Early Batting Order Practices

In the early days of major league play, quite a few of the rules and accepted practices were quite different from those in place at the beginning of the 20th Century, which is usually considered to be the start of the modern era. Here are some notes about the order in which the players batted.

Before 1879, the batting order rule specified that "After the first inning, the first striker in each inning shall be the batsman whose name follows that of the third man out in the preceding inning." If the third man put out was a baserunner and not the last batsman, one or more teammates would bat again at the beginning of the next inning, in a way that would be "batting out of order" today.

For example, the record for plate appearances in one game is ten by West Fisler, batting fifth for the Athletics at Troy. The first four batters appeared only nine times each, Fisler once leading off the next inning after the fourth batter made the third out on base. On another occasion, the seventh and eighth batters finished with five and two plate appearances!

Our thanks for the above information to Paul Wendt, who is the chair of the Nineteenth Century Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). More information about the committee and related research is available from SABR 19th Century Committee.

Page Updated: 5/14/06

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