The Appeal Play

Carl Childress posted the following treatise on the eteamz baseball board. This is the best discussion I've seen. I've formatted it for HTML, and made a few edits where Carl was referring to earlier eteamz threads. But all of the authoritative text is his.


I thought it might be helpful if I just spend a few minutes outlining the whole process of appealing baserunning errors. Most of this has already been presented correctly, but here I've put it all together. You might consider whether you want to share this with the UIC of your League and other coaches and skippers.

Here are the key points:

  1. An appeal must be made with a live ball.
  2. An appeal may not occur after a pitch, play, or the defensive team leaves the field.
  3. A runner may not return to a missed base after the pitcher holds the ball in a pitching position on the mound. He may, naturally, attempt to advance.
  4. An appeal is not a play.
  5. The defense may not appeal the same runner at the same base twice.
  6. The defense may not re-appeal if they err on their first appeal.
  7. The defense must announce which runner is being appealed if two runners passed the base.
  8. A balk is considered a play.
  9. The pitcher may throw for an appeal WHILE STILL ON THE RUBBER.

Each is discussed below.


1. An appeal must be made with a live ball.

  1. Home run? Dead ball. No appeal possible. Time out? Dead ball. No appeal possible.

    To make the ball alive, the pitcher must step onto the rubber with the ball, and the umpire must say (or point) "Play."

    1. Play 1: B1 doubles but misses first. The throw goes to the second baseman as cutoff man. He runs in and tags B1: "Blue, he missed first." Legal appeal. He runs in and throws to first. F3 says: "Blue, he missed first." Legal appeal. The defense may tag the base or the runner.

      Play 2: B1 doubles but misses first. The throw goes to the second baseman as cutoff man. He runs in and calls "Time," which the umpire grants. Coach: "Appeal that he missed first." The pitcher gets on the rubber, the umpire says "Play," and they throw to second (and tag B1) or first (and tag the base). Legal appeal.

      1. Aside: When I coached, I always appealed the runner (if he was still on base), rather than the base. R1 goes to third but misses second. It's a mistake to appeal the base rather than the runner. You throw to second, R3 will score, and the umpire may not agree he missed second. You're down one run.

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2. An appeal may not occur after a pitch, play, or the defensive team leaves the field.

The defensive team is defined as the "pitcher and all infielders." F8 can't come in and scream for an appeal.
Play 3: R1 moving on the pitch. B1 doubles, and R1 tries to score. He slides in, misses the plate, and starts for the dugout. The catcher runs to tag him but then sees B1 trying for third. His throw is in time to get B1. He then calls for the ball and stands on home, appealing that R1 missed the base. Legal appeal. His play on B1 occurred during what is known as "continuous action" resulting from the effects of the batted ball.

Play 4: R1 moving on the pitch heads for third on a single to right. He misses second. The ball comes back in, and the defense calls time. Now the coach wants to appeal R1 missed second. The pitcher makes the ball alive. As F1 throws to third, B1 breaks for second. The third baseman takes the pitcher's toss and fires to second, but not in time. The runner from third scores. That's tough luck for the defense. The "post-continuous action play," which did not result from a batted ball, ends all possibility of appeal.

Aside: The fact that the OFFENSE initiated the post-continuous action has always irked people who believe in "fair play." Why should we lose an appeal if THEY started the play? The NCAA rules committee agreed. At that level, if the offense initiates a play, the defense may still appeal. The OBR rules committee did NOT agree.

Play 5: Bases loaded, two outs, B1 doubles and tries for three. He is thrown out at third, but three runs score. The defensive team leaves the field except for the shortstop. He comes running in, grabs the ball from a the entering pitcher, and begins to scream he wants to appeal that R1 missed second. The umpire agrees they may appeal. (One infielder, F6, did not leave the diamond.) The pitcher and catcher come out, and the ball is made alive. Legal appeal.

Aside: I've seen that happen twice. Both times the umpire simply pointed the ball alive, and the infielder carried the ball to the missed base. Both times the field umpire upheld the appeal. But, to be safe, you should have the pitcher and catcher come out. It's an important appeal, of course: If R1 is judged to have missed second, that's a force out, and no runs score.

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3. A runner may not return to a missed base after the pitcher holds the ball in a pitching position on the mound. He may, naturally, attempt to advance.

That's important only because it prevents a runner from going back after the pitcher has stepped off the rubber with a live ball to make an appeal.

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4. An appeal is not a play.

That's a vital distinction. Without it, the defense could never appeal more than one runner, for the FIRST appeal would be a post-continuous action play.
Play 6: Bases loaded, one out. The batter doubles (emptying the bases) but misses first. The throw comes in, and the first baseman calls for the ball. It's