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Throughout history, there have been many colorful myths regarding the rules of baseball. Some date back to when Abner Doubleday supposedly created baseball in 1838 (by the way that's a myth too!) This listing should clear up a lot of those myths and all of the facts are based on MLB rules.

Myth #1 The hands are part of the bat.
The hands are part of a batter's body. If a pitch hits the batter's hands the ball is dead, period. If the pitch is swung at and it hits the hands (or any part of the body) a strike is called (NOT a foul) and the ball is dead. If the batter was avoiding the pitch and gets hit the batter is awarded first base so long as the batter was not struck while the ball was in the strike zone.

Myth #2 If a batter does not swing and is struck by a pitch, the batter automatically is awarded first base.
If a batter is struck by a pitch that is in the strike zone, the pitch is a strike and the batter is not awarded first base (hit-by-pitch).

Myth #3 The batter-runner must turn to his right after over-running first base. 
The batter runner may turn in any direction after over running first base as long as he/she returns to the base immediately. If an attempt is made to go to second base, the runner can be tagged out. This is a judgement made by the umpire.

Myth #4 If a batted ball hits the plate first it's a foul ball.
The plate is in fair territory. There is nothing special about it. If a batted ball hits it, it is treated like any other batted fair ball.

Myth #5 The batter cannot be called out for interference if he/she is in the batters box.
The batter's box is not a safety zone. A batter could be called out for interference if the umpire judges that interference could or should have been avoided. The batter is protected while in the batter's box for a short period of time. After the batter has had time to react to the play he/she could be called for interference if he/she does not move out of the box and interferes with a play. Many people believe the batter's box is a safety zone for the batter. It is not  The batter may be called out for interference although he/she is within the box. The key words, impede, hinder, confuse or obstruct apply to this situation.  An umpire must use good judgement, The batter cannot be expected to disappear. If he/she has a chance to avoid interference,  after he/she has had time to react to the situation and does not, he/she is guilty. If he/she just swung at a pitch, or had to duck a pitch  and is off-balance, he/she can't reasonably be expected to then immediately avoid a play at the plate. However after some time passes, if a play develops at the plate, the batter must get out of the box and avoid interference.

Myth #6 The ball is dead on a foul tip.
There is nothing foul about a foul-tip. If the ball nicks the bat and goes sharply and directly to the catcher's hand or glove and is legally caught, this is a foul-tip by definition. A foul-tip is a strike and the ball is live. Base-runners may steal on a foul-tip. It is the same as a swing-and-miss. If the ball is not caught, it is a foul ball.  If the nicked pitch first hits the catcher somewhere other than the hand or glove, it is not a foul tip. It is a foul ball. If in the event of a foul tip, the umpire should not verbalize the word "foul" in any manner. Since "foul" or "foul-tip" would have a tendency to stop all action since a foul ball is a dead ball. The proper way to indicate a foul-tip is to simply signal the foul-tip and then signal a strike.

Myth #7 The batter may not switch batter's boxes after two strikes.
The batter can switch boxes at any time, provided that he/she does not do it after the pitcher is ready to pitch. The purpose of this rule (not switching after the pitcher is in position ready to pitch) is so the batter does not confuse the defense. Defense is  often set up differently depending on whether a batter is right or left-handed.

Myth #8 The batter who batted out of order is the person declared out.
Who is called out and what is done depends on when the appeal is made. There are three different timeframes when the appeal occurs. The first is when an appeal is made while the improper batter is still at the plate. In this case the proper batter simply replaces the improper batter and resumes whatever ball/strike count the improper batter may have attained The second timeframe is an appeal  after the improper batter has completed his/her turn at bat, but before the very first first pitch to the next batter (or very next play or attempted play).  In this case , the proper batter (the one who should have batted) is declared out and the next batter is the batter who follows the proper batter. The improper batter's at-bat is nullified and any advances made on the final pitch are nullified. In this case the next batter may be the same batter exact batter who just batted improperly. Example: the first two batters of the second inning are suppose to be, in order, Alvin and Bobby. Bobby bats first (improperly) and singles. The defensive team realizes that Alvin was suppose to be the first batter and appeals before the first pitch to the next batter. The umpire will declare Alvin out because he failed to bat in turn (he was the proper batter). Bobby's single will be nullified because of a ball batted by an improper batter and Bobby will come to the plate again, because he is the next proper batter. The third timeframe is when the out of turn batter is appealed after his/her at bat is completed and a pitch is made to the next batter before the appeal (or a play is attempted or made before the appeal). In this case no one is declared out  Once the next pitch is made to a batter after an improper batter, the batter who batted out of turn becomes what the rules call a "legalized improper batter." The next batter to a legalized improper batter will be the next person up in the order after the legalized improper batter. No action will be taken, in this instance, other than to assure the official scorebook is properly marked and up to date.

