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1880's, the batter stepped up to the plate and made his preference known to the umpire if he wanted a low or high pitch. The umpire then notified the pitcher who was instructed to throw just that type of pitch. The batter was not allowed to change his preference after the first pitch was thrown.
They used to give umpires a comfortable chair to sit in while they called balls, strikes, and outs from behind and off to the side of homeplate.