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 a ruling on an illegal tag in an unsanctioned game.
Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half. Yet it still provides long-time spectators with 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. But, sometimes people disregard the rules for the purpose of entertaining their audience.
We recently came across a film of a backyard ball game. However, it appears to be an exhibition of some sort, as the defensive team does not appear to have the required number of players per rule 1.01:
Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.
As we can see in the video, Cy Vater tosses a pitch to Rookie von Kinder, who slashes the ball into the outfield where there appears to be no player positioned. However, we soon see the putative first baseman, Poochie Ruf, race to left-center to gather the ball. Perhaps, it is a King and his Court type event.
As Rookie races around second base, Poochie gathers the ball and races in with the speed of Billy Hamilton, and tags/tackles von Kinder for the apparent out. However, there is a problem according to the rule book, and not just due to the violent NFL style tackle by Ruf.
A tag is defined by the rulebook thusly:
A TAG is the action of a fielder in touching a base with his body while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove; or touching a runner with the ball, or with his hand or glove holding the ball (not including hanging laces alone), while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove. It is not a tag, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his touching a base or touching a runner, the fielder drops the ball. In establishing the validity of the tag, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball.
The problem with this play is that the quad-pedal every fielder, Poochie Ruf, neither wears a glove nor holds the ball in his hands. Instead, he holds the ball firmly in his mouth as he applies the tag on Von Kinder. By definition, Von Kinder should be able to continue onto third base (and beyond), as the tag is not legal.
But, perhaps we are barking up the wrong tree as we try to apply MLB rules to this situation. It seems evident that rules don’t belong here.