Rules changes for 2019-2020 Season  

We voted on four rules changes for the upcoming season, and here is a summary of what's changing:

1. Infielders and outfielders are not required to be "tethered" to their bases or in straightaway positions. Fielders can roam around in  natural positions that reflect common practices in 1860. We'll send out more details (and a fielding map!) on what this means soon, but in general — two infielders should remain on each side of second base (the 2B can "hover" over the bag for a RH hitter, but they don't get to range over toward the modern shortstop position), the first baseman should remain close to the bag at all times, and at least one outfielder should play in the "opposite field" for every hitter. 

NEW this year: Corner outfielders can shade a hitter on the foul line or in the gaps if they want, and the center fielder can shade toward the gaps, as well. It's up to the hitter to "hit 'em where they ain't," just like in real life. But no team in 1860 played a "modern" alignment with three outfielders heavily shifted on one side, so we will not allow it here. Similarly, when runners were on base, the second and third basemen still customarily played within 2 feet of their bags in order to make a potential play in the infield. With no runners on base, they moved a few steps farther off the bag and we will allow that here. (First basemen, however,  always played within 2 steps of the bag until the 1880s.) We will  not stop play for any reason if teams are playing an "unnatural" defense. If one captain feels the other team is abusing or breaking the defensive positioning rules, they should discuss it before/after the game or between innings.

2. NEW: We  will  allow baserunners to lead off the base — up to 6 feet. Basically, a runner should take two regular steps with their left foot and then pivot their right foot toward home plate. That's about 6 feet for most adults. But there will be no pickoff throws, no stealing, no advancing on wild pitches/passed balls. Runners can only advance  after the ball is struck by the bat. Leading off is an aesthetic change to make the game  look more historically accurate on the field.

3. NEW: We also voted to make it a  dead ball if a batter hits the ball and it gets stuck in an object like a tree or a chain-link fence or inside a water cooler. If it's already a fair ball, the batter and the runner will get to advance to whatever base they were already heading to. If it was a foul ball, it's still just a foul ball and no strike counted. Fielders can no longer run over and grab the ball out of the fence and call the batter out.

4. NEW: Similarly, we voted to only allow  active fielders — on the field of play — to be able to catch a ball for an out. We're doing away with the silly idea that fans (or people on the bench) can catch a foul ball and call the batter out. That was not allowed in 1860 baseball, so we'll no longer allow it in our league.

League Rules of Play

Most games in the ATVBBL use rules from 1860.  Some of the differences between those rules and modern baseball include:

  • Underhand pitching.

  • If a ball is caught on one bounce, it's an out.

  • If a ball is caught off a foul tip, either on the fly or one bounce, it's an out.

  • Balls caught on the fly or one bounce by anybody (players from either team, spectators, etc.) are outs.

  • If the ball is caught on the fly, you cannot tag up and advance.  If a ball is caught on one bounce, runners may advance at will without tagging up.

  • A ball is determined fair or foul based on where it first strikes the ground.  It does not have to pass first or third base to be considered fair.

  • Fouls are not strikes.

  • No overrunning first base.  If you overrun the base, you can be tagged out.

  • No lead-offs or stealing.

  • Balls and strikes were not usually called in 1860.  The hurler's job is to pitch balls that the striker can hit.  The defense is supposed to put out the striker, not the hurler.

  • The umpire's word is the law!  Only the team captain is permitted to speak to the umpire, who is always addressed as "sir."  Any arguing with the umpire, profane language, or ungentlemanly conduct is punishable by a 25 cent fine.

Detailed Rules

We strive to stick as closely to the 1860 rules as we possibly can.  At times, the playing field or other conditions may force us to bend the rules just a bit.  

The 1860 rules in detail, as established by the National Association of Base-Ball Players on March 14, 1860 are listed below in italics.  Rule interpretations and modifications made by the ATVBBL are in bold.

Sec. 1.  The ball must weigh not less than five and three-fourths, nor more than six ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and three-fourths, nor more than ten inches in circumference. It must be composed of india-rubber and yarn, and covered with leather, and, in all match games, shall be furnished by the challenging club, and become the property of the winning club, as a trophy of victory.

The ATVBBL uses the 1870's white lemon peel ball as sold by K & P Weaver.  We have found that this is a well-produced ball that holds up well for a number of games.  It has to take quite a pounding over a long time before it falls apart.

Sec. 2.  The bat must be round, and must not exceed two and a half inches in diameter in the thickest part. It must be made of wood, and may be of any length to suit the striker.

  Effective 2015/2016 season, the ATVBBL will no longer allow the use of  cupped bats in league play.   

Sec. 3.  The bases must be four in number, placed at equal distances from each other, and securely fastened upon the four corners of a square, whose sides are respectively thirty yards. They must be so constructed as to be distinctly seen by the umpire, and must cover a space equal to one square foot of surface. The first, second, and third bases shall be canvas bags, painted white, and filled with sand or sawdust; the home base and pitcher's point to be each marked by a flat circular iron plate, painted or enameled white.

The ATVBBL has set the ideal length between bases at 80 feet.  This may be adjusted depending on which field we are playing on at the time.  Some fields we play on may be little league or softball fields, which are set up for 65-75 foot base paths.  In situations where placing first base 80 feet from home plate would put the base in the outfield, the base paths are shortened.  On the rare occasion where a game is played on an actual professional field (such as Warren Ballpark in Bisbee), the full 90 foot base paths are used.

Since we usually play on city park baseball or softball fields, we do not use a "flat circular iron plate" to mark the pitcher's point and home plate.  We simply use whatever markings already exist on that field.

Sec. 4.  The base from which the ball is struck shall be designated Home Base, and must be directly opposite to the second base, the first base must always be that upon the right-hand, and the third base that upon the left-hand side of the striker, when occupying his position at the Home Base.

Sec. 5.  The pitcher's position shall be designated by a line four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to the second base, having its center upon that line, at a fixed iron plate, placed at a point fifteen yards distant from home base. The pitcher must deliver the ball as near as possible over the center of the home base and for the striker.

We usually just mark off a distance 45 feet from home plate and have the pitcher deliver the ball from there.  We rarely mark of the distance with a line, and never use a fixed iron plate.

Sec. 6.  The ball must be pitched, not jerked or thrown to the bat; and whenever the pitcher draws back his hand, or moves with the apparent purpose or pretension to deliver the ball, he shall so deliver it, and he must have neither foot in advance of the line at the time of delivering the ball; and if he fails in either of these particulars, then it shall be declared a baulk.

All pitching is underhand.

Sec. 7.  When a baulk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases is entitled to one base, without being put out.

Sec. 8.  If the ball, from the stroke of the bat, is caught behind the range of home and the first base, or home and the third base, without having touched the ground or first touches the ground behind those bases, it shall be termed foul, and must be so declared by the umpire, unasked. If the ball first touches the ground, or is caught without having touched the ground, either upon, or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.

Whether a ball is fair or foul depends on where it first touches the ground.  It does not have to pass first or third base first.  So if it hits fair just inches in front of home plate, then immediately bounces foul, it's a fair ball. 

A ball that bounces off of a player in foul territory and then bounds fair shall be a fair ball as long as it is deemed by the arbitrator that the player did not hit or swat the ball fair.

Sec. 9.  A player making the home base, shall be entitled to score one run.

Sec. 10.  If three balls are struck at, and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bound, it shall be considered fair, and the striker must attempt to make his run.
The striker may only run to first if it is not already occupied by a runner. 
 The ATVBBL does not follow this rule because of the confusion it creates for the striker, fielders and arbitrator.

Sec. 11.  The striker is out if a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound;

Sec. 12.  Or, if three balls are struck at and missed, and the last is caught, either before touching the ground or upon the first bound.
Again we do not use this part of rule 12 because of the confusion.

Sec. 13.  Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught either without having touched the ground, or upon the first bound;

Note how it does not say the ball must be caught by an opposing player!

The "first bound" is the first time the ball touches the ground.  So if the ball deflects off another object (fence, wall, tree, etc.), or a player, it can still be caught on the fly for an out.  If it touches the ground after hitting an object or a player, it can still be caught off the first bound for an out.

Sec. 14.  Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball held by an adversary on the first base, before the striker touches that base.

Sec. 15.  Any player running the bases is out, if at any time he is touched by the ball while in play in the hands of an adversary, without some part of his person being on a base.

Sec. 16.  No ace nor base can be made upon a foul ball, nor when a fair ball has been caught without having touched the ground, and the ball shall, in the former instance, be considered dead, and not in play until it shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher; in either case the players running the bases shall return to them, and may be put out in so returning in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.

On a caught fly ball, runners may not tag up and advance.

On a bound out, runners are free to advance at will.  They do not need to tag up.

After a foul tic, once the pitcher is in possession of the ball, play is live again.  Runners who are slow getting back to their bases may be picked off.

Sec. 17.  The striker must stand on a line drawn through the center of the home base, not exceeding in length three feet either side thereof, and parallel to the line occupied by the pitcher. He shall be considered the striker until he has made the first base. Players must strike in regular rotation, and, after the first innings is played, the turn commences with the player who stands on the list next to the one who lost the third hand.

We rarely have a striker's line.  Any position within the modern batter's box is okay.

The ATVBBL has adopted a rule the no striker shall be allowed to intentionally bunt the ball. If the arbitrator deems that a striker has bunted intentionally, the striker will be called out and it will marked on the tally as a dead man.

Sec. 18.  Players must make their bases in the order of striking; and when a fair ball is struck, and not caught flying (or on the first bound), the first base must be vacated, as also the second and third bases, if they are occupied at the same time. Players may be put out on any base, under these circumstances, in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.

If a runner behind a force play is put out, the force is not removed from the runner in front of him.  For example, if there's a man on first, and a ground ball hit back to the pitcher, who then throws to first to put the batter out, there is still a force play at second.  The runner can be put out if the ball is thrown to the second baseman and he just tags the base.

Sec. 19.  Players running the bases must, so far as possible, keep upon a direct line between the bases; and, should any player run three feet out of this line, for the purpose of avoiding the ball in the hands of an adversary, he shall be declared out.

The rules say nothing about leading off or stealing, and rules regarding this vary from club to club across the country.  The ATVBBL has decided not to allow lead-offs or stealing.

Sec. 20.  Any player, who shall intentionally prevent an adversary from catching or fielding the ball, shall be declared out.

Sec. 21.  If the player is prevented from making a base, by the intentional obstruction of an adversary, he shall be entitled to that base, and not put out.

Sec. 22.  If an adversary stops a ball with his hat or cap, or takes it from the hands of a party not engaged in the game, no player can be put out unless the ball shall first have settled in the hands of the pitcher.

Sec. 23.  If a ball, from the stroke of a bat, is held under any other circumstances than as enumerated in Section 22, and without having touched the ground more than once, the striker is out.

Sec. 24.  If two hands are already out, no player running home at the time a ball is struck, can make an ace if the striker is put out.

Sec. 25.  An innings must be concluded at the time the third hand is put out.

The batter leading off the next inning is the batter after the player who made the third out, not necessarily the next in batting order.  For example, if there's a man on first with two outs, and a ground ball is hit to short, who tosses it to the second baseman for the final out, then the player in the batting order who is immediately after the runner who was put out at second leads off the following inning.

Sec. 26.  The game shall consist of nine innings to each side, when, should the number of runs be equal, the play, shall be continued until a majority of runs, upon an equal number of innings, shall be declared, which shall conclude the game.

On days where a team plays multiple games, games will be seven innings long.

Sec. 27.  In playing all matches, nine players from each club shall constitute a full field, and they must have been regular members of the club they represent, and of no other club, for thirty days prior to the match. No change or substitution shall be made after the game has been commenced, unless for reason of illness or injury. Position of players and choice of innings shall be determined by captains previously appointed for that purpose by the respective clubs.

The ATVBBL allows up to a maximum of three substitutes per team.  Substitutes must be in good standing with the league, in that they must have a signed waiver on file and be current on league dues.  Players who arrive late because of unforeseen circumstances will be allowed to replace a substitute.

A team must be able to field 8 men on the field in order to be an official game. If a team is unable to field 8 players within the 15 minute grace period allowed (section 35) by the league, a forfeit is declared.

Sec. 28.  The umpire shall take care that the regulations respecting balls, bats, bases, and the pitcher's and striker's positions, are strictly observed. He shall keep record of the game, in a book prepared for the purpose; he shall be the judge of fair and unfair play, and shall determine all disputes and differences which may occur during the game; he shall take especial care to declare all foul balls and baulks, immediately upon their occurrence, unasked, and in a distinct and audible manner.

Sec. 29.  In all matches the umpire shall be selected by the captains of the respective sides, and shall perform all the duties enumerated in Section 28, except recording the game, which shall be done by two scorers, one of whom shall be appointed by each of the contending clubs.

Sec. 30.  No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, scorer, or player, shall be, either directly or indirectly, interested in any bet upon the game. Neither umpire, scorer, nor player shall be changed during a match, unless with the consent of both parties (except for a violation of this law), except as provided in Section 27, and then the umpire may dismiss any transgressor.

Sec. 31.  The umpire of any match shall determine when play shall be suspended; and if the game can not be concluded, it shall be determined by the last even innings, provided five innings have been played, and the party having the greatest number of runs shall be declared the winner.

Sec. 32.  Clubs may adopt such rules respecting balls knocked beyond or outside of bounds of the field, as the circumstances of the ground may demand; and these rules shall govern all matches played upon the ground, provided that they are distinctly made known to every player and umpire, previous to the commencement of the game.

Sec. 33.  No person shall be permitted to approach or to speak with the umpire, scorers, or players, or in any manner to interrupt or interfere during the progress of the game, unless by special request of the umpire.

Sec. 34.  No person shall be permitted to act as umpire or scorer in any match, unless he shall be a member of a Base-Ball Club governed by these rules.

Sec. 35.  Whenever a match shall have been determined upon two clubs, play shall be called at the exact hour appointed; and should either party fail to produce their players within fifteen minutes thereafter, the party so failing shall admit a defeat.

Sec. 36.  No person who shall be in arrears to any other club, or who shall at any time receive compensation for his services as player, shall be competent to play in any match.

Sec. 37.  Should a striker stand at the bat without striking at good balls repeatedly pitched to him, for the apparent purpose of delaying the game, or of giving advantage to a player, the umpire, after warning him, shall call one strike, and if he persists in such action, two and three strikes. When three strikes are called, he shall be subject to the same rules as he had struck at three fair balls.

Umpires will usually start calling balls and strikes after the 4th pitch, however, it's a rare thing when an at bat in an ATVBBL game even gets to the 4th pitch.  The striker will be awarded first base after the fourth called ball.

Sec. 38.  Every match hereafter made shall be decided by a single game, unless mutually agreed upon by the contesting clubs.

League Specific Rules

Try-out Players:

Teams are permitted to bring players to try-out for one weekend of regular season game play. Try-outs are prohibited during playoffs or tournament play. Teams must already have 9 paid league rostered players in the game (Excluding try-out player(s)). Captains must declare the try-out player(s) prior to game play and must obtain and maintain a signed waiver for ALL try-out players. All league fees must be paid and player must be added to league roster prior to any future game play.

Age Requirement:

Minimum age of player in the ATVBBL is 12 years old.

Courtesy Runners:

Courtesy runners will be allowed in case of a medical/injury reason only.The courtesy runner will be the person with the last recorded out.


All ballists must bat in the lineup, Defensive changes are not limited. Ballists unable to bat due to injury may be removed from the lineup without penalty. They may no longer play a defensive position.

Players Positions

The First and Third maintainers must be within two strides of their sack in Fair Territory and may position themselves to the front, side or rear of their sacks. The Second maintainer must be within two strides of their sack and may be to the front, rear or sides of their sack. The Gardener's must be positioned in the middle of the sacks with the center Gardner in line with second sack, this is their neutral positions. The Gardener's may adjust forward or backwards depending on the ability of the striker but cannot be passed the maintainers, when adjusting for a striker and they must remain in their neutral positions. Once they have adjusted for the striker they can not move until the striker hits the ball. The Rover can position themselves anywhere in the field of play, either in front of the maintainers, the hurler, either side of the infield, or in the outfield and this is the only player that may move while the hurler delivers the ball and does not have to wait for the ball to be struck. The rover however cannot position themselves in foul territory before the striker hits the ball.

Equipment and Uniforms





This is a No glove league. Exceptions allowed, will be limited to the First Maintainers and the Hurler, glove should be a slap down type or a farmer type looking glove. No batting gloves or modern type gloves will be allowed on the field of play. All other players must play bare handed, no exceptions. However, we do encourage that no player wear a glove as they did not have gloves during the 1860s. Gloves are subject to board approval.

Bats: The bat must be round, and must not exceed two and a half inches in diameter in the thickest part. It must be made od wood, and may be of any length to suit the striker. Logos must be sanded of or painted over. NO FUNGO BATS ALLOWED!

Baseballs: The ball must weigh not less than five and three-fourths, nor more than sixes ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and three-fourths, nor more than ten inches in circumference. It must be composed of indian-rubber and yarn, and covered with leather. An allotment of league approved game balls will be provided to your team captain at pre-season meeting.




All players must have the same vintage style uniform for your team. League minimum uniform is allowed as a substitution. New recruits must wear the league minimum while waiting on their team uniform.

            League Minimum Uniform:

            1. White or Colored long sleeve dress shirt or similar style of the same color and type

               (team   choice)

            2. Long Khaki style or dress pants of same color (team choice)

            3. Vintage Style Hat (Hats can not contain any logos)


Absolutely NO shorts or jeans allowed. All uniforms shall be the same style for the entire team.

All cleats/turf shoes should be black in color. Any modern logos should be blacked out and not visible.

No steel spikes allowed, no exceptions, plastic spikes or turf shoes only.


Due to the damaging sunrays in Arizona, our league has adopted a revision to sunglasses. Sunglasses may be worn during game play only if the meet the following criteria:

            ALL Prescription sunglasses will be allowed.

            Non-prescription sunglasses:

            1. No plastic or wrap around frames. All frames must be metal\wire.

            2. No mirrored or reflective lenses allowed.


In general, if any piece of equipment gives a player an extra advantage, it is unwelcome in an ATVBBL match, even though it may conform to the rules laid out in 1860.



The following code of conduct applies to all players, representatives and volunteers associated with the ATVBBL.

                   * I will learn the rules of the game and follow them within the traditions and customs of 1860's base ball with the best of my                              ability.

                   * I will treat the arbitrators and volunteers with respect.

                   * I will bring problems or game play protests to the attention of my team captain for immediate resolutions.

                   * I will not criticize other teams or their players.

                   * I will not use unsportsmanlike conduct.

                   * I will uphold all the rules and regulations of the ATVBBL.

                   * I will not deliberately incite unsportsmanlike conduct.

                   * Foul language will not be tolerated.

                   * I will cleanup after myself and my team and respect all property of others and the facilities for which we play.

                   * I agree to adhere to the language uniform and equipment policy as written.

As in the true spirit of 1860's base ball, players and cranks (fans) may be fined 25 cents for spitting, scratching, swearing or acting unsportsmanlike. Incurred fines must be paid before game play resumes.

I understand that violation of the code of conduct may result in ejection from the game play at the discretion of the arbitrator and/or ATVBBL officer. I also understand that blatant disregard of the code of conduct or multiple violations may result in an official review by league officers and suspension or permanent removal as an ATVBBL participant. No refunds will be given for league dues.


 Vintage Base Ball Terms


Modern Term : Vintage Term

Pitcher : Hurler

Outfielder : Gardener

Baseman : Sack/Maintainer

Short Stop : Short Scout


Other Terms:

Modern TermVintage Term

Team : Club Nine

Runs : Aces

Out : Player Dead

Side Retired : 3 Hands Dead

Game : Match

Fans : Cranks

Foul Ball : Foul Tic

Batter : Striker