“Both these men [Jacob Diesel and Deacon Van Buren of the Portland Webfeet in the Pacific Northwest League] have a certain field to strike to, and about the only thing a man can do is to try to give them a ball which will force them to hit to the opposite field.” Butte Inter Mountain, August 21, 1902, p8
- NOTE: It can’t be said for sure that the “certain field” these players usually tried to hit to was their natural field, but if it was this sentence uses “opposite field” in the current sense. There are other examples of the term, before and after this one, where “opposite” could mean the opposite field to the one where the previous batter hit the ball. In any case, the term was definitely used in the current sense as early as 1920. (Ken Liss)
Previous earliest use (Dickson Baseball Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2009):
1ST USE. 1949. “[Left-handed hitter] Cliff Mapes, who has tremendous power to opposite field, sliced a ball into the left field corner for a double” (Nevada State Journal, Oct. 9; Peter Morris).