Baseball Traditions

I was enjoying a nice evening at the ball park tonight when something occured to me. Between innings, all the players will come out and go to their positions. The first baseman will throw ground balls to the rest of the infield, while two of the outfielders throw a ball back and forth, and the third throws with a catcher from the bullpen. The pitcher is throwing to the catcher. After a few minutes, maybe 5, the fielders will get rid of their balls, and the pitcher will make one more pitch. The catcher throws the ball to the second baseman, like someone is stealing. Then, the second baseman throws to the shortstop, who throws to the third baseman, who throws to the pitcher, and the inning starts.

My question is where did this warm up routine originate? I remember doing this when I played little league, and it never occured to me to ask why we did that way. Anyone out there know?

Along with that, what about the strike out routine, where upon catching the last strike, the catcher throws to the third baseman, who throws to the shortstop, who throws to the second baseman, who throws back to the third baseman, and then he throws it to the pitcher?

Mines Mystique

I’m not sure exactly where it started, but it goes WAY back. Maybe even to Elysian (sp?) Fields days.

Very good questions.

I have no idea about either one, but I’d like to know the answers as well.

As to the first though, it just seems like an efficient way to warm up everyone on the defense. The infielders warm up by fielding ground balls and throwing to first, like most in-game situations, while the outfielders work on long-distance throws, which come up in-game as well. I’m guessing that because it just sort of “makes sense” to do it that way, there isn’t going to be an elaborate explanation of how it came about. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe we’ll see.

The manner in which ballplayers warm up dates back to well back into the 19th century. As Garfield points out, it’s just logical, after all.

Now, having said that, a lot of things have changed. Up until the 1940s, foir instance, the outfielders and sometimes the infielders didn’t bring their gloves back to the bench with them; they’d drop them in the field, then pick them back up when they went back out there. This was formally disallowed in 1954 and had been falling out of fashion before then. Why they did that I don’t know, but they did, and it persisted in lower levels of baseball untiul the 1960s.

Formal infield practices have also fallen out of favour at the pro level; historically a team would conduct a more formal infield practice before the game, often two, to allow both the regular and backup infielders a practice. That started dying out in the 1960s and 1970s, probably because fielders in modern times actually spend more time working on their defense at other times than they used to.

What I always wonder is why the first baseman is left out of this (and those last throws before the inning starts).

It’s a warm-up thing, and the first baseman really doesn’t need to keep his arm loose. He hardly ever has to make a throw (maybe once every 10 games). The other players need to stay loose, and often there isn’t a lot of throwing going on during a half inning, especially if you have a strike-out pitcher on the mound.

It’s much more important for a first baseman to focus on catching throws, not making them. Which of course is why a lot of teams stick their weakest arm at first base by default.

I hear what you’re saying regarding the frequency issue, but to me, this is even MORE of a reason to have your first baseman get in some warm-up tosses.

The two situations that spring to mind immediately are when the first baseman has to initiate a double-play (which requires quickly stepping out of the path of the runner and making a very accurate leading throw to the shortstop/second baseman) and when he has to make a quick throw home on a bases-loaded force play. Both situations are fairly rare, but could pop up at any time, and I’d think you’d want your first baseman to be very, very loose just in case.

Didn’t this get addressed by Cecil?

the conclusion:

At some point in baseball’s early days, it is believed that the first basemen had some other responsibility to kept him from participating in the throw around the bases: Maybe the scoreboard, or meeting with an ump/pitcher, or some other mundane task that later disappeared long after the established throw around had a foothold in the game.

One point, one question.

I don’t have an answer other than it’s a logical way to warm up your arm before playing defense. Some half innings can last 15 minutes or longer, and that’s a long time to let your arm and shoulder muscles cool off. So, a couple of quick grounders by the first baseman to the infielders (or tosses between outfielders) makes some sense. Especially since the pitcher is warming up.

One variation in your scenario is when I played baseball, after the strikeout the catcher would throw to the third baseman, he’d throw to the second baseman, who would throw to the shortstop, and then the shortstop would either throw it back to the pitcher or the first baseman. I guess we just did it to change things up.

My question. Why is the first baseman’s mitt shaped the way it is? I’ve played baseball, and I’ve played first base, but I could never use that silly mitt. I also couldn’t see any advantage. I’ve *heard * of the advantages, but I’ve never seen anyone save an errant throw because of that big scoop. If they were so advantageous, why don’t other infielders use them? A second baseman can catch a line-drive that short-hops in front of him with a regular glove, but a first baseman can’t dig a throw out of the ground that’s in front of him (and probably going slower)? Never did understand that mitt.

sorry for the slight hi-jack.

The rules allow most fielders to wear gloves, and catchers and first basemen to wear mitts. The difference is that mitts don’t have individual fingers (think of childrens’ mittens). A mitt provides more protection for the hand, and I think one of the reasons the rules allow catchers and first basemen to use them is that they take so many more throws than the other fielders do. As for saving errant throws - I must have seen first basemen dig throws out of the dirt thousands of times, and they often do it in a full stretch position (i.e. while doing the splits with one foot on the bag - not the ideal fielding position). I believe a first baseman’s mitt helps with this - the rules allow a mitt to be larger than a glove, so there’s a bigger target.

Most infielders wouldn’t want to use a first baseman’s mitt even if the rules allowed it because they have to be able to get rid of the ball in a hurry. Second basemen often use small gloves to help them turn double plays - they don’t have to fish around to find the ball.

Thanks for the info.

I would be curious to hear from anyone who has actually used the glove as a first baseman with success, and could speak to the advantages, especially if they used a normal fielder’s glove first and then switched. As I mentioned, I played baseball, and I also played first base for a time. I tried the first baseman’s mitt and switched back to my regular infielder’s glove because I found it to be a disadvantage. I concede that I may just not have been used to it, but stretching for a throw and digging balls out of the ground were easier with my normal glove. To me, it was just like a slower ground ball.

I know what the glove looks like. A large semi-circle piece of leather covering the 4 fingers, and a small “hinge” area controlled by the thumb. If size is what’s important, wouldn’t an outfielder’s glove (which is usually “longer” in the finger/webbing area to catch fly balls that they could not otherwise reach - I’m sure there is a rule on maximum size) make more sense?

I’ve heard the small glove for middle infielders theory, so they don’t lose the ball when they are turning a double play, etc. Makes sense to me. Smaller glove, easier to find the ball. And I can understand the need for a first baseman to use a bigger glove, since he is at the end of a throw. But does that big curved half-moon actually help more than a regular outfielder’s glove?

Sorry to continue the hijack. If it consumes the original thread too much, perhaps I’ll start a new thread.

Not exactly; the question is about why the first baseman is tossed a ball as he leaves the field, and Cecil talks about how that ball is supposed to be used to begin the warmup being discussed in this thread. He doesn’t cover the history of the actual warmup.

I’ve used it. I did feel I could scoop bad throws a little better with the first baseman’s trapper than with a regular glove. That said, I didn’t think it made that much of a difference. When I went back to playing first base full time for my softball team in 2003 I didn’t bother switching to a mitt because it wasn’t worth the expense and trouble for what I thought was a pretty minor advantage.

There is no real structural advantage to a mitt over a glove. The reason first basemen wear mitts is that they can be wider than gloves; see Rules 1.13 and 1.14. It’s not by a lot (and the rules are kind of hard to read at first glance) but it does make a small difference. First basemen don’t wear them because they look different; they wear them just because they’re allowed to be bigger. Other fielder don’t wear mitts because they are prohibited from doing so (same rulebook reference.)

When rules 1.13 and 1.14 were written there was a bigger difference between mitts and gloves than there is today. The fingers on gloves used to be more separate - they were loosely tied together with leather thongs - and the webbing was much smaller. Players were supposed to catch the ball in the pocket (an indentation in the area covering the palm) rather than in the webbing.

The modern trap glove has the fingers strapped closely together. The webbing is large and the glove is hinged - when the ball hits the webbing the glove snaps shut. Even though a modern glove has separate fingers, they are tied together so tightly that the glove might as well be a mitt.

I think the idea was to keep everyone loose and focused and in contact with the ball. If you’re standing around the infield for a while and a scorcher gets hit to you, your reaction time might be a tad quicker if you’ve had some recent contact.

I believe a first baseman’s mitt was designed to be similar to a catcher’s mitt, with a little more padding and no fingers for the ball to get stuck between. First takes hard throws all day, and not always right on target.

I am speaking hardball here. Softball is a little different animal.

I played infield for my high-school and college teams, and although I never played first base in a game I (we all) would run first-base drills on infield practice. I’d stick with my own glove, but for fun I’d sometimes borrow a first baseman’s glove just to get the feel of it.

It was definitely an awkward feeling–like catching with a folded-over newspaper–and I can’t say I’d ever get used to it. But I could see the catching advantage for someone who was used to it. Please note, I wasn’t the greatest player in the world, so take it for what it’s worth…

Incidentally, I thought the glove was one of the main reasons many catchers transition to first in their later careers; they already are used to a similar-sized mitt. That and you get to keep your knees from disintegrating…

While not answering the question posed by the OP, I couldn’t help offering this newspaper story from 1926:

Seems like this discussion has been going on for quite awhile. :slight_smile:

Well let me ask another tradition question if I may. In MLB at least, when a batter causes an end to an inning, he tosses his helmet and bat toward the dugout and then heads toward his position.

So who brings him his glove? Center takes to right or left? Second takes the glove to the SS, etc? How does that work?

Thanks, informative thread.

From all the baseball games I’ve attended, usually a fellow outfielder takes out the glove to another outfielder, and a fellow infielder does the same for another infielder. Also, an equipment guy goes out to get the batting glove and helmet from the baserunner who just made the last out. But I don’t think that these rules are set in stone.