MLB Hitter Smacks HR But Misses 1B…Umps Didn’t See It But…
Missing a base on a home run is a rarity on any level of baseball, especially in the major and minor leagues. According to data at retrosheet.com, it appears the last home run in the major leagues to be lost due to a player failing to touch a base happened on June 17, 1983, when Al Cowens of the Mariners missed second base while attempting an inside-the-park home run in a 3-1 loss to the Royals. Strange but true, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, two players in organized baseball hit home runs and were called out on appeal-and ironically, both were sons of former major league players.
The Dodgers and Pirates played at PNC. In the bottom of the first inning, Ke’ Bryan Hayes, the son of former third baseman Charlie Hayes, hit an opposite field shot down the right field line that cleared the Clemente wall for an apparent home run.
But Hayes, keeping his eyes on the ball, stepped around first base instead of on it. The Dodgers caught the running gaffe. Before Walker Buehler threw a pitch to Bryan Reynolds, he appealed that Hayes missed first base. Plate umpire Jeremie Rehak rejected the appeal because he saw no violation. Rehak had the responsibility of the batter-runner (Hayes) touching first base because first base ump Adam Beck followed the flight of the ball down the line. The Dodgers challenged the safe or no call by Rehak, and the Replay Official in New York overturned Rehak’s ruling. Hayes was declared out for failing to touch first base. Score it a 1-3 putout.
“Participants often become fans on long drives. They are fixated on the ball and neglect to think about or look at the underbelly of the play. Lack of good visual skills are often the cause of many violations including passing the runner, obstruction, interference, touching and retouching bases.”
“One Base Beyond” 5.09 (c)(2)
Could Hayes have returned to touch first base at any time before he entered the dugout, or is there a rule in which there is a point of no return for the runner? These are common questions that I have received the last couple of days.
Ball Is in Dead Ball Territory
While the ball is in dead ball territory on a home run, book rule double, or errant throw etc., no runner may return to touch a missed base or one he has left too soon after he has advanced to and touched a base beyond the missed base. Once Hayes touched second base, he lost his right to return to first base, his missed base. But the umpires would not be allowed to stop him. The responsibility would be on the Dodgers to make the appeal.
Let’s say Hayes returned to first base after touching second base, and he then touched second, third, and home in that order. The umpires cannot stop him but after he came across the plate and a new ball was put into play, to nullify the home run, the Dodgers would have to make an appeal at first base. If a pitch is thrown to the next batter, the Dodgers would lose the right to appeal, and the run would score.
Ball Remains in Play
If a runner misses a base while the ball remains in play, he can return to touch the base at any time unless a following runner has scored.
When making an appeal, the pitcher can do so on or off the rubber. If he appeals from the rubber, he is making an appeal as a pitcher and if he errs on the appeal by throwing the ball into dead ball territory, any runner on base is awarded one base. If the pitcher steps back off the rubber when making the appeal, and if the throw goes into dead ball territory, any runner on base is awarded two bases because the pitcher is throwing as a fielder. When a pitcher throws the ball into dead ball territory, balks, or makes a play on another runner, he loses the right to appeal. If the pitcher’s throw to the appealed base is errant but the ball remains on the field, the defensive team can still appeal the running violation.
Regarding the missed base appeal on Tuesday night, the appeal was handled by Rehak, the plate umpire, who correctly followed the batter-runner about halfway to first base but could not pick-up the failure to touch the base violation. Beck, the first base umpire, did his job by taking the ball down the right field line.
Thanks to the Replay system, the missed base was observed, and Hayes was called out on appeal.
Players, coaches, fans and even umpires sometimes become fixated on tracking the ball, and they neglect to look at the underbelly of the play. In the case of the batter-runner it’s not uncommon for him to either miss a base or pass a preceding runner because he is following the flight of the ball. The first base coach needs to be alert for such possibilities. In the above play, I do not know if the Pirates’ first base coach attempted to communicate the missed base to Hayes.
Let’s say there were runners on first and second and two outs when Hayes failed to touch first base and was out on appeal. In that situation no runs would score because the inning ended with the batter-runner making the third out before touching first base.
In another play, let’s say there were runners on first and second and two outs when Hayes homered and missed second base and was called out. In that scenario, Hayes would get credit for a single but the runners on first and second would score provided they touched all the bases because that would be considered a “Time Play,” meaning the runners scored before the third out appeal was made which did not result in a force out.
Another Professional Player Lost a HR on the Same Night!
Oddly enough, Hayes is not the only major prospect to miss a base while circling the bases for a homer on Tuesday night. Bobby Witt Jr., who is the son of former pitcher Bobby Witt, hit an apparent 430-foot homer, his second of the game, and 11th of the season for Kansas City’s Double-A affiliate, Northwest Arkansas against the Frisco RoughRiders, but plate umpire Chris Presley-Murphy, ruled he did not touch home plate when appealed. Witt was credited with a triple. That certainly would be a unique way to hit for the cycle.
Another Son of Major Leaguer Missed Home Plate and Lost HR
During the 1981 season, Rick Stuart of the Johnson City Cardinals hit the only homer of his professional career over the left field fence. As his teammates gathered around home plate to congratulate him, he failed to touch the plate and was called out on appeal and credited with a triple. Stuart is the son of former major leaguer Dick Stuart, a.k.a. “Dr. Strangeglove.”
Mark McGwire Missed 1B on His Record Breaking 62nd HR (but he returned to touch the base in time)
When Mark McGwire hit his 62nd single-season record breaking home run in 1998, he missed first base and had to retreat a few steps and touch the base. If he had reached second base, he would have lost his right to return to first base and could be called out on appeal. That would have sent shockwaves throughout the baseball world.
Rules’ consultant: Cardinals, D’backs, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.