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Umpires

You Make The Call: Dead Ball on Third Strike

By Tom Lepperd
MLB Director, Umpire Administration

With two out, the batter swings and misses at a pitch in the dirt. The pitch bounces off the catcher into the air, and the batter's bat strikes the ball, causing it to roll into foul territory. What's the proper ruling?

The options were:

A. Foul ball.
B. Batter is out for interference.
C. Strike three; the ball is dead.
D. The ball is alive and in play, and batter-runner must be thrown out at 1st base, the same as on any other dropped third strike with two out.

The correct answer is "C": The batter is out, and the ball is dead.

The last paragraph of the Casebook Notes to rule 6.06(c) precisely cover this play. (Casebook Notes are shown in italic print in the Official Rules and carry the same weight as the Official Rules.)

Many of you correctly pointed out that were two strikes on the batter in this play, and that is why the batter took off for first base after striking out.

We had quite a number of fans who answered this question correctly. Thanks for all the interest shown by our fans!

Some examples of our rules "experts" for this installment include:

G. Ramsay, Kingston, MA:

My first reaction was to answer with "d"; however, after reading 6.06(c), paragraph 3 of the rule explanation, "if a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire's judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing before the catcher has securely held the ball, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play. I feel "c" is the correct answer.

P. Géronne, Germany:

"6.06 A batter is out for illegal action when ... (c) … If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire's judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing before the catcher has securely held the ball, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play."

Point 4.11 PBUC Umpire Manual:

"If this infraction should occur in a situation where the batter would normally become a runner because of a third strike not caught, the ball shall be dead and the batter declared out."

Charles A. Reichel:

Rule 6.06 states ...If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire's judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing before the catcher has securely held the ball, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play.

So the umpire must decide "intentional" or "not intentional". However, in either case, the batter will be out. If it was intentional, the batter would be out for interfering with the catcher trying to make a play at the plate. In this case, it appears to be unintentional, and therefore, ruled simply a strike and the ball is dead. No runners can advance, including the batter-runner. Since it was strike three and the ball is dead, he is out without requiring first base or himself to be tagged.

That's my ruling and I'm sticking to it. (Ha!)

David Danning:

The answer is "C." This situation is explicitly addressed in the case book material in Rule 6.06(c): "If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and ... unintentionally hits the ... ball in back of him on the backswing before the catcher has securely held the ball, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead..."

So, strike three. Since the ball is dead, I assume there is no need for the catcher to have caught the third strike, so the batter is out.