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Gene's Blog: There's no crying--or tying--in baseball, as in 'Tie goes to the runner!'

Gene Mueller's Blog

Did Babe Ruth REALLY call his shot as his Yankees battled the Cubs at Wrigley in 1932? 

Was Jackie Robinson the first African American to play big-league ball?

Baseball historians still debate the first question, and no one seems to have the ultimate answer all these decades later. As for the second, turns out Moses Fleetwood Walker holds the distinction, having played one season of pro ball for the Toronto Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884, hitting .263. He was a one-off, and the game wouldn't seen another Afircan American until Robinson's 1947 debut.

Ready for another one?

Who among us hasn't heard the cry "Tie goes to the runner!" when there's a bang-bang play at first base? It was the way we called games on the mean Sheboygan sandlots back in the day, and dusted off again when I was parent/umpire for my kid's Whitnall Youth Baseball scrums. And, most fans probably think it holds true in the big leagues.

Negative.

Page through the rules, and you won't find it in print. Honest. The Hardball Times website points to Rule 6.05 which says, "A batter is out when, after a third strike or after he hits a fair ball, he or first base is tagged before he touches first base." Let's scroll down to 7.01: "A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out. He is then entitled to it until he is put out or forced to vacate it for another runner legally entitled to that base." And lastly, there's Rule 7.08 which succintly states, "Any runner is out when he or the next base is tagged before he touches the next base."

The rules say nothing about ties. That's right: there's no crying in baseball, and there aren't any ties, either, on the scoreboard OR the bases.

The Bleacher Report's Mark Dewdney quotes MLB ump Tim McLelland thusly: "There are no ties and there is no rule that says ties go to the runner. But the rule book DOES say that the runner must beat the ball to first base, and so if he doesn't beat the ball, then he is out. So you have to make the decision. That's why umpires are paid the money they are, to make the decision on if he did or if he didn't. The only thing you can go by is whether or not he beat the ball. If he did (beat the ball), then he is safe."

If we're being precise here, as The Baseball Bible puts it, a tie goes TO THE FIELDER.

Still in doubt? Here's the MLB rule book.  To parse it further, it would seem the key word here is "before." If you don't get there before the ball does, you're walking back to the dugout. 

The game has changed over the decades. Gloves used to have three fingers. Pitchers threw underhand. Ground rule doubles were considered home runs until 1930. Mounds got lowered in the late 1960's after a season dominated by pitchers. And, we're still tweaking today in an effort to speed up the game. 

One thing apparently never changed, because it never was a thing: a tie never goes to the runner. Never did and, if umpired correctly be it in an MLB park or your neighborhood diamond, it never will. 

 


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