The Massachusetts Game was an early form of baseball that was popular in New England in the first half of the 19th century. Although very recognizable as a variant of baseball, the rules differed in significant ways from the rival New York Game that was the immediate ancestor of modern-day baseball.

The major rule differences from the New York game and modern baseball were as follows:

✧ Bases were 60 feet apart (rather than 90).

✧ The batter, known as the "striker," stood halfway between home plate (usually known as "fourth base") and first base. This meant that the batter only had to run 30 feet to reach first base, and that the game was played on a square rather than a diamond.

✧ As in modern baseball, but unlike in the New York game, the pitcher, known as the "thrower," was required to throw the ball overhand, not pitch it underhand (as the New York rules required).

✧ The bases were not sacks but 4' high wooden stakes driven into the ground.

✧ The only way to retire a runner was to catch a struck ball on the fly or "soak" him by tagging him or pegging him with a thrown ball. This is not as painful as it sounds because the Massachusetts Game's ball weighed only 2 ounces (as opposed to 5 ounces for a modern baseball), and was significantly squishier. Players were not required to stay in the baselines.

✧ Like the modern game, batters could strike out if they swung and missed three times, but there were no walks. The batter could let balls go by that were far out of his reach, but if he let too many go by, such that the referee felt he was delaying the game, the referee could call strikes.

✧ There was no foul ground, meaning that a crafty striker would often try to tip the ball back over the head of the catcher to an area where there were generally fewer fielders.

✧ Unlike the modern game and the New York Game, which stipulated nine men to a side, the Massachusetts Game mandated that each squad field between 10 and 14 players, with no requirement that the two sides field equal numbers. Players could not leave the game until the game was over, unless they suffered a debilitating injury or the other team allowed them to leave.

✧ Innings were over after one out, and there was no upper limit on innings. Instead, the first side to score 100 runs, known as "tallies," was the victor.

The Massachusetts Game was a much faster-paced game than modern baseball, with many more baserunners and much fewer outs. Having played the game recently with some local Civil War reenactors, I can say that this is an extremely fun game, and there is no particular reason I can think of why this game should have died out, other than the economic and cultural dominance of New York City over late-19th century American life.

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