Picture for me if you will. Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox is pitching to Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners. The pitch comes in from Sale low and outside. Cruz hits a weak grounder up the first base line. Sale fields the ball and fires a strike right into the back of Nelson Cruz before he gets to first. Cruz is out and the game continues without incident.
Well, that could very well happen if soaking had stayed in the game of baseball.
In the 18th and 19th centuries – in the years preceding the modern game of baseball – many people participated in a game known as Town ball. In some regions of the country, it was referred to as base, round ball, ball or base ball.
The rules were similar to modern-day baseball but also had influence from the British game of Rounders.
One of the primary rules that stands out was that base runners could be called out by throwing the ball at them as they ran the baseline. This was called plugging or soaking.
As baseball came into being using the Knickerbocker Rules established by Alexander Cartwright in 1845, soaking was forbidden.
But what if it hadn’t been?
Chances are baseball may not have sustained the test of time. As many people would view the throwing of a leather-bound ball directly at someone intentionally to be barbaric.
But it still makes for an interesting discussion. Picturing grown men, playing a sport professionally, where one of the rules allows for a player to try to hurt someone by hitting them, to stop them from scoring.
I can’t imagine that would have ever caught on.