Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Game Played Under The "Ten Men-Ten Inning Rule"

On May 23, 1875, the Reds played the Westerns of Keokuk at the Compton Avenue Park, coming away with a 7-1 victory on the strength of Joe Blong's two hitter. This game is not considered an "official" NA game for two reasons.

First, the game was played on a Sunday and, under NA rules, championship games could not be played on the Sabbath. Second, and more interestingly, the game was played under the "ten men-ten inning rule". This tenth man, I assume, was a type of rover and the position was listed in the box score as "r.s." And to state the obvious, a game played under these rules lasted ten innings rather than the normal nine. The Globe-Democrat wrote that this was the first time a baseball game had been played in St. Louis under these rules.

The Reds' rover that day was Charlie Sweasy and in Sweasy's normal spot at second was someone named "Fox". The Globe's coverage of this game is the only mention of Fox playing with the Reds.

An official championship game between the two teams had been called off the day before because of "the forbidding aspect of the weather". With the Westerns leading 4-1 in the fourth inning, the rains came "in torrents", forcing the cancellation of the game.

Since the Westerns had two games scheduled with the Brown Stockings and were going to be in St. Louis for the rest of the week, it is unclear why the Reds and Westerns didn't make up the championship game and chose instead to play an exhibition.


Richard Hershberger said...

The Ten Men-Ten Inning rule was pushed heavily by Chadwick, and some other papers supported the idea. Several clubs played experimental games, but obviously the idea didn't catch on. I didn't know about the game you report.

The extra man wasn't a rover. He was the "right short stop", hence the abreviation of "r.s." Presumably the second baseman moved accordingly.

A discussion on the SABR 19c list some time ago turned up that this version was widespread in Cuba, and from there spread to parts of central America. Aparently they read the newspaper accounts assuring readers that this rule was going to be adopted, and believed them.

I find the episode interesting as a sign of Chadwick's waning influence. Ten years earlier he had been a mover and shaker, but by the mid-70s he had slid into fogey status. You see this a bit later when he is cut out of the NL formation. He eventually grew into grand old man status (which is not at all the same as being actually influential). But in this era you see people making fun of him. If you see someone poking fun at "model games" that is the context.

This also shows that baseball had matured to the point where major changes to the rules faced a lot of inertia. They were still fiddling with the pitching rules, and number of balls for a walk and stuff like that. But anything more fundamental wasn't really changeable anymore.

Jeff Kittel said...

Thanks, Richard. I really had no idea what this 10 men/10 inning rule was. Was Chadwick pushing this in mid 70's? It's an interesting idea. I don't know about 10 innings but there's no reason the game can't be played with 10 men. We play slow pitch with 10 on a side all the time (less ground for us old guys to cover in the outfield). Of course, if they did this at the major league level then it would seriously put a damper on runs scored.

What do you think about the fact that the Reds and Westerns decided to play an exhibition game rather than try and squeeze in a championship game? The Westerns were in St. Louis for at least 8 days and played Friday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday (plus the rain out on Saturday). Rather than play the exhibition on Sunday, the Reds and Westerns could have played on Monday or Wednesday.

Does this say anything about the commitment of the two teams to the NA or am I reading too much into it? I guess it's possible that Sunday was the only day they could get the game in as the Compton Ave. Ballpark was used by other teams besides the Reds. Also, I assume that a game was a game was a game regardless of whether it was a championship contest or an exhibition. As long as folks showed up and money was made, it was probably irrelevant what kind of official status the game had.

Richard Hershberger said...

Personally, I think that ten-men would make the game much less interesting. Think of any strategy that relies on the fact that the second baseman and the short stop do not normally play on the bag: hit-and-run, pick-offs of runners at second. With a right short, these would go away.

I don't really know enough to comment on why they chose to play an exhibition. Sunday might enter into it, or perhaps they genuinely wanted to experiment with the idea.