Long Gandhi FAQ

Where did the name "Long Gandhi" come from?

Well, it initially it was an amalgam of two home run calls - Lon Simmons' "It's long gone!" and David Lloyd's "Gone-dy!".  On another level, it refers to the spiritual aspects of the "baseball as life" metaphor, I suppose.  It should also be noted that one of the smartest and most insightful men in baseball history, Branch Rickey, was nicknamed "the Mahatma", a reference of considerable honor to the great Gandhi..  I aspire and strive to be so knowledgeable.

Who invented baseball?

Trick question: no one did.  As Henry Chadwick once noted, "Baseball never had no 'fadder'; it jest growed."  Alexander Cartwright was one of the first to set down rules; Albert Spalding, the sporting goods magnate who officiated the Doubleday myth, was a great promoter of the game; William Hulbert founded the National League in 1876; and Daniel Adams, who was the first to set precise measurements of the playing field and probably the first to establish a team that consistently played with 9 men on the field... all played significant role in the development of the game.
What are the dimensions of the pitching mound and why is it where it is?

A regulation pitcher's mound is 18' in diameter, the center of which is 59' from the back of home plate.  The pitcher's plate (or pitching rubber as it is commonly called) is 18" behind dead center of the mound.  The slope from the rubber shall begin 6" in front of the rubber and will slope toward home plate 1" for every 1'.  The rubber rests 6" inside the front edge of a level area 5' wide and 34" deep and shall not be more than 10" higher than the playing field.

This was not always true.  During different periods in baseball history, the mound has been much taller.  The mound in Philadelphia's Shibe park was rumored to be 20" high at one time, and the mound throughout baseball in the late 60s was as high as 16".  It wasn't until 1969 that it was lowered to today's standard.

The original rules stipulated that the pitching rubber be 45 feet from the plate.  It has been moved back twice, first to 50 feet, then to it's present day measure in 1893, presumably to give batters a better chance to hit and/or get out of the way of errant pitches.  Daniel Adams, the first chairman of the Committee on Rules and Regulations, was the man who claimed to have set the original 45 foot distance.  It has been said that the precise distance it stands today was the result of a measuring error (it was supposed to be 60') and that they simply decided to leave it.  

Additional history of the pitching mound comes from statistician Bill Deane, who informs, "The first mention of the mound in the official baseball rules appears in 1903.  Installed "to prevent trickery," Rule 1, Section 2 required that "the pitcher's plate shall not be more than 15 inches higher than the base lines or home plate."  The height was reduced to ten inches in 1969.  Obviously, mounds were in use before they were standardized.  Speculation is that they evolved as a matter of groundskeeping practice, for better drainage and water absorption.  After overhand pitching was legislated in 1884, pitchers undoubtedly found the mounds to be an advantage: the downward weight-shift and momentum enable them to generate greater velocity on their pitches.  John Montgomery Ward, who pitched in the major leagues 1878-84, supposedly took credit in later years for the innovation of the pitchers' mound."

Where did the umpires' handsignals for balls and strikes come from?

Bill Deane has written an elegant history for SABR-L on this topic, so I'll just quote him:
"Umpires have been using hand signals to indicate balls and strikes and "safe" and "out" calls for almost a century.  A common legend attributes this innovation to William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy, a fine deaf-mute big league outfielder for 14 years.  "Hoy was the reason umpires developed hand signals for outs, strikes, balls, fouls, et al," according to SPORTS COLLECTORS DIGEST.  "Umpires began to use hand signals for his benefit in 1886."  THE SPORTING NEWS agrees that Hoy "was responsible for the system of hand signals universally adopted by umpires."  The book BASEBALL by the RULES states that "he persuaded the authorities to introduce hand signals." A 1987-88 off-Broadway play, THE SIGNAL SEASON of DUMMY HOY, was based on this legend.

In reality, umpires' hand signals came about several years after Hoy retired, and were designed for the benefit of fans.