Myth #9 The batter is out if he/she starts for the dugout before going to first after a dropped third strike.
The batter may attempt first base anytime prior to entering the dugout or a dead ball area. First base must be unoccupied before 2 outs, or if there are two outs, first base can be occupied.

Myth #10 If the batter does not pull the bat out of the strike zone while in the bunting position, 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. A bunt is a batted ball not swung at, but INTENTIONALLY met with the bat and tapped slowly. The key words are "intentionally met with the bat". If no attempt is made to make contact with the ball outside the strike zone, it should be called a ball. An effort must be made to intentionally meet the ball with the bat.

Myth #11 The batter is out if his foot touches the plate
To be out the batter's foot must be ENTIRELY outside of the batter's box when he/she contacts the pitch and the ball goes fair or foul. He/she is not out if he/she does not contact the pitch. There is nothing in the rules about touching the plate. The toe could be on the plate and the heel could be touching the line of the batter's box, which means the foot is not entirely outside the box.

Myth #12 The batter-runner is always out if/she runs outside the running lane to first base after a bunted ball.
The runner must be out of the lane AND cause interference. He/she is not out simply for being outside the lane. The running lane (to first base) is defined as the area between the foul line and three feet to the right of it, usually designated by chalk lines, for the last half of between home plate and first base. Keep in mid that he/she could be called for interference even while in the lane, the runner must avoid contact with the fielder, even if they need to run outside of the lane.

Myth #13 A runner is out if he/she high-fives the coach while rounding third base (or first base) after a homerun is hit over the fence. 
The rule states that, during LIVE BALL PLAY, if a coach physically assists a runner in returning or advancing from first or third base by touching or holding him/her it is interference. A home run is a DEAD BALL. Example: If the runner falls over and the coach helps them up while the ball is in play, it is interference  If a coach touches the runner at the point of a catch by an outfielder, to indicate when to tag up, it is interference. If a coach physically grabs and stops a player from proceeding to the next base or grabs him/her to return to the pervious base, it is interference. The coach is not assisting a player if they exchange high fives or have any contact on a home run because it is a dead ball play.

Myth #14 Tie goes to the runner.
There is no such thing in the world of umpiring. the runner is either out or safe. The umpire must judge out or safe. It is impossible to judge a tie.

Myth #15 The runner gets the base he/she's going to, plus one on a ball thrown out-of-play.
When the fielder throws the ball into a dead ball area, the award is two bases. The award is from where the runners were at the time of the pitch if it is the first play by an infielder or pitcher acting as a fielder. On all others plays into dead ball area, the award is from where each runner was physically positioned (last base attained) at the time the ball left the throwers hand. If the ball was a pitch or an attempted pick-off (anything thrown from the position of the pitcher's plate) and the ball goes into dead ball area, the award is one base. Exception: If all runners, including the batter-runner have advanced at least one base when a infielder  makes a wild throw on the first play, the award shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time of the wild throw. Please understand that awards are based from the base last attained by the runner, not the fact that they were within a few feet of the next base. It doesn't matter how close to the next base the runner was, you always award based upon the last base attained at the the time of the pitch or the time of the throw.

Myth #16 Runners may never run the bases in reverse order. 
In order to correct a base running mistake, the runner MUST retrace his steps and retouch the bases in reverse order. The only time a runner is out for running in reverse, is when he is making a travesty of the game or tries to confuse the defense. 

Myth #17 The runner must always slide when the play is close. 
There is no "must slide" rule. When the fielder has the ball in possession, the runner has two choices; slide OR attempt to get around the fielder. He may NOT deliberately or maliciously contact the fielder, but he is NOT required to slide. Local leagues can implement a "must slide rule" so always be aware of any local league rules before beginning a game,

Myth #18 The runner is always safe when hit by a batted ball while touching a base. 
The bases are in fair territory. A runner is out when hit by a fair batted ball. 

Myth #19 A runner may not steal on a foul-tip. 
There is nothing foul about a foul-tip. If the ball nicks the bat and goes to the catcher's glove and is caught, this is a foul-tip by definition. A foul-tip is a strike and the ball is alive. It is the same as a swing-and-miss. If the ball is not caught, it is a foul ball. 

Myth #20 It is a force out when a runner is called out for not tagging up on a fly ball. 
A force play is when a runner is forced to advance because the batter became a runner. When the batter is out on a caught fly, all forces are removed. An out on an a failure to tag-up, is NOT a force out. Any runs that cross the plate before this out will count. 

Myth #21 An appeal on a runner who missed a base cannot be a force out.
A runner must touch all the bases. If the runner misses a base to which he was forced because the batter became a runner and is put out before touching that base, the out is still a force play. If this is the third out, no runs may score. The base can be touched or the runner can be touched, either way it's a force out.

Myth #22 A runner is out if he runs out of the baseline to avoid a fielder who is fielding a batted ball.
The runner MUST avoid a fielder attempting to field a BATTED ball. A runner is out for running out of the baseline, only when attempting to avoid a tag. 

Myth #23 Runners may not advance when an infield fly is called. 
An Infield-fly is no different than any other fly ball in regard to the runners. The only difference is that they are never forced to advance because the batter is out whether the ball is caught or not. 

Myth #24 No run can score when a runner is called out for the third out for not tagging up. 
Yes it can. This is not a force play. A force play is when a runner is forced to advance because the batter became a runner. When the batter is out on a caught fly, all forces are removed. An out on an a failure to tag-up, is NOT a force out. Any runs that cross the plate before this out will count. 

Myth #25 A pitch that bounces to the plate cannot be hit. 
A pitch is a ball delivered to the batter by the pitcher. It doesn't matter how it gets to the batter. The batter may hit any pitch that is thrown. 

Myth #26 The batter does not get first base if hit by a pitch after it bounces
A pitch is a ball delivered to the batter by the pitcher. It doesn't matter how it gets to the batter. If the batter is hit by a pitch while attempting to avoid it, he is awarded first base. 

Myth #27 If a fielder holds a fly ball for 2 seconds it's a catch. 
A catch is legal when the umpire judges that the fielder has COMPLETE control of the ball. The release of the ball must be voluntary and intentional. 

Myth #28 You must tag the base with your foot on a force out or appeal. 
You can tag a base with ANY part of the body. 

Myth #29 The ball is always immediately dead on a balk. 
In Federation rules it is, not in any others. If a throw or pitch is made after the balk call, the ball is delayed dead. At the end of the play the balk may be enforced or not depending on what happened. On a throw; if ALL runners advance on the play, the balk is ignored. If not, the balk award is enforced from the time of pitch. On a pitch; if ALL runners INCLUDING the batter, advance on the play, the balk is ignored. Otherwise, it is no-pitch and the balk award is made from the time of the pitch. 

Myth #30 If a player's feet are in fair territory when the ball is touched, it is a fair ball. 
The position of the player's feet or any other part of the body is irrelevant. A ball is judged fair or foul based on the relationship between the ball and the ground at the time the ball is touched. 

Myth #31 The ball must always be returned to the pitcher before an appeal can be made. 
An appeal may be made anytime the ball is alive. The only time the ball must go to the pitcher, is when time is out. The ball cannot be made live until the pitcher has the ball while on the rubber and the umpire says "Play." If time is not out, the appeal can be made immediately.

Myth #32 The pitcher must come to a set position before a pick-off throw. 
The pitcher is required to come to a complete stop in the Set position before delivering the pitch, not before making a throw. 

Myth #33 The pitcher must step off the rubber before a pick-off throw. 
If the pitcher steps off the rubber he is no longer the pitcher, he is a fielder. He can throw to a base from the rubber, provided he does not break any of the rules under rule 8.05.

Myth #34 If a fielder catches a fly ball and then falls over the fence it is a homerun.  
As long as the fielder is not touching the ground in dead ball territory when he catches the ball, it is a legal catch if he holds onto the ball and meets the definition of a catch. If the catch is not the third out and the fielder falls down in dead ball territory, all runners are awarded one base. If the fielder remains on his feet in dead ball territory after the catch, the ball is alive and he may make a play.

