When I first came up with the idea for Cellar Dwellers, I initially intended to limit my survey to the 20th century. That was before an editor suggested I expand my scope to include the worst teams of "All Time"--meaning the inclusion of the 19th and 21st centuries. I was quite familiar with the plight of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, but the idea of exploring the game's dim and distant past--a topic I had barely skimmed the surface of in all my previous research--seemed a bit intimidating. In the end, it proved to be a worthwhile venture as a wealth of peculiar information awaited me.
Baseball underwent a variety of changes before evolving into the game we know today. While conditions seem to greatly favor hitters in the modern era, there was a time when pitchers were offered a wide variety of unfair advantages. For instance:
--Between 1858 and 1863, a batter could be retired if a fair ball was caught on one bounce.
--It was not until 1887 that batters were awarded first base after being hit with a pitch.
--In 1884, there were no restrictions on the delivery of pitchers.
--Prior to 1893, the mound was situated just 50 feet from home plate.
--Even after the use of spitballs was declared illegal in 1920, more than a dozen "old-timers" were allowed to throw "the wet one" due to a grandfather clause. This included Hall of Famers Stan Coveleski, Red Faber and Burleigh Grimes.
Next time, we'll take a look at the advantages of batters in the days of old.