Hoy did indeed rely on hand signals -- but they came from his third base coach, not the umpire.  According to the April 7, 1888 edition of the Washington, DC EVENING STAR, "When he bats a man stands in the Captain's box near third base and signals to him decisions of the umpire on balls and strikes by raising his fingers."

Hoy died at age 99 in 1961.  It was some time after that his supposed connection with umpire's hand signals began circulating.  But, a thorough check of Hoy's voluminous clipping file at the National Baseball Library & Archive turns up only one article written during Hoy's long lifetime which mentions anything about hand signals.  In THE SILENT WORKER, April 1952, Hoy states that "the coacher at third kept me posted by lifting his right hand for strikes and his left for balls.  This gave later day umpires an idea and they now raise their right ... to emphasize an indisputable strike."  This indicates that this practice was adopted AFTER Hoy's career; and, as far as we know, Hoy merely ASSUMED that his coaches' signals were the inspiration for this idea.

The 1909 SPALDING's OFFICIAL BASE BALL GUIDE provides more evidence against the Hoy myth.  In a full-page essay entitled "Semaphore Signals by the Umpires," it is stated that "Two or three years ago Base Ball critics in the East and West began to agitate the question of signalling by the umpires to announce their decisions.  At first the judges of play did not want to signal (but) now there is not an umpire (that doesn't use his) arms to signal.  If he did not, two-thirds of the spectators at the immense crowds would be wholly at sea as to what was transpiring on the field."  There is no mention of Hoy, who had retired from pro baseball only five years earlier, in the essay.

National League umpires Bill Klem (who began his big league career in 1905) and Cy Rigler (who started a year later) have both been credited with the innovation.  Another source credits a fan, General Andrew Burt, who suggested the idea to AL President Ban Johnson in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Klem's Hall of Fame plaque states that he was "credited with introducing arm signals indicating strikes and fair or foul balls." According to the May 1, 1905 edition of Evansville COURIER, Rigler introduced the practice in a Central League game there the previous day: "One feature of Rigler's work yesterday that was appreciated was his indicating balls by the fingers of his left hand and strikes with the fingers of the right hand so everyone in the park could tell what he had called."  In a 1985 article in THE NATIONAL PASTIME, Dan Krueckeberg asserts that "When Rigler entered the National League a year later (September 27, 1906), he found that his raised-arm call had preceded him and was in wide use."

There was at least one instance of umpires' hand signals being used in the minor leagues long before this.  It involved a deaf player - but not Hoy.  Ed Dundon, who had pitched in the major leagues in 1883-84, was the innovator.  The November 6, 1886 edition of THE SPORTING NEWS reports that "Dundon, the deaf and dumb pitcher of the Acid Iron Earths, umpired a game at Mobile between the Acids and Mobiles, on October 20 ... He used the fingers of his right hand to indicate strikes, the fingers of the left to call balls, a shake of the head decided a man 'not out,' and a wave of the hand meant out.'"  The October 30, 1886 issue of the New York CLIPPER concurred with the description, saying "Dundon, the deaf-mute pitcher, umpired a game in Mobile, Ala., and gave entire satisfaction."

And, the idea of umpires' signals was suggested even long before THIS.  In a letter to the editor published in the March 27, 1870 New York SUNDAY MERCURY, Cincinnati Red Stockings' manager Harry Wright wrote "There is one thing I would like to see the umpire do at (a) big game, and that is, raise his hand when a man is out.  You know what noise there is always when a fine play is made on the bases, and it being impossible to hear the umpire, it is always some little time before the player knows whether he is given out or not.  It would very often save a great deal of bother and confusion."  There is no indication that Wright got the idea from seven-year-old Ohioan Billy Hoy.

The consensus is that umpires' hand signals first appeared in the big leagues about 1906, give or take a year.  And Dummy Hoy, who last played in the majors in 1902, had nothing to do with them."