Something New Every Game

There was a doozy of a play in game 5 of the ALDS. Here is what happened – with 2 outs and a runner on third, a batter takes a pitch. The catcher’s return throw hits the batter’s hand (while he is in the box) and deflects away. The runner from third races home.

At first, the runner was sent back to third. The home plate umpire actually was killing the play before the runner scored.

Upon conferring with the other umpires, they reversed the decision and allowed the run to score.

Did they get it right?

Heck yes they did.

Here is probably the rule going through the home plate umpire’s mind (guessing as I am not a mind reader).

Deep in the rule book is this clause:

Rule 6.03(a)(3) Comment (last paragraph)

If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play.

This is called “weak interference”. The batter is not out but no runners can advance. No harm no foul. Of course this was not the exact situation. My guess is that this ruling popped into his head because it seems the most “fair”.

The actual “rule” for this is no where in the book. It is in the smaller supplemental book called Major League Baseball Rule Interpretations.

It states (emphasis added by me):


If the batter interferes with the catcher’s throw back to the pitcher by stepping out of the batter’s box while he is at bat (no runners attempting to advance), it shall not be considered interference under Official Baseball Rule 6.06( c). In such cases, the umpire shall call “Time” only (no interference). The ball will be dead and no runners shall advance on the play.

The interpretation does not, of course, give the batter license to intentionally interfere with the catcher’s throw back to the pitcher, and in such cases the batter shall be called out. If the batter becomes a runner on ball four and the catcher’s throw strikes him or his bat, the ball remains alive and in play (provided no intentional interference by the batter-runner).

If the batter interferes with the catcher’s throw to retire a runner by stepping out of the batter’s box, interference shall be called on the batter under Official Baseball Rule 6.06( c).

However, if the batter is standing in the batter’s box and he or his bat is struck by the catcher’s throw back to the pitcher (or throw in attempting to retire a runner) and, in the umpire’s judgment there is no intent on the part of the batter to interfere with the throw, consider the ball alive and in play.

The interpretation clearly covers this situation. The batter did not intentionally interfere. The ball is live and the runner advances at own risk.

The umpires got together and got this right.


It happens

I work a lot of summer ball. A lot of times in summer ball there is not a scoreboard. Coaches come up to me all the time and ask the score. I honestly don’t know. I have enough to keep track of.

I usually make a quick joke about umpires being taught only to count to 4.

The larger point to this is that there is a lot to keep track of – sometimes a guy can lose the count. This happened in a recent game.

The batter thinks he is getting  a free one and takes off to first. He has a sheepish smile coming back to the box. He almost got away with it.

This is why I usually don’t say “ball 4” after a walk. I just call the ball and let people figure it out. Sometimes less is more.

Letterman on umpires

Talk show legend and fellow Hoosier David Letterman hangs ’em up this evening. Anyone who watched his show for any length of time knows how big of a baseball fan he is.

In a merging of his genius with this blog, I present to you a couple of top ten lists about umpires.

Top 10 Umpire Complaints
10. Having to carpool with team mascot
9. Line-up card from Don Zimmer always smeared with spaghetti sauce
8. When a manager who’s yelling right in your face suddenly kisses you
7. Have to use glass-bottom shower over concession stand
6. When they show your wife in bed with some other guy on Diamondvision
5. Players who ask if you would scratch them
4. All those empty Slim-Fast containers around Dodger dugout
3. When San Diego Chicken steals your street clothes and sets them on fire during his pre-game dance
2. In most states “killing the umpire” is only a class B misdemeanor
1. Squat burns

Top 10 Signs the Umpire is Nuts
10. His chest protector has large silicone implants.
9. Cleans home plate with his tongue.
8. The first batter has worked the count up to 46 balls, 29 strikes.
7. Makes own face mask out of bubble wrap and duct tape.
6. Was seen checking into Motel 6 with the Philly Phanatic.
5. Three small and very telling words: wears a cape.
4. Keeps running up to fat guys in the stands and yelling, “Babe Ruth! You’re alive!”
3. Insists that “Baseball Fever” is the cause of that weird rash on his back.
2. Whenever he sees a player adjusting himself, shouts, “Ball two!”
1. Long after the game has ended, he’s still squatting.

Pretty funny stuff. Mr. Letterman will be missed.

That is why you wear a mask

Here is a pretty interesting foul ball.

The more interesting question is what would happen if this was just a pitch that got lodged in the mask.

Rule 5.09(g):

5.09 The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when—

(g) A pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base;

Again this is a foul ball so the rule does not apply. But, can you imagine a catcher whiffing on a pitch and the runners all getting an extra base. That would be a heck of a way to lose a game.

Balls lodged in player/umpire equipment is covered on page 61 of Rulegraphics.

Get the book

This blog is written as a companion to the book RuleGraphics: Professional Baseball. Make sure to check out our website for samples.

The book debuted on Amazon as the #1 new release in Baseball -> Coaching. It is receiving praise from the umpiring community.

Grab a copy of the book Gil Imber of Close Call Sports calls a “sorely needed Media Guide for the Official Baseball Rules.”

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