March 13, 2003


Any interference with the progress of a batted or thrown ball by any
person not one of the contesting players in a game, is what is termed
_blocking the ball_. Suppose a ball is batted to the short stop, and that
fielder overthrows the ball to first base, and it goes toward the crowd
and is there stopped or touched by an outsider, the moment this stoppage
of the ball or interference with it occurs, the umpire must call "Block
ball," and until the ball is returned to the field and held by the pitcher
while in his "box," it is _dead_ for putting out any base runner; and such
runners are permitted to run all the bases they can until the ball is thus
put legally into play. But should such overthrown ball, in addition to its
being stopped or diverted from its course by any outsider, be also kicked
aside or picked up and thrown out of reach by a fielder, the umpire must
in addition call "Time," in which case runners shall only be entitled to
hold such bases as they had touched before the ball had been so kicked or
thrown out of reach, the ball, as in the prior case, not being in play
until held by the pitcher while in his box.


Rule 42, Section III, requires the umpire to call a strike on the batsman
every time he makes "an obvious attempt to make a foul hit." Rule 43,
Section XIII, states that "If, after two strikes have been called, the
batsman _obviously attempts to make a foul hit_" he is out. Last year
these rules were both misinterpreted by umpires. In the first place, in
both cases the _intention_ of the batsman must be plainly manifest; and to
judge of this the circumstances of the case must be taken into
consideration. For instance, if the batsman _bunts_ a ball foul when a
runner is on abase, it is evident that he does so unintentionally, for no
point of play is to be gained by such a foul hit. Then, too, the hitting
of a foul ball must be repeatedly done before such hitting can be adjudged
as otherwise than accidental.


Rule 43 states that the batsman who fails to bat in his proper turn
according to the approved order of batting, must be decided out by the
umpire, unless the error in question be discovered and the right batsman
be sent to the bat in the regular order "_before a fair hit has been
made_." If, before the mistake is discovered, "strikes" or "balls" be
called upon the batsman who is out of his order of batting, such strikes
and balls shall be counted against the batsman who should have gone to the
bat in the regular order. But the violation of the rule must be declared
by the field Captain before the ball is delivered to a succeeding batsman,
or the penalty of an out cannot be enforced, the mistake, of course, being
at once corrected, without the enforcement of the penalty.


The change made in Rule 45 is to the effect that base runners required to
return to bases which they had left on a hit ball, can, if the ball be hit
foul and not caught on the fly, return to their respective bases directly.
For instance, suppose the batsman hits a long fly ball to right field, on
which he runs to third base before the ball falls on foul ground, under
the old rule he would be required to return to home base after retouching
second and first bases; but under the new rule he can in such case return
to home base direct from third, instead of returning around the diamond.
The object of the amended rule was to save loss of time by a runner's
leisurely return to the base he had left.


Rule 45, in its reference to a base runner having the right to hold a
base after touching it, is to be thus defined: Suppose that base runners
are on third and second bases, and that the runner on third is trying to
steal home, and in doing so vacates third base and runs for home base, the
occupant of second base in the meantime running to third base and holding
that base; and suppose that in such case the runner from third to home
finds himself likely to be put out at home base, and then returns to third
base, he still has the right to that base, and having such right, the
runner from second to third must give up holding third base and try and
get back to second, failing which, and preferring to hold third base, he
can be put out there even while standing on third base, provided the legal
occupant of that base is also standing on that base, but not otherwise.


Rule 46, Section VI, states that a base runner is entitled to the base he
is running to "_if he be prevented from making that base by the
obstruction of an adversary._" Now the correct interpretation of this rule
is that such obstruction as that in question must be that at the hands of
a fielder who has not the ball in hand ready to touch the runner. Of
course if the runner is met by the fielder with ball in hand ready to
touch the runner, and thus stands directly in the path of the runner, no
legal obstruction has been presented, though in fact he is obstructed.
But the "obstruction" meant by the rule is that presented by a fielder who
has not the ball in hand at the time.


Rule 47, Section IV, states that "The base runner shall return to his
base and be entitled to so return without being put out, if the person or
clothing of the umpire is struck by a ball thrown by the catcher to
intercept a base runner." Rule 46, in referring to base runners entitled
to take bases without being put out, states that "if a fair hit ball
strikes the person or clothing of the umpire, the batsman making the hit,
or a base runner running a base upon such a hit, shall be entitled to the
base he is running for without being put out." For instance, suppose there
is a runner at first base trying to steal second, and the catcher throws
the ball to the second baseman to cut him off, and that the ball thus
thrown hits the umpire and glances off out of the reach of the fielders,
the runner in such case, while being debarred from making second base by
the accident, is allowed to return to the base he left without being put
out. But the umpire must see to it that the ball is not intentionally
thrown to hit the umpire with a view of preventing what would otherwise be
a successful steal. In other words, the throw in question must be an
accidental one, or it must be judged as an illegal play.


Umpires must enforce the rule governing the "coaching" of base runners in
accordance with the spirit as well as the letter of the law, and this
forbids the addressing of any remarks except to the base runner, and then
only in words of necessary direction. Moreover, no coacher is allowed to
use any language, in his position either as player or coacher, "which
shall in anyway" refer to or reflect upon a player of the opposing club.
The noisy, vulgar yelling of some coachers is in direct violation of the
spirit of the rule, as it is done, not to coach the runner, but to confuse
the pitcher or catcher, and distract their attention. The penalty for
violating the rule is the suspension of all coaching by the offending club
during the remainder of the game.


Rule 54, Section I, requires that all the players of the batting side
when not actually engaged in batting, base running or in coaching--as in
the case of the two appointed coachers--must remain seated on the bench
until called in their turn to go to the bat. The umpire too must see to it
that the requirements of this same rule be strictly enforced in regard to
keeping the bats in the racks, and not allow them to be laid on the ground
in the way of the catcher running to catch foul balls.


The most important change in the rules affecting the duties of the umpire
is that made in Rule 57, Section V, which gives the umpire the
discretionary power to remove an offending player from the field who is
found violating Rule 57.

It should be borne in mind, however, that the rule is not compulsory, for
if it were so, a captain desirous of substituting another player for one
in the field, after he had availed himself of the tenth man rule, might
conspire with a player to violate the rule intentionally to aid the
captain in getting in an extra man.


In the case of a called third strike when two men are out, Rule 43,
Section VI., requires the ball to be held on the fly whether first base be
occupied or not, in order to put the batsman out. But in the case of the
first base being occupied by a base runner, when only one man is out, when
the third strike is called, in such case the batsman is out on called
strikes, whether the ball on the third called strike is held on the fly or
not. The batsman is out too,--under the new rule--if, _when the thud
strike is called, the pitched ball hits him or touches his clothing_.


The Joint Rules Committee have decided that an umpire cannot declare any
game forfeited of his own motion, though in Rule 26 it states that
forfeited games are incurred under several conditions, one of which
definitely states is the wilful violation of any one rule of the code. But
he can declare a game forfeited under any one of the specified conditions
in Rule 26 if requested to do so by the captain of the club at fault.
Section IV of Rule 26 gives the umpire the discretionary power to declare
any game forfeited in which he is personally cognizant of the fact of any
single rule having been wilfully violated, the offending team forfeiting
the game then and there. But only in very rare cases should this power be
used in opposition to the wishes of the captain of the team not in fault.
When the rules have been plainly violated and the captain of the team not
in fault claims forfeit, the umpire must enforce the penalty.