I started playing baseball before I could even walk. My dad, a long time fan of the sport and an avid player in high school and college, got me hooked on the game at a very early age. I remember long nights of practicing until the sun went down just to get up the next day and do it all over again. But that didn’t matter; I loved the game. I loved the competition, the skills required to hit the ball and to field, and the teamwork that had to go into every game.
Most players in Major League Baseball today will play growing up, participate in summer leagues, play through high school and college, and find themselves in minor league ball for some Major League club. The better players will skip the minors all together and end up going straight to the big leagues. And the players who win the chance to play in the “big show,” as they call it, will get the chance to play ball the way it was meant to be played.
A regular baseball season is 162 games. This does not include spring training or the playoffs. The season starts in early spring, and ends in October. I wonder if that is where Reggie Jackson got his name, Mr. October? Players are on the road all the time, staying in hotel rooms and soaking in bathtubs filled with ice. It is a game that truly wears on the players and can make for a sore old man before the age of forty.
All of that aside, the game has a unique set of rules that does not really apply to other sports. The general rules are quite simple, however. You play nine innings, with the home team always getting the last at-bat in case of a tie. You play three outs per side, with a total of six outs per inning. The teams will have nine players with the option to sub at any point during the game and the pitchers will throw a similar amount of balls before they are replaced with a fresh arm.
I could spend all day talking about the rules of baseball, but I will save you by saying that there is also a set of rules that you won’t find in any rulebook. There is a certain set of rules unwritten, sometimes even unspoken. That is, of course, until they are broken. Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees recently broke one of those unspoken rules by walking across the pitchers mound after being thrown out in between second and third base., thinking he was just taking the shortest path back to the dugout. The pitcher for the other team went haywire. He started screaming and Rodriquez, and angrily threw his glove once he made it back to his dugout.
Swinging for the Fences
Back to back home runs in any game can be exciting for the fans. It does, however, make the opposing pitcher seem to be worthless and force the coach to consider pulling the pitcher. But, did you know that it is an unwritten rule for a player to not swing at the first pitch after back-to-back home runs? This is, of course, like all of these unwritten rules, not actually taken seriously by most but, like A-Rod found out a few weeks ago, the players take them seriously.
Why would you not swing at the first pitch if it were right down the middle? Well, it is just common courtesy to opposing pitcher to just not swing. Granted, most players have the mentality that they are out there to win and are going to do whatever they can to score the most runs possible. But even if it was only two one-run homers, it will make you look like a much better sportsman.
Ouch, That Hurt!
It happens in almost every game and is something that nearly all batters will face. Getting hit by the pitch is not enjoyable for anyone. Most MLB pitchers will throw the ball close to 100 miles an hour and getting hit with a little cowhide-covered ball is not going to feel good. But, as most MLB players will say, if you get hit, suck it up and take your base.
Pete Rose, one of the best baseball players ever to play the game, used to run to first base as hard as he could after he was hit by a pitch. He would also run as hard as he could after a walk. This, for the sake of being hit by the pitch, was to shake it off and not give the opposing pitcher the satisfaction. It is a macho thing to do, as most players will argue, and just part of the game.
Respect Your Umpire
When on the field, the only person you need to worry about is the umpire. The umps decide whether that last pitch was a ball or a strike, fair or foul. They are the ones that have the final decision in any rules inquiry while on the field. You will see tons of clips on YouTube or even ESPN of managers and players alike arguing with umpires after a missed call. It usually solves nothing, often ending in ejection from the game, and puts a sour taste in that umpires mouth for future games.
There are some pretty good scenes where managers, like Lou Piniella, get so upset they begin kicking dirt on the umpires, or pull out one of the bases and toss it across the field. Most of these antics happen once the player or manager has already been kicked out of the game. It helps them get the last word, if nothing else. But it is just assumed that you will treat these guys like a boss or your superior. They are the ones that eventually have the last say, so make sure you treat them with respect while on the field.
Shh! Don’t Say Anything!
There comes a time in every pitcher’s career where he will face the chance to have a no hitter. A no hitter is a game where the pitcher plays all nine innings and will throw a lot more than his fair share of pitches. A no hitter is a game where the pitcher does not give up a single hit. Now, he can give up a walk or two, and even have runs scored during a no hitter, but no ball will make contact with a bat.
Even harder than a no hitter is a perfect game. There have only been a handful of those thrown in the history of baseball. A perfect game is where no man is ever on base. No wild pitches, no walks, hits, nothing. I have actually seen two perfect games thrown, one in person. It is truly a moment in history and one that is taken very serious by players and their adversaries. As a matter of fact, EA Sports just gave away $1 million to a young man for throwing a perfect game on his Xbox 360. The game, Major League Baseball 2K10, is said to be so hard that no one can throw a perfect game. They offered this prize as a way to test their difficulty. It took this kid less than a week to win the million bucks.
But when a pitcher is getting close to a no hitter, or a perfect game for that matter, under no circumstance do you talk about it. You might hear an announcer say something about it, but no one on the field is supposed to mention it. That will jinx the pitcher and the streak will break. So the next time you see a game getting to the seventh or eighth inning with out any hits, just keep your mouth shut.
There are many more unwritten rules for baseball. There are actually so many that Jason Turbow wrote a book about it. The Baseball Codes takes a look at the unwritten and unspoken rules of baseball, and breaks down each one. He explains why these rules are put in place, and even gives examples where these rules have been broken. I am sure he was proud to see Alex Rodriguez walk across the mound in a recent game. So if you play baseball, make sure you know not only the rules of baseball but also these unwritten rules of the game.
Note that A-Rod claimed to not know of this unwritten rule that he broke. He said that he had never heard of such a thing.