Doubles on the ground, automatic and a moment of madness at Fenway

While people wondered if Kevin Kiermaier’s double in 13th Sunday’s Divisional Series game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red ...


While people wondered if Kevin Kiermaier’s double in 13th Sunday’s Divisional Series game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park was called correctly by the referees (it was), a second debate emerged over what to call such a move.

Was it a basic rule double, as a referee called it after the game? Or an automatic double, as many people on social media have mentioned?

The answer is closer to the latter, by the definition of the term “ground rule”. But in colloquial use, the terms have become somewhat interchangeable.

Unlike sports with uniform specifications for their fields, baseball has always allowed at least some variation. As a result, parks have developed sets of ground rules, separate from the standard playing rules, to account for quirks caused by the design and location of the park.

While many of the ground rules are simple, like a ball lodged in the vines on the wall of Wrigley Field being called a double, others over the years have provided their fair share of laughs. One of the strangest came during the 1903 World Series, when more than 25,000 people attempted to crowd into Exhibition Park to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Boston Americans for the inaugural National League championship and the American League. There were so many spectators on the field that they put a rope between the flyers and the overflowing crowd. An improvised ground rule was created in which a ball that rolled in the crowd past the rope would be declared the triple ground rule. According to MLB.com, 17 ground rule trebles were hit in the nine-game series.

The Rays are among the teams who know the ground rules best from their home games at Tropicana Field. Walkways and other obstacles in the roof of their dome require a series of basic rules that referees must apply in their games depending on where the ball is struck:

  • A struck ball that strikes one of the two lower gangways (referred to as a “C-ring” and “D-ring”), including any lights or hanging objects attached to one of these gangways as well as the angled support rods that connect the “C-Ring” to the masts which support the “D-Ring” in fair territory: home run.

  • A struck ball that strikes either of the upper gangways (referred to as “A-Ring” and “B-Ring”), including the masts that support each of these gangways as well as any bent support rods that connect the “B-Ring” to masts supporting the “C-Ring” in fair territory: in play. If caught by the fielder, the batter is out and the runners advance at their own risk.

  • Batted ball which is not judged as a home run and which remains on a catwalk, a light or suspended object: two goals.

  • The batted ball strikes the catwalk, the light or an object suspended above the foul ball territory: dead ball.

In Kiermaier’s case, there was no ground rule involved. The ball landed on the playing field, ricocheted off Boston’s Hunter Renfroe and landed on the other side of the fence. As Renfroe never had possession of the ball, rule 5.06 (b) (4) (H) clearly states that the batter and runners are entitled to two bases from the time of the pitch. It is a uniform rule which would be called in any park, and would therefore be more precisely called automatic double.

But anyone who is confused by the terminology can be forgiven. Sam Holbrook, the team manager who correctly applied the decision on the field, used the term “double ground rule” at least three times in his post-game comments.

“There isn’t, he would have done this, would have done that,” Holbrook said. “It’s just flat in the rulebook, it’s a duplicate of the ground rule.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Doubles on the ground, automatic and a moment of madness at Fenway
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