October 9, 2022

Umpire Interference

What happens when an umpire is struck by a sure-fire hit with runners on base?

Umpire Interference

The Twins and Padres played at Petco on July 30, 2022 when second base umpire Jerry Lane was called for umpire interference.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Padres had CJ Abrams on second and one out when Jurickson Profar hit a shot that struck Lane who was positioned in front of the defense between the pitcher and second base.

The ball was immediately ruled dead under rule 5.06 (c) (6). Abrams remained at second and Profar was awarded first base.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Only the second base and plate umpires can commit interference.
  2. The most common is when the second base umpire is working on the infield side (in front of) second base and is struck by a batted ball. If that should happen the ball is dead and runners advance one base, only if forced. The batter is credited with a base hit.
  3. If a fair batted ball strikes any umpire who is positioned behind the infielders, the ball remains alive and in play.
  4. In the above play, because Abrams was not forced to third base on the play, he must remain at second. The umpires properly enforced the rule.
  5. The Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees played at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 1995. In the top of the eighth inning, the Twins were leading 7-4 and had Pat Meares on third and Chuck Knoblauch on first and no outs when Rich Becker hit a shot up the middle that struck the second base umpire who was positioned in front of second base. “Time” was called, and Knoblauch was correctly placed on second and Becker on first. But Meares was erroneously allowed to score. Because he was not forced to advance on the play, he should have remained at third base following the interference call. Amazingly, not one of the four umpires corrected the situation. Ditto for Yankees’ manager Buck Showalter who just lost a run and failed to argue the misinterpretation of the rule. In the broadcast booth one broadcaster showed his lack of understanding of the rule by saying, “The ball hit the umpire. That means the runners can advance only one base.” His partner gave tacit approval to his comments by not correcting him. Unfortunately, the viewers were given misinformation.
  6. It should be noted that if a fair batted ball deflects off the pitcher or another fielder and strikes the second base umpire working on the infield side of the base, the ball remains alive and in play and no interference should be called. An apparent lack of understanding of the rule on the part of the umpires and Texas Rangers’ manager Ron Washington cost the Rangers a base in the top of the fourth inning of the Aug. 26, 2013, game between the Rangers and Mariners. The Rangers had Alex Rios on second and no outs when Jeff Baker hit a ground ball that deflected off the glove of pitcher Joe Saunders before hitting the second base ump who was positioned on the infield side of second base. The ball then caromed to shortstop Brad Miller who threw too late to get Baker at first. The first base ump, however, incorrectly called “Time.” Baker was awarded first base and Rios was erroneously sent back to second. Because of the deflection off Saunders’ glove, the ball should have been kept alive and in play. When the smoke cleared the Rangers should have had runners on first and third and no outs instead of first and second Rangers’ manager Ron Washington discussed the play with the crew chief, but he never protested the game. It’s possible, but not probable, that not one of the four umpires saw the deflection. If this type of play should occur in the future, the manager of the offensive team should ask for a RULES CHECK.
  7. Yes, it’s true that umpires are treated like dirt. The umpires are considered as part of the ground if they are struck by a throw or hit by a batted ball while positioned behind the infielders. When an umpire is hit by a throw, the ball remains alive and in play and hopefully so does the umpire. During the 2001 season, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols hit a ground ball that struck second base and ricocheted to Jay Bell, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ second baseman.  Bell attempted to throw to first baseman Mark Grace, but the ball hit second base umpire Larry Young who got in the line of the throw. The ball remained in play with Pujols reaching first base. Young was seriously injured and sidelined for one week. “I was working in the short outfield at the start of play since there were no runners on base,” he recalled. “I was coming into the infield thinking the ball was going through for a base hit. But the ball struck second base which allowed Bell to field it.  Bell almost didn’t throw to first. He felt terrible about the play. I received 18 stitches above my left eye and was hospitalized overnight. I also broke a bone above my nose. The doctors were very concerned about the excessive bleeding. I could have bled to death.”
  8. Another form of umpire interference occurs when the plate umpire interferes with a catcher’s throw attempting to prevent a stolen base or retire a runner on a pick-off play. If the catcher retires the runner, the interference is disregarded. If the runner is not put out, he must return to the base he occupied prior to the delivery of the pitch under rule 5.06 (c) (2). Plate umpire Joe West made the rule come alive on Aug. 19, 2008, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia where the Phils met the Nationals. In the seventh inning, Phils’ center fielder Shane Victorino raced from first base to third base when Nationals’ catcher Jesse Flores’s snap throw to first sailed into right field. But Victorino was returned to first base because Flores’ arm had clipped West’s chest protector, causing the errant throw. Unless the umpire rules that the interference is contrived by the catcher, he will rule interference on himself. An addition to the rule was added for the 2010 season. If a catcher is returning the ball to the pitcher, and he in some way is interfered with by the plate umpire, no runner can advance on the play. Runners must return to their original base.
  9. Catchers must be sure to complain that there was contact with the plate umpire that affected the throw. I once saw a catcher’s errant throw to a base that occurred because of contact with the plate umpire. The catcher remained mute, apparently not aware of the rule. The ump never called interference on himself, but it was picked-up on the replay-too late.

 

For an excellent review of Umpire Interference rules, click on the link here.

 

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

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