Christopher M. DuncanOctober 24, 2011 - 1:19pm0 comments
The pintsized batter took an awkward swing with his aluminum bat, barely striking the ball with a faint clinking sound. His slow roller left the batter’s box, hopped twice and curled foul of the third-base line by three feet. The young umpire yelled “foul ball!” But then something strange happened. “Run!” yelled the third-base coach, motioning frantically as the boy stared, puzzled. “Run!” I and my fellow spectators were puzzled, too. Couldn’t the coach see that the ball was foul? Well, actually, no. The ball was still moving—trickling toward third base and back toward the foul line.
By the time it came to rest, six feet from home plate and exactly on the chalked line, the young hitter stood perched at first base. A moment of chaos ensued. The rule, in fact, holds that any ball hit foul and still in motion is not a foul ball until it passes third base. Before that, if it rolls back into fair territory, it remains in play. Furthermore, a ball that comes to rest directly on the chalk line is a fair ball. So the third-base coach was right; the umpire had called the play dead too soon. But what to do now? Because of the call, no one had attempted to throw the runner out.
As the reader might imagine, opinions in the dugouts and the bleachers varied strongly—and loudly. The thirteen-year-old umpire in his new grey slacks and blue shirt stood frozen. A cacophony of advice from people three, four, five, and even six times his age, people rooting strenuously...