Ask someone who knows little to nothing about baseball to name a famous player, and they might well say Babe Ruth. Baseball fans, of course, know about his heroics on the field — 714 home runs, a record that stood for 39 years until 1974. But less familiar are the scrapes that his ill discipline got him into. Some of the stories about “the Bambino” are truly shocking. Ruth was at times an extremely difficult man, yet his outstanding contribution to the game of baseball stands as his lasting legacy.
1. Ruth’s suitcase
Besides his extraordinary talents on the baseball field, there was something else that Babe Ruth was famous for: hell-raising. This led to a famous quote attributed to one of either two of his fellow players and roommates, Ping Bodie and Jimmie Reese. According to Sports Illustrated, one or both of them once said, “I don’t room with Ruth; I room with his suitcase.” There’s another telling quote about Ruth’s downtime habits, this time from Waite Hoyt remembering visits to Ruth’s hotel room: “No matter what the town, the beer would be iced and the bottles would fill the bathtub.”
2. Candy controversy
It was 1921, and the Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago was struggling with poor sales. Company boss Otto Schering was casting around for something to pull his firm out of the doldrums. He hit upon a plan, deciding to revamp the firm’s “Kandy Kake” candy bar. The new version, the History website tells us, was “a chocolate-covered candy bar with peanuts, caramel and nougat.” He decided to ditch the Kandy Kake handle, renaming it “Baby Ruth.” The new bar was an immediate and massive hit. Babe Ruth obviously suspected that Schnering was piggybacking on this hard-earned fame and sued, but this was one game he lost.
3. Baseball Hall of Fame
Aged 40, the Sultan of Swing finally hung up his bat in 1935. The very next year the Baseball Hall of Fame was inaugurated, although it would be three more years before the National Baseball Museum would open its doors in Cooperstown, New York. Five players were selected as the first inductees and, of course, one of them had to be Babe Ruth. But, surprisingly, his selection wasn’t unanimous. Of the 226 Baseball Writers’ Association of America members who voted, 11 of them left Ruth off their nomination list. Given his record, that’s astonishing.
4. Delinquent, incorrigible and wayward
In 1902 Babe Ruth, or George Herman Ruth, Jr. as he still was, entered the forbiddingly named Baltimore institution St. Mary’s Industrial School for Orphans, Delinquent, Incorrigible and Wayward Boys. His parents were still alive, incidentally, but by all accounts they simply couldn’t cope with the unruly boy. Ruth spent 12 years at St. Mary’s, beginning at the age of seven. It wasn’t time wasted, since it was there that he developed his affection for baseball. He signed with minor league side Baltimore Orioles in 1914.
5. Not just home runs
Ruth’s record of scoring an incredible 714 home runs during his professional career is the main achievement on which his fame rests. Then again, there was also his slugging percentage of .690, which still stands today as an all-time major-league record. He was also a formidable left-handed pitcher when he was with the Boston Red Sox in the 1910s. His pitching helped the team win 89 games over the course of six seasons, with 24 of those wins coming in 1917 alone. With Ruth as their star pitcher, the Boston Red Sox also won three World Series titles.
6. He didn’t know his exact birthday for most of his life
If you’d asked Ruth what date he was born, for many years he would have replied without hesitation: “February 7, 1894.” But as he was preparing to travel to Japan for a series of exhibition games with an all-star team, he realized that he didn’t have a passport. To apply for one he got hold of a copy of his birth certificate. The official document was unequivocal — his birth date was actually February 6, 1895. So he was a year and a day older than he’d thought for so much of his life. By then he’d got so used to February 7 as his birthday that he stuck with it.
7. Family tragedy
Ruth’s father George Herman Ruth Sr. owned a number of bars in Baltimore. One day, in the summer of 1918, he was working in one of his own bars, and among those he was serving were two of his brothers-in-law. These relatives became embroiled in a violent argument which spilled out onto the street. Ruth Sr. followed them out, a fight started, and he intervened. Babe’s father fell during the fracas and banged his head on the ground. The blow fractured his skull and, although he was rushed to hospital, he subsequently died. A tragic day for the Ruth family.
