Rulebook 101: Baseball Stuck in the Scoreboard

Baseball is a unique sport filled with situations that you may only see once every few years if at all. Umpires must be prepared to rule on these situations in real time, but we have our own expert to rely upon. Brandon Magee explains what the ruling is when a Jason Kipnis line drive sees the baseball stuck in the scoreboard off of Carlos Rodon.

Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half. And yet, it still provides long-time spectators events that they have never seen before – or will again. As baseball fans, we are well aware of the written and unwritten rules that govern the game.

On August 18 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis blasted a pitch by Chicago White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon towards the left-centerfield wall.

While the ball did come down to meet the fence, it never came back to the field. Chicago centerfielder J.B. Shuck immediately signaled that the ball was stuck in the fencing that protects the scoreboard. The umpires ruled that Kipnis had to stop at second and Roberto Perez, who was on at first when Kipnis launched the ball, could go no further than third base.

While the play is typically listed as a “ground-rule” double, the actual rule invoked is not specifically in effect for Progressive Field. It is Rule 5.05(a)(7) in the MLB Rule Book that states this situation:

Any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases.

While the particular event of a ball being lodged into a scoreboard is unusual, the rule book is designed to account for unusual actions that may occur at most ballparks. The same rule would be invoked for a ball that went through the door of the scoreboard at Fenway Park or got lodged in the vines of Wrigley Field.

A more precise name for these occurrences would be an automatic double, a rule-book double, or even a statutory double. The “ground rule” appellation should really only be used for cases specific to a given stadium – like a ball being striking the catwalks of Tampa Bay or the Andrew Benintendi double discussed earlier in this series.


Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.

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