A note about stealing

In the previous post, when Mr. Gault of the Phoenix “endeavored to make the second,” he was probably trying to steal the base. Unfortunately for baseball historians, the early rules didn’t provide for the possibility of taking an extra base between pitches, so the origin of stealing is a bit shrouded in the mists. In any case, the 1860 Beadle’s Dime Base Ball Player makes pretty clear that stealing bases was a routine aspect of the early game, and was to be expected on any given pitch:

When a player has made his first base, the Catcher should take a position nearer the striker, in order to take the ball from the pitcher before it bounds; and the moment the ball is delivered by the pitcher, and the player runs from the first to the second base, the Catcher should take the ball before bounding, and send it to the second base as swiftly as possible, in time to cut off the player before he can touch the base; in the latter case it would be as well, in the majority of cases, to send the ball a little to the right of the base.

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