Sunday, May 30, 2021

Retro Interference - Batter-Runner Randle Tackles Pitcher

In May 1974, Rangers second baseman Lenny Randle bunted down the first-base line and then veered into fair territory to tackle Indians pitcher Bob Johnson, who had thrown behind Randle one pitch earlier. HP Umpire Dave Phillips ruled the batter-runner out despite Johnson never having actually tagged him, sparking a benches-clearing brawl leading to our latest Ask the UEFL question: What's the right call here?

Despite articles discussing the base path or runner's lane, the answer is fairly simple: Randle was declared out for interfering with a fielder entitled to field a batted ball. Naturally, HP Umpire Phillips or 1B Umpire Bill Deegan could have similarly ejected Randle for unsportsmanlike conduct as a result of the flagrant and intentional collision.

Two rules cover this. Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(3) states that a runner (including the batter-runner) is out when said runner "intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball," while OBR 6.01(a)(10) confirms that it is interference when a runner "fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball."

SIDEBAR: If two fielders attempt to field the same batted ball, only one of them is entitled to protection from interference (this is not the case here as only the pitcher is fielding the batted ball).

There exist other rules pertaining to interference with a fielder who has already caught a ball and for the purpose of these rules, the pitcher is considered to be in the act of fielding at the moment of interference, even though the ball is already in his possession.

For the record, this is not runner's lane interference (OBR 5.09(a)(11)), which is a call of interference with the fielder taking the throw at first base; thus, RLI requires a throw to be made. No throw = no possibility of runner's lane interference. Similarly, this is not an out-of-the-base-path call, since out of the base path is defined as running more than three feet away from the direct line between the runner and the base which the runner is attempting to achieve in order to avoid being tagged. Because Randle ran directly to the pitcher (the only player who could have tagged him), who had yet to make a tag attempt, he was not out of his base path.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Ask UEFL - Retro Interference w Randle Tackling Johnson During Bunt (CCS)


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