Why Are Baseball Games Nine Innings Long?

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

If you are frustrated by the exhausting length of modern baseball games—or if you are thrilled that these contests last the full nine innings—you can thank an all-but-arbitrary decision made in the nascent stages of the sport. Gone the other way, America's Pastime would end after just seven innings.

Prior to 1857, games were not just of indeterminate time length but also an indeterminate number of innings. According the 8th Rule in the Knickerbockers' handbook—largely considered to be the first rule book from which modern baseball stems—"The game to consist of twenty-one counts, or aces; but at the conclusion an equal number of hands must be played."

Playing until 21 runs wasn't such a bad plan during the riotous offense of the 1840's and '50s, but after the 12-12 tie of 1856—the game had to be called on account of darkness after 16 innings—it was clear a change was in order.

"I believe that as the skill level of play increased, the certainty of one club or the other reaching 21 runs diminished. Most of the runs were un-earned as we would call them today," says Major League Baseball Official Historian John Thorn.

The decision to limit the number of innings gave way to the issue of exactly how many innings should make up each regulation-length game. This was connected to the minimum number of players each side had for a game to go forward. Generally, each team played with nine men, but this was not standard or codified. As Thorn writes in his book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden:

In an 1856 Knickerbocker meeting, [Louis F.] Wadsworth, along with Doc Adams, backed a motion to permit nonmembers to take part in Knickerbocker intramural games at the Elysian Fields if fewer than eighteen Knicks were present (nine men to the side had become the de facto standard for match play by this point, though it still was not mandated by the rules of the game). Wadsworth and his allies among the Knickerbockers thought it more important to preserve the quality of the game than to exclude those who were not club members. Duncan F. Curry countermoved that if fourteen Knickerbockers were available, the game should admit no outsiders and be played shorthanded, as had been their practice since 1845.

In other words, the factions were divided on the issue of whether or not to preserve the exclusivity of the Knickerbocker club at the cost of more competitive defense. Ultimately, Curry's faction, known as the "Old Fogies," prevailed, and the Knickerbockers settled on seven-man teams for intramural play. Since the number of innings was not yet set, they opted for a seven-inning game simply for the sake of consistency: Seven men, seven innings.

This, however, did not apply to intermural competition. The Knickerbockers had been playing matches against other clubs for about a decade by that point and decided that, since the issue had been so divisive on their own team, a committee should standardize the number of men and innings games played between clubs would feature.

The Knickerbockers sent a delegation of three men to the committee, ostensibly supporting the position of seven men, seven innings, which would help promote the club's exclusivity. However, Wadsworth was named the Knickerbocker representative, and despite his official allegiance to the Knickerbocker cause, he hadn't abandoned his original stance of "preserving the quality of the game."

"[Wadsworth] worked behind the scenes with other clubs to overwhelm the Knickerbockers’ position and go to nine innings and nine men," Thorn says of that fateful Convention from which we get many of our modern rules.

The following month, Wadsworth led a motion within the Club to have the Knickerbockers adopt all the new rules and changes agreed upon at the convention. It passed, and from then on, baseball games in America were played with nine men per side and for a regulation length of nine innings.

See Also: Why Does "K" Stand for Strikeout?

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Can Soap Get Dirty?

iStock/vintagerobot
iStock/vintagerobot

When you see lovely little bars of lemon-thyme or lavender hand soaps on the rim of a sink, you know they are there to make you feel as fresh as a gardenia-scented daisy. We all know washing our hands is important, but, like washcloths and towels, can the bars of hand soap we use to clean ourselves become dirty as well?

Soaps are simply mixtures of sodium or potassium salts derived from fatty acids and alkali solutions during a process called saponification. Each soap molecule is made of a long, non-polar, hydrophobic (repelled by water) hydrocarbon chain (the "tail") capped by a polar, hydrophilic (water-soluble) "salt" head. Because soap molecules have both polar and non-polar properties, they're great emulsifiers, which means they can disperse one liquid into another.

When you wash your dirty hands with soap and water, the tails of the soap molecules are repelled by water and attracted to oils, which attract dirt. The tails cluster together and form structures called micelles, trapping the dirt and oils. The micelles are negatively charged and soluble in water, so they repel each other and remain dispersed in water—and can easily be washed away.

So, yes, soap does indeed get dirty. That's sort of how it gets your hands clean: by latching onto grease, dirt and oil more strongly than your skin does. Of course, when you're using soap, you're washing all those loose, dirt-trapping, dirty soap molecules away, but a bar of soap sitting on the bathroom counter or liquid soap in a bottle can also be contaminated with microorganisms.

This doesn't seem to be much of a problem, though. In the few studies that have been done on the matter, test subjects were given bars of soap laden with E. coli and other bacteria and instructed to wash up. None of the studies found any evidence of bacteria transfer from the soap to the subjects' hands. (It should be noted that two of these studies were conducted by Procter & Gamble and the Dial Corp., though no contradictory evidence has been found.)

Dirty soap can't clean itself, though. A contaminated bar of soap gets cleaned via the same mechanical action that helps clean you up when you wash your hands: good ol' fashioned scrubbing. The friction from rubbing your hands against the soap, as well as the flushing action of running water, removes any harmful microorganisms from both your hands and the soap and sends them down the drain.

This story was updated in 2019.

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