8. Serving time
Ruth and automobiles had a somewhat toxic relationship. He crashed his Packard in 1920 as he drove through Pennsylvania, and rumor had it that he’d been under the influence. He was also frequently fined for breaking speed limits. In June 1921 he was stopped for speeding in Manhattan. In court, he was sentenced to one day in jail on top of a $100 fine. Ruth was actually due to play for the Yankees the day he got out, and he only managed to make it to the stadium after the game had already started.
9. His first wife died under mysterious circumstances
Babe Ruth married Helen Woodford in 1914 in Ellicott City, Maryland, while they were in their teens. The couple separated in 1925, and Helen went on to live with a dentist, Edward Kinder, in Watertown, Massachusetts. In 1929 a fire broke out at the Kinder household, and Helen died in the blaze. At first no one knew she’d been married to Ruth. The truth was discovered not long before her funeral.
10. A career ends
The teams Ruth is most strongly connected with are the Boston Red Sox and later the New York Yankees. But he didn’t, in fact, end his career with the Yankees. As he aged, his form began to deteriorate and the Yankees released him. Now Ruth returned to Boston, but not to the Red Sox. In 1935 the last side he played for was the National League team Boston Braves, where he played out the twilight of his 22-year career with 28 appearances for his final team. After that came retirement.
11. Why Babe?
George Herman Ruth, Jr. wasn’t just a magnet for home runs, he also attracted an extraordinary number of nicknames. There was the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, and the Caliph of Clout. Plus, of course, Babe. So, why was he Babe? When Ruth was 19, he got his first pro contract with the Baltimore Orioles. The team manager was Jack Dunn, who officially adopted Ruth in an effort to make sure he stayed with the Orioles. Ruth’s fellow players ribbed him about this, calling him “Dunn’s baby,” and that soon became simply “Babe.”
12. An angry Bambino
Every pitcher wants to get a no-hitter. Ruth only ever managed that once, but it wasn’t exactly an outstanding achievement. In June 1917, when Ruth was playing with the Boston Red Sox, he was the opening pitcher in a game against the Washington Senators. Ruth succeeded in seeing off the Senator’s first batter, but then things went downhill. He got into a furious dispute with the umpire that ended with him punching the official, resulting in an instant ejection. Ernie Shore replaced Ruth and completed a no-hitter, which still appeared in the record books with Ruth’s name next to it.
13. Ruth knocked himself out running into an outfield wall
In July 1924 Ruth was on the field for the New York Yankees as they played the first game of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium. It was in the fourth inning that Ruth suffered a bizarre mishap. As The New York Times reported, “The Babe ran into the pavilion parapet with the full force of his body, and dropped unconscious to the grass.” Ruth was out for a full five minutes, but when he finally came to, he refused to leave the field. He carried on, limping as he’d also banged his hip, and managed two hits.
14. The “called shot”
One of the many legends that swirl around Ruth is the tale of the “called shot” during the 1932 World Series, when the Cubs and the Yankees were tied at 4-4. Ruth was ready to bat and pointed at the centerfield fence, indicating he’d put the ball over it. Which is, indeed, what happened. The Yankees went on to win the game — and the series. Many later disputed the truth of this story, but, in a radio interview that emerged years later, Ruth’s teammate Lou Gehrig said he was certain the “called shot” story was absolutely true.
15. Curse of the Bambino
It was the day after Christmas in 1919, when the New York Yankees signed the Sultan of Swat from the Boston Red Sox. The Boston side had tasted success many times, winning five of the first 15 World Series tournaments — and Ruth had played important roles in three of those victories. In 1919 he demanded a doubling of his already lavish salary, which was deemed too much for owner Harry Frazee. He let Ruth go. After that, Red Sox fans believed their team was cursed. The next 84 seasons brought only four World Series titles, which was the “curse of the Bambino.”
16. He often wore cabbage underneath his hat
If you’d asked Babe Ruth to lift his cap during a ball-game, you really would have been astonished. Under his headgear, the man habitually had a cabbage leaf resting atop his head. Why on Earth would do such a thing? Well, because he believed it was an effective method of keeping cool. And actually, there was method to this seeming madness. Ruth kept his cabbage leaves in a cooler and changed the leaves every two innings.
