1858 NABBP Rules Interpretations
The ball must weigh not less than six nor more than six and one-quarter ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than ten nor more than ten and a quarter 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 VBBA recommends that clubs use balls constructed in this manner. Balls of the era varied considerably in their degree of hardness and/or liveliness. The cover would be of a “star” pattern. The term “lemon peel” is a later day, modern term.
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.
"The intention of the rule is that bats be made entirely of wood (though not necessarily a single piece of wood). The bat should be conical (straight sided) without a pronounced barrel. A variety of woods were used. If of a lighter wood such as willow or poplar a bat of 40 to 42” isn’t uncommon. Heavier woods 2 to 3 inches shorter and of smaller diameter. Bats of Hickory may have thinner handles. Bats would lack markings such as laser engraving or manufacturers logo. Bat handles were occasionally wrapped with string.
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 with a flat circular iron plate, painted or enameled white.
Very few teams use a pitcher’s point, a practice we would encourage. Chadwick recommends home base to be no less than 9” in diameter. A 13” diameter plate would be just under 1 square foot in area.
The center of the home base is on top of the point where the first and third base foil lines intersect. This would make 1st and 3rd bases half in fair and half in foul territory. Home base would be one fourth fair, three fourths foul.
There is clear instruction that the canvas bases should be securely anchored, with further instruction in the Beadle's guide. VBBA members may find there are many occasions where anchoring the base is not possible or practical. If the base moves from its position, the base, not the place where the base was, is the safe haven for the base runner. Many 1860 era field diagrams show the bases rotated 45 degrees from the modern, so that the corners of the bases are parallel to the base lines.
The base from which the ball is struck shall be designated the Home Base, and must be directly opposite 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 the position at the home base.
Third base, which is on the batsman’s left, and first base, on the batsman’s right, when he is facing the pitcher.
Field markings do not yet exist in 1858.
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 the home base. The pitcher must deliver the ball as near as possible over the center of said base, and for the striker.
Measure from the center of home base to the front of the chalked pitcher line.
“For the striker” means in vicinity the striker prefers, be shoulder high, hip high, knee high or lower. The striker was to indicate his preferred height when taking his position. The pitch need not pass over the home base to be deemed fair, only within fair reach of the bat.
The pitcher must deliver a hittable ball, a requirement with no penalty until the 1864 season, when the calling of balls was introduced. Speed of the pitch is not factor in the determination of a hittable ball.
The ball must be pitched, not jerked nor 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 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.
Note [from Beadle’s 1860]: According to Section 6, the pitcher makes a baulk when he either jerks a ball to the bat, has either foot in advance of the line of his position, or moves his hand or arm with the apparent purpose of pitching, without actually delivering the ball.
While we don’t get a more detailed explanation of the term "jerk" or "throw" until 1867 it is believed in 1867 they just clarified what was already known, so we make the note here for reference, for 1858 players.
Pitching is underhand, with the arm perpendicular to the ground, the motion likened to that of a clock pendulum. The “time of delivery” of the ball is defined by the NABBP as the moment the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. Bias or spin may be applied to the pitched ball. The ball may be pitched at any speed.
The ball shall be considered jerked, in the meaning of the rule, if the pitcher's arm touches his person when the arm is swung forward to deliver the ball; and it shall be regarded as a throw if the arm be bent at the elbow, at an angle from the body, or horizontally from the shoulder, when it is swung forward to deliver the ball. There is no mention of the wrist. A pitched ball is one delivered with the arm straight and swinging perpendicularly and free from the body. The clarification of what constitutes a “throw” and a “jerk” was first seen in 1867.
The purpose of this rule is to be fair to base runners who may be attempting to steal a base. There is nothing in the rules nor is there any documentation to support an expectation for the pitcher to cross his legs, stand in any particular manner, or present the ball to the striker. The pitcher needn’t pause between pitches or fakes to a base. Period pitchers often applied bias and spin.
The ball may be pitched at any speed.
Porter’s Spirit of the Times, December 6, 1856: In lauding the pitcher for the NY Knickerbockers: “Stevens – as pitcher, who sends the ball with exceeding velocity, and he who strikes it fairly must be a fine batsman.”
When a balk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases is entitled to one base, without being put out.
All runners get the next base. The rule does not specify whether a ball is live or dead after a baulk. The example given that the pitcher commits a baulk, and the ball passes the catcher. Can the base runner take as many bases as he wishes? (The ball is still live after a baulk) Or is he limited to the one “free” base? (The ball is dead after a baulk) Without game accounts or other primary evidence to guide the discussion, this is left to the discretion of the umpire.
If the ball, from a 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, either upon or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.
Note [from Beadle’s 1860]: Nothing is mentioned in section 8 in reference to any ball that is caught, either on the fly or first bound, after touching the side of a building, a fence, or a tree. In such cases a special rule is requisite before beginning a match.
Defines fair and foul. One of the most important duties the umpire has is call foul balls, immediately and loudly.
The original wording of the rule is potentially confusing as to the intent of the rule. Other documentation makes it clear that the determination of fair or foul is dependent on where the ball is in reference to the line of the base, when it either hits the ground or is first touched by a player. In other words a muffed ball cannot be knocked into foul territory to make it foul. The point is clarified in the 1861 rules.
A ball from the bat that comes to rest in a tree or on a chair or blanket or such has not touched the ground yet it can not be caught for an out. The question was raised in the press in 1859 and it was decided that the striker would not be out and should be made to strike again
Clubs must come to an understanding prior to the game, as to whether objects should be considered as the ground, for the purposes of defining “first bound”.
A player making the home base, shall be entitled to score one run.
Base runners must touch each base in order to be entitled to score a run, according to the Beadle’s.
There is neither requirement in the rules, nor primary source evidence of any custom, that a runner should “check in” with a scorekeeper (scorer) or ring a bell of any kind. Actually, there is no “scorekeeper”, per se. By rule, there were two “scorers”, each club supplying one. Runners did not have to check in with either of them.
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.
On a third strike swung at and missed, the striker MUST attempt to make his base. (NOTE: Rule 37 adds that this includes a called third strike.) This rule applies whether first base is occupied or not, and regardless of the number of outs at the time of the play.
The striker is out if a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground or upon the first bound;
Chadwick recommends always trying for the fly catch: “besides a fielder has two chances in attempting a catch on the fly, for should he fail in the first instance, he has the resource of the catch on the bound afterward.” Note that the ball must be caught; A ball from the bat that comes to rest in a tree or on a chair or blanket or such has not touched the ground yet it can not be caught for an out. The question was raised in the press in 1859 and it was decided that the striker would not be out and should be made to strike again
Or, if three balls are struck at and missed, and the last is caught either before touching the ground or upon the first bound;
Note that to get three strikes, you have to have three swings and misses, three called strikes, or a combination of swing and misses and called strikes. Foul balls are not strikes
Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught without having touched the ground or upon the bound;
Same note as Sec. 11. “Base-runners do not need to tag up if an out is made by a fielder catching a ball on the first bound – they are free to advance at their own risk, on any ball hit that bounces, whether it is then caught for an out or not.”
Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is held by an adversary on the first base, before the striker touches that base;
There are conflicting citations as to whether an out should be recorded if the baseman only touches the ball to the base or whether some part of the baseman must be touching the base. We leave this to the discretion of the umpire. We suggest that this be discussed with captains prior to the game, while discussing ground rules, as the situation emerges on occasion. As the 1867 Haney’s states that touching the ball only to the base should not be an out; this is often believed to be a rule, rather than commentary. Other commentary in the press states that touching the ball only to the base does complete a force play, so it is best to address it in advance.
Or 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.
If the fielder has the ball in his hand, and is in control of the ball, once he touches the runner with the hand holding the ball the out is recorded, and anything that happens after that does not affect the call. Citations from the mid-1860's and early 1870's indicate that control of the ball after a tag is not required. Control of the ball following a tag will not be required by rule until 1877
As noted in the commentary on Sec. 3, period commentary makes it clear that a loose base must be followed out of position, and that the base bag is the safe haven even if it is out of place.
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 both instances, 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 shall not be put out in so returning unless the ball has been first pitched to the striker.
On a foul ball, the base runners must return to their base. They may be put out in returning only after the pitcher has pitched the ball to the striker. The catcher can then throw the ball to the baseman in an attempt to get the returning runner out. Likewise, when a fair ball is caught on the fly the base runners must return to their bases and may be put out in returning only after the pitcher has pitched the ball to the striker. The catcher can then throw the ball to the baseman in an attempt to get the returning runner out.
From the Porters Spirit of the Times, 1858. Referencing Section 16.
The striker must stand on a line drawn through the center of the home base, not exceeding in length three feet from either side thereof, and parallel with 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 inning is played, the turn commences with the player who stands on the list next to the one who lost the third hand.
