2023 Game and Inning Ending Plays
I’m sure you remember Kool and the Gang’s popular hit, “Celebrate Good Times Come On.”
Over the years baseball players have prematurely celebrated victories because of their ignorance of the rules.
In this column I am covering six game-ending situations that players and coaches should be aware of. Unless noted, the Pro, NCAA, and NFHS rules are the same.
No. 1 Runner Never Touched Second Base
In this Single-A California league game played on July 18, 2023, between the Rancho Cucamonga’s Quakes (Dodgers) and the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres), the score was tied 8-8 in the bottom of the tenth. The Storm had the bases loaded and two outs when the batter hit a shot over the Quakes’ center fielder’s head and off the wall.
The runner, who was on first, celebrated early and never touched second base. Meanwhile the batter-runner passed the runner who was on first between first and second. Before the passing, the runner who was on third crossed the plate with the winning run.
Should the run count? Is the game over because the passing was third out or must it go into the 11th inning?
Before you look at my Comments, if you were the umpire, how would you handle this one?
- The run scores and the game is over.
- It was foolish for the runner on first base to celebrate early and never touch second base. If the batter-runner never passed the runner on first base, and the defensive team threw to second base, the inning would end in a force out and the run would not score because that would have been the third out.
- Once the batter-runner passed the runner on first base, the force was removed because the runner on first was no longer forced to go to second base. Therefore, it became a “Time Play.” Because the runner on third crossed the plate before the passing, the run scores. If the passing occurred before the runner on third crossed the plate, the run would not score.
Play No. 2: Successful Inning-Ending Force Out Appeal
As stated, whenever an inning ends in a force out, no runs can score. Both teams must be acutely aware of this as well as the umpires.
The Single-A Lansing Lugnuts, managed to lose a baseball game to the Great Lakes Loons on July 1, 2013, because a runner was not aware that when an inning ends in a force out, no runs can score. Here is what happened.
Chris Hawkins was batting in the bottom of the ninth for the Lugnuts with the bases loaded and the score tied 4-4 when he hit what should have been a game-winning, walk-off single up the middle. Dwight Smith, the runner on third, crossed the plate with the apparent winning run. Hawkins reached first and was mobbed by his teammates. But Santiago Nessy, the runner on first at the start of play, joined the celebration instead of running to second, the base he was forced to advance to.
James Baldwin, the Loons’ center fielder, wisely scooped up the ball and ran to second base and touched the base recording a force out on Nessy. After having the play pointed out to them by the Loons’ head coach, the umpires conferred and ruled that the game was still tied 4-4, because the run scored on the hit was negated by the force out at second base. The teams were brought back out onto the field to continue playing, and the Loons went on to win 5-4 in 10 innings.
No. 3: Inning-Ending or Game-Ending Appeal Play to Keep the Force Alive
Let’s say the bases are loaded in the bottom of the ninth with one out and the score tied 3-3. The batter hits a shot in the left center field gap. The runner on third scores the apparent winning run. The runners on first and second never touch the next base and leave the basepath to celebrate. The defensive team, aware that both runners were forced to advance on the play, appeal both runners. The appeal is first made at third base to retire the runner that was on second who was “forced” to go to third and the next appeal is made at second base to retire the runner on first who was “forced’ to go to second. By making both appeals in that order the force is kept alive and the run does not score. If the first appeal was made at second base, it would retire the runner who was on first, but it would remove the force for the runner who was on second and therefore the run would score because this would be a “Time Play.”
It’s imperative that when making multiple appeals on bounding balls in inning-ending or game-ending force situations, that they be made in the proper order to keep the force alive.
No. 4: Inning-Ending Bases Loaded Walk Requirements
Whenever a game ends on a bases loaded walk there are certain requirements that need to be met by the team at bat. Pro rule 5.08 (b) reads, “When the winning run is scored in the last half-inning of a regulation game, or in the last half of an extra inning, as a result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases full which forces the runner on third to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game ended until the runner forced to advance from third has touched home base and the batter-runner has touched first base.” The exception to the rule is if fans rush onto the field and physically prevent the batter-runner from touching first or the runner on third from reaching home plate. NCAA rules mirror the Pro rule, bur under NFHS rule 9-1-2, “When the winning run is scored in the last half inning of a regulation game, or in the last half of an extra inning, as the result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases loaded which forces the runner on third base to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game over until all runners have advanced to the next base.”
The Sept. 10, 2010, game between the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field ended in a bases loaded walk giving the D’Backs a 6-5 win. The game was originally protested by Padres’ manager Bud Black before being withdrawn the following day. Here’s what happened.
In the bottom of the tenth inning, with the score tied 5-5, the ‘D’Backs had Justin Upton on third, Miguel Montero on second and Geoff Blum on first when Lyle Overbay drew a two-out walk off Joe Thatcher. Overbay ran to first and touched the bag while Upton jogged home and touched the plate. Game over. However, Montero, the runner on second, began his celebration a bit early and never reached third base.
Black protested the game because Montero never touched third base, but per rule, the game ended when Overbay touched first and Upton touched the plate. After talking to Padres’ general manager Jed Hoyer, the coaches and the umpires after the game, Black withdrew his protest aware that the language of the rule was on the side of Montero and the D’Backs.
If this game was played under NFHS rules, Black would have had a valid protest.
No. 5: Protest Upheld Because of Misinterpretation of Rule 5.08 (b)
Pro rule 5.08 (b), at the time 4.09 (b), was successfully protested in a Northern League game played on June 30, 1960, between Fargo-Moorehead and Minot. In the home half of the ninth with the score tied 11-11, Fargo had the bases loaded and two outs when Tut Thublin walked to force in Jim Horseford, the runner on third, with the winning run. Ken Slater, the runner on first, did what Montero did. He never touched the next base. Minot appealed the play and umpires Andy Olsen and Tony Favano incorrectly agreed that Slater was required to touch second base. The umps ordered the game resumed, and Minot went on to record a 12-11 win.
Fargo manager John Fitzpatrick protested the game, and the protest was upheld by League president Herman White, who declared Fargo-Moorehead the winner in nine innings, 12-11 because Slater was not required to touch second base.
No. 6: Inning-Ending Bases Loaded Walk
Detroit Tigers’ infielder Ramon Santiago almost blew this rule on May 15, 2010, when the Tigers and Boston Red Sox played at Comerica Park. In the bottom of the 12th inning, Santiago drew a four pitch walk from Ramon Ramirez with the bases loaded and two outs as the Tigers rallied to beat the Red Sox, 7-6.
By rule, Santiago was required to touch first and Magglio Ordóñez , the runner on third, had to touch home to end the game. Following the call of “Ball Four,” Santiago carried his bat with him and took six or seven steps in the direction of first base, then retreated toward home to take part in the celebration with his teammates. As Ordóñez was jogging home with the winning run, he noticed that Santiago was returning to the plate area and told him to go to first. Adam Everitt, who was in the home plate area, also told Santiago to go to first. Santiago then ran to first and touched the base.
Santiago admitted after the game that he did not know he had to touch first base. “I’ve never walked off that way in my career,” he said, “and I didn’t know I had to go until the guys told me. You learn something new every day.”
If Santiago never returned to first, at what point should the umpires call him out? The umpires would most likely give a lot of leeway here. The rule says, “If, with two out, the batter-runner refuses to advance to and touch first base, the umpire shall disallow the run, call out the offending player, and order the game resumed.”
The word “refuses” is the key word here. Most umpires would most likely make sure that the player does not enter the dugout. Chances of this happening are remote since this is a rule that most seem to know. But don’t bet on it.
In future game-ending plays whether it be a force situation or an automatic base award, my advice is to follow the NFHS rule- all runners should advance to the next base whether or not they are required by rule to do so. This will eliminate any confusion. The base coaches must be aware of this and direct the runners properly.
Also, defensively when appealing multiple runners on bounding balls, it is important to appeal in the proper order to keep the force alive.
Rules consultant/analyst: Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.