4/25/13 - the unwritten rules of baseball

In today's encore selection -- with the baseball season in full swing, astute fans will want to brush up on the unwritten rules of baseball -- those rules which are not in the official major league rulebook but are nevertheless stringently observed. Here are the unwritten rules that cover "basebrawls" -- the fights that break out during games:

1.7.0. Basebrawls Are a Rare but Necessary Part of the Game, with Their Own Set of Rules

"There are times [such as when a pitcher intentionally hits a batter with a pitch] when the action of your opponent is so far over the line that the only answer is to duke it out on the field in a battle royale in which no one is actually likely to get hurt. It is a ritual closer to ballet than a true street fight.

1.7.1. In a Fight, Everyone Must Leave the Bench and the Bullpen Has to Join In

" 'No teammates are closer than they are in baseball, because there are so many games and players spend so much time with one another,' writes ESPN's Tim Kurkjian. 'As corny as it sounds, they become family, and when a family member is in a fight, everyone joins in. If a player doesn't run on the field, even if it's just to dance with the enemy, he might get fined and certainly will be ostracized by his teammates.' Teams become something of a family over the course of a long season, developing an 'all-for-one' mentality, and everyone goes out there to push and shove.

"There is a practical purpose to everybody going on the field, which is that it actually reduces the chance of anyone actually getting hurt. Writer Patrick Hruby has called 'Basebrawl Etiquette' a code of conduct 'as rigidly mannered as one of the dutiful, repressed English butlers in a Merchant-Ivory film.' One of the reasons that everyone is so willing to get into the faux battle is that everyone knows that when the dust settles, nothing much will really have happened, and it is rare that anyone will have been hurt.

"The extent to which this rule is observed can lapse into the extreme. During a 1984 Atlanta Braves -- San Diego Padres scuffle, injured Brave Bob Horner -- who was watching the game from the press box -- raced down to the clubhouse, put on his uniform, and ended up in the middle of the brawl. Indians [then] manager Charlie Manuel was once suspended for two games for running onto the field from the clubhouse. Manuel had been ejected from the game, but said he could not in good conscience stay in the clubhouse while his players were throwing haymakers.

1.7.2. All Basebrawls Are Clean: No Cleats, No Sucker Punches, and No Bats

"Baseball fights normally are tame endeavors that do not last more than a few minutes, but every now and then, they get ugly and become donnybrooks. Former Brewers center fielder Gorman Thomas recalled a fight with New York during which Yankees pitcher Luis Tiant emerged from the tunnel and into the dugout wrapped only in a towel and smoking a cigar. 'It wasn't a pretty sight,' said Thomas to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But even here there were no cheap shots from behind. 'If you are going to fight, do it face-to-face' is the prime rule in play. This is not to say that baseball fights cannot become violent affairs. There are many examples of these, but none so graphic as Juan Marichal's use of a bat against John Roseboro on August 22, 1965. Fourteen stitches were required to close the gash in Roseboro's head.

1.7.3. When in Doubt, Dogpile

"A dogpile is a tussle that begins between two opposing players who are quickly buried under a human avalanche. Why dogpile? It protects the combatants and keeps the whole thing from getting out of control. There is a saying in baseball that the safest place to be in a fight is in the middle of it -- or in this case, the bottom of it."


Paul Dickson


The Unwritten Rules of Baseball




Copyright 2009 by Paul Dickson


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment