I have an explanation for the ruling of the play in which Shea Hillenbrand did his best Jerry Lewis imitation ("Hey Lady!"). And it comes from an umpire:
Just read your report on the Shea Hillebrand play in yesterday's Sox-Devil Ray game. You're on the right path with the rule you quote but you picked the wrong references. There is no specific rule dealing with equipment or apparel that is not-detached. The two rules invoked are unfortunately 9.01(c)- umpire rules on plays specifically not covered in the rulebook and they base this on 7.05(d) For scoring purposes it may be an error, that's outside of my area of knowledge. However it is two bases as the ball is declared dead and the award is made based on the batter/runner's position at the time of the pitch. Since he had not legally obtained 1st base at the time of the pitch, the award is 2nd base.
I have an e-mail into Mike Fitzpatrick (PBUC) and Gerry Davis as well as a AAA umpire I'm friends with, I'll let you know if there are changes in how I ruled above.
Umpire-in-Chief, Windham (ME) Little League
Maine District #6 Staff Umpire
Western Maine Baseball Umpires Association
Rule 9.01(c) states and I repeat:
Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.
So my assertion that this play fell between the cracks, er rules, was basically correct. But there's a rule to handle plays that fall between the cracks.
Rule 7.05(d) says:
Each runner including the batter runner may, without liability to be put out, advance...[t]wo bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a thrown ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play...In applying (b c d e) the umpire must rule that the thrown glove or detached cap or mask has touched the ball. There is no penalty if the ball is not touched.
I wrote back to Alex with a few questions:
Very interesting. I was aware of rule 7.05d as it relates to throwing your glove or cap to knock down a home run or a line drive over your head. I always think of Bugs Bunny throwing his glove up from the top of the Empire State and catching the last out in his game against the Gashouse Gorillas (and the Statue of Liberty confirming that the batter was out to end the cartoon).
But I didn't realize that it applied here. The AP report said that the ruling was based on the "lodging" rule and the one I cited was, I thought, the one concerned. I do believe that you are correct since the batter was awarded two bases. The umpire apparently used his judgment according to rule 9.01(c) to apply 7.05(d) even though that rule was intended for detached equipment not a jersey [that was not detached from the ballplayer].
As you mention, it does not explicitly call for an error. The only other thing that I can think of it being scored is maybe an obstruction, but Hillenbrand was fielding the ball, which puts the kibosh on that. I guess that the play was close enough that Hillenbrand, in the scorer's opinion, should have made a play on the ball.
All in all, the ruling seemed fair. But I think it still falls between the cracks. I think the ump made a good judgment call under the circumstances. The scorer's job was made easier since it seemed to be a playable ball. I have to give them credit for creatively resolving the issue in an equitable fashion.
I do, however, wonder how it would have been scored had Hillenbrand been making an exceptional play (racing across the diamond to snare a infield popup that no one else could get to, jumping up to spear a liner, etc.) while the ball lodged in his jersey. Surely, that could not be called an error since it would have been more than a routine play. It couldn't be defensive interference or obstruction as they are defined. If it were a hit, then the ump ruling it a dead ball would seem odd, given that it had yet to be controlled by the defense. I remember seeing a ball or two get lost or wedged in the ivy at Wrigley and I believe that they were ruled ground-rule doubles. But getting lodged on a person is a bit different. If the ump ruled in a similar fashion, I guess the scorer would be stuck calling either a two-base error, and a tough-luck one at that, or calling it a ground-rule double, which it technically is not. Any opinion?
Tonight I got a response from Alex as follows:
It's an interesting ruling because it's a one base award if the ball were to lodge in the umpire's equipment. In looking at it a bit more by myself, the award for a ball getting lodged in any obstruction is 2 bases so it seems they considered the fielder an obstruction. If nothing else if this were to ever happen to me on the field, now I have a ruling.
So it is similar to a ball getting stuck in the ivy in the outfield walls at Wrigley. I always thought that was a ground-rule double, but it's a two-base obstruction. Hmmm. you learn something new everyday. Anyway, I still want to know how the scorer would score my hypothetical play, but I might be risking beating this dead horse into the ground.