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Old Hoss Radbourn
Posted 11 July 2012 - 08:50 PM
The book is "Fifty-nine in ‘84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball & the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had" by Edward Acorn. It is the amazing story of a guy who pitched nearly every game for his team. It has good views of society in the 1880s in general and baseball in particular. Baseball had many similarities to today's game but also some serious differences: no gloves (until 1890s), foul balls did not count as strikes (until 1901 in NL, 1903 in AL), a walk required 6 balls (reduced from 7 in 1884, later reduced to 4 in 1889), batters got to choose a "high" or "low" strike zone, no substitutions except for debilitating injury, and home plate was square (until 1890). The most remarkable difference was the pitching "box" was a rectangle with the closest side only 50 feet from home plate (60 feet, 6 inches came in 1893). The pitcher could get a running start before throwing the ball. However, pitching overhand was not allowed until 1884. The 50-foot distance, combined with the lack of protective gear, and the fact that hitting a batter didn’t result in putting him on base, must have made an interesting experience for batters. A team normally used two pitchers, but in the latter half of 1884 the Providence Grays started Old Hoss Radbourn nearly every game. On a couple of occasions, he started five days in a row. On the season, he finished all 73 games that he started. My arm ached just from reading the book.
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