I received the following email in reference to an entry from last June. As it deals with the rules, I found it quite interesting:
I came across your site and found you answered a question in part to what some of myself and fellow umpires where discussing the other night.
I have a question related to the question below about On deck batter directing a runner scoring. What if the ball gets by the catcher and unintentional hits the On Deck batter and the ball doesn't go out of play. What would the ruling be? And is it the same ruling for NCAA and High School?
I also have a question about rule 2.00 Fair ball.
In high school rules it say if a fly ball hits beyond the imaginary line between first and third base and then rolls into and settles in foul territory before it past 1st or 3rd it a fair ball. what they mean by imaginary line is a line drawn from 1st to 3rd across the infield.
What I'd like to know is the ruling for pro rules and NCAA. In their rulebook it doesn't mention anything about an imaginary line between 1st and 3rd. In the pro rulebook it just states that if a fly ball hit in the infield before passing 1st or 3rd and rolls foul untouched it a foul ball.
I know that play would probably never happen.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter
Here's my response:
Interesting questions. First, I don't have any knowledge of NCAA or high school rules, but I'll post this on my site and perhaps someone else will.
As to the first question, I consider this a judgment call based on rule 7.11:
The players, coaches or any member of an offensive team shall vacate any space (including both dugouts) needed by a fielder who is attempting to field a batted or thrown ball. PENALTY: Interference shall be called and the batter or runner on whom the play is being made shall be declared out.
If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher could have gotten the ball and tagged the runner attempting to score, then the batter is out on interference. If, more likely, the ball gets away from the catcher as the runner is sliding or running across the plate, it is unlikely that the runner could have been tagged out (unless he missed the plate) once the catcher retrieved the ball. However, if a trailing runner advances after the run scores, that runner may be called out if the umpire feels that the on-deck batter interfered with the catcher getting the ball and throwing the runner out. That's how I see it.
Regarding the imaginary line between first and third, nothing like this exists in the majors, of course. There once had been a fair-foul rule that allowed a batter to slap a ball in fair territory that bounced foul. This site claims that Dickey Pearce, and it also states that the rule was changed in 1877.
Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball contains an interesting situation in a little league game:
The batter hit a line drive off the pitcher's plate on the mound. The ball caromed off the plate and landed near the first base dugout in foul territory. Since the ball did not make contact with the pitcher, the ball was ruled foul in accordance with the rule. If the same play had occurred in the late 1860s, it would have been ruled fair because of the so called "fair-foul" hit. If a bunt struck fair then rolled foul it was ruled a fair ball because the ball originally landed in fair territory.
In this example, however, the ball never passes the imaginary line to which you referred, since it hit the mound.