After finishing in second place with a 73-38 record in 1884, the Boston Beaneaters slipped to 46-66 with a fifth place finish the following year; among the reasons for the decline was the team’s batting average which dropped from .254 to .232.
The Sporting Life’s Boston Correspondent said local fans had proposed numerous “wild ideas for proposed changes in the way the game is played,” to remedy the hitting woes. Of those, one was “worthy of consideration.”
The paper said many “prominent base ball men and a number of players and all have expressed approval.” Among those consulted were John Morrill, the Beaneaters’ manager, and Arthur Irwin, shortstop for the Providence Grays, both who said the plan would result in more “safe hitting.”
The Sporting Life said “The idea is to make what is now called a diamond but is actually a square a true diamond,” and included a crude diagram:
“(T)he catcher would be brought ten feet nearer second base, which would prevent free stealing, and would also enable the second baseman to return a thrown ball to the catcher in time to cut off a base runner. The pitcher would be placed back five feet, thus reducing the distance between him and second base…the batsman is five feet further from the pitcher, and could therefore more easily hit the ball, thus reducing the number of strikeouts considerably and making livelier fielding by giving more chances.
“The distance from third to first would be increased, thus giving scientific batters and good runners a better chance to beat the ball to base. The change of foul lines would lessen the number of tedious foul balls; would give more chances to drive the ball between the infielders; would save many pretty hits now called foul; would spread the outfielders more, thus increasing the number of safe hits, and, besides, enable them to make, with the increased territory, more difficult running catches; would give chances for longer hits; it would lessen the damage from errors and make more earned runs, as base runners would have to hug their bases more closely, depending on hitting to score.
“It would but slightly reduce the effectiveness of pitchers without laming them, and give the catcher a better chance to play his position as it should be played.
“To sum up, it would increase the batting, both in a scientific and slugging way; lessen the work of the battery without seriously affecting effectiveness; compel runners to exercise good judgment with speed and increase the work of the fielders over fifty percent.”
The Sporting News suggested that Albert Spalding would “introduce the plan at the League meeting this week and doubtless it will be given thorough consideration,” but none of the coverage of the meeting included any mention of the plan being considered.