Live vs. Dead ball…

It’s funny looking at some of the older pictures of ballparks where there were no fences.  People would line the outskirts of the outfield and be their own sort of fence.  Also seeing the features of the crowd, usually all male and wearing the same attire, suits and top hats.  Things have changed so much in the last 100 years.  Baseball wasn’t much of a home run game until the live-ball era.  The dead-ball era lasted from 1900-1919.  What made the ball “dead” in this time frame? The dimensions of the field were significantly larger–it was not uncommon for center field to be longer than 500 feet.  Before 1901 foul balls didn’t count as strikes.  The balls themselves were said to be softer making it more difficult to hit the ball farther, and the balls were replaced much less often so that a ball by the end of the game had some wear and tear to it, something definitely to the pitcher’s advantage.  The spit ball was alive and legal.  Pitchers would spit on the ball or scuff at it to alter the ball’s movement.  When tobacco spit was added it made the ball harder to see.  After Ray Chapman, a shortstop for Clevelend, was killed in 1920 from being beaned in the head while he was batting  the live ball era began in 1920 and continues today.  That year the spitball was banned and balls were replaced much more frequently during the course of the game.  Ruth brought along the popularity of the home run at the beginning of this period, hitting 54 HRs in 1920, showing that swinging for the fences can pay big dividends.

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