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In 1905, bases were 45 feet; in 1936, 45 feet. Pitching distance in 1906, 35 feet; in 1936, 37 feet, 8 1/2 inches. Size of ball in 1906, 7 ounces, 13 inches in circumference; in 1936, 6 ounces, 12 inches in circumference. Size of bat in 1936, 34 inches in length, 2 inches in diameter; in 1936, 34 inches in length, 2-1/2 inches in diameter. Number of players in 1906, 10; in 1936, 10. Number of innings in 1906, 9; in 1936, 7.
The Joint Rules Committee set the distance between bases at sixty feet for play with the standard, or twelve-inch ball; and forty-five feet when the fourteen-inch sphere was used. The pitching distance was set at thirty-seven feet, eight and one-half inches. The batters’ boxes were made five feet by three feet.
The pitching distance for the sixty-foot diamond was increased to forty feet. Pitchers using the windmill delivery then very much in vogue were beginning to have too much of an edge on the offense. The public was calling for more hitting and less strikeouts and this was the rule makers first attempt to oblige.
In 1937 the base running rule was amended, also to help the offense, by permitting the runner to leave the bag as soon as the ball had left the pitchers hand instead of waiting until it had passed the home plate.
In 1938 bunting was permitted. Pitchers whose teams wore light gray or white were required to wear a contrasting color.
In 1939 pitchers were barred from wearing white or light gray accessories, sweatshirts, scarfs, or other things. The wearing of a mask was made mandatory for catchers. In women’s softball, the wearing of a mask and chest protector were both made mandatory. The bunt was taken out of the purview of the infield fly.
In 1940 the pitching distance was lengthened to forty-three feet. The batter’s box was enlarged to six by three feet. The catcher had to catch the third strike, or the batter became a base runner, unless first base was occupied with less than two out. The quick return by the pitcher was barred. The pitcher was also compelled to come to a full stop in his delivery immediately before delivering the ball to the batter. The rule restricting the pitcher’s uniform was amended to apply only when playing under the lights.
The pitcher’s uniform rule was drastically revised in 1941 to make the twirlers look like undertakers. The hurlers’ uniforms had to be all black or dark blue, with no letters or trimming of any kind on the front. This applied to day as well as night games. The so-called rocking chair motion by the pitcher was eliminated. An attempt by the third base coach to draw a throw by running down the baseline would cause the runner on or near third base to be called out for the coaches’s interference.
The equipment rules so far as the bat was concerned were made firm in 1942. Maximum measurements were set at thirty-four inches in length and two and one-eighth inches at its largest diameter. A tolerance of one-sixteenth of an inch was allowed for possible expansion of the wood. The handle was to have a safety grip of cork, tape, or composition material.
These rules stood up until 1946 when the pitching distance for girls was established at thirty-four feet, and that for the men continuing at forty-three feet. The batter’s box was enlarged to seven feet by three feet. And, to help the offense, the bases were shortened to fifty-five feet.
In 1947 the only appreciable rule change was the elimination of the tenth player, or the short fielder. This proved a help to the offense. The fifty-five-foot bases did not prove satisfactory, so softball went back to the standard sixty-foot distance in 1948. The pitching rules were clarified, but not changed, by inclusion of this note: The body, feet, arms and hands must come to a full and complete stop at the same time, before taking one hand off the ball at the start of the wind-up or back swing. The “undertaker’s rule for pitchers’ uniforms was abolished and the twirlers were allowed to wear the uniform of their teams.
In 1950 the men’s pitching distance was increased to forty-six feet. In 1952 the women’s pitching distance was set at thirty-eight feet. Also, in 1952, the use of more than one revolution in a windmill pitch was barred.
The strike zone was clarified by describing it as between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees when the batter assumes his natural stance. The infield fly rule was amended to take in only a fair fly ball, other than a line drive or a bunt, that can reasonably be handled by an infielder.”