April 2, 2020

Umpire Interference

Umpire Interference

There are two types of umpire interference:

(1) When a field umpire (the second base umpire) is positioned in front of the infielders and is struck by a batted ball that is not deflected off another fielder, and

(2) when the plate umpire interferes with the catcher’s throw in an attempt to retire a runner. In the case of field umpire interference, the ball is dead, the batter is awarded first base and all other runners advance one base, only if forced. When the plate umpire interferes with the catcher, this is a delayed dead ball. If the catcher retires a runner who is attempting to steal, the interference is nullified, the same as batter interference. If the runner is not erased, he must return to the base he occupied prior to the pitch.

Field Umpire Interference 5.05 (b) (4)

The Cubs hosted the Angels on August 10, 2016 when second base umpire Stu Scheurwater called interference on himself. In the bottom of the sixth the Cubs had Jason Heyward on first base with Willson Contreras at bat facing Ricky Nolasco. Contreras hit a sizzling ground ball that struck Scheurwater, who was working in front of the second base bag. Scheurwater properly called “Time,” and ruled umpire interference on himself. Heyward was sent to second base and Contreras was awarded first base.


If a runner is forced to advance, he is awarded the next base from the base he occupied at the time the pitch was delivered. It is irrelevant where the runner/runners are at the time the umpire interference occurs. Let’s say there was a runner on first who was stealing and was at second base when the batted ball strikes the second base umpire who is positioned in front of the fielder. In that situation the runner on first would still only be awarded second base because first base was the base he occupied at the time the pitch was delivered.

Misinterpretation of the Rule

When a ball deflects off the pitcher (or another infielder) and strikes the field umpire who is positioned in front of a fielder, the ball should remain alive and in play and no interference should be called. An apparent lack of understanding of the rule on the part of the umpires cost the Rangers a base in the top of the fourth inning of the Aug. 26, 2013 game against the 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 second base ump Dale Scott who was positioned on the infield side of second base. The ball then ricocheted to shortstop Brad Miller who threw too late to get Baker at first.

First base ump CB Bucknor, however, incorrectly called “Time.” Baker was awarded first base and Rios was incorrectly 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 umpires but came up empty.

There have been situations in the past where the umpires allowed all runners to advance one base even when not forced. If you are the defensive manager, you must be able to bring this to the attention of the umpires. The Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres played at PETCO Park on Sept. 25, 2010. In the top of the fourth inning the Reds had Brandon Phillips on second base and two outs trailing 3-1 when Ramon Hernandez hit a shot up the middle that struck second base umpire C.B. Bucknor. The ball was properly ruled dead because Bucknor was positioned on the infield side in front of second base when he made contact with the ball. Hernandez was awarded first base but Phillips was improperly allowed to go to third base on the play. In such umpire interference situations, runners are allowed to advance one base, only if forced.

Another example where the rule was misinterpreted took place on July 15, 1995, at Yankee Stadium where the Yankees met the Twins. 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 made contact with second base umpire Dale Ford, who was positioned in front of second base. Ford called “Time” and Knoblauch was correctly placed on second and Becker was properly awarded first base. But Meares, the runner on third, was not forced to advance on the play, but was erroneously allowed to score. Yankees’ manager Buck Showalter failed to argue the ruling despite the fact his team lost a run. At the rime the Yankees trailed 7-4 and lost the game, 8-5.

Plate Umpire Interference 6.01 (f) Comment

Plate umpire Mike Estabrook was the subject of his own interference in the top of the seventh inning of the Yankees-Rays game played in St. Pete on July 4, 2012.

The Yankees had Alex Rodriguez on second and Nick Swisher on first with one out and the score tied 1-1, when A-Rod attempted to steal third base. Rays’ catcher Jose Lobaton made contact with Estabrook’s mask in the process of making the throw to third. A-Rod was called safe but was returned to second after Estabrook self-imposed the interference call. If Lobaton had retired Rodriguez, the out would have been recorded.

Additional Points

(1) If any umpire working behind the infield is struck by a batted ball, the ball remains alive since umpires are treated as part of the ground;

(2) When an umpire is struck by a thrown ball, the ball remains alive and in play; and (3) Whenever umpire interference is called on a base umpire, the batter gets credit for a base hit.

Can you imagine a pitcher losing a no-hitter because of an umpire interference call?

Don't strike out!

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