Strange Play Special Report: Ball Sticks to Catcher’s Protector
Baseball Fans Bewildered
The Chicago Cubs started a 7th inning, three-run rally vs the Cardinals in a most unusual way on April 6, 2017. The Cubs Matt Szczur swung and missed on a pitch in the dirt for strike three. Aware that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina did not cleanly catch the ball, Szczur headed to first base while Molina scrambled around home plate searching for the ball. He eventually found the ball stuck to his catcher’s chest protector. Szczur was safe at first base. The umpires got the call right but most fans are confused about the rule.
WATCH THE PLAY:
WHAT IS THE RIGHT CALL?
The Official Baseball Rules cover this circumstance with Rule 5.06(c)(7) Comment (Rule 5.09(g) Comment): “If a pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, on the third strike or fourth ball, then the batter is entitled to first base and all runners advance one base. If the count on the batter is less than three balls, runners advance one base.”
Professional umpires are instructed to call “Time” since the ball is dead and place all runners using common sense to “nullify the action of the ball going out of play.”
BALL GOING INTO PLAYER’S UNIFORM
Rules 5.01(b), 5.06(c)(7), 5.06(c)(7) Comment:
If a batted or thrown ball inadvertently goes inside a player or coach’s uniform, lodges in the catcher’s face mask or paraphernalia, or is intentionally placed inside a player’s uniform (e.g., in a pants pocket), the umpire shall call “Time.” The umpire will, using common sense and fair play, place all runners in such a manner that, in the umpire’s judgment, will nullify the action of the ball going out of play.
That being said, if the umpire determines that the player placed the ball in his uniform intentionally for the purpose of deceiving a base runner, the umpire will place all runners at least one base (or more if warranted, in the umpire’s judgment in order to nullify the action of the ball being put out of play) from the base they originally occupied. In no case may any outs be recorded on such play.
Note that the determination whether a ball lodged in equipment or was placed in a uniform is not subject to Replay Review.
Note that this interpretation does not apply to situations where a batted or thrown ball lodges in a fielder’s glove. In those cases, the ball is alive and in play.
A fielder may legally throw the glove with the live ball lodged in the glove. Any fielder in possession of the glove containing the lodged ball is considered in possession of the ball for the purpose of the Rules. For example, a fielder could legally tag a runner or a base while in possession of the glove containing the lodged ball.
Official Playing Rule 5.06(c)(7) Comment (last paragraph).
If a pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, on the third strike or fourth ball, then the batter is entitled to first base and all runners advance one base. If the count on the batter is less than three balls, runners advance one base.
Related Insider Report
Read Rich Marazzi’s expert perspective on a similar play from July 31, 2016, when something similar happened to Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal.