Major League Baseball has been around since 1869. Throughout the history of the league, we have seen plenty of new teams, ballparks, milestones, rules, and more change over the years. One area that stays relatively consistent over the years is baseball’s unwritten rules. The unofficial rules are for baseball players, announcers, and even fans of the game. Here are the unofficial rules to follow whether you are a player, an announcer, or even a fan of MLB.
What are Unwritten Rules in Baseball for Batters?
As a batter in the American League and National League, you have many unwritten rules to remember. Most rules are a way to show respect to your opposing MLB player, which you may miss when watching a game. Here is a breakdown of some of the unwritten rules of baseball to remember as a batter below.
No-Hitter / Perfect Game / No-No
When a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter or perfect game, batters should follow one universal rule. The one universal law is that a batter should not try and bunt for a hit to break up a no-hitter. Bunting to get a single is a cheap way to break up a no-hitter or perfect game. Most batters honor this rule during a game, but there have been incidents where someone tries and bunts, which both sides don’t want to see.
One example of disrespect trying to break up a No-No was in 2001. During the 2001 season, Curt Shilling had a perfect game going against the San Diego Padres in the eighth inning. To break up the perfect match, Ben Davis laid down a but which went as a hit. While this is not against any rules, you can hear the announcers question this type of play by the San Diego Padres player. Some say that this bunt was fine because it was a close game, but other big leaguers will take exception to this tactic.
Another example of bunting in the ninth inning came with the Baltimore Orioles playing against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards. While it was not to break up a no-hitter, the Orioles were losing 7-0, so the bunt was not a great look. Different players had different takes on that bunt, and the Orioles eventually lost that game. Bunting in the ninth being down by that much felt unnecessary to the Minnesota Twins.
There is no mercy rule in baseball, but there are ways to show respect to the opposing team when they have a big lead. One way to limit the damage is to stop stealing bases against the other side when the game is practically out of reach. Stealing bases prolongs the game and put even more baserunners in scoring position against the losing team. Another way to limit Major League Baseball blowout games is going base to base on hits. Anyone trying to go from first to third on a single during a blowout game shows disrespect to the other side.
Home Runs and Watching
Many people wonder if bat flipping is illegal in baseball. While it is not unlawful to bat flip after a home run, there is an unofficial rule to not stand and admire your home run in the batter’s box. While it is ok to show emotion after a big home run, standing at home plate for too long is seen as disrespectful.
In recent memory, Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays threw his bat to the side after hitting a home run in the playoffs against the Texas Rangers. Tensions were already high between the two teams, so this was undoubtedly something caught in the moment. This moment, while not against the rules, had retaliation next season when the two teams met again. The revenge had Jose Bautista getting punched in the face against the Texas Rangers the following season.
Speaking of home runs, players should also recognize when a pitcher is struggling on the pitcher’s mound. If a pitcher gives up back to back home runs, batters should not swing on the first pitch. Turning on a first-pitch after a pitcher gives up back to back home runs shows little class. Taking a ball is a good idea when dealing with a rookie on the mound who is struggling to get out.
Getting Hit by a Ball
Most of the time, pitchers are not trying to hit a batter, but hits do happen. If a ball slips from a pitcher’s release, you may see the ball hit a player. Players should try and not rub the spot where they were hit when at home plate, or on any base on the diamond. Most of the time, you are not trying to be hit, so don’t rub it in for the pitcher to see.
The At-Bat Etiquette
There are a few unofficial rules to remember when coming up for your next at-bat. One reminder is not to walk in front of a catcher or umpire when getting into the batter’s box. The best practice here is to walk behind the ump and get into the batter’s box.
Another tip is how to go back to the dugout after recording an out. If you fly out to an outfielder, you should never jog across the pitcher’s mound to the dugout. The pitcher’s mound is there own spot, so they don’t want someone running on it. I will get into an example with Alex Rodriguez doing just that later on in this post.
Sign stealing, believe it or not, is part of the game of baseball. If a baseball player can pick up what your opposing team is trying to do with signs, there is no problem. Most sign-stealing occurs on the second base, where the runner can see what signals the catcher is signaling to the pitcher. Other ways sign-stealing takes place is if you can pick up the arm angle of the pitcher, and relay that to other hitters for something to watch for when they are hitting.
Sign stealing becomes a problem when you use technology, like the Houston Astros and Red Sox did in recent memory. Using technology to alert your players on what pitch is coming is against the rules. Unless you are using your eye to pick up balls, you can’t have any technical advantage via sign stealing.
What are Unwritten Pitcher Rules in Baseball?
As a pitcher in Major League baseball, you have a few unwritten rules to follow. Some include showing respect for your teammates, your manager, and your opponent. Other unofficial rules for pitchers pertain to how they deal with the umpire. Here are some of those unofficial rules for pitchers below to follow in baseball.
Pitcher Etiquette for Coaches and Teammates
Starting pitchers and reliever all live by the same code of respect during a baseball game. If a manager comes out to call on a bullpen pitcher, the pitcher stays on the mound until the manager asks for the ball. Pitchers should not walk off the pitcher’s mound and to the dugout until the manager gets to them. There have been times when a rookie will forget this and will get a talking to by the manager when they come back to the dugout.
