Baseball Brainteasers Excerpt & Contest


Our very own Mike Morse, better known to you as the author of our Ask-the-Ump feature, has a new book out, and we’re very pleased to offer an excerpt here. All-New Baseball Brainteasers is full of entertaining rules conundrums, many involving the Yanks and Sox. Remember when Mike Pagliarulo scored a run that no one noticed? When Trot Nixon lost count of the outs and tossed a live ball into the crowd? Both in there. This is the perfect pre-season gift for the Yanks or Sox fan in your life, and it’s only $6.95!

Better still, YFSF is giving away one free copy of the book to someone who knows their foul tips from foul balls, obstruction from interference, and all the exceptions to the infield fly rule. But before we get to the contest, here’s an excerpt from the book:

With runners on second and third and no one out, the batter hits a foul pop near the third-base dugout. The third baseman makes a spectacular catch and then falls into the fenced-off area for photographers. The runner from third base tags up and scores. The runner from second tags up and tries to advance, but the third baseman recovers and manages to get the ball to a teammate, who tags the runner out at third. Is this a valid double play? Does the run count? Certainly, it should sound familiar.

Whenever the Yankees and Red Sox meet late in the season, something interesting is bound to happen. In 1997, when the Baltimore Orioles had all but won the American League East, the Yankees were pursuing a wild card playoff berth and needed a victory against their biggest rivals. Trailing by one run in the sixth inning, the Yankees had Jorge Posada on second and Derek Jeter on third when Tim Raines came to bat.

Raines hit a foul pop that Boston’s John Valentin caught before falling into the photographer’s pit. Jeter scored and Posada was apparently thrown out at third base when Valentin flipped the ball to Nomar Garciaparra, who then threw to Jeff Frye, covering third. The Red Sox then left the field thinking the inning was over. Was it?

When a fielder falls into a dead ball area after catching the ball, the ball becomes dead. If he does this with runners on base, then each runner is awarded one base. If a fielder enters the dugout after making a catch or goes in there and catches a fly ball, then the ball remains alive unless the fielder falls down, in which case the ball is dead and each runner gets one base.

In this case, Jeter was awarded home and Posada was awarded third. The Yankees went on to win the game, 7-6, when Jeter singled home Paul O’Neill with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Okay. Now here’s the quiz for you. First correct entry in the comments gets a free book:

In each of the following, what’s a ground rule double, what’s a home run, and what’s neither?

1. Batted ball hits outfielder on head, flies over fence.
2. Batted ball hits fence, bounces on outfielder’s head, then flies over fence.
3. Batted ball hits top of fence and flies over.
4. Bounding fair batted ball is touched by fan who reaches over fence.
5. Score tied, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, and batted ball bounces over fence.

The Fine Print: From All New Baseball Brain Teasers: 60 Major League Puzzles by Michael Morse. Copyright (c) 2007 by Michael Morse. Used by permission of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

35 comments… add one
  • 1.) GRD
    2.) GRD
    3.) HR
    4.) HR (Thanks Jeff Maier)
    5.) neither (it’s a single)

    Andrew March 5, 2007, 11:16 am
  • 1. Home run
    2. Ground rule double
    3. Vary depending on stadium house rules
    4. Ump’s judgement, but probably ground rule double
    5. Ground rule double

    Lar March 5, 2007, 11:19 am
  • Bah, I feel like an idiot at #5 looking at Andrew’s. Whoops! =)

    Lar March 5, 2007, 11:21 am
  • I thought this was too easy, so I am overjoyed to be able to say that the first set of answers is not correct.
    Perhaps this is slightly harder than it looks. Perhaps not.
    I will say that your answer to #3 is correct – but I challenge you, or anyone reading this, to explain why balls that strike the top of the fence and go over are home runs, whereas balls that hit the top of the fence and come back cannot be caught for outs, as they are no longer “in flight.”
    Hint: I explain this in the book.

    Ump March 5, 2007, 11:22 am
  • Lar’s answers are also wrong. Andrew seems to have forgotten this is a competition, giving his reasons for some of his answers.

    Ump March 5, 2007, 11:24 am
  • Do I get to try again or is this a one per dude thing? =)

    Lar March 5, 2007, 11:44 am
  • I guess we haven’t actually said one entry per person, so it would be against the letter of the law if I were to introduce such a condition now. On the other hand, this is a baseball quiz, and many of the great rules of baseball (think of pine tar for a famous example) were written after the fact and imposed retroactively. I’m not sure what the spirit of the rules would be in this case, but I will say this:
    I am on Greenwich Mean Time right now, which means I am going home in a few minutes. Go ahead and guess again, but I won’t be able to name a winner for a few hours – maybe there can be a healthy debate in the meantime.

    Ump March 5, 2007, 11:50 am
  • 1. Home run
    2. Ground rule double
    3. Home run
    4. I think I agree with Lar here: ump’s call, probably ground rule double
    5. Single

    Devine March 5, 2007, 11:53 am
  • Let me remind everyone of the quiz question: for each of the examples, is it a home run, ground-rule double, or neither. I am afraid I cannot accept answers like “probably a ground-rule double” or “ump’s judgement” or “single.” Remember, I am an umpire. I think very literally.

    Ump March 5, 2007, 11:59 am
  • I basically agree with Devine’s answers, but didn’t feel like submitting a second entry (the spirit of the game, after all!)

    Lar March 5, 2007, 12:01 pm
  • Grrrrr…I feel like I might be cheating here…but if I’m not right, I just won’t submit again (I’m not changing my answers…just putting them in accepted format).
    1. Home run
    2. Ground rule double
    3. Home run
    4. Ground rule double
    5. Neither

    Devine March 5, 2007, 12:03 pm
  • Devine – I’ll let you know if you’re cheating and make ejections as necessary. I’m going to catch a train now. This contest is still wide open. Remember everyone (beware shameless self-promotion here), there are lots more challenging examples in the book! Even if you don’t win the competition, you too can be a winner by buying this little gem of a book and impressing your friends with your newfound mastery of the rules!

    Ump March 5, 2007, 12:06 pm
  • Whoa, I didn’t know the author of the book was judging the competition! I feel humbled. Okay, so here goes my second submission, after much thought:
    1.) HR
    2.) GRD
    3.) HR
    4.) HR
    5.) neither
    And this is kinda guesswork on my part, but situation 3.) is a homerun if it flies over the fence because balls that leave the playing field in fair territory (without touching the ground) are homeruns, unless certain conditions make them something else (like the ball touching the ground). It is considered a ‘dead ball’ when it touches the fence regardless, but that doesn’t have bearing on a homerun. Think of the green monster and how many balls bounce off of that one (and how it’s not an out if you catch the carem). I’ve never really read the baseball rules, but observation of rules being enacted lead me to these conclusions. Thanks Ump.

    Andrew March 5, 2007, 12:49 pm
  • Actually, let me change 4.) to neither. I thought Ump said that the bounding fair ball was caught by a fan in fair territory, when in fact he only touched it. So, maybe this can still count as only a second submission since it hasn’t been ‘graded’ yet. Final answer:
    1.) HR
    2.) GRD
    3.) HR
    4.) neither
    5.) neither

    Andrew March 5, 2007, 12:53 pm
  • 1) HR
    2) HR
    3) HR
    4) GRD
    5) neither (it’s a 1-base hit)

    Mike A. March 5, 2007, 1:05 pm
  • 1)HR
    4)neither (ball dead)Ump’s judgement

    Israel Gruber March 5, 2007, 1:17 pm
  • correction:
    4)neither (ball dead) Ump’s judgement
    5)neither – single (he could touch 2b for to record a double)

    Israel Gruber March 5, 2007, 1:26 pm
  • Sorry, the correction should be:
    4)neither (ball dead) Ump’s judgement
    5)neither – single (he could touch 2b for to record a double)

    Israel Gruber March 5, 2007, 1:36 pm
  • 1)HR

    Redsauce March 5, 2007, 2:51 pm
  • 1)HR

    fruitchunk March 5, 2007, 3:48 pm
  • 1. HR
    2. GRD
    3. HR
    4. neither (interference)
    5. GRD

    Kazz March 5, 2007, 3:58 pm
  • I’m really pleased with the interest in the quiz, and I hope it leads to heavy sales volumes! The book is actually more fun and humorous than the excerpt – so enjoy. Sorry to be absent lately from this discussion, but I kept missing train connections.
    Going by the letter of the rules of this competition, Andrew is the winner. That is, he is the first to answer all the questions correctly. It has to be said that he did this on his third attempt – but even baseball players get three attempts. I like the fact that he was humbled by the book’s author judging the competition. A little humility goes a long way for an umpire. And finally I was impressed that he corrected himself while I was out of the discussion.
    Israel Gruber also answered correctly on the third try – and at this rate, I’d expect old I.G. to try every conceivable combination until getting it right. But sorry, I.G., no prizes for coming in second.
    Before I get into the explanations, it’s worth pointing out that every one of these 5 plays appears in the book, and they are all taken from real Major League games. So, there’s still some mystery left for those of you who are thinking about getting the book – you will find out which players were involved. There are 60 questions like these. Lots of fun. Ok, enough of the sales pitch.
    1. HR – ball hits OF on head, bounces over. This is fairly straightforward, and I think you all more or less got it.
    2. GRD – The off-the-wall then off-the-head trick. This is fairly rare, but it does happen. It counts as a GRD because once the ball hits the wall, it is no longer “in flight” and is kind of like a ball that hits the ground.
    3. HR – Here, even I get confused. If a ball hits the top of the fence, it is no longer “in flight.” But, as Andrew points out, a fair batted ball that goes over the fence without hitting the ground and – Andrew missed this part – without being deflected – is a home run. It just is.
    4. Neither. This confused most of you, because we generally think of this play as a ground rule double, and it usually goes as a double. The correct ruling is fan interference, and umpires award what they think runners would have gotten had there been no interference.
    5. Neither. I was really impressed how many of you got this one. Normally, of course, it’s a ground rule double, but since the game is over after the batter touches first, it can only count as a single.
    Let me know if you have more questions – I’ll be back after dinner! And buy the book!
    Andrew- I’ll check with YF how we can get your address and send you your free signed copy.

    Ump March 5, 2007, 4:54 pm
  • FYI: I’m new to baseball, so I’m happy I got it right after-all.

    Israel Gruber March 5, 2007, 5:08 pm
  • Can the winners of the Daiku contest also contact us via email? We owe people…

    SF March 5, 2007, 5:41 pm
  • Wow, thanks! I’m really looking forward to reading it, I’ve never really considered baseball from the umpire’s perspective.
    I’ll email YF with my address. I trust him not to send me anthrax, or letter bombs, or naked pictures of Jason Giambi or anything like that.

    Andrew March 5, 2007, 6:43 pm
  • Israel – I can’t buy publicity like this. Thanks! You hit a theme of the book, which is that people who don’t know much about baseball can actually do really well on the quiz, while fans who think they really know the game will be surprised to discover how much of what they think they know about the rules is absolute nonsense.
    Andrew – the umpire’s perspective is that people blame you for their own failures. But the great thing about being an umpire – and I can’t emphasize this enough – is that you are never wrong. It’s like the opposite of marriage.
    And by the way, I’m not sure I would be so trusting of YF.

    Ump March 5, 2007, 7:37 pm
  • I wish there were a weekly (or thereabouts) quiz like this. This one was fun.
    Man, I feel snakebit. One teency little change (#4) and I’ve got a sweet new book. Still, I only got #3 right because you helped us out near the start up there, Ump (I would’ve said ground-rule double off the top of my head, though I think I would’ve gotten the rest correct). So I was kinda stealing from Andrew already. So it seems fair that he gets the book.

    Devine March 5, 2007, 8:05 pm
  • darn it, I was in class all day and I missed my chance!

    Nick-YF March 5, 2007, 8:05 pm
  • Sounds like the kind of book we “pig out” on.. =)
    Too bad the posting just missed my monthly book order – it goes on the queue for next month! =)

    Lar March 5, 2007, 9:03 pm
  • thanks ump…i learned something with #2…i’ll buy the book…

    dc March 6, 2007, 1:01 am
  • I love all you guys! I’ll see if I can do some kind of weekly quiz. Remember, I’m always here to answer your questions if a funny ruling comes up in a game. One of the questions in the book actually came through this website – you can review it here (but I disown Joe’s comment):

    Ump March 6, 2007, 5:12 am
  • Yep, I do have a lot of questions, but one thing really bothers me.
    I was randomly watching some games on MLB.TV (sorry I don’t remember the date or team ).
    The runner on first advanced to third without tagging up on a fly ball that was caught by the outfielder.
    It looked to me that he started running before the pitch, is it possible? or am I missing something?

    Israel Gruber March 6, 2007, 2:56 pm
  • IG – I think that’s the classic scenario. I’m sure someone can give a better explanation, but the answer is that it doesn’t matter how fast he is, but he needs to tag up from first if he wants to advance on a flyout..

    Lar March 6, 2007, 3:06 pm
  • It’s really hard to comment on a play with such a vague description. This is an appeal play, which means that it is up to the defense to make an appeal to the umpires that the runner left early. With a properly executed appeal, the runner would be out. Otherwise, he could stay on third base. I have a whole chapter on appeal plays in the book.

    Ump March 7, 2007, 4:24 am
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