The Ole Ball Game

Why is second base misplaced?

by Denis
(Los Angeles)

Denis asked: According to MLB, first base, third base, and home plate are located entirely within the ninety foot square that defines the infield but; second base is centered on the intersection of the baselines so it is offset toward center field and only one quarter of it is within the square. Why?


According to the Baseball Almanac and the turf companies, failure to offset second base is the most common mistake made in laying out fields.


Rick answered: Denis, thank you for your question.

I cannot speak to the reason 2b is centered on the measurement of 127'3 3/4" from home plate. I would guess it is a result of much trial and error in the 1800's to create field dimensions which treated hitters, pitchers, fielders and base runners on somewhat equal terms.

This basic layout was established in 1845. The original layout for the bases has remained the same to this day.

In contrast, the pitching mound and distance has been altered a few times, for various reasons and effects.

All bases, to include home plate, lie completely inside fair territory.

The first and third base shall be entirely within the infield.

The second base bag shall be centered on second base, this spot located by the 127'3 3/4 " measurement from home plate.

When established in 1845, that measurement was determined to allow the field to be the most equal to all the facets of the game listed above.

For the layout to be the same today as it was in 1845, still achieving the original intended result for the participants, fans and game, is incredible.

Athletes, facilities, equipment and techniques have evolved over time; the play of the infield dimensions has withstood all the evolutions.

Pitching mounds and distances have been altered, stadiums are constantly in a state of transition.

Changes to outfield configuration and distances are constant at all levels. Those changes create a change in balance for one group or another.

When teams alter their outfield shapes and distances, it becomes an advantage for the pitchers and defense, or for the hitters. While it may make the games in that particular facility become offensive friendly, or defensive friendly, it is somewhat subtle to what would occur should the infield configuration be tampered with.

Somehow this configuration has been magic, stood the test of time to this point. I have never read anything about the process used to arrive at these dimensions, but it was certainly well done. It plays equally across the board to all participants.

The field layout is one of the center pieces in what, to me, is the greatest game ever invented.

Yours in baseball,

Rick





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