Monday, June 11, 2012

Rule 3.16: Spectator Interference on Batted Ball

Spectator or fan interference is not a rule book nor ground rule double. Umpires must be familiar with Rules 2.00 [Interference (d)], which defines spectator interference as occuring when "a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and (1) touches a live ball or (2) touches a player and hinders and attempt to make a play on a live ball."

On any interference, the ball is immediately dead. Rule 3.16 specifically addresses the issue of spectator interference, prescribing the following course of remedy:
When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
During Sunday's contest between the Nationals and Red Sox at Fenway Park, 3B Umpire Dana DeMuth followed a ball past third base that had deflected off of third baseman Will Middlebrooks toward the stands. As the ball approached the short wall down the left field line, a fan reached over and plainly interfered by virtue of touching the live ball. As if to cover all bases, the fan and Middlebrooks additionally made contact.

As DeMuth and his crew conferenced in regards to runner placement, the umpires kept in mind that final fragment of Rule 3.16, authorizing an umpire to "impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference." Nullify—to cancel out, invalidate, make of no use or value.

Based on batter-runner Ian Desmond's actions, the umpires determined that had no interference occurred, Desmond would have held at first base; Desmond was accordingly awarded first, but not second, base.

Rule 3.16 also authorizes umpires to declare an out as a penalty to nullify the act of interference:
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.
Here are some additional instances and video clips of spectator (fan) interference:

May 12, 2012: 2B. The Giants' Melky Cabrera hits a grounder past first base. After a fan reaches over the wall down the right field line, the umpires allow R2 to score from second and award Cabrera second base.

May 11, 2012: 2B. Almost identical to the previous play, Braves catcher Brian McCann hit an apparent double down the line, which was interfered with by a fan reaching over the wall in foul territory.

May 1, 2012: 3B (No HR). A boundary call, a fan in Anaheim reached over the wall and interfered with an Erick Aybar fly ball near the high wall in right center field. Umpires awarded the speedy Aybar third base.

April 8, 2012: 2B (No HR). A fan reaches over the field of play in Tampa Bay's right field, preventing a possible Carlos Pena home run and holding the Rays' first baseman to a double.

April 5, 2011: Out. The Mets were awarded a third out by 1B Umpire Mike Winters as a fan in Philadelphia reached into the field of play as Carlos Beltran attempted to catch a Ben Francisco foul ball.

April 1, 2011: Out. Umpire Bill Welke ruled Rockies' Todd Helton out on fan interference after a spectator reached into the field of play as Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra slid toward the wall.

June 30, 2010: Out: After a fan interferes with Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's attempt to field a foul fly ball, 3B Umpire Todd Tichenor ruled Braves batter Melky Cabrera out.

July 7, 2009: Out. The Marlins' Alejandro De Aza was ruled out in San Francisco when a fan reached over the AT&T Park's short wall in foul territory, interfering with Randy Winn's opportunity to make a catch on De Aza's fly ball.

Spectator interference has also resulted in ejections:

September 4, 2011: Out; Ejections: Joe West (7). After Hunter Pence doubled into deep right field, crew chief Joe West elected to employ instant replay review, as in his opinion, a potential home run might have been subject to fan interference. Replays indicated a Phillies fan reached over the right field wall and interfered with Marlins right fielder Bryan Petersen's attempt to catch the fly ball; West declared Pence out under Rule 3.16's approved ruling, sparking a Charlie Manuel argument and ejection.

September 24, 2010: 3B; Ejections: Tim Timmons. After the Tigers scored two runs on a fan interference play, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing the placement of Casper Wells at third base.

August 19, 2009: No Interference; Ejections: Marvin Hudson. In a rare crew chief appearance from umpire Angel Hernandez, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was ejected after unsuccessfully arguing a foul ball on play that a fan unsuccessfully attempted to interfere with a batted ball in right field.


MattAB said...

Are the Nationals' TV guys generally pretty bad with homerisms? I never see any Nats' broadcasts really in my part of the country, but it seems like everytime a Nats' video is on this site their announcers are severly screwing up what the call was. I remember them doing that last year with the Mike Estabrook/Jeff Nelson call in Chicago, and now with this one they again show their general lack of knowledge for umpire protocal. The "junior members" of the crew didn't overrule Dana Demuth. Demuth never makes a placement call in this video, he simply signaled interferance, and there doesn't look to be any placement call made until after the consultation, which is generally how it is done, because Demuth can't see from his spot over by third base, looking at the stands, with his back to the infield, where Desmond would have ended up. It looks like the right call, mixed with some brutal commentary. And, to top it off, the guy who interfered was in Nats gear, and not a Red Sox fan. By my claculation I'm not sure the announcers got even one detail of this video clip correct.

MattAB said...

OK, I stand corrected. I rewatched the clip just now, and it starts off with them saying that "Desmond might not have made it to second had there not been interference" and "it's up to the umpire's discretion". So, they started off being factually correct, but then quickly devolved into incoherent homerism, which really makes the whole thing even more comical, because they start out acknowledging that Desmond probably won't get to second on a clean play, and then end by complaining when Desmond isn't awarded second. Hoozah, I guess that was just one of the seemingly trillions of examples of poor baseball analyzing on TV.

SJR said...

@MattAB, yeah the Nats' announcers can be pretty brutal sometimes. FTP Santangelo the former Giant now serves as their color commentator. Santangelo replaced Rob Dibble who got away with chewing out countless umpires but couldn't survive one misplaced comment he made about Stephen Strausberg's reluctance to continue to pitch with an injury. Ironic really.

UmpsRule said...


The Nelson/Estabrook call last year might be the worst broadcast clip I have ever heard that wasn't uttered by a White Sox announcer. As to whether or not the Nats announcers are like that often, I have an award that I have given out for unfair criticism of umpires by broadcasters. I call it the Bob Carpenter Award. (For those who don't know, he's the Nats play-by-play man)

UmpsRule said...

Out of curiosity, does anyone know what are some of the highest recent ejection totals for one umpire in a season?

Turducken said...

Alfonso Marquez dumped Matt Diaz for arguing balls and strikes in the top of the ninth in Atlanta. Pretty good audio on YES, too.

UmpsRule said...

The Diaz video:

Anonymous said...

looks like a QOC Incorrect coming for Fonzie

Anonymous said...

@umprule- Foster had 14 in 2005

Lindsay said...

On August 1, 2011, we put out the results of a poll titled "Ejection Rate."

Among the interesting facts:
Has an umpire ever worked only one AL/NL/MLB game and ejected someone in that game? Yes. In 1907, Boston Doves pitcher (and former postal carrier) Vive Lindaman, working as a field umpire, ejected Superbas shortstop Phil Lewis after "a long wrangle" in the top of the 13th of the Superbas-Doves game (the second of a double-header). The Superbas eventually beat the Doves 4-3 (and swept the series). Lindaman never umpired again.
Fastest 1st Ejection, "Big Name" Umpire: Rick Reed ejected Indians Manager Jeff Torborg in Reed's first ever MLB game.
Most All Time Ejections: Bill Klem called for an ejection 251 times over the course of his storied career.
Fewest All Time Ejections: During the 1890s and 1900s, many players and coaches took turns umpiring a few games each without producing ejections. Since then, many umpires have likewise never ejected a soul.
Most Games Worked with Fewest Ejections: Ron Barnes worked 352 games and recorded zero ejections.
Most Ejections in One Season: Bill Klem racked up 26 ejections - or 1 per 6 games - in his rookie season of 1905. He dropped down to 15 in 1906, but returned to 21 in 1907 (and again in 1911). After dropping to 8 ejections in 1908, Klem received his first World Series assignment. In 1903, rookie ump Augie Moran ejected 24 (losing steam, he would only eject 12 more over three more umpiring seasons). Years later, Frank Dascoli had 22 ejections of his own, claiming third place on the list.
Highest Rate: Joe Hornung, pitcher for Boston at the time, ejected 2 people over 9 games in 1896. At a rate of one ejection per 4.5 games Hornung holds the lead for highest rate of ejection. Former player-manager Jack Doyle ejected nine people over 42 games in 1911. At a rate of one ejection per 4.67 games, Doyle closely trails Hornung for the lead.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Cory Blaser working his first MLB game when he ejected Jim Tracy in 2010?

UmpsRule said...

Actually, Blaser's first game was April 24, 2010. He ejected Tracy on May 12, 2010. Of course, he also tossed Tracy last year.

UmpsRule said...

As a follow up to my earlier question, I will guess that the most ejections in a single game record would go to Steve Rippley, due to his being the plate ump for the bean-brawl game.

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