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Encyclopedia > Dead ball era

The dead-ball era is a baseball term generally used to describe the period between 1900 (though some date it to the beginning of baseball) and the emergence of Babe Ruth as a power hitter in 1920. A view of the playing field at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, Missouri. ... woodcut from A pretty little pocketbook Part of the History of baseball series. ... Ruth batting for the Yankees George Herman Ruth, (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948), better known as Babe Ruth and also commonly known by the nicknames The Bambino and The Sultan of Swat, was an American baseball player and United States national icon. ... See also: 1919 in sports, 1921 in sports and the list of years in sports. Baseball January 3 - Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sells Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 and a $350,000 loan, beginning The curse of the Bambino. This was the prelude...

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Origins of the term

The term dead-ball era is derived from the relative rarity of home runs prior to 1920. An analogy would be that home runs then were as uncommon as triples are now, so the ball was called "dead" because it was hard to hit it with enough force to carry over the outfield wall. In baseball, a home run is a base hit in which the batter is able to circle all the bases, ending at home plate and scoring a run, with no errors on the play that result in the batter achieving extra bases. ... In baseball, a triple is the act of a batter safely reaching third base by striking the ball and getting to third before being made out, without the benefit of a fielders misplay (see error) or another runner being put out on a fielders choice. ...


Baseball during the dead ball era

During the dead-ball era, baseball was much more of a strategic, station-to-station game. It relied much more on stolen bases, hit and run plays and similar strategies than on home runs. It was basically a speed game. Such plays as the Baltimore Chop were popular, where a batter would intentionally hit downward on the incoming pitch so that by the time the fielders were able to retrieve the ball, the batter had reached first base. And then often he would steal second base, or be bunted over to second, and then move to third base or score on a hit and run play. The all-time stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, swipes third in 1985 In baseball statistics, stolen bases (denoted by SB) is a count of the number of bases successfully stolen by a player. ... Hit and run is the act of hitting an object with a vehicle and leaving the location of the incident. ... Barry Bonds batting Photo:Agência Brasil In baseball, batting is the act of facing the opposing pitcher and trying to produce offense for ones team. ... There are 10 fielding positions in baseball. ... A bunt is a special type of offensive technique in baseball or fastpitch softball. ...


There are many statistical examples from this era that show how much more speed oriented the game was. Between 1900 and 1920, there were 13 occasions when the league leader in home runs had fewer than 10 home runs for the season. Meanwhile, there were several instances where the league leader in triples had 20 or more, which is almost unheard of in recent years. Also, batting averages were much higher during the dead-ball era; .400 averages were much more frequent, because hitters went for much more higher percentage hits than they did during the live ball era, with home runs being more difficult to hit.


The reasons for the dead-ball era

The reasons for the dead-ball era have been debated for many years now. There have been many disagreements as to what caused the dead-ball era, but some themes definitely come through.


The ball itself

Before Ray Chapman died in 1920 after being hit by a pitch, it was very common for a baseball to be in play for over 100 pitches. A ball would be used in a game until it was starting to unravel. The early baseball leagues were very cost-conscious, so fans would have to throw balls back that had been hit in the stands; even if a ball was discolored, often due to tobacco juice applied by players, it was kept in the game. Because of this, and because the baseball parks had no lights until the late 1930s, it was very difficult to see the ball. And since the ball was hard to hit anyway, it was very difficult to hit it very far. As the ball was being used, it would get softer, and hitting a softer object for distance is much more difficult. There is also the argument that the ball itself was made softer to begin with, so it was harder to hit. Ray Chapman Ray Chapman (January 15, 1891 - August 17, 1920) was an American League shortstop for the Cleveland teams Naps (1912-1914) and Indians (1915-1920). ...


The spit ball

Another reason that the ball was hard to hit far was because pitchers could basically do whatever they wanted to when it came to the ball. The spitball pitch was permitted in baseball until 1920, but was phased out after Chapman's death even though the pitch that killed him was not a spitball. Pitchers often marked the ball or scuffed it or spit on it or anything else they wanted. This made the ball "dance" and curve probably much more than it does now. And such practices added to the discoloration, so it was literally harder to see the ball, particularly as evening approached. A spitball is a baseball pitch in which the ball has been altered by the application of spit, petroleum jelly, or some other foreign substance. ...


The end of the dead-ball era

Again, there is much debate as to why the dead-ball era ended. There are reasons which are agreed upon by most, though. One was the end of the spitball as a legal pitch. This happened when Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was killed by a pitched ball on August 6, 1920 when pitcher Carl Mays of the New York Yankees hit him in the head with a discolored ball. Today, balls are usually replaced over 100 times in a game. A spitball is a baseball pitch in which the ball has been altered by the application of spit, petroleum jelly, or some other foreign substance. ... The Cleveland Indians are a Major League Baseball team based in Cleveland, Ohio. ... August 6 is the 218th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (219th in leap years), with 147 days remaining. ... 1920 is a leap year starting on Thursday (link will take you to calendar) Events January January 7 - Forces of Russian White admiral Kolchak surrender in Krasnoyarsk. ... Carl William Mays (November 12, 1891 _ April 4, 1971) was one of the better right-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball from 1916_1926, but he is best remembered for throwing the pitch that struck Ray Chapman in the head on August 16, 1920, making Chapman the first and only... New York Yankees American League AAA Columbus Clippers AA Trenton Thunder A Charleston RiverDogs Tampa Yankees Staten Island Yankees R Gulf Coast Yankees The New York Yankees are a Major League baseball team based in The Bronx, New York City. ...


Also, of course, there was the Black Sox scandal of 1919. It's never been proven, but it's always been rumored that after the scandal, the ball itself was reformulated so it would be easier to hit. And then, of course, there was the arrival of Babe Ruth. The combination of these factors led to the virtual end of station to station baseball. Instead, it became much more common for teams to wait for the home run. The 1919 World Series was played between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. ...


 
 

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