They say that
there can be no new plays in baseball. Yet it's quite possible that Jackie
Robinson produced a new one on Wednesday. No baseball man this inquiring
reporter questioned had seen it before and not all agreed on what should be
done about it.
Jackie broke up a
sure double play by permitting himself to be hit by a batted ball. It happened
in the Dodger opener against the Pirates. The bases were full and Robbie was
taking a lead off second when Roy Campanella grounded to short. Robbie let the
ball hit him. So he was declared out, Campy was credited with an automatic hit
and the bases remained full. But there was no double play.
smart," said Leo Durocher when he was asked about the stratagem a day
later. "But if that play happened the way I heard it happened, he wouldn't
have got away with it against me. I'd have shot out of the dugout screaming.
And I'd have insisted that the umpires call it a double play anyway. They'd
hafta call it that way."
did he violate? If it's deliberate interference, the umpire can call out the
batter as well as the runner. It's a judgment play. The ump has to use his
judgment just like when a base-runner tries to take out the middle man at
second in a double play. The runner isn't tagged but the umpire calls him out
for leaving the baseline. It's a matter of judgment. Don't you agree?"
It so happened
that his listener didn't agree at all. But before he had a chance to ask the
Dandy Little Manager what specific rule supported his argument, the impetuous
Frank Frisch added to the confusion. The Old Flash is still a manager at
"Sure it has
to be called a double play," insisted Frisch with such emphasis that a
listener quailed before his wrath. "It stands to reason that a runner can't
be permitted to interfere with a double play. The umpires have to call both
Advice then was
sought from several umpires, a breed of mankind which normally shuns
controversy. The men in blue preferred to remain unidentified and only on that
basis would they speak. Here's a composite quote:
with Leo," they began, "that deliberate interference with a double-play
ball is wrong. But there isn't a thing we can do about it. He can scream and
rant all he likes but no umpire has a right to presume that a double play would
have been made. Maybe the shortstop would have thrown the ball into right
field. How do we know? And we hope the rules are never changed to cover the
issue Robinson raised. Then it would be a matter of judgment, and an umpire's
life is tough enough without having that complication added to it."
Warren Giles, the
president of the National League and the final court of appeals for his
circuit, was not so bashful as his umpires. He didn't object to going on