The Early Restrictions
02-03-2014 / By:
In 1859, The Professional National Association of Baseball Players Governing Committee voted in favor of the first limitation on bat size. The limitation specified that bats may be no larger than 2 1/2 inches in diameter and that they may be of any length. As we shall see, several more changes evolved from this limitation in the forthcoming years.
With the 2 1/2 inch barrel rule, players began to have woodworkers reshape their bats. For example, the taper of the handle was made larger for a better hitting surface. Woodworkers were also now aware that the best grain for baseball bats was found only in quality wood.
Approaching the Civil War years, 1861 to 1865, some players had a difficult time gripping the large bat handle. In order to avoid this problem, they wrapped cord or string around the handle. The result was better control. Other players recognized the benefits of the wrapping effect and the idea became very popular.
Before the year 1869, there were no existing limitations on the length of the baseball bat. Then in 1869, the rule governing bat length was adopted and stated "Length limit on bats, maximum 42 inches long." Surprisingly, this particular rule has not changed. It is in today's rule book under Division 1.00, Rule 1.10A, "The bat shall be...not more than 42 inches in length".
While players had the chance to digest the new bat rules, the woodworkers were trying to manufacture the most popular bat. In 1879, after considerable experimenting with various styles, it was said that "long and slender is the common style of bats". In addition, the handle had a carved knob for better control.