The Pitching Mound…
(At left First Mound in USSR "Diamond Diplomacy Tour")
Rule 1.04 in the MLB rule book states, " The pitchers plate shall be 10 inches above the level of home plate. The degree of slope from a point 6 inches in front of the plate shall be 1 inch to 1 foot and such degree of slope shall be uniform". The rule book gos on to detail other mound specifics regarding the pitching rubber, the diameter and the size of the level area on top of the mound.
It didn’t used to be this way. In the late 1800′s approximately 1859, there was no pitching rubber, only a line that was drawn in the dirt about 45 feet from the home plate. A few years later they changed the line to a box so the pitchers could no longer take 2 or 3 steps before throwing the ball from the line. The front line of the 6-foot square box was still 45 feet from the home plate ….not 60 feet 6 inches like it is today. Another perspective is that the distance between home plate and the pitchers mounds initially was measured from the front foot of the pitcher during the early days of the game not as it is today where the distance is measured from the back foot.
In those days the batters were actually allowed to tell the pitcher where he wanted the ball thrown. In about 1882 they decided to move the "pitchers box back to 50 feet because it was beginning to be to tough on the hitter. A few years later they changed the rules again to make the pitching box a little smaller and the batter lost the control of telling the pitcher where to throw the balls.
During or around 1893, a pitcher’s plate made from wood not rubber was used. This pitching plate was installed about five feet behind the back edge of the pitchers box which gave us the 60 feet distance. The difference in the measurement of 60′ 6 inches and what was measured in that era was "supposedly" blamed on the groundscrew for not measuring the distance correctly. They probably had to blame it on someone and the groundskeeper was as good as any!
One must remember the pitchers mound was still flat during those years until they set a height of 15 inches in 1903. There is really no written notation of the word "mound" until the 1903 rules were formed.
The mound has remained the same distance from home plate for over 100 years. The next big change took place in the mid 1960′s when during that era, pitchers were dominating the game. Low ERA’s and both leagues naming pitchers MVP’S caused ownership to make another change around 1967. Following a season where Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA and Carl Yaztremski won the batting title with a 301 average, the mound was lowered to 10 inches in 1968. And if that wasn’t enough to change the game and make it more offensive, along came the DH a couple years later in 1973. With that change we saw a change in the pitchers mechanics change from the "stand tall and fall" to the "drop and drive".
Today it appears things are swinging back the other way and they may need to make a change to the mound again (or get rid of the DH.) Only time will tell.