"A Game of Inches" by Peter Morris explains the origin and evolution of the sport's many innovations and rules.
As the 2011 major-league baseball season begins, imagine yourself sitting in the stands with new friends from India. The questions they ask aren’t going to be those of the lifetime fan – "Will the Giants repeat as champions?" "Will the Pirates snap their 18-season losing streak?" etc. – but rather those aimed at the very basics of the game. In other words, will you be prepared to explain why the bases are run in a counterclockwise, rather than a clockwise, direction?
Probably not, but explanations for why baseball is played the way it is are often fascinating. The base-running direction, for example, was established by an influential New York team, the Knickerbockers in the mid-1800s, when heading off to the right toward first base worked well for most right-handed hitters and made throwing to first more natural for right-handed fielders.
This revealing tidbit is typical of the information compiled in the revised and expanded one-volume paperback edition of A Game of Inches: The Story Behind the Innovations That Shape Baseball. This impressive 600-page resource is written by Peter Morris, one of baseball’s foremost historians, who acknowledges his debt to many fellow members of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
A former national and international Scrabble champion, Morris first published this work in a two-volume hardcover edition in 2006, when it was the first book awarded both of the genre’s most coveted honors, SABR’s Seymour Medal and Spitball magazine’s Casey Award.