from Chris Landers:
Baseball has been played roughly the same way for so long that its rules have become sacred institutions. The numbers are spoken of in hushed tones, and even thinking about touching them is akin to heresy: Of course there are 90 feet between bases, because it just feels right, and has for generations.
But the path the game took to get here was more trial and error than divine intervention, the game's founding fathers throwing all kinds of stuff against the wall to see what stuck. It was a long and winding road, full of detours and dead ends and pegging innocent baserunners (no, really). To appreciate just how far we've come, behold, we give you 10 incredibly weird rules that we swear actually existed:
1. Batters had the right to request a low or high pitch from 1867 to 1887
2. Fly balls could be caught off a bounce until 1864, and foul balls until 1883
3. Pitchers were required to throw underhand until 1883
4. One side of the bat was allowed to be flat from 1885 to 1893
5. Walks were scored as hits for one year, in 1887
6. Umpires in the 19th century had it made (You must read the details on this one)
7. Rather than crouching, catchers would stand a few feet behind home until the early 1900s
8. The spitball was outlawed in 1920 -- but pitchers who had been throwing it for years were grandfathered in
9. It was pretty difficult to hit a walk-off homer until 1920
10. Ground rule doubles were actually home runs as recently as 1930
All the rhymes and reasons and details are here.