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Is There Scoring After Death? (Or, the X-Rated Version of "Weekend at Bernie's")
2006-07-06 09:14
by Mike Carminati

The other day, there was a throwaway incident in the first game of the Yankees-Indians series that I didn't want to pass without comment because, if for no other reason, it leads to some great stories.

The Indians took a 3-2 lead and Victor Martinez was rounding third early in the game when he apparently came in contact with third base coach Jeff Datz. Lee Mazzilli, along with the YES announcers, wanted the runner called out by rule 7.09(h). Datz was back-pedaling, but Martinez appeared to extend his arms in what looked like an attempt to push off Datz to return to third.

The third base ump, however, was not in position to see the play. After the runner passed him going into third, the ump looked to the outfield for the incoming throw. Even after a confab on the field and as Mazzilli communicated through gestures in the dugout, none of the four umps saw the play, and therefore, Martinez remained at third.

However, the play came to naught as the Indians then ended the inning without any further damage. Besides even the best of replays showed that the contact was minimal at most. But given my love for trivia, I had to investigate further.

First, I must say that I have never seen that play before. Datz was out of position and should be given a good talking-to by management. I mean, his one job is to ensure that things go smoothly between second and home, and here he is getting in the middle of what could have been a key play—the Indians just had taken the lead by just one run—that could have very easily ended the inning prematurely.

Second, the rule is open to interpretation. It deals with the coach interfering with the runner, not the runner using the coach as a bumper as was the case here, but I think the rule still applies:

It is interference by the batter or a runner when…(h) in the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding a runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base…PENALTY FOR INTERFERENCE: The runner is out and the ball is dead.

Finally, as always I consulted Rich Marazzi's "The Rules and Lore of Baseball" to see how the rule was enforced in the past. Here it is:

A good example of this baseball statute was enforced during the 1967 season in a Pacific Coast League game between Spokane and Hawaii. Spokane outfielder Jim Fairey was knocked unconscious by the throw from the Hawaii catcher after he stole third base. The ball rolled into left field after hitting Fairey on the skull. Fairey rolled passed the bag after he was struck by the ball. Third base coach Gordy Coleman lifted him back onto the bag, and Fairey was called out for getting assistance from the third base coach.

It is now illegal for the coach to assist a runner anytime, whether a play is being made on him or not. However, if a runner assists another runner, it is perfectly legal.

Because of this rule interpretation, a dead man once scored a run in a game played in New Jersey many years ago between the University of St. Joseph and the Chatham Stars. According to Baseball Maga¬zine, "Chatham was leading 2-0 and two were out in the bottom of the ninth when O'Hara, a weak hitter, doubled to left. He was followed by Robidoux, "a scrappy young Arcadian," who hit a long ball over the center fielder's head. As O'Hara reached third base, he collapsed and died. Robidoux, rounding third, picked O'Hara up and carried him down the base line, touching home plate first with O'Hara and then stepping on the plate himself. The game was tied, 2-2."

The above case might be a dramatic illustration of the rule, but I think it gets the point across.

That's great. I just wonder how you score that one, suicide squeeze? Of course, Billy Joe Robidoux went on to set all-time highs in the majors for a zombie player.

2006-07-06 21:30:23
1.   Jon Weisman
Man, that's a great story. Never heard it before. Are we sure it's true? I definitely want it to be true (with all condolences to the baserunner's grieving family).
2006-07-07 06:28:53
2.   Murray
That book is out of print, I fear. But it's a doozy. I have to find it somewhere.
2006-07-07 16:50:54
3.   Daniel Zappala
I looked, and there is a copy available at my university library. I'll grab it and take a look.

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