The basic layout of the field has been little changed since the Knickerbocker Rules of the 1840s. Those rules specified the distance from home to second as 42 "paces." The dictionary definition of a "pace" at the time was 30 inches, yielding base paths of approximately 75 feet; however, if a "pace" of three feet was meant then the distance would have been 89 feet. It is not implausible that the early clubs simply stepped off the distance. 30 yards (90 feet) between the bases was first explicitly prescribed by the NABBP Convention of 1857. Through trial and error, 90 feet had been settled upon as the optimal distance. 100 feet would have given too much advantage to the defense, and 80 feet too much to the offense.
The original Knickerbocker Rules did not specify the pitching distance explicitly; the 1854 Unified Rules stated "from Home to pitcher not less than fifteen paces." By the time major league baseball began in the 1870s, the pitcher was compelled to pitch from within a "box" whose front edge was 45 feet (14 m) from the "point" of home plate. Although they had to release the ball before crossing the line, as with bowlers in cricket, they also had to start their delivery from within the box; they could not run in from the field as bowlers do. Furthermore, the pitcher had to throw underhand. By the 1880s, pitchers had mastered the underhand delivery—in fact, in 1880, there were two perfect games within a week of each other.
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