Strike Zone History

The following follows baseball strike zone history and its changes through baseball history from its inception in 1845.

The Major League Baseball “Official Rules” defines the strike zone in baseball as:

Rule 2.0 “THE STRIKE ZONE” is that area over home plate, the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath of the knee cap. The STRIKE ZONE shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox is said to be, in many baseball circles, the greatest hitter that every played the game of baseball. Here is what he said about the baseball strike zone.

TED WILLIAMS BOSTON RED SOX

“The batter has three strike zones: his own, the opposing pitcher’s, and the umpire’s. The umpire’s zone is defined by the rule book, but it’s also more importantly defined by the way the umpire works. A good umpire is CONSISTENT so you can learn his strike zone. The batter has a strike zone in which he considers the pitch the right one to hit. The pitchers have zones where they are most effective. Once you know the pitcher and his zone you can get set for a particular pitch.”

Davey Johnson, the skipper of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets and 2012 National League East Champion Washington Nationals, said this of the baseball strike zone.
“It’s always been the job of the hitter and pitcher to recognize the strike zone for that particular night, whether it is high or wide, and adjust accordingly. It’s been like that for like two-hundred years.”

DAVEY JOHNSON MANAGER NEW YORK METS

The General Manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane who inspired the movie “Money Ball” (starring Brad Pitt), said the following about the strike zone.

BILLY BEANE GENERAL MANAGER OAKLAND ATHLETICS

“The game is all about the control of the seventeen inch triangle. Hitters who force pitchers to stay in the strike zone are productive and pitchers who take hitters out of the strike zone are dominating.”

BUY THE MOVIE “MONEY BALL” STARRING BRAD PITT AS BILLY BEANE HERE NOW!

Did you know there is a system used from the military missile tracking system that uses camera, computers and software that track the baseball strike zone? It is called The Ques Tec’s Information/System. In 2003 it was used in ten MLB ballparks in the American and National Leagues. At the end of every game the umpires of those MLB games were given a CD-ROM that had every pitch on it. They could review it and critique each pitch. This system told the story in real time whether a pitch was a ball or a strike. Players, umpires and fans all have a different reaction to this system. 

THE FOLLOWING IS A REVIEW OF THE STRIKE ZONE RULE CHANGES IN BASEBALL

1876

The batman, on taking his position, must call for a “high”, “low” or “fair” pitch, and the umpire shall notify the pitcher to deliver the ball as required. Such a call cannot be changed after the first pitch is delivered.

High Pitches – over the plate between the batter’s waist and shoulders

Low Pitches – over the plate between the batter’s waist and at least one foot from the ground

Fair Pitches – over the plate between the batter’s shoulders and at least one foot from the ground 

1887

The batter can no longer call for a “high” or “low” pitch. A (strike) is defined as a pitch that “passes over home plate not lower than the batsman’s knee or higher than his shoulders.


1894

A strike is called when the batter makes a foul hit, other than a foul tip, while attempting a bunt hit that falls or rolls upon foul ground between home base and first or third base.


1899

A foul tip by the batter, caught by the catcher while standing within the line of his position, is a strike.


1901

A foul hit ball not caught on the fly is a strike unless two strikes have already been called. This rule was adopted by the National League in 1901 and the American League in 1903.


1907

A fairly delivered ball is a ball pitched or thrown to the bat by the pitcher while standing in his position and facing the batsman that passes over any portion of the home base, before touching the ground, not lower than the batman’s knee or higher than his shoulder. For every such fairly delivered ball, the umpire shall call one strike. An unfairly delivered ball is a ball delivered to the bat by the pitcher while standing in his position and facing the batsman that does not pass over any portion of the home base between the batsman’s shoulder and knees, or that touches the ground before passing home base, unless struck at by the batsman. For every unfairly delivered ball the umpire shall call on ball.


1910

With the bases unoccupied, any ball delivered by the pitcher while either foot is not in contact with the pitcher’s plate, shall be called a ball by the umpire.


1950

The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees when he assumes his natural stance.


1957

A strike is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire which:

    1.  Is struck at by the batter and is missed

    2.  Enters the Strike Zone in flight and is not struck at

    3.  Is fouled by the batter when he has less than two strikes at it

    4.  Is bunted foul

    5.  Touches the batter as he strikes at it

    6.  Touches the batter in flight in the Strike Zone, or

    7.  Becomes a foul tip

1963

The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the top of the batter’s shoulders and his knees when he assumes his natural stance. The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usual stance when he swings at the pitch.


1969

The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees when he assumes a natural stance. The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usual stance when he swings at a pitch.


1988

The Strike Zone is that area over home plate, the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the tip of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the top of the knees. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitch ball.


1996

The Strike Zone is expanded on the lower end, moving from the top of the knees to the bottom of the knees (bottom has been identified as the hollow beneath the kneecap).


As you may have noticed, the Baseball Strike Zone has evolved over the years to be defined as it is today. As the baseball umpire, the strike zone as defined by rule is a guideline. Ted Williams and Davey Johnson were closer to the truth about the STRIKE ZONE!

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