Note [from Beadle’s 1860]: The line referred to, in the above rule, is one parallel to a line extending from the first to the third base. The striker should keep one foot on this line; as, if he stands back of the base, a ball striking the ground perpendicularly from his bat, will be considered a fair ball-if the umpire strictly enforces the rule-though it actually strikes the ground behind the home base. If this rule be not strictly enforced, many a ball that ought to be a fair one will be declared foul
The striker’s line may or may not be marked with chalk, but it should be marked in some way (e.g., as a line marked in the dirt with the head of the bat). The rule requires the striker to place and keep his foot on that line and not stand behind the line to effectively increase the pitching distance; however it is a requirement without a penalty. There is substantial documentation that players and umpires alike in the 1860s often, or mostly, ignored this rule, and a historically correct interpretation allows for either approach. As long as strikers have their feet in proximity to the line, history is served. If a batsman takes a position with both feet fully behind the line, the umpire may well bring this violation to his attention, but there is no language to indicate an umpire may negate a hit if he fails to.
The rule spells out the batting succession.
Players must make their bases in order of striking; and when a fair ball is struck, and not caught flying nor 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 at any base, under these circumstances, in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base
Describes the force out. Chadwick’s later description in the Beadle’s and game accounts from the late 1850's and early 1860's suggests the force stays in effect without regard to the order of putout. With no change in the wording of the rule, Chadwick’s description in the 1864 Beadle’s changes, and describes the modern practice of applying the force. Other documentation suggests the modern interpretation was always the intent. Period documentation infers that the force staying in effect, regardless of the order of putout, was probably the norm in 1858, mostly due to the explanation that later appeared in Beadle’s and period game accounts.. However, there is enough evidence to allow for either interpretation in 1858 vintage game play. By 1863, accounts are promoting a force in the modern manner wherein if a trailing runner is put out, the force is removed.
Players running the bases must, as far as possible, keep upon the direct line between bases; and should any player run three feet out of this line, for purpose of avoiding the ball in the hands of an adversary, he shall be declared out.
The runner can be more than 3 feet out of the line between the bases if his speed around the bases compels it; the rule only penalizes the runner intentionally leaving the direct line between the bases to avoid a tag. A period explanation states: "Unless he LEAVES (emphasis ours) the line of the bases to avoid the ball, he does not infringe the rule." If a runner is out of the base line when a fielder approaches him with the ball, the runner can run directly to the next base.
Any player who shall intentionally prevent an adversary from catching or fielding the ball, shall be declared out.
A player who intends to interfere is declared out. A player who is accidentally hit by a batted ball is not out. It is up to the umpire to determine intent. The Haney’s guide later offers a clarification that the word “intentional” in this rule, refers to actions which could have been avoided.” There is no indication that actual contact with the ball or the fielder is required for interference to occur. Intentionally interfering with the fielder’s vision could be deemed interference. A batsman that intentionally interferes with a pitch to give a base runner an unfair advantage may be ruled out for interference. There is no provision in Section 20 itself for the act of offensive interference to suspend play or place runners. Even so, the umpire – being the sole judge of fair and unfair play – has the authority to do so.
Interference can be applied to the striker should he "lean in" or intentionally prevent the catcher from making a play, in order to give his team an advantage.
If the player is prevented making a base by the intentional obstruction of an adversary, he shall be entitled to that base, and not be put out.
Note [from Beadle’s 1860]: These two latter sections are, of course, intended solely for any willful and unnecessary obstruction. It is impossible that a player, while in the act of fielding a swiftly-sent ball, can always be on the look-out as to where his adversary is running; or that a player running the bases can always be equally careful in regard to his preventing an adversary from getting to his base. The umpire must alone decide this difficult question, and he should never hesitate to put a stop to any tendency to infringe the rules in this respect.
Blocking a runner off the base, (including setting up to take a throw in front of the base) is obstruction, and the runner is given the base even if tagged off the base. It is obstruction to move into a runner’s path to take a throw at any base, when the throw could have been caught without being in the runner’s path. Note that this is a distinct difference from modern understandings of “obstruction.”
As with the previous rule, determining intent is the key to making the call, but the fielder has the responsibility to avoid obstruction if at all possible. Unlike the modern day, if the defender initiates a collision, even with the ball in hand, it may be deemed obstruction.
If an adversary stops the 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 been settled in the hands of the pitcher.