Myth #35 The ball is dead anytime an umpire is hit by the ball. 
If an umpire is hit by a batted ball before it passes a fielder, the ball is dead. On any other batted or thrown ball, the ball is alive when the umpire is hit with the ball. Umpire interference also occurs when the plate umpire interferes with the catcher's attempt to prevent a stolen base. 

Myth #36 The home plate umpire can overrule the other umps at anytime. 
The umpire who made a call or ruling may ask for help if he wishes. No umpire may overrule another umpire's call. 

Myth #37 The batter is out if a bunted ball hits the ground and bounces back up and hits the bat while the batter is holding the bat. 
The rule says the BAT cannot hit the ball a second time. When the BALL hits the bat, it is not an out.

Myth #38 A batter-runner may not slide into first base.
There are no restrictions on any runner, including the batter runner, from sliding into any base including first. At the Dixie Youth divisions no runner may slide head first. 

Myth #39 With no runners on base, it is a balk if the pitcher starts his windup and then stops.
If the pitcher starts his delivery and suddenly stops his motion with runners on its a balk. It is nothing with no one on base.

Myth #40 Only a pitcher can commit a balk
The most common call of a balk is on the pitcher but a catcher can commit a balk by being out of the catcher's box at the time of a pitch. 



What makes good umpires better?

A good umpire learns from his or her mistakes, and we are all human. Here are some basic problems that lead to mistakes:

  • Not knowing the rule. 
  • Misapplying the rule. 
  • Not seeing the play. 
  • In the wrong position. 
  • Anticipating the call. 
  • A simple mental lapse. 

Know the rule
 Not knowing the rule is the easiest shortfall to correct. Rule books are not designed for leisure reading and it's difficult to pick one up and stay with it for long, but you can learn by studying the rule you missed (or thought you missed) and any associated material. Reading casebook plays and researching specific points is a good way to learn rules. It can be done in short spurts, during breaks, anywhere you will have five minutes or more of uninterrupted time and an opportunity to focus.

Apply the rule
Knowing how to apply a rule requires greater talent than just knowing the rule. Understanding each rule's intent is a big aid.

See the whole play
Bad calls are sometimes made on one play because the umpire doesn't see the whole play. It's easier to get the call right when you see the action immediately preceding the play. When you have responsibility for the play you must watch the ball. Keep your chest to the ball at all times.

Being in the right position 
Positioning is what separates the veteran umpires from the rookies. It's so much easier to call it right when you have a good view. Always strive for the best possible view. This means getting the right angle and knowing how close you want to be to the play. In fact, being too close can be a very bad position.

Anticipate the play, not the call Anticipating the play is a totally different issue from anticipating the call. Anticipating likely plays in a given situation and getting into a good position to see the play as it develops are absolutely vital. Anticipating the result of the play - for example, deciding a runner is going to beat a throw because the ball was mishandled – breeds blown calls. As a play begins, rely on the standard instruction: pause, read, and react. Wait a moment before doing anything while you decide where the ball is going, figure out who is going to do what with the ball, then move into position to see the developing play.

Stay aler
The last item, mental lapses, . It happens to the best of us and when it does, you need to reassess what you're doing wrong. 

Make the right call and stick with it!
Blown calls prompt more calls for instant replay in 2010

It's been a growing problem in many fans' eyes, exemplified by what happened in the 2009 American League Championship Series game between the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees. 

The first of the bad calls came when the second base umpire called the Yankees' Nick Swisher safe at second base when he tried to get back to the bag on a pick-off attempt. Slow-motion replays show he was tagged out. 

Then, Swisher was called out for leaving third base too soon when Johnny Damon's fly ball was caught -- but replays showed he did not. 

And then, in the most bizarre play of all, the third base umpire somehow failed to see Angels catcher Mike Napoli tag out the Yankees'Robinson Cano right in front of his eyes. 

Napoli had caught Jorge Posada in a rundown, ran him back to third base, as Cano, who'd been on second, eased into third. The Angels' catcher tagged both runners when they were off the bag: first Cano, then Posada. 

But third base umpire Tim McClelland, who was also the crew chief, ruled that only Posada was out, because he thought Cano was on the bag. The Yankees second baseman wasn't. 

After the game, McClelland admitted he botched both calls at third. 

"I'm out there trying to do my job the best I can. Unfortunately, by instant replay, there were two missed calls," he said. 

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THE 40 MYTHS OF BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL