Hey Blue: SAFE! SAFE! SAFE! and should have had OUT! or “A funny thing happened on the way Home.”

By Bob Downey, Hanover LL UIC 2014

This past year I had one of the wildest plays since I have been umpiring.  We were playing at Pleasant Hill Blue field.  Be patient and stick with the story. It is funny and I promise I will explain the rules at the end.

Situation:

Spring/Summer season, Minors Division baseball with runners on Second and Third and less than two outs.  The batter pops up a foul ball between Home and Third.   The runner on Third, (R1) takes off for Home immediately after the ball is hit without tagging up but stops more than halfway to Home, once he comprehends that half the crowd (about 25) is yelling at him to go back.

The Third Baseman  makes the catch in foul territory and is immediately bombarded, barraged, and thoroughly assaulted by the other half of the crowd, screaming “Tag the runner” ,  “Tag the base” , I think I even heard one confused individual yell “Tag the deer’s ear”.  (I am not sure that person was in the right season.)    Anyway, folks in Maryland could hear the screaming as both sides joined in shouting directions at these two boys.

Third Baseman confused by all the yelling, looks around trying to figure out what’s going on.  Seeing the batter running toward First, chucks the ball toward First base (even though he does not need to).   The ball is overthrown.

The runner on Second, (R2) during this whole time, did tag up and has headed for Third.   Upon seeing the ball chucked wildly to First and seeing R2 approaching Third, R1 stops before tagging up at Third and starts for Home again.  

After getting about halfway to Home, R1 somehow realizes he has to go back to Third.  (I don’t think he ever knew why, he just knew that there were about 250 mean and angry looking parents screaming at him.)

By now, the First baseman has recovered the ball and the other half of the crowd, about 2500 mean and angry looking parents are screaming at him to throw the ball back to Third.  So he makes a good throw to the Third Baseman, who has never moved from where he was standing in foul territory when he initially caught the pop fly ball.  

Upon catching the throw from the First baseman, the Third Baseman and R1 now have a foot race back to Third.   R1 gets there a step before Third Baseman and then he is tagged.   “SAFE!”, I call.   But guess who is at Third with the R1 and F5?  That’s right; R2.  Now, the defensive team’s half of the crowd start to scream to tag R2.   Just as Third Baseman realizes what he is being harangued to do, R3 stumbles and falls backward and off the base.   Third Baseman now puts the tag on R2.   “SAFE!”, I bellow, again. 

Now, I have 25000 people shouting at me telling me that they both can’t be safe and that I should seek a job in banking since Safes are the only thing I know.

R1 having regained his footing stands up and runs directly to the dugout, never touching the plate. 

At this point, I am waiting for the Defense to make an appeal that R1 has not touched home plate after eventually tagging up.   Then it comes.  The Defense manager requests TIME for appeal.   I grant TIME.   He states that he wants to make an appeal.  I tell him that is fine, but he must make it while the Ball is LIVE, not when there is TIME.  So we all assume our positions.  I call “PLAY”, and await the live ball appeal.  The Defensive Manager requests TIME for appeal again.   I grant TIME again and explain again that in order for him to make an appeal, the ball has to be LIVE.  A bit of additional instruction and we are ready to go.  I call “PLAY”.  The Defense then states they want to make an appeal …… that R1 did not tag up at Third.    I rule “Safe” again, as R1 did eventually make the tag up.  The Defense completely surrenders, never appeals that R1 did not tag home.  

A Defensive Coach at this point has totally lost his mind and is seen wondering helplessly toward the Gold Field muttering under his breath something about Life and Box of Chocolates.  The Defensive Manager, totally frustrated, and not knowing what else to do, very calmly tells THIRD BASEMAN to throw the ball back to the pitcher, which he does.

As an Umpire, I can’t tell the Defense that a runner missed a base.  So we resume with the rest of the game.  I think there are still some of the 250,000 fans that were there that day that are still talking about the play.

RULINGS:     

So the reason I ruled SAFE the first time is that when two runners occupy the same base, the lead runner is entitled to the base as long as he is not forced to advance.  In our situation neither R1 nor R2 were forced to run.  R1 is entitled to Third and when tagged was SAFE!  R2 was the runner at risk and had he been tagged while R1 was still standing on the base, he would have been OUT.  However, R1 fell off the base.  Now R2 is allowed to be on the base and when tagged was SAFE! 

When the appeal was made for failing to tag up, R1 was SAFE! again as he did tag up.  

NOW FOR THE EMBARRASSING PART.    I made a mistake on the play.  When the runner entered the dugout without touching home, he should have been declared out for abandoning the bases.  I got so confused with 2.5 million mean and angry looking people screaming at me and all that had taken place that I forgot that an automatic OUT should have been called and an appeal was not required.

So in the end we had SAFE! SAFE! SAFE! and should have had OUT!