If a reliever replaces you in the middle of an inning, you must stay in the dugout until the inning is over. A pitcher can’t walk to the locker room and watch the game from there, even if they have a terrible game. Most pitchers support the reliever out of the bullpen by sitting on the top step to cheer. Others will sit in the dugout, but will not leave until the inning is officially over.
Hitting a Batter When They Come up to Bat After a Home Run
Pitchers should not throw a fastball at a batter who hit a home run against them in their next at-bat. The same unofficial rule applies if you hit the next better after giving up a home run. While a breaking ball and off-speed pitch are not seen as intentionally, a fastball to the back is. Hitting a player on purpose can instantly start a baseball brawl on the field.
Hitting an Opposing Team’s Batter
If one of your teammates got hit by a pitch, you should hit one of your opponents. This unofficial rule of hitting another batter is more to do with your team than theirs. By hitting another player on another team after your guy gets hit shows loyalty. If you don’t offer to hit another player, you can be seen as not a great teammate in the dugout and locker room.
Dealing with the umpire and their Strike Zone
Pitchers, catchers, and batters all will disagree with an umpire’s call at some point during a game. You can disagree with an umpire’s call on a close pitch, but don’t show up the umpire to make them look bad. Most of the time, you will find the umpire admit that they missed a call, but don’t stand in disbelief if a call did not go your way. This concept may sound bizarre, but it is one of those rules to remember about being a good teammate.
Don’t Show up Your Infielders or Outfielders After an Error
Baseball errors are a natural part of a baseball game, so don’t make it a big deal. If a center fielder misses the ball because they lost the ball in the sun, don’t yell out for them to put their sunglasses on. If a second baseman bobbles a ball during a double play at second base, don’t stand there with your hands on your hips in disgust. Remember, infielders and outfielders won’t show you up when you give up a home run, so show respect.
Pitching Too Quickly
Technically speaking, a batter is supposed to stay in the batter’s box unless they hit the ball during an at-bat. However, you will see plenty of hitters leave the batter’s box to readjust their gloves or check-in with signs.
An unofficial rule is to quickly pitch to the batter as they are stepping back to the plate. Even if you record a strikeout since the batter is not ready, you can expect some retaliation from the opposing team for that quick stunt.
Ignore the Pitcher in the Dugout and on the Field During a Perfect Game
If a pitcher is throwing a perfect game, players should ignore them in the dugout after the fifth inning. Most baseball players choose to sit away from the pitcher during a perfect match for this exact reason. Same with not talking about the perfect game in the dugout, infielders and outfielders should not talk about the perfect game to each other in the field.
The Center Fielder Gets the Priority
During baseball games, you will see plenty of pop-ups that go out into the outfield. When a ball flies into the outfield, the center fielder has priority on any pop-up no matter what. That means the center fielder can call off the left or right fielder on any fly ball.
In addition to the centerfielder, the left and right fielder can also call off any infielder via a pop-up. That means any pop that is over first base or third base can have an outfielder call off the infielder. The thought process of giving the outfielder full priority is that their momentum will be coming in to make the play. Having your momentum go into a play allows you to throw the ball back quickly to any fielder.
Announcers Keeping Quiet During a Perfect Game
Announcers are incredibly superstitious during a no-hitter or perfect game, so they tend not to talk about the moment too much. Most announcers will say something vague like “you are witnessing something special,” but won’t directly address that there is a perfect game. There have been cases where an announcer says that a classic game is taking place, and then the perfect match ends on the very next pitch. While you can’t prove that the announcer jinxed the moment, you can certainly say it did not help.
What Happens If you Break these Unofficial Rules as a Player?
Most of these rules are guidelines for players to follow by, so there is no significant penalty if you break any. Most players recognize that your opponent is not trying to disrespect you, so most are not looking to start brawls if one unofficial rule breaks.
However, it will be apparent if you are doing something on purpose that does not respect the game’s integrity. Chances are if you disrespect someone on the field during a game, you can expect a brawl or ejection to take place shortly afterward.
What were Some Famous Baseball Players Who Played Dirty?
You will find many players who played a bit more gray throughout the game of baseball. Some of the dirtiest players include Alex Rodriguez, Pete Rose, Manny Machado, and others. Here are some of the ways these players took the game to a different level via sportsmanship.
During the 2004 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez famously slapped the ball out of the pitcher’s glove, who was applying a tag. The slap of the ball was not something seen in the game, so the umpires were not sure what was going on. When Alex Rodriguez got to second base, the umpires called timeout to review what happened. After discussing what was going on with the refs, they called A-Rod out on interference.
In 2010, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees was playing the Oakland Athletics in May 2010. Alex Rodriguez was on first base, and there was a foul pop up that made A-Rod return to the base. Alex decided to run across the pitcher mound of Pitcher Dallas Braden, which instantly set off a reaction. While Alex Rodriguez said that he meant nothing of disrespect, A-Rod has a long history of breaking unwritten baseball rules.