17. Beer and hotdog time
Having a snack and cooling drink while waiting to bat is hardly unusual behavior for baseball players. But Babe Ruth took this habit to extraordinary levels. When he was playing for the Yankees in a match at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, he’d actually get an usher to surreptitiously let him out of the stadium by a side door. Then he’d stroll a few steps along the street to a convenient bar called McCuddy’s. There Ruth would treat himself to a beer and a hot dog before returning to the dugout. Unfortunately you can’t make a pilgrimage to McCuddy’s today — it shut in 1988.
18. No sun please
Any baseball fielder will tell you that trying to take a ball with the sun shining directly into your face can be a nightmare. In the summer of 1922 Ruth had exactly this experience and lost sight of a ball altogether while playing in left field. After that, he refused to bat if it meant he’d be facing the sun. This meant that from then on, he would only play in certain positions in relation to a stadium’s geographic orientation. For example, at the Polo Ground and Yankee Stadium, he’d play only right field. But in the likes of Chicago, Boston, and Detroit it had to be left field.
19. Fragile friendship
That Ruth could be a touchy type is illustrated by the spiky relationship he had with that other great Yankees player of the era, Lou Gehrig. Gehrig and Ruth first met in 1923, when the former joined the Yankees. For many years the two enjoyed a warm friendship, but things went pear-shaped in the 1930s. Gehrig’s mother Christina said some critical words about the way Ruth’s wife Claire dressed her children. Subsequently Ruth confronted Gehrig about the comments and that triggered the end of their friendship for several years. Eventually they did make up in 1939, after Gehrig was diagnosed with a serious illness.
20. Radiation treatment
In 1946 Ruth turned 51 and had been retired for 11 years. It was then that bad news came his way. After he’d experienced difficulty in swallowing and pains in his eyes, Ruth’s doctor found a cancerous tumor in Ruth’s neck. Back in the 1940s, effective treatment for cancer was in its infancy, but experimental therapies using radiation and a cocktail of drugs were under way. Ruth became one of the very first individuals to undergo this type of treatment. But despite this new regimen, Ruth died a couple of years later in 1948.
21. A future president
During the final year of his life, Ruth went to Yale to present the university with a signed edition of his autobiography. One of the students, the university’s baseball team captain, accepted the gift in the summer of 1948. He was a certain George H. W. Bush, who, of course, went on to serve as U.S. president from 1989 to 1993. It was a poignant moment, as Ruth would be dead just a couple of months after the two met. Later President Bush was to remember how frail Ruth, stricken by late-stage cancer, looked.
22. A survivor
Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1895 into a family that was far from stable. Both his mother Kate and his father George Ruth Sr. were often absent due to work commitments, plus the latter was an alcoholic. George and Kate actually had eight children, but only two of them survived past infancy. Apart from Ruth, the only one to live to adulthood was his little sister Mary, known by all as Mamie. Some of her brother’s celebrity rubbed off on Mamie — when asked for her autograph she would often write “Babe Ruth’s sister.” She long outlived her sibling, dying in 1992 at the age of 91.
23. The most uninhibited human
Ruth had a well-earned reputation of being a man with a short temper. In his 2011 biography of Ruth, Robert Creamer quoted the words of journalist John Drebinger. “He was the most uninhibited human being I have ever known,” wrote Drebinger. “He just did things.” One thing he did in 1920, when he was with the Yankees, particularly stands out. Somebody in the stands was hurling insults at Ruth. He was not a man to take this philosophically, and he hared off into the crowd to confront the man. That was when his critic threatened him with a knife. Fortunately Ruth emerged from the confrontation unscathed.
24. A tangled family
Ruth’s second marriage came in 1929. His bride was a former Ziegfeld Follies showgirl, Claire Merritt. It was a second marriage for Claire, as well — her first husband Frank Hodgson had died in 1921. Claire had a daughter, Julia, with Hodgson, and Ruth adopted her. Ruth had already adopted a child, Dorothy, in 1921, while married to his first wife Helen Hodgson. Dorothy was brought up to believe that her mother was Helen. It wasn’t until 1980 that she found that, in fact, she’d been born to one of Ruth’s mistresses, Juanita Jennings. After Hodgson’s death in 1929, Dorothy lived with Ruth and Claire.
25. A foul mouth
Ruth’s temper, combined with a foul mouth, got him into plenty of hot water in 1922. When umpire Bill Dinneen made a call at second base, Ruth ran to tell him he’d made a mistake. In doing so, he called Dinneen “one of the vilest names known,” as American League president Ban Johnson put it. That earned Ruth a three-game suspension. Undaunted, Ruth got into another verbal fracas with Dinneen the very next day. That cost the Sultan of Swing two more suspension days. Then a couple of months later, he cursed after striking out. Result: ejection and three more days suspension.
26. Banned bat
Always on the lookout for an advantage on the playing field, in the summer of 1923 Ruth began to play with a new kind of bat. This had been developed by fellow star player Sam Crawford, and it was a variation on the normal bat construction. Instead of using one piece of wood to fashion the bat, Crawford’s innovation consisted of four lengths of wood glued together. But American League president Ban Johnson cried foul on the Babe’s novel bat. He instigated a new regulation stipulating that all bats must be made from a single piece of timber.
27. Discipline woes
Discipline was never one of Ruth’s strong suits. Eventually the Babe’s manager at the Yankees, Miller Huggins, decided that he’d had enough of his star player’s rule-breaking. One day in August 1925, Ruth arrived late at the stadium yet again. Determined to make the Bambino mend his ways, Huggins meted out a truly draconian punishment. He fined Ruth $5,000 and slapped him with an indefinite suspension. Ruth was only allowed back to play after he’d made a full apology for his behavior in front of the entire Yankees team.
28. Ambition thwarted
Ruth’s achievements on the playing field could hardly have been bettered. But there was something else that the Babe craved — the chance to manage a team. But despite his legendary skills as a player, he couldn’t shake off the reputation he had for volatility and unpredictability. In 2013 Sports Illustrated quoted the words of Ed Barrow, Yankees general manager during the Ruth era. “How can he manage other men when he can’t even manage himself?” was Barrow’s scathing assessment. Towards the end of his career, Ruth angled for management positions at the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers. But he never did get to be a team boss.
Things weren’t entirely happy for the young Ruth with his first pro team, the Boston Red Sox, especially when it came to the established senior players on the side. As far as they were concerned, rookies should keep quiet and show respect. But that really wasn’t the bold youngster’s style. Although he’d been taken on as pitcher, Ruth insisted on taking part in batting practice. This sat poorly with some of his teammates. To put him in his place, they chopped his bats in half. Of course, with an eventual career record of 714 home runs, the Bambino had the last laugh.
30. Young love
The Babe wasn’t one to hang around once he’d made his mind up about something. So, in 1914, when he was 19 and met 16-year-old coffee shop waitress Helen Woodford after a brief courtship, he proposed marriage. The wedding took place within the year, and the couple settled in a homestead in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Although the early days of the marriage were apparently happy, by 1925 the pair were living separately — Ruth in New York City and Helen back in Massachusetts. Both Catholic, they never divorced, but the marriage ended with Helen’s death in 1929.
Knowing the rules is the name of the game
It was clear that Babe knew his way around the diamond, but that might be more impressive than it sounds. Baseball has a thick rulebook, with regulations covering everything from what’s a strike to how a uniform must look. But there are even more laws than the ones in the book: the unwritten code of the game. Here we’re going to take a look at some of the unwritten rules that many insist are just as important as the official ones.
1. Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter
It’s late in the game, and the opposing pitcher is on fire. You just can’t catch a break. Any time a hitter on your team does get a piece of the ball, it goes straight to a fielder. So you’re tempted to bunt the next one, just to get on base. You do it, but the fans start booing. Even your own supporters. Oh no, you just broke one of the rules…
Bunting is a cheap way to buy a hit, or so the thinking goes. And for a pitcher, losing a no-hitter thanks to a bunt hurts. For confirmation, we could ask Curt Schilling. San Diego Padres hitter Ben Davis broke up a perfect game in 2001 when he bunted Schilling for a hit. Worse came in Triple A in 2019 when Trenton Thunder’s Matt Lipka bunted on the last out of the game. The benches cleared for that one!