The pitcher may be anywhere on the field of play. Vintage ball games today rarely, if ever have spectators in fair territory in the field of play. An overthrow picked up by a spectator makes the ball dead and we ask the umpire to call it as such, but play is not suspended. Runners can continue and can not be put out until the ball is sent to the pitcher anywhere on the field.
If a ball, from the stroke of the 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.
This rule is a clarification of Sec. 22 that disallows a ‘catch’ in a hat or cap. There is substantial period documentation that further describes the word “caught,” clarifying that a ball did not have to be caught in the hands - that it could be trapped between the arm and the body, for instance.
As covered under Sec. 8, a ball rebounding from a fence or house would not be a catch unless a ground rule had been established and understood allowing such a catch. Therefore, a ball that rebounds from a table or spectator could not be held for an out, even if caught before touching the ground. Likewise, a ball that comes to rest on an object or person cannot be retrieved for an out.
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 out.
This rule addresses the question of a run scoring on a play on which the 3rd out of an inning was recorded. The rule clarifies that this is an issue of timing. The umpire must determine if the run scored before the 3rd out was made. The exception was the striker;, if he is the third out, before reaching first (by being touched with the ball or the ball held at first base before he gets there or being caught out on the fly or bound), no run can score, without regard to the timing. As soon as the striker of the ball has made his first, it becomes a matter of timing. This differs from the modern rule, in that here a force play at a base other than first does not automatically negate a run, if the runner touches home base before the out was made.
An inning must be concluded at the time the third hand is put out
Further clarifies when a runner can score. No runs can be counted after the 3rd out is made.
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.
In 1858, there were technically 18 innings, 9 for each side. An inning was one club’s turn at bat. Note that the rule requires there to be “nine innings to each side” – in other words, the bottom of the 9th innings is played regardless of whether the club batting then is already ahead.
There were not yet any provisions in the rules to end a game when the club batting last was ahead and the losing club had completed their nine innings and was still behind in the score. By rule, a club choosing not to complete a game was considered a forfeit. See Sec. 35
It is important to note that it was not uncommon for teams batting in the bottom of the ninth inning who had already won the game would still play their best, and would often add additional runs to their total.
Should clubs choose to call a game short of a full nine innings each, we would then encourage them to explain to their spectators the actual rule, and that they are departing from it.
In playing all matches, nine players from each club shall constitute a full field, and they must have been regular members of the club which 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 a 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.
This is the “no ringers” rule. No substitution is a rule that is not practical in most modern vintage game play, where inclusion of volunteers is a significant issue. Clubs are encouraged that when they allow substitutions to advise spectators of the actual rule.
The umpire shall take care that the regulations respecting the ball, bats, bases, and the pitcher's and striker's positions are strictly observed. He shall keep a 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 balks immediately upon their occurrence, unasked, and in a distinct and audible manner.
The record keeping portion is eliminated by the next rule. Allows the umpire to decide issues not specifically covered in the rules. Foul balls and baulks are the calls the umpire is required to make unasked. Most other plays were not called by the umpire, unless judgment was asked.
In all matches, the umpire shall be selected by the captains of the respective sides, 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.
In 1858 there is not a lone scorer; there are 2 scorers, each club supplying one.
Note that the umpire was to be not determined by the home club, as is common in VBB today, but was instead selected (often in advance) by the opposing captain. We can document that small rural clubs did often provide their own umpire regardless, but ideally having an umpire that represents a member of a third party neutral club is ideal.
No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, scorer, or player, shall be 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 both parties, except for a violation of this law, and except as provided in Section 27, and then the umpire may dismiss any transgressor.
No gambling on the game, gentlemen. As covered in Sec. 27, many modern vintage clubs choose to bat more than nine, as well as rotate players in defensively. Clubs are encouraged, when they allow substitutions, to advise spectators that this would not have been done in the era.
One aspect of substitution that was accepted practice dating back to the 1850’s was allowing a substitute runner from home for a batsman that was injured. In the modern day this is called a "courtesy runner". In the period he was called a "substitute runner". A player may not have another run for him simply because he was a better runner and was not always the "last out" but he was a player already in the game.
Substitute runners would often start from a position to the left of the catcher and run between the catcher and the batsman. In later years some substitute runners would "fake out" the catcher as he was taking the pitch, so the substitute runners were then started from a position slightly up the third base line from home, far enough behind and away from the striker to be avoid being struck by a pitch or a swung bat and run in front of the batsman.
For 1858 play, choice and position of a substitute runner could be agreed to by the captains.
Likewise, the language regarding dismissing transgressors is referring to players determined to have played for a different club within thirty days, again, per Sec 27
The umpire in match shall determine when play shall be suspended; and if game cannot be concluded, it shall be decided 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.
Five (5) even innings are the minimum amount necessary for a match (game) to be official. If the match has to end at a time other than the end of an inning, then the score reverts back to what it was at the end of the last completed inning.
Clubs may adopt such rules respecting balls knocked beyond or outside of the 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.
Special ground rules should be agreed on prior to the match. Ground rules were specific to the peculiarities of the field itself.
There is no documentation of which we are aware of fields where a ball hit a great distance or over a fence was considered to be an automatic home run. Balls hit into accessible fields were often yet live. Balls hit over obstacles hindering recovery on the bound or fly may be one or two bases. A pitched ball reaching a catcher’s fence (backstop) that was closer than 70 feet (distance per the Beadle’s guide commentary – other sources recommend 90 feet) behind home may award extra bases based on a ground rule.
There is no historical precedent for the practice of creating “gentleman’s agreements” to alter or modernize other rules or customs as is sometimes done in modern vintage base ball. Significant contemporary evidence suggests that even in small towns, base ball clubs were eager to be “up to date” and play by the rules adopted by the National Association.
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.
This section is not intended to mean that players are not allowed to address the umpire as they are required to do in requesting judgment in the normal course of play. Rather, it is designed to prevent spectators or players from interfering with the attention of the umpire, scorers, or other players.
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.
Prohibits “ceremonial” umpires, such as local politicians or other prominent citizens who may have little knowledge of the game. For our purposes, it is important that umpires be very familiar with the specific year’s rules and and playing customs.
Whenever a match shall have been determined upon between 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
Self-explanatory, but not typically an issue that would be considered in modern vintage match play.
No person who may be in arrears to any club he may have belonged to previous to the one he is then a member of, shall not be competent to play in a match unless such arrears are paid.
Prohibits players from creating financial difficulties for clubs they leave by failing to pay their dues, uniform costs, or other fees owed to the former club.
Should a striker stand at the bat without striking at good balls repeatedly pitched to him, for the 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 called, he shall be subject to the same rules as if he had struck at the three balls.
Note [from Beadle’s 1860]: Section 37 is a rule that should be strictly enforced, as it refers to a point of the game that is oft-times a very tedious and annoying feature. How often do we see the striker-the moment his predecessor has made his first base-stand still at the home base, and await the moment when the player on the first base can avail himself of the first failure of the pitcher and catcher to hold the ball, while tossing it backward and forward to each other. Some catchers-chiefly among boys however- actually stand to the right of the home base purposely for this style of game; and even when the pitcher and catcher are inclined to do their duty, the batsman is not, and the latter is frequently allowed to stop the progress and interest of the game, by his refusal to strike at good balls, under the plea that they do not suit him, when it is apparent to all that he simply wants to allow his partner to get to his second base. In every respect it is preferable to play the game manfully and without resorting to any such trickery-for it is little else-as this, which not only tires the spectator, but detracts from the merit of the game itself.
Called strikes were intended to be a remedy for the once common practice of extending a turn at bat while the striker waits for base runners to advance on passed balls, or by stealing to their next base. The batsman, on taking his position at the striker’s line, was to indicate his preference in pitches (i.e., what “for the striker” meant for him; see commentary on Sec. 5). By rule the umpire was to warn the batsman after two or more good pitches are allowed to pass with such language as “warning to the striker”, although no specific wording is required.
Given the importance placed on this rule, vintage programs and umpires should be in the habit of calling strikes after the requisite warning.
After the warning, the umpire shall call strikes. For a pitch to be deemed a strike, it would be “for the striker”.
“Even if the pitch is “for the striker" , for it is to be deemed a strike, the batsman must also be intentionally be allowing it to pass try to give a runner an opportunity to advance (typically), or to delay the game into darkness.”
Not all pitches have to be called.
In 1858, the first year of the called strike, umpires are documented as being very delinquent in calling strikes regardless of the intent of the new rule.
Note that the umpire was to be not determined by the home club, as is common in VBB today, but was instead selected (often in advance) by the opposing captain. We can document that small rural clubs did often provide their own umpire regardless, but ideally having an umpire that represents a member of a third party neutral club is ideal.