the ground or a player in foul territory is foul, even if it rolls into fair territory.

Swinging and missing is a strike, but fouls are not counted as strikes.  If the third strike is not caught in the air or on one bound the striker may attempt to run.  Base runners must vacate if forced, no matter how many are out.  

There are no called strikes.  However, the striker may be warned for repeatedly failing to swing at good balls, after which the umpire may call strikes.   

There are no bases on balls or hit by pitches.

The striker is out if a batted ball, fair or foul, is caught in the air or on one bound by an active opposing player.  

If a ball is caught in the air it becomes a dead ball.  Base runners must return to their base and may not advance.  

A runner required to vacate a base may be forced out, even if the batter or a trailing runner is already out.  A batted ball caught on the first bound does not require a runner to vacate a base.

On a force-out, the fielder must be on the base.  Touching the base with the ball does not count.

A fielder is not required to maintain control of the ball after a tag play.

The first batter in an inning (after the first) is the player who bats after whoever was retired for the last out in the previous inning, not necessarily the batter who was up next when the last out was made. 

A runner over-running first base may be tagged out.

A runner is not out if accidentally hit by a batted ball.   

There is no out-of-play unless stipulated in the ground rules.

Customs for Vintage Base Ball

Base Ball is a gentleman’s game played by amateurs for exercise and recreation. 

No gloves.  No bunting, lead-offs, or base stealing.  No feet first sliding.  Slides are rare, and most resemble falling hands-first towards the base.   Ringing the Tally Bell signals that an ace (run) is counted.  Modern, non-prescription eyewear is not allowed.

The first, second, and third basemen play within 2 steps of the base.  The rover (shortstop) may play anywhere.  Outfielders play straight away.

Close plays are often called by the players involved.  It is reprehensible for a fielder to claim he has put a player out when he knows he hasn’t.  And it is just as dishonorable for a runner to be declared safe if he was not.   

To almost everyone except themselves, pitchers are viewed as intruders in a game that is supposed to pit fielders against hitters.  The pitcher’s role is to give the striker something to hit.

Courtesy runners may be allowed by asking for and being granted permission from the opposing captain.