Baseball Rule Myths Every Umpire Should Know – Part 3

Continuing on our series of popular baseball rule myths, you’ll find a few of our favorites below.

16. A runner / batter has to turn to the right if they run past first.
The runner or hitter is allowed to turn either direction, left or right, as long as if they do turn left they don’t make an effort to advance a base. If they do, as judged by the umpire, then they are in play. The rule states that they must return, right away, to first base if they overrun or slide past it.

17. The base runner can not steal a base on a pitch that is a foul-tip.
A foul-tip is not a foul ball. When a pitched ball nicks the bat is caught by the catcher it is a foul-tip. In all cases a foul-tip is a strike and the ball is live. Just as if the hitter swung through the pitch.

18. When making an appeal, the ball must always be returned to the pitcher first.
Anytime the ball is live an appeal can be made by anyone. The only case where the ball must go to the pitcher first is if time is out. If time is out, the ball is dead until the pitcher is on the rubber and the umpire calls for play to start. Once play has been called, an appeal can be made.

19. A pitcher must be in a set position if they make a pick-off attempt.
This rule is for before a pitch is made not a pick-off. The pitcher must come to a full stop in a set position before a delivery to the hitter is made.

20. When a fielder falls over the homerun fence while making a catch it is a homerun.
Only if the fielder is touching the ground in dead ball territory, on the other side of the fence, is it a homerun. If the catch is not the third out and the player falls into dead ball territory, all runners will receive an additional base. If the fielder lands on his feet, the ball is live and a play can be made.


If you missed out on our first 2 posts in this series catch them here:

Rule Myths Part 1,  Rule Myths Part 2


Baseball Rule Myths Every Umpire Should Know – Part 2

Recently we wrote about some of the more common baseball rule myths that are sure to stump many folks, and not just those heading into umpire school. So without further adieu, here are even more commonly mis-stated rules that may trip you up.

11. A batter should be out if a bunted ball touches the ground and bounces back up and hits the bat.
This depends on whether the batter was in the batters box. If he is, then it’s a foul ball. If he is not, then he is out.

12. A batter cannot run past first base when after he is walked.
The rule says that a runner must return, right away, after proceeding past first base. It doesn’t indicate any exceptions to a player who was walked versus one that reached by a base hit.

13. A batter cannot change batter’s boxes after two strikes and bat from the other side of the plate.
A batter can switch at any time unless the pitcher is already “ready to pitch”.

14. It’s a force out when a runner is put out for not tagging up on a fly ball out.
If the batter is out on a fly ball, all forces are removed. If a player fails to tag-up, he can be called out after an appeal but it isn’t a force out. Any runs that cross the plate before the out is made are counted.

15. It is a fair ball if a fielder’s feet are in fair territory when the ball is touched.
A ball is only judged fair or foul based on where the ball is positioned on or above the ground at the time the ball is touched. It’ doesn’t matter where the player’s body is.

If you missed part 1 in this series you can find it here.

And catch part 3 as well.

Baseball Rule Myths Every Umpire Should Know

Baseball is part of our culture. It’s unofficially declared America’s pastime because of the role it played in American lives at the turn of the 20th century, bringing hope at times where hope was hard to come by. Parents have been taking their children to ballgames and playing a casual game of catch before bed for over 150 years. With all that wonderful history has come some of the most off-base and far fetched myths imaginable. Here are some of the more common myths someone entering umpire school should know.

1. A tie goes to the runner.
There can be no tie. The runner is either out or safe.

2. A batter is out if his foot touches home plate.
To be out, the batter’s foot must be all the way outside the batter’s box when he makes contact with a pitch. There is no special rule about touching home plate.

3. A batter can’t be called out for interference if he is in the batter’s box.
A batter can be called out for interference if the umpire decides interference could or should have been avoided.

4. The hands are part of the bat.
Hands are part of the body. A pitch that hits the batter’s hands is a dead ball. If the batter swung it’s a strike. If he did not swing, he is awarded first base.

5. The ball is dead on a foul-tip.
A foul-tip is not a foul ball. If the ball nicks the bat and goes hard and direct to the catcher’s glove, its a foul-tip, its a strike, and the ball is live. If the ball is not caught, it is a foul ball.

6. If the batter does not pull the bat out of the strike zone while bunting, it’s an automatic strike.
A strike is an attempt to hit the ball. Simply holding the bat over the plate is not an attempt. This is a judgement call for an umpire.

7. The batter who batted out of order is the person declared out.
The player who should have been up to bat is the one called out.  A hit or advance made by the batter or runners due to the hit, walk, error, etc. is nullified. The next batter should be the one who follows the batter who was called out.

8. A batted ball that hits home plate its a foul ball.
Home plate is in fair territory. If a batted ball hits it, it is like any other batted ball.

9. If a fielder holds a fly ball for 2 seconds it’s a catch.
A catch is legal when the umpire judges a fielder has control of the baseball. The release of the ball must be intentional.

10. The batter does not get first if hit by a pitch that bounced.
If the batter is hit by a pitch while attempting to avoid it, he is awarded first base. It doesn’t matter how the pitch got to the batter.

Don’t miss out on some of our follow up posts on baseball rule myths.

Rule Myths Part 2,  Rule Myths Part 3

The Tie Goes to the Runner

The phrase,”the tie goes to the runner” is thrown around a lot in baseball leagues from tee-ball to the majors. Every time there’s a bang-bang play a first this phrase is repeated like gospel. It’s a cold hard fact of baseball life to every/most Little League dads. And, it’s wrong. There are no ties according to baseball.

Rule 7.01 in Major League Baseball’s rule book states, “A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out.” Therefore, a base runner should be called out unless he reaches base before he is tagged or forced out. Conversely, and just as explicitly, Rule 7.1 indicates that a runner should be safe if they reach the base before being put out. What’s interesting is that while baseball’s rules leave no room for mistake about when a base runner should be out or safe they make no mention of what should happen if there is a tie. None. It’s completely omitted.

Many schooled umpires are left to make the only clear assumption one can draw from these rule definitions, there is no such thing as a tie in baseball. The argument becomes that the ball either beat the runner or it didn’t and a player is either out of safe. More accurately you could say that the argument is, because a player is either out or safe, the ball either got their first or he did. Laying the justification out this way sheds some light on the topic. Baseball doesn’t recognize a tie. But, ties are a real thing. Even if it is extremely rare that a runner’s foot touches the bag at the exact same nanosecond the baseman tags him. It can and does happen. When you look at the scenario this way you can begin to understand where the folklore comes from. Umpires need some rule of thumb to guide them, or at least Little League coaches and dads do. Okay, and major league announcers. Let’s not forget them.

Picture a situation where you’re a base umpire and there’s a close play at first. From what you can tell, there is no clear winner. What do you do? You make a call and explain it to the angry coach (one of them will be angry no matter what you do).

While there is no documented story or explanation of where “the ties goes to the runner” line came from one can probably safely assume it was birthed to defend or justify a close play and call. The real interesting thing is that in just about every umpire school I’ve come across the rule of thumb is the opposite. If it looks like a tie, the runner is probably out. I guess that’s the benefit of living in the instant replay era.