Pal Eldredge

’Pen Pal


Monday, September 24, 2001

Umpiring is not just
balls and strikes

There are a lot of rules that cover athletic events. Baseball, however, has got to have the longest, most detailed book of rules, whichever book you are using (high school, college, or professional).

Like I said in my May 14 article, baseball should really adhere to one rule book because it would make things easier and more consistent for umpires, players and coaches.

Throughout the years, I have seen some plays that I've never seen before or since, and there has to be a rule for them, so knowing the rules is an integral part of playing and especially coaching and umpiring.

Here are several game situations to ponder. Review them, put your blue suits on, and become the umpire. Kudos to long-time friend and local umpire Mike Evans for listening to me so I could make sure these calls were correct.

>> Situation 1: Runners on 1st and 3rd, one out. Both runners take off on the pitch, the batter bunts the ball in the air. The first baseman dives, catches the ball for the second out, then gets up and throws to first base for the third out. The runner from third crosses home plate before the out is made at first. Does the run count?

The call: Yes, it does. Had the first baseman thrown to third, the run wouldn't count. Had the first baseman gone directly to third base after the third out, the run wouldn't count then, either. This is one of the few times when a fourth out is recognized in a game.

>> Situation 2: A line drive hits the pitcher's rubber and, in the air, goes foul between home and first. Is it a fair ball?

The call: No, it's a foul ball.

>> Situation 3: A fly ball hits the outfielder's head and goes over the fence in fair territory.

The call: It's a home run. If the ball hits the outfielder's head and goes over the fence in foul territory, the call is a ground rule double.

>> Situation 4: The runner on first attempts to steal second base. The catcher's throw hits the bat of the batter and caroms into foul ground. Is this legal?

The call: The ball is alive, as long as the batter didn't do anything to interfere with the throw, and the runner can take as many bases as he can.

>> Situation 5: Runner on third, one out. The runner breaks for home, the batter attempts a squeeze bunt. The pitch is off the plate and the batter lunges for the ball and in doing so, crosses home plate and interferes with the catcher as the catcher attempts to tag the runner out. What's this call?

The call: It's interference against the batter, but the runner is called out. Had there been two outs, the batter would be called out.

Now this next one is a real toughie. It occurs quite often and I've seen even Major League umpires blow this one.

>> Situation 6: Fly ball to the outfield. The outfielder catches the ball, takes four strides and hits the fence. When the outfielder hits the fence, the ball is jarred loose. Is it a catch?

The Call: No, it is not. Even though the outfielder has control of the ball, he must change direction for the catch to be ruled as such.

So how did you do? Remember, an umpire must make the call in seconds, so you can see that's it's not as easy as you may think.

Pal Eldredge is a baseball commentator for KFVE
and former varsity baseball coach at Punahou School.
His column runs Mondays during the Major League Baseball season.
Star-Bulletin sports can be reached at 529-4785 or:

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