Unlike the diamond itself or the concepts of ‘out’ and 'safe,’ the Infield Fly Rule is not necessary to the game. Without the Infield Fly Rule, baseball does not degenerate into bladderball the way the collective bargaining process degenerates into economic warfare when good faith is absent.

Aside: The Common Law Origins of The Infield Fly Rule

Once the piece gets away from baseball and starts talking about things like “laws” and “society,” I quickly had no idea what was going on and began thinking of things like “What if my dreams were somehow an alternate universe version of myself living life?” But if legality is your thing, check it out.  

I'm Still Angry

I don’t care that Sam Holbrook defends his ridiculous, wrongful call. What else can he do? He can’t undermine his authority for the remainder of his professional career. But I saw his reaction as he watched the replay on the Turner Field scoreboard. He knew he blew it.

I don’t care that Joe Torre, MLB and the umpires on the field supported Holbrook’s ridiculous, wrongful call during their post-game press conference. Again, they have no choice but to do so. The fact is though, at that moment, at game speed, the only one who raised his arm was Holbrook, who was stationed halfway down the third base line in the outfield.

I don’t care that the runners were able to advance on the play. Holbrook took away one of the Braves remaining outs, leaving them with just four instead of five with the bases loaded. According to Dave Cameron of the USS Mariner blog, the Braves chances to comeback and win were reduced from 22% to 9%.

The great @dcameronfg says the Braves’ win probability swung from 22% to 9% because of that call.

— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP)

October 6, 2012

I don’t care that the Braves’ three errors are the real reason the Cardinals won the game. Holbrook didn’t cost the Braves the game, but he took away a real chance at redemption.

I’m still angry.

I’m angry because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has to be the happiest and most relieved person in professional sports, because as bad as the replacement refs were, at least they didn’t directly and controversially affect the outcome of a playoff game.

I’m angry because several Atlanta Braves fans (not all) at Turner Field demeaned themselves by throwing debris onto the field and causing a 19-minute delay. Cardinals fans at Busch would never have done that. This ain’t soccer, Raider football or Philadelphia!

I’m angry because several Cardinals players starting chanting “Infield Fly!” during their post-game celebration. I have nothing against the Cardinals (that pompous, arrogant ass LaRussa is retired now), but that’s just wrong. It reminded me of when Matt Holliday, then with the Rockies, returned to the field to step on home plate long after the post-game celebration following the Wild Card tiebreaker game of the 2007 season between the Rockies and Padres (Holliday was ruled safe by the normally reliable home plate umpire Tim McClelland even though Holliday never actually touched home plate).

(Sidebar: new rule - never get involved in a land war in Asia, and never go up against a team with Matt Holliday in a Game 163)

I’m angry because an umpire out of position made a ridiculous, wrongful call. An outfield umpire should be ruling on fair or foul balls, fan interference, ground rule doubles, and home run verification, not calling infield fly. The first base umpire doesn’t call balls and strikes for the same reason - it’s not his call.

And I’m angry because Holbrook’s call was ridiculous and wrongful. There is nothing ordinary about an infielder ranging more than 75 feet into the outfield to attempt to catch a fly ball. There is nothing immediate about making a call at the literal last second on a fly ball that was in the air for seven seconds.


In this Harth Night Lite exclusive, Karim Kanji (host of The XConnect Show) explains baseball’s Infield Fly Rule.

Now you don’t have to be so confused about what’s going on next time you watch a ball game!

Thanks for the enlightenment, Karim!

The note, written by Mr. Stevens when he was a law student at the University of Pennsylvania, was an immediate sensation. It was cited in judicial opinions within a year of publication, and it is credited with inspiring the law and baseball movement, “a thriving branch of legal studies devoted to the law and its social context,” as the Times described it.

So, in homage to Mr. Stevens and his fascination with one of baseball’s least understood rules, we’ve posted his law review note below. It’s still a joy to read.

I think they should change the infield fly rule to the infielder fly rule. 

That’s really what the rule applies to - it’s called when the infielder looks like he can make the catch with normal effort. It does not apply to where the ball is caught or lands. It is there to prevent an intentional drop by an infielder in order to turn a double or triple play and the runners are protected and able to go.

The call at the Cards/Braves game was the right call when it was made; when the ball popped up and Kozma backed up to make the catch the call was made - not when the ball was dropped. That being said, had this been a regular season game and there had only been 4 umpires the call probably would not have been made. 

Baseball wonkery.

Much More than the Infield Fly Rule

Controversial Infield Fly Rule Decision

St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves

First Wildcard Playoff Game in History

October 5, 2012

During last night’s first-ever National League Baseball single-game wildcard playoff game, there was a controversial call involving the Infield Fly Rule. Most people are just trying to understand the governing rule. Read on to see what I believe to be most of the story. As time passes we may be get more information, but don’t look to the media and former baseball players to ever get this one right.

The Infield Fly Rule decision as called by the umpires in the one game wild card playoff game between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinal is totally understandable if you take the time to understand the rules and the overall situation.  This was not a blown call, but I think it should have been handled differently which would have eventually ended with a different decision.  

As always the announcers including past baseball players and all-stars have no idea of the rules.  It has been a basic practice for over thirty years for umpires to make the difficult infield fly rule call just prior to the catch.  Otherwise, the base runners cannot be properly protected.  The rulebook will probably never change because rule changes must be approved by the MLB players’ association.  Procedures and interpretations are the only way to adjust the rules to fit the way the game is played.

A lack of an infield fly rule call would have had no impact on further play so I would have liked to see the crew get together and change it themselves. Since it is not part of the replay system, I don’t think that would stop umpires from changing a play on the field.  It has been a long time since I dealt with protest decisions, but I do know that it adds a totally different perspective to a situation.  I believe taht most everyone can understand why the protest was not upheld since the Atlanta Braves were protesting an umpires “judgement” decision.

It was a bad call based more on the result of the total play, not due to a momentary lapse of judgement. If the player had caught the ball as he should have, nary a word would have been said.  The announcers would probably not even noticed the signaled call.   

After watching the replay a couple times, I questioned the call especially since it was made by the outfield line umpire. I presume that over the years all MLB umpires have seen more and more infield fly rule decisions in the outfield.  Had there been no call (ie. the fielder didn’t settle under the ball), having a six-man crew with a left field line umpire would have greatly improved coverage to decide on the infield fly rule and catch to help the third base umpire prepare for a possible force play at third.  In a four-man crew, an infield umpire moves to the outfield to cover the play forcing all umpires to be on the move which can be a recipe for disaster.

Also playing into this situation is the fact that this was a last-minute crew thrown together for a single game without a real leader know to umpire teams as the crew chief.  I believe that either Jim Joyce or Mike Winters, two of my former partners and the most senior umpires on the field, should have been put in charge of the crew whether or not they were assigned to work “behind the plate”.  

Jeff Kellogg, the plate umpire, was possibly chosen based on some of the statistics that are now being kept on umpires.  My understanding of this system is that someone in the booth watches the live game feed and judges how many and which pitches were missed. This new feedback system has broken down the team aspect of umpiring and in this case, may have had a direct impact on this game in two ways.  The plate umpire may have been named due to his personal ball/strike statistics making him by default the game’s “crew chief”. Therefore, there was no true crew chief placed in charge of dealing with a difficult on-field situation.  To me it seemed like no umpire ever took charge leaving the situation for other to work out. 

Had there been a real “crew chief” as done during the regular season, he might have said something like, ’Wow we caused a team to be put at a disadvantage during this perceived bad call’ or 'Something went very bad, what can we do?‘ 

Reversing this call would not have been a bad idea if you as crew chief asked the calling umpire if he could accept a decision to revere the call.  Then after evaluating the situation and looking at the possible repercussions, a final decision could have been made.

Had they changed the call, there surely would have been a protest by the St. Louis Cardinals because this is a rare and strange situation in an elimination game (the first one game playoff between wild card teams). I do not think the umpire crew took the necessary time or had the time to fully think this through.  Once the protest was announced, the umpire crew just kicked back and let the league take over.  It would have been a good time to use the experience of the on-field umpires in conjunction with the wisdom and point of view of the supervisory staff.

The umpire crew may have stayed away from the “changing the call” solution because they wanted to avoid a sure protest.  If they even got this far in their thinking, they should have also considered that the eventual protest by the Atlanta Braves would not have been upheld since it was a “judgement call”.  With all the pressure of the situation and fallout including hundreds of bottles and cans (totally inappropriate), people have difficulty thinking things through fully preventing a quality discussion between the members of even this very good, experienced umpire crew.

This situation may never happen again in the major leagues. Regardless, I support changing the call on the field.  The infield fly rule was established to prevent a possible/probable double play because a defensive player could let the ball drop and get an additional out resulting in a double play.  On an infield fly ruling, runners still play by the same rules (tagging up, going ahead at their own risk of being tagged out knowing that the force has been removed.  

Having the advantage of several replays and a night to sleep on this, there should have been no infield fly rule call since only one runner was in jeopardy (the runner at second) just prior to the catch.  Had the ball dropped at the feet of the shortstop, he may have been forced out at third.  Even if the shortstop moved and the left field was right there, a one hop clean bounce to the left fielder would have only presented a force out at either third or second.  Regardless of who fielded the ball after it hit the ground, it would not have been possible for any fielder to throw for a force out and then throw to another base resulting in a double play.  In my opinion, the only way that there would ever be a double play would be if a runner made a serious baserunning mistake.

Since there was no danger of a dropped ball resulting in a double play, no infield fly should have been called.  SO CHANGE THE CALL ON THE FIELD!!! 

I never saw the umpires seriously discussing all of the possibilities.  They let the guys upstairs talk to plate umpire Jeff Kellogg while Mike Winters was there to listen and help as needed.  The culture today is to let those with power (umpires on the field are powerless now) even though supervisors may include past umpires, who have gone to the dark side schmoozing with teams and the league office, make the decisions.  Having Joe Torre release the protest decision is a whole different situation that makes this situation almost laughable.  
Everyone should have been working together to look for a way to make things right.  I saw none of that.

Yes, I am disappointed but still very supportive of the umpires.  It was a very difficult call with only a window of a second or second and a half to make a difficult judgement.  The umpire trusted the actions of a player slowing down, waving his arms, and standing virtually alone under the ball.  This is yet another example of the players making a serious mistake where the umpires are forced to make a tough call in a crazy situation.  Whenever the result is an unpopular ruling, the umpire take the heat.  

It is understandable that the umpires are the ones blamed because, in the end, the team that made the mistake benefitted from the umpire’s infield fly ruling.  Once again, this is the main reason why the “umpire crew” should have found a way to change the call despite a sure protest by the Cardinals.  This was an umpire crew full of quality, respected umpires.  No one would lose their job no matter how bad a call was made.  

In summary, I wish that cool minds could have come together to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, we may never know what prevented this from happening.  Having Joe Torre share the decision of the protest committee might indicate that a poor process was in place for dealing with a controversial call. 

Shawn Kimball
Professional Baseball Umpire (1979 - 1989)
Maine High School Sports Official (1975 - present)


is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule. When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare “Infield Fly, if Fair.” The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul. If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly. Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder—not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire’s judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately. When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.


I think the umpire tonight had an understanding of the infield fly rule on the level of this fellow. I felt brain cells dying at about the 1:30 minute mark of this. By the way, the bad call would not have mattered if none of the Braves’ errors had occurred.

splitscreen asked:

Top three sporting events you have attended. Also top three favorite Disney cruise moments

top three sporting events you have attended

  • game five of the 2011 world series - i was standing room only and the cardinals lost, but the world series is something else entirely.
  • 2012 national league wild card play-in game between the st. louis cardinals and the atlanta braves - INFIELD FLY RULE
  • tie between the uswnt vs new zealand match i went to in 2012 (i think)/the mavs ring ceremony in 2011/that preds vs stars game i almost got into a fight at

top three disney cruise moments

  • getting super drunk off free champagne
  • the aquaduck/castaway cay
  • our muppets scavenger hunt/trying not to get seasick
  • also, that virtual sports reality thing was pretty badass