Official Baseball Rule 1.04 Note (a) states:
Any Playing Field constructed by a professional club after June 1, 1958, shall provide a minimum distance of 325 feet from home base to the nearest fence, stand or other obstruction on the right and left field foul lines, and a minimum distance of 400 feet to the center field fence.Rule 1.04 Note (a) seems pretty clear; it requires the dimensions of any modernly built playing fields to be built at a minimum of 325 feet down the lines and 400 feet to center field. But what happens if this rule is ignored by a professional club in a newly built stadium? What is the penalty, if there is any? Is that penalty imposed by the game umpires or the league office? Before looking into what Rule 1.04 Note (a) entails, it is noteworthy to look at the basis for the rule's creation.
|The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Dodgers|
from 1958 through 1961.
With the left field fence just 251 feet from home plate, MLB Commissioner Ford Frick ordered Los Angeles to construct two screens—one up against the left field wall and another in the stands, some 333 feet away from home plate. Frick approved the adoption of a ground rule that would have made any ball clearing the first, but not second screen to be a ground-rule double, while balls clearing both screens would be a home run. The Dodgers agreed to construction of the first screen—a 42-foot high barrier designed to prevent pop flies from becoming home runs—though California earthquake laws prevented the second screen from being built.
It was this short, yet steep porch in left that Dodgers outfielder Wally Moon took advantage of, clubbing several fly balls over the tall screen and coining the phrase, "Moon Shot."
As Frick and baseball's rules panel passed Rule 1.04 Note later that season, most ballclubs abided by its terms, though some requested provisional exemptions:
- Denied: Frick denied the Los Angeles Angels' request to use the Coliseum as their home park upon joining the American League in 1961. Instead, the Angels shared Dodger Stadium with the former Brooklyn club, calling the property Chavez Ravine so as not to confuse their fans.
- Approved: The Baltimore Orioles were granted an exemption in the construction of Camden Yards along the right field foul line due to the constraint of building a stadium up against the established B&O Warehouse building. In exchange for a 318-foot right field wall, the Orioles constructed it to a height of 25 (now 21) feet.
- Approved: PNC Park's right field wall is similarly just 320 feet from home plate due to the Allegheny River just beyond the facility's outfield. Similar to Camden Yards, PNC Park's right field wall is exactly 21 feet tall in a tribute to former Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente, who wore number 21.
- Approved: After leaving Candlestick Park, the San Francisco Giants settled on a parcel of land adjacent to the San Francisco Bay and McCovey Cove. Due to such proximity, the Giants were authorized an exemption to their right field dimensions; the foul pole is 309 feet away from home plate.
- Approved: When the Houston Astros constructed Minute Maid Park, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig authorized the construction of the Crawford Boxes, a seating area in left field just 315 feet away from home plate. In exchange, the left field wall is 19 feet tall.
- Approved: San Diego's Petco Park features a right field foul line just 322 feet in length, three feet short of the requisite 325 dimension. With design elements calling for a spectator seating section known as the Jury Box in right field, the yard shortage was approved.
- Approved: As the New York Yankees prepared to tear down the so-called "Old" Yankee Stadium and construct a new replica park in its place, Selig authorized an exemption to both the left and right field walls, which are just 318 and 314 feet from home plate, respectively, identical to the dimensions of the Old Stadium, though the heights of the new walls (8.5 feet and 8 feet) are actually lower than the heights at the Old Stadium (10 feet).