Keeping with A-Rod, we had another incredible moment take place on the basepaths in 2013. During a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, a pop was hit in the infield for an easy out. As Alex was running by the third baseman, he yelled, “I got it,” which then had the third baseman miss the ball since he thought the shortstop was going to catch the ball. The Blue Jays players immediately began pointing fingers at Alex Rodriguez since the ball dropped in for a hit, and scored Hideki Matsui for a run in the ninth inning. Nothing came out of that moment, but players saw that as a dirty move.
Pete Rose Pummels the Catcher
During the 1970 All-Star Game, Pete Rose made headlines for taking out the catcher at home plate via a barrel roll. What made this play so bizarre was that it was during the All-Star Game, so there was nothing on the line. Pete Rose, while an aggressive player, to say the least, may have gone too hard on that play.
Manny Machado Losing his Bat
Manny Machado threw his bat towards the third baseman and pretended he was swinging at the pitch, which was interesting. The thrown bat to third base was prominent, so both teams benches immediately cleared. Machado was right in the middle of the scuffle, and has a long history of scuffles.
Roger Clemens vs. Mike Piazza
Roger Clemens of the New York Yankees and Mike Piazza of the New York Mets could not stand each other. The most memorable of memorable moments between these two came in the 2000 World Series at the Old Yankee Stadium. Mike Piazza hit a foul ball that had his bat shatter towards Roger Clemens at the pitcher’s mound. Roger Clemens then took that broken bat and threw it right in the direction of Mike Piazza. Immediately, both players began barking at each other while the benches did clear on both sides.
A.J Pierzynski vs Michael Barret
Another classic moment between two rivals, like the Yankees and Mets above, came from the two Chicago baseball teams. During a game in 2006, A.J Pierzynski (Chicago White Sox) and Michael Barret (Chicago Cubs) got into a fistfight at home plate. A.J Pierzynski collided into Michael Barret to break up the play at home, so Michael Barret punched him in the face. A brawl took place immediately after that play, and that was something most fans haven’t seen since 2006.
What are Unwritten Rules Baseball Fans Should Follow?
Sports players and announcers have unofficial rules to follow, but fans do as well. The fan rules below are less known to more casual fans, but look out for these on your next visits. Here is the breakdown of unwritten rules for baseball fans to follow.
Saying “We” When Talking about the Team
If you are not a sports fan at all, you will hear fans say the word “we” when discussing the team and think it is odd. While the argument of “you are not on the team” gets tossed around, fans of organizations have a different approach. The “we” part of the discussion pertains to the emotional interest that fans have with their players, team, and city. By referring to “we,” you highlight that you are part of something much larger than you as an individual.
Some teams make sure to incorporate their fans as part of their team, however. The Seattle Seahawks are famous for their “12th Man” mentality at their NFL home games. The crowd at the football stadium is the loudest in the league, so the team recognizes the advantage of playing games in their home in Seattle. Incorporating the “12th Man” mentality to the fans makes them feel even more in tune with what the team is doing daily.
What to Do with a Foul Ball / Homerun?
If an adult catches a baseball thrown into the crowd, they should give that ball to a kid. The chances are that the MLB player was trying to give the ball to a kid, so don’t keep it. However, you do have the right as an adult to keep a home run ball if you make that catch.
Throwing an Opponents Homerun Back into the Field
If you catch a home run from an opposing team player, you can throw the ball back into the field. However, you should only do this if you are rooting against the home ballpark’s visiting team. If you throw back the home team’s home run, you’ll get an earful from fans near you.
Being on Your Phone / Bringing a Book to a Game
You may have a hard time staying off your phone at a baseball game, but you should try. While this unofficial rule has become more socially acceptable, fans still want people around them to be into the game.
A fan once brought a book to a Royals MLB game and read it while sitting in the front row. While reading a book at a baseball game was undoubtedly funny, you want to respect your fellow fans. Sitting next to someone who is not into the game can ruin your own experience. It is the same thought process of being on your phone in a movie theather. Wile you are trying not to distract others, you most likely are.
Are the Unwritten Rules of Baseball Stupid?
Throughout this piece, we have gone over unofficial rules to follow for batters, hitters, fielders, announcers, and fans in baseball. The question of “are the unwritten rules of baseball stupid” is all subjective. Having these unofficial rules is something generations have followed, so there is a history to the game. On the other hand, you can argue that times are changing, so fans and players should adapt.
Major League Baseball is a game with plenty of official rules to remember. However, learning the unofficial rules are sometimes even more interesting to remember. Next time you go to the ballpark, see if you can spot these unofficial rules during the game. As times change, you can find most of these unofficial rules become more relaxed to make the game fun.
A famous saying of “let the kids play” is something fans are looking for in the future of baseball. While other sports like the NBA or NFL can celebrate after doing something, baseball is conservative with celebrating these moments. Times may change to relax this measure, but for now, we will continue with the unofficial rules.