- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Recently Rear Admiral Daniel Gallery, a seagoing man with a shore command, got to thinking about baseball, a summer sport that provokes a lot of winter meditation. The admiral soon found reason to consult the rulebook and then went on to read the whole thing. Long before he reached the final section, he felt more at sea than he ever had as a carrier skipper. Herewith his comments on a book that is seldom read and almost never reviewed.
Baseball is a complicated game. There are 128 rules in the official book of baseball laws. They cover 79 pages and run to about 25,000 words. Many of the 128 rules contain at least half a dozen subsections dealing with unusual and knotty problems. Things happen so fast and can get so mixed up in a ball game that they assign six umps to call a World Series.
You might think that a complex technical game governed by such a voluminous code of laws would produce endless arguments as to what these laws mean. The Ten Commandments are expressed in a few hundred words, they are pretty specific and we have lived with them for several thousand years. And there is still a lot of argument among human beings as to what they do and do not mean.
But under the voluminous code of loosely written baseball laws it is almost unheard of for anyone to question the meaning of the rules. The only ground on which the outcome of a ball game can be protested is that the umps did not interpret the rules correctly, and protests are upheld by the commissioner about as often as your grandmother gets a three-base hit.
There are plenty of rhubarbs in the average ball game, but nearly every one of them is based on the one premise that the official baseball code specifically rules out as being no good—namely, that the umpire was wrong in his judgment of facts.
Even such a sage character as Casey Stengel, who always knows what the score is and what is the best thing to do about it, will totter out from the dugout and squawk strenuously about an umpire's judgment, knowing full well he might just as well beef about the scheduled time of sunrise. But so far as I know, Case has never yet protested a game on the ground that the ump's interpretation of the rules was incorrect.
This is an amazing state of affairs because any good lawyer who studies the baseball rulebook can find loopholes bigger than center field in some of the most important rules. But, of course, any good lawyer if you catch him unawares in an honest mood, will also tell you that it's the same way with the laws of the land. It doesn't matter much what the language of a law says. What counts is how the courts interpret the language.
This is certainly true of baseball. Some of its laws are simply ignored, and there would be blood, guts and feathers knee deep all over the infield if any misguided umps tried to enforce them. Some of the most important laws were written by people who obviously were out somewhere playing ball when they were supposed to be in school learning grammar. They put language into the laws which by no stretch of the imagination describes baseball as we know it. But this doesn't matter because all fans, umpires and players know what the rules should have said, and the game is played the way it ought to be played rather than according to the book.
One rule which is frequently and flagrantly violated is 7.09 (f) which says: "It is interference...when any batter or runner who has just been retired hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate."