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Summary[]

Inspired by the loophole-exposing chicanery of former player and manager Eddie “The Brat” Stanky, Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley draft 19 MLB rule changes that were solely or largely precipitated by one player, manager, coach, or owner.

Topics[]

  • The Stanky Draft

The Stanky Draft[]

  • Ben and Meg alternated picking their favorite MLB rule changes named after or originating from the actions of a single individual who led to the need for that rule. The criteria for picking could be either the the ingenuity or 'trollishness' involved in finding the initial loophole, or for their appreciation of the rule itself in improving the game.
  • Before they started, Ben acknowledged that in many cases, such as the "King Kelly Rule", the name is the result of oversimplification or legend, but that they will try and steer away from rules whose identities don't seem to have a basis in historical fact.
  • The idea for the draft came from listener Mark Arduini in October 2018 (!) who suggested using it "whenever we're in the baseball doldrums and topics are hard to come by." Ben thinks the third month of the lockout qualifies.
  • It is difficult to nail down whether these rules were really due to the actions of a single person. Many of the stories are in dispute. Ben consulted with John Thorn (official historian of MLB) and Peter Morris (author of A Game of Inches, linked below) to vet the list of candidates.
Round Meg Ben
1 The Chase Utley Rule The Stanky Maneuver
2 The Ross Barnes Rule Lenny Randle blowing a ball foul
3 The George Smith Rule Getting a running start when tagging up
4 The Pat Venditte Rule The Germany Schaefer Rule
5 The Rogers Hornsby Rule Giant catcher's mitts
6 The George Wright Rule Adjustable outfield fences
7 Limiting Mound Visits The Roy Thomas Rule
8 The Buster Posey Rule The Phantom DH Rule
9 The Carter Capps Rule The Eddie Gaedel Rule
10 The Jimmy Cooney Rule


The Chase Utley Rule[]

Runners sliding into second base have to make a bona fide attempt to slide towards the base and then remain on the base and not use the slide to attempt to make contact with the infielder to try and prevent a double play.

  • Meg: "I realize this is a conservative pick."
  • Meg picks this first because of how much it has protected players from injury by preventing takeout slides.

The Stanky Maneuver[]

No fielder shall take a position in the batter's line of vision, and with deliberate unsportsmanlike intent, attempt to distract the batter.

  • Ben introduces Eddie Stanky when making this pick, explaining that he is the 'patron saint' of this draft and that he will be coming up multiple times throughout the exercise.

The Ross Barnes Rule[]

A foul ball is a batted ball that settles on foul territory between home and first base, or between home and third base, or the bounds past first or third base on or over foul territory, or that first falls on foul territory beyond first or third base, or that, while on or over foul territory, touches the person of an umpire or a player or any object foreign to the natural ground.

  • In the 1870's, the ball was considered fair or foul based on where it first touched the ground. Some players used what was known as a 'fair/foul bunt', where a low pitch would be chopped down in order to create a large amount of spin that would initially land fair but then head out into foul territory, making it harder to field. Ross Barnes would do the same, not with a bunt, but with a full swing directly at home plate, making the effect even greater. The rules were changed to prevent this technique.
  • Ben points out that the name of this rule is an aforementioned oversimplification, as Barnes was not the inventor of the technique (it is usually credited to Dickie Pierce), but he was the most prominent user of the technique as well as having the most unique and effective manner in executing it, and thus the name stuck.

Blowing a ball foul[]

In 1981, Mariners third baseman Lenny Randle got down on the ground to blow a slowly-rolling ground ball into foul territory before picking it up. The umpires ruled it foul. The Royals manager protested the call, and the call was changed to a base hit. The rules were soon clarified to prohibit the fielder from altering the path of the ball.

  • Meg reacted with disappointment that Ben had made this pick, as it was the one candidate in the pool involving a Mariners player.
  • After the play, Randle attempted to counter-protest to the umpires, stating that he wasn't blowing on the ball but rather attempting to 'use suggestion' to urge the ball foul. His argument did not win.

The George Smith Rule[]

Base coaches are not allowed to enter the field of play or intentionally interfere or mislead opposing players.

  • While Smith was active in the 1890's, the rule change was actually in 1904.
  • One notable example brought up was George Smith running ahead of the runner he was coaching from third base to home, and in confusion, the opposing player tagged Smith, thinking he was the baserunner.
  • Ben notes one of the most extreme examples of the "Baseball is dying" trope, one writer declared at the time that the rule change had not only threatened the health of the game, but that it was "already dead now".

Running start on tagging up[]

Runners must wait with a foot on the base for the ball to be caught before attempting to advance.

  • Before the rule change, players realized that they could back up behind the bag, time their start, and then tag up at full speed on their way to advancing to the next base.
  • Ben notes that this is also associated with Eddie Stanky, as he was on the team that exploited this loophole and was one of its practitioners.

The Pat Venditte Rule[]

When a switch hitter faces an ambidextrous pitcher, the pitcher must indicate which hand he intends to pitch with before the batter chooses which side of the plate they wish to bat from.

  • Meg references an amusing typo in a headline covering Venditte at the time, referring to him as 'amphibious' instead of 'ambidextrous'.
  • Meg thinks the rule is fair. Switch hitters already know what kind of pitcher they are facing. This just extends the scenario to require the pitcher to declare first. Besides, hitting is hard.
  • Both Ben and Meg lament that Venditte didn't have more success in baseball and is no longer an active player.
  • Meg calls Venditte "the most amazing not-amazing pitcher ever."

The Germany Schaefer Rule[]

Bases cannot be run in reverse order, and the runner attempting to do so must be declared out if touched with the ball or the ball held on the base to which he was legally entitled.

  • The supposed origin story: During a play with runners on first and third, Hermann "Germany" Schaefer, who was on first, initiated a double steal, hoping to draw a throw and allow his teammate to score. However, the catcher, sensing the double steal, didn't throw, and the runner on third could not advance. On the next pitch, Schaefer attempted another double steal by stealing first. The runner on third then attempted to advance home in the confusion but was tagged out. The opposing team argued that Schaefer should be out due to running backwards on the base paths.
  • Ben went back and forth on making this pick due to the debate about its origins being apocryphal, but found enough research from sources he trusted to go ahead with its inclusion.
  • The rule change was made over a decade after the above story was supposed to take place, but Schaefer was cited at the time of the change.
  • Ben clarifies that runners are allowed to run backward (facing the wrong way). Episode 1023 considered a Mike Trout hypothetical in which he had to run everywhere backward.
  • In 2013, Jean Segura accidentally ran from second base to first, but he was not declared out because it was due to genuine confusion and not attempting to confuse the defense.

The Rogers Hornsby Rule[]

Players or managers may not hold ownership stock in a franchise.

  • Hornsby was a player/manager for the Cardinals who held a stake in the team, but then was traded to the New York Giants. He was then forced to sell his shares in order to prevent a conflict of interest.
  • A rule was subsequently enacted to permit players or managers to be part-owners of the team they play for, but require a written agreement for how they will divest their ownership if they move to another team.
  • When Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves, took over as manager after a 16-game losing streak, the rule was enforced and Turner's stint as manager ended after one game.
  • Meg likes the rule because some player contracts are tied to playing time, and you don't want a manager choosing to bench a player for financial rather than strategic reasons.

Giant catcher's mitts[]

A catcher's mitt can be no more than 38 inches in circumference, or 15 inches from top to bottom.

  • Inspired by Orioles manager Paul Richards, who was also the originator of the Waxahachie Swap.
  • Richards worked with the sports manufacturer Wilson to invent what he called an "elephant glove" for the purpose of catching knuckleballers.
  • The gloves were outlawed prior to the 1961 season or 1964 season (depending on the source) after other teams complained.
  • Meg doesn't like the mitt size rule. She thinks we should be allowed to discover the ideal mitt size.

The George Wright Rule[]

Baserunners are awarded three bases if a fielder attempts to catch the ball with their cap.

  • Originally, the rule was that the batter is not out, and the ball must be returned to the pitcher before any outs can be recorded. With the bases loaded, shortstop George Wright caught a pop fly in his hat, tossed the ball to pitcher A. G. Spalding, who then threw the ball to home, where it was then thrown to third, second, then first, for a quadruple play (!). The umpires had none of it and ruled it no-play.
  • This was previously discussed in Episode 1800 with Emma Baccallieri over how severe the penalty is, as it is the only rule that awards runners three bases.
  • Meg doesn't like the hat catch rule. Fielders can climb a wall to make a catch. Why not let them use their hat? The hat extends their reach just a few inches, so it doesn't unbalance the game.

Adjustable outfield fences[]

  • Bill Veeck claims in his autobiography "Veeck as in Wreck" that he used a hydraulic motor to raise and lower a chicken wire fence on the shallow right field wall between innings, depending on who was at bat, but that the rule was changed the next day. Historians dispute the validity of this story.
  • Despite Veeck's claims being unverified, there is a rule in the American League preventing teams changing the dimensions of the field during a season due to White Sox GM Frank "Trader" Lane in 1949, removing an inner layer of fences in the outfield in the middle of the night before a series with the visiting Yankees.

Limiting mound visits[]

A second trip to the same pitcher in the same inning requires the pitcher to be removed from the game. May not visit twice during the same plate appearance.

  • Eddie Stanky attempted to get a game called on account of darkness in 1955 by stalling as much as possible, visiting the mound repeatedly, changing pitchers frequently, and instigating arguments with the umpires and opposing manager. His tactics not only caused the umpire to declare a forfeit, his own home town fans even booed him!
  • Ben: "You do you, Eddie."
  • The rule was changed to limit mound visits to once per inning, with subsequent visits requiring the removal of the current pitcher.

The Roy Thomas Rule[]

Foul balls not caught on the fly are called as strikes unless there are two strikes in the count.

  • Previously, foul balls were not called as strikes, and players would endlessly foul off pitches until they got a pitch they liked, and the rule change was made to curtail the practice. Roy Thomas was one of the most skilled at this technique, and would frequently earn walks simply by fouling off any pitch he thought was a strike. It was so annoying to one opposing pitcher that he sucker punched Thomas in response.

The Buster Posey Rule[]

If a defensive player at home plate does not have the ball, the runner may not initiate contact, and the defensive player must leave a path to the plate.

  • Meg notes that the rule is a misnomer and should really be called "The Alex Avila Rule", as he was seriously injured in a home plate collision and the rule was made the following offseason.
  • Editor's note: The rule went into effect in 2014 as rule 7.13, but starting in 2015 the rule was renumbered as rule 6.01 (i).

The Phantom DH Rule[]

The designated hitter named in the starting lineup must come to bat at least once unless the opposing team changes pitchers.

  • In 1980, Orioles manager Earl Weaver began listing pitchers or players not intending to play in the DH spot in his starting lineup. (In his first game using this trick, he listed Steve Stone, who was not even in the stadium.) By doing so, he could defer choosing a DH until the DH came to bat.
  • Weaver said he got the idea from a fan who sent him a letter about the possibility. In an earlier game, the right-handed starting pitcher was pulled before facing the right-handed DH. The reliever was also a righty, but the fan observed that had Weaver started a lefty DH (against a righty starter), and if the reliever had been a lefty, Weaver would have had to decide whether to pinch hit for his DH at his first plate appearance. Using a "phantom DH" would protect against burning a batter in that case.

The Carter Capps Rule[]

Pitchers may not make a second step or hop-step in their delivery.

  • Meg: "I like rules like this because, again, we are trying at all times to sort of sort out what we feel is innovative and what we view as detrimental, and sometimes that line is sort of blurry."
  • Ben notes that one variant of his delivery, where he makes a hop forward while dragging his rear foot along the ground, is still legal.
  • Ben notes that at its extreme, without the Carter Capps rule, the pitcher could just hop all the way to home plate.

The Eddie Gaedel Rule[]

All player contracts need to be ratified by the commissioner of baseball before they can appear in a game.

  • Bill Veeck signed 3'7" Eddie Gaedel on a Friday, knowing that the commissioner would not see the contract until Monday. He then played Gaedel on Sunday. The contract was voided on review.
  • Ben wonders what justification could be given today, given the Americans with Disability Act, to prevent Eddie Gaedel from playing.

The Jimmy Cooney Rule[]

It is interference when any batter or runner or who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate.

  • In 1926, the Cubs had the bases loaded with one out against the Dodgers. The batter hit a double play ground ball. Cooney was out at second, but the throw back to first was wild. Cooney continued to run the bases and in the confusion, the Dodgers fielded the ball and threw home in an attempt to tag him out before scoring. Once that throw was made, Cooney immediately peeled away from the baseline and returned to the dugout. The catcher chased Cooney, thinking he needed to apply the tag, only to discover that Cooney was already out. This allowed the inning to continue, and the Cubs scored two more runs.
  • The revised rule also clarifies that the mere act of running the bases after being put out is not considered interference unless there is intent.
  • Meg is not a fan of rules that require umpire discretion, but also understands that in this case it seems necessary, because it is common for players who are put out to run off the field, and that shouldn't be counted as a distraction.
  • This incident was previously discussed in Episode 1364: Rounding Second and Heading for Home.

Notes[]

  • Ben noted on the Patreon Discord that this is likely the longest list of links ever included with a podcast episode.
  • The draft was made from a pre-selected list of 19 options, explaining why Ben does not make a final pick in the 10th round.
  • Ben notes the blanket rule that allows umpires to rule on anything not covered by the rules.
  • Episode 1814 considers listener contributions to this draft.

Links[]

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