2. Don’t run up the score
Baseball doesn’t have a mercy rule, so when it goes badly, it can really go badly. To lessen the pain, the unwritten rule is that you don’t go out of your way to put runs on the board against a side you’re beating heavily. The blood really starts to boil when the other side has brought out its right fielder to save its pitchers in a blowout, and he gets smashed out of the park.
Handed a hammering
Not everyone obeys this rule, of course, and there have been some huge shellackings in the past. The biggest of all time came when the Texas Rangers handed the Baltimore Orioles a hammering in 2007. The Rangers hadn’t even gotten on the board after three innings, but then the floodgates opened. They ended up smashing 30 runs against the Os, who could only put up three in answer.
3. Don’t swing on 3-0 when you’re winning easily
Not running up the score is a theme of the “rules.” It’s all to do with showing respect to your rivals. You’re both trying your hardest, so why do things that mock them? So swinging when you’re in a 3-0 count is a no-no. But some question why it makes things better to let a pitcher have a free strike now and then.
Among those questioners is Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. The young star smacked a grand slam off a Rangers pitcher in 2021. Tatis was sorry after he did it, though, given the furor it raised. He said, “I’ve been in this game since I was a kid. I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. Those experiences, you have to learn. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch.”
4. Hit a hitter if they hit a hitter
Look away if you are squeamish: we’re getting to the tough stuff. From time to time, a pitcher will hit one of your hitters. Sometimes it’s an accident — the pitch got away from the hurler or your guy just didn’t get out of the way — but sometimes you’re sure it was intentional. Then it’s time for one of theirs to get hit in revenge.
Well, if you think that sounds silly, you’re not alone. Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds reliever, thinks it’s too much. He told ESPN in 2021, “You see the way somebody gets dunked and how they get in their face, or you see Russell Westbrook play and how he’s talking mess to the other team, that’s a lot of players in the NBA. They don’t get upset because they’re like, ‘Well, I’ve got to get you back.”
5. Don’t be foul when it’s hit foul
This one isn’t a rule for the players. It’s for the fans in the crowd, although you will see fielders throw a ball to a kid in the crowd. The rule is that if you catch a foul ball when you’re in the crowd, you should hand it to the kid nearest you. This way, the kid gets a souvenir that will last, and you have the memory of catching it.
Now, if that fielder throws the ball, and you catch it, what are you supposed to do? You guessed it. Give it to the nearest kid. They probably meant the kid to get the ball anyway. There’s an exception to this “rule,” though. If you have a kid at home, you can take it for them. But make sure everyone near you knows what you’re doing, or you’ll be considered the worst kind of ballgame villain.
6. Center fielders call the ball
One of the worst moments in baseball comes when a ball is smashed skywards, but no one calls for the catch. Two outfielders come together, and thwack! To avoid the collision, one of the “rules” comes into play. The center fielder gets to call off other outfielders if he thinks he can catch the ball.
Fielders can come together when the ball shoots into a gap between them. And the center fielder is usually the fastest player in the outfield, so he gets across the ground often. We all know how crucial communication is in these circumstances, and it’s normal for a fielder to call for the catch. But if you hear the center fielder, get out of his way!
7. Keep off the mound
So you’re the batter, and you tried for second on a play, but you were thrown out. Time to head back to the dugout. The natural shortest route would be straight over the pitcher’s mound. Uh-oh! You’d better go round. It doesn’t matter that you’d just run over it without damaging it at all. Nope. It’s the pitcher’s carefully defended territory.
Back in 2010 a player ignored this unwritten rule. It was star batter Alex Rodriguez, taking the quickest way to the bench after his hit was pouched. Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden didn’t take kindly to the idea of a hitter, even one as talented as A-Rod, touching his mound, and he gave the New York Yankee legend both barrels.
