March 6, 2020

Baseball Umpires: Refusing To Enforce The Rules Since 1894

The Sporting Life (from the Cleveland Leader), July 14, 1894:
A Rule Which is Never Enforced by the League Umpires

There is a rule in base ball that reads very plainly. It refers to players who are hit by a pitched ball. It declares that if a player makes no effort to get out of the way of a pitched ball, or tries to get in the way of it, he shall not be sent to first base. That rule was violated three times yesterday afternoon by the Baltimores. Twice [Hughie] Jennings was the offender and the third time it was [Willie] Keeler. In not one of the three instances was the batter entitled to first base. He got it, as a matter of course, because it is customary to give the base to a batter and save argument. It would be a good thing to find an umpire with enough determination to refuse the base to a batter when it is evident that he is not entitled to it. Yesterday Jennings and Keller stood absolutely still in the batter's position, and made no effort to avoid the ball, because they knew [Frank] Griffith was not using speed. ...

When the Baltimores talked about protesting the game, because [Heinie] Reitz was declared out for interference, they did not seem to think that Cleveland had twice as much ground for protesting because the two Baltimore batters mentioned had been sent to first base illegally. ...

The fact of the matter is the rule is violated all the time, and, like a great many other rules, is a dead letter rule, for the simple fact that the umpires will not enforce it. Jennings scored both times when hit by a pitched ball, and neither run had any business to be counted. It isn't base ball; it isn't honest, and it is like a great many other things that have helped make base ball patrons weary. Umpire [Billy] Stage is not to be blame more than any other umpire. In this respect all are alike.

Stage, who was attending law school when he began umpiring National League games, lasted less than three months. His SABR bio offers a detailed account of his brief career.

1 comment:

FenFan said...

Would robots know what to do? ;)