delivering it, or to first-base, while that base is occupied by a runner, without completing the throw), he is said to have made a balk, which permits a base runner to advance a base. In fielding batted balls the pitcher takes all that come directly to him, especially slow ones which the other fielders cannot reach in time. One of his duties is to "back up" the first-baseman in order to stop balls thrown wide, and to cover first-base in place of the baseman whenever that player has to leave his base to field a ground ball. On occasion he also backs up other positions.
The catcher usually stands about 1 yd. behind the home plate, and he must never be more than 10 ft. behind the home plate when the pitcher delivers the ball to the batsman. He generally catches the ball from the pitcher before it strikes the ground, and, when a man of the opposing side has succeeded in getting to a base, must be on the alert to head this opponent off should he endeavour to steal the next base, i.e. run to it while the pitcher is delivering the ball to the batsman. For this reason the catcher must be a quick, strong and accurate thrower. As the catcher alone faces the whole field, he is able to warn the pitcher when to throw to a base in order to catch a runner napping off the base, and by secretly signalling to the pitcher (usually by means of signs with his fingers) he directs what kind of a ball is to be pitched, so that he may be in the proper position to receive the ball, be it high or low, to left or right. Some pitchers, however, prefer to reserve their choice of balls and therefore do the signalling themselves. The catcher wears a mask, a breast-pad, and a large glove, without which the position would be a very dangerous one.
|Diagram of Base-ball Field.|
As every batsman upon hitting the ball must run for the first-base, the first-baseman must be a sure catch of balls thrown to head runners off, even those thrown too low, high or wide. A tall man is usually chosen for this position. The second-baseman usually stands about 30 ft. to the right of second-base and back of the line between the bases, and attends to balls batted to his side of the diamond. He also backs up any exposed position and must be ready to cover second-base whenever a runner tries to steal down from first-base, or whenever there is a runner on second-base, a duty which he shares with the short-stop, whose position corresponds to that of the second-baseman on the left side of the diamond. Short-stop must be a quick and accurate thrower and a lively fielder, as he is required to back up second- and third-base. Both he and the second-baseman must field ground balls cleanly and are often called upon to catch fly balls also. The requirements of third-baseman are very similar, but he must be an exceptionally good thrower, as he has the longest distance to throw to the first-base; and as he plays nearer to the batsman than do the second-baseman and the short-stop, the balls batted in his direction are apt to be faster and more difficult to field. One of the third-baseman's chief duties is to be ready to run in towards the batsman to field "bunts," i.e. balls blocked by allowing them to rebound from a loosely held bat. These commonly roll slowly in the direction of third-baseman, who, in order to get them to first-base in time to put the runner out, must run in, pick them up, usually with one hand, so as to be in position to throw without the loss of an instant, and "snap" them to the first-baseman, i.e. throw them underhand without taking time to raise his body to an erect position. Many of these bunts can be fielded either by the pitcher or, if they drop dead in front of the home-plate, by the catcher. The positions of the three outfielders can be seen on the diagram. Their duties consist of catching all "flies" batted over the heads of the infielders (i.e. high batted balls that have not touched the ground), stopping and returning ground balls that pass the infield, and backing up the baseman. The accompanying diagram indicates the territory roughly allotted to the different fielders. "Backing up" is a very prominent feature in fielding. Even the pitcher, for example, should run behind the first-baseman when the ball is thrown to the latter by another, in order to stop a widely thrown or missed ball, which, if allowed to pass, would enable the runner to gain one or more additional bases. Bases vacated by their basemen while fielding balls must often, also, be promptly covered by another player. The general rule of defence strategy is similar to that in cricket, namely, to have as many men as possible at the probable point of attack. There is usually an infield and an outfield captain for the special purpose of calling the name of the player who is to take a certain fly ball, to prevent collisions.
The batsman stands three-quarters facing the pitcher within a parallelogram ("box") 6 ft. long and 4 ft. wide, the lines of which he may not overstep, on penalty of being declared out. His object is to get to first-base without being put out. This he may do in several ways. (1) He may make a "safe-hit," i.e. one that is "fair" but cannot be caught, or fielded in time to put him out. (2) He is entitled to first-base if the pitcher pitches four bad balls, at none of which he (the batsman) has struck. (3) He may be unavoidably struck by a pitched ball, in which case he is given his base. (4) He may, except in certain specified cases, after a third strike, if the catcher has failed to catch the third one, earn his base if he can reach it before the catcher can throw the ball to the first-baseman, and the first-baseman, with the ball in his possession, touch first-base. (5) He may reach his base by an error of some fielder, which may be either a muffed fly, a failure to stop and field a ground ball, a muffed thrown ball or a bad throw. Only balls batted within the foul-lines (see diagram) are fair. All others are "fouls," and the batsman cannot run on them. All foul-struck balls are called strikes until two strikes have been called by the umpire, after which fouls are not counted.
Batting, as in cricket, is a science by itself, although comparatively more stress is laid on fielding than in cricket. A good batsman can place the ball in any part of the field he chooses by meeting the ball at different angles. He may make a safe hit either by hitting the ball on the ground directly through the infield out of reach of the fielders, or so hard that it cannot be