8. Don’t fall in love with your dingers
Perhaps nothing in baseball causes conflict as much as the bat flip. A batter hits a towering home run and stops to take a long, loving look at the ball as it disappears out of the diamond. Then he flips his bat way up in the air as he trots around the bases. Now that’s a guy who’s going to feel one in his bread basket next at-bat.
Pitchers hate it. It’s hard enough facing batters such as Jose Bautista as it is. And in 2015 Bautista, playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, smashed a dinger against Sam Dyson, relieving for the Rangers. It was a beauty, and certainly the champion hitter thought so. His bat spun through an epic flip, and he sauntered around the bases reveling in the glory.
9. Don’t rub on the mark where you were hit
If the pitcher does retaliate for some slight or other, or just accidentally tags you with his fast ball, that’s going to sting. But you can’t crumble with pain and start rubbing on the welt that the ball has left. No way. You’re a big, tough ball player. Grin it off, son, and pretend it never happened.
A walk — probably
Of course, you get a walk when it happens. Unless you tried to hit it. Then it’s a strike, even if the pitcher hit you on purpose. It’s also a strike if you are hit in the strike zone. And it’s not even a walk if it hits you outside of the strike zone if you didn’t make any effort to get out of the way.
10. Don’t talk about a no-hitter
This rule’s for fans and commentators. You never mention that the game’s on its way to a no-hitter. This is like asking the fates to break up the perfect game. But as ridiculous as it may sound, this is one of the most solid unwritten rules that exist in baseball. Commentators will go to huge lengths not to talk about no-hitters.
Button your lip!
In 1947 the first time the World Series was shown on TV, it was called by Mel Allen. And he kept schtum about the no-hitter. He said, “Obviously, what I said or didn’t say in the booth wasn’t going to inﬂuence anything that happened on the ﬁeld. But I’ve always known that players on the bench don’t mention a no-hitter; they respect the dugout tradition. And I’ve always done the same. It’s part of the romance of the game.”
11. Don’t try to distract the other team’s fielders
Baseball is supposed to be played with respect. Two teams of gentlemen meet on the field of combat, and then they, erm, play nice with each other. It might seem curious, but it’s really how the game is played. No one mocks other players, either on their team or the opponent. This includes not distracting fielders when they’re trying to catch the ball.
So it was no wonder that there was uproar when A-Rod — yes, him again — called off an opposing player when he was attempting a play at the ball. This was a serious breach of the rules, and A-Rod was lucky he didn’t try it against pitcher Bob Gibson’s team. He knew how to bear a grudge, once deliberately targeting a guy 15 years after he’d crossed Gibson.
12. Don’t let the pitcher catch a popup
We’ve all seen this one. A ball balloons off the hitter’s bat, and it’s hanging in the air right above the pitcher. Then suddenly the infielders rush in, frantically calling for the catch. They’re horrified that the pitcher might actually… try to catch the ball. It’s almost unheard of! But is it, really?
A lot of pitchers are actually really good fielders. They make plays all the time that require the same athleticism as any infielder shows. In June 2022 Cleveland Guardian Trevor Stephan caught a rocket on the mound. Some thought it was a web gem, one of the best of the season. An admiring fan even claimed he didn’t so much as flinch.
13. The umpire should make up for bad calls
Now umpires aren’t perfect, we all know that. They always give all the calls to the other side. Right? Well, you’d think so to listen to fans. But it’s actually an unwritten rule that if the ump gives you the hump with a really egregious call, he pays you back later in the game with one your way.
This rule might soon be a thing of the past, because there’s a chance that umpires will be replaced with robots. They’ve been used in the minor leagues to huge success. Long Island Ducks manager Wally Backman, known to love an argument, told New Yorker magazine in 2021 that he loved them, saying, “It’s gonna be in the major leagues in a lot shorter time than people think.”
14. Don’t get out at third
No one likes to be put out, but it is just terrible to be out at third. You’re so near to scoring. But the unwritten rule is not to give up your first or third out at the base. Well, yeah, it feels bad, but it’s not as though you were out on purpose! We’re guessing the idea is that you should be cautious when you’re only 90 feet from scoring.
But when the stats boffins looked at the numbers, they found out something that might surprise you. Yes, it makes no big difference whether you’re at third or at some other base for the first out. You don’t want to make the third out there because it’s really costly in expected runs. And just as bad, getting out at home. But for the first out, the base doesn’t matter.
15. If we’re fighting, we’re all fighting
Now sportsmen are like anybody. They have tempers that can be snapped in the wrong circumstances, such as when these rules are broken. And then things can come to a boil, and a fight can break out. In most games, two guys will trade blows, and that’s that. Not in baseball. If there’s a fight, both teams will join in, including the players on the bench and even the managers, sometimes.
A good example was in 2022 when the New York Mets encountered the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards are renowned as sticklers for the unwritten rules, and they were furious when Met Yoan López shot one in inside and high at batter Nolan Arenado. A mess of players got involved in the fighting, including even the relief pitchers who were working out many yards from the action.
16. Don’t walk in front of the umpire and catcher
So you know to keep away from the pitcher’s mound when you’re out and leaving the field. But did you also know that when you’re coming in, you should avoid walking in front of the catcher and pitcher? Yes, you are supposed to walk into the box from the back of them.
Not too close!
That’s not all. If the pitcher is getting ready to join the game, you shouldn’t stand near the box. You can stand back and take a look at his action, but you can’t be near to him. Pitchers find it intimidating, and doing so is an invitation to a rib-tickler — and not one you’ll find funny either.
17. Don’t make hitters who strike out feel bad
Now when you watch soccer, you’ll see wild celebrations over a score, but that’s not the baseball way. And it’s doubly not on to give it up when you get someone out on the other side. Even worse than pimping your homer is a pitcher who celebrates striking out a batter. The most you’re allowed is a quick pump of the fist.
Not everyone agrees with this rule. Take Jose Fernandez. He used to love getting batters out. He’d get them out swinging and then stare at them as they trudged off, fist pumping. But he played fair: he didn’t mind when a batter stood and admired dingers that they hit off his pitching. For Fernandez, that was just all part of the contest.
18. Don’t get the stealing feeling
Here’s a rule that applies when you’re miles ahead and when you’re miles behind. No, it’s not “just go home.” No mercy rule, remember? Instead, the unwritten rule is to not try to steal a base. There’s just no point if you’re behind, and you’ll look silly when you fail. And if you’re ahead, well, you’re just rubbing it in.
Once again, not everyone sticks to this one. In 2009 Tampa Bay Ray Carl Crawford stole a base with his team up 7-0 against the Oakland A’s. Surely an infringement? Well, opponent Kurt Suzuki didn’t think so. He told newspaper the San Francisco Chronicle, “He plays the game hard. He plays the game right.”
19. All fielders must stay fair
Now here’s one that might seem obvious to you. Before the ball is in play, all fielders bar the catcher must be in fair territory. Even if they feel the batter is sure to foul this one off, so they could get a jump, they mustn’t position themselves behind the foul line. And this one isn’t just unwritten — it’s actually in the official rules.
No predefined positions
After all, the fielders can stand anywhere they like that’s fair. They don’t have to be in predefined positions, as anyone who’s seen a big shift knows. So what happens if you stand in foul territory and catch the ball? It doesn’t count. If the batter smacks a homer? It counts.
20. Pitchers have to hang around
Sometimes pitchers have a bad day. They get hit, the other team puts runs on the board, and all the poor hurler wants to do is get in the showers and call it a day. But it’s an unwritten rule that he can’t do that if he left runners on, and the inning is continuing. Nope, he has to sit in the dugout and watch his relief try to fix his problems.
Nowhere to hide
Nor can the pitcher sprint from the mound to hide his head in shame when it all goes wrong. He has to hang out right there until the manager turns up to take the ball from him. But even Major League Baseball isn’t a huge fan of the unwritten rules. In 2018 it ran a campaign claiming that kids should be allowed to ignore them and on today’s social media, it celebrates bat flips and extravagant catches.