I was at an independent league game watching the Humboldt Crabs, when my roommate, a gymnastics coach and avid adventurist, leans over to me and asks, “Are there any rules about running the bases? Do you have to run?” I knew instantly that what she was implying was “Can I do cartwheels between the bases? Can I skip? Can I tumble?”
I told her that running between the bases, although it may look the plainest, is the best way to do it, and the most practical, especially if the goal is speed, agility, and perhaps even going into a slide.
However, I was unsure if there actually are any so-called “rules” about how one must approach base running, and if there are certain “illegalities” regarding specific allowed non-running movements between the bases.
Certainly, we as baseball spectators and fans all know the “unwritten rules” about base running, which basically state:
“You must run between the bases.”
“Yes, even if you get a walk, you must run.”
Now these “unwritten rules” are handed down as an oral tradition of good sportsmanship. If there was no baseball sportsmanly code of conduct, just imagine how long games would be if they included the time it would take for every sophisticated self-righteous slugger to perform his own elaborate choreography each time he shot one out of the park?
The sport would be very different.
So, because I knew no better, and wanted to answer my roommate’s question as accurately as possible (sadly, I am the unworthy token baseball fan around these parts), I tweeted:
My friend wants to know if there are specific rules against doing cartwheels between the bases.
Ozzie Smith wants to have a word with your friends.
So Chris guided me to this throwback video of The Wizard himself.
And still we did not know what the rules governing such on-field activities were, but my roommate was happily distracted by critiquing Ozzie’s back-tuck-roundoff-flip-whatever-it-was-she-called-it-fancyness.
I checked my Baseball Field Guide to see if I could find an answer, and thumbed to the section titled “If a Runner Misbehaves:”
“A runner will be called out if:
-To avoid being tagged out, he runs more than three feet away from the base line.
-After successfully reaching first base, he later gives up his attempt to advance to subsequent bases.
-After successfully reaching a base, he tried to confuse the fielders by running the bases in reverse order.
-When attempting to score at home base, does not attempt to touch it and enters the dugout [either because he believes he touched the base, or he is bluffing]. In this case, the defense can appeal for an out.”
So it seems… that as long as the runner doesn’t switch directions and head backwards… or stray too far from the basepaths, or participate in other such aforementioned shenanigans, he can do some cartwheels if it tickles him.
And when he chooses to go a little wild before or after the game? Well, that’s up to him, isn’t it?
So here’s to all the guys who like to dance and flip out over a victory, or celebrate a sweet play, or keep the groove flowing during warmups, and to ballplayers getting a little goofy… just not in too much excess.
Enjoy some more memorable video clips of your favorite ballplayers-turned-gymnasts-turned-dancers, below. Sometimes an athlete is just an athlete. Sometimes, he is a bit fancier.
-Aroldis Chapman’s post-victory somersaults stirred up quite a controversy. Maybe most people thought he was being a bit too cocky. Or they are just jealous of his sweet tumbling skills?
-Omar Vizquel knows there is no better way to pass the time during a rain delay than dancing. Especially if the camera is on you!
-Warming up before a game can be dull. Mitchell Boggs knows how to kick those calisthenics up a notch.
-Yunel Escobar gets topsey-turvey making a play at second base. Gif thanks to BlueJaysBits.tumblr.com
-Some ballstars sing too… Even if they shouldn’t. Bruce Chen performs the all-time hit “Dancing Queen.”
Do you have a favorite baseball tradition? Is there a particular ghost of baseball past you would like to revisit? Ever wonder why they do what they do, and when they started doing it? If you have a suggestion, question, or submission for Throwback Thursday, contact Elise by tweeting @Elise_Myers.