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November 26, 2014


Richard Hershberger

My favorite trick play from early baseball is made possible by the early rule that a foul ball was dead until it was "settled in the hands of the pitcher." The essence of the trick was to create a situation where the runner lost track of whether the ball was live or dead. Here is an example showing how it worked:

[Enterprise vs. Gotham 8/20/1861] [Smith of the Enterprise at second base:] Ibbetson was the [next] striker, and began with a high foul ball over the catcher’s head. Cohen the catcher returned the ball to McKeever the pitcher, who purposely allowed it to slip through his hands towards right field, seeing which, Smith forgetting that it was a returned foul ball, and that he could not make his base until the ball had been settled in the hands of the pitcher, ran for his 3d base, when McKeever immediately picked up the ball and stood on 2d base, thus putting out Smith, it not being requisite to touch the player in such cases. This was an imperfect error, especially for a player who has been practiced in the Atlantic school. New York Clipper August 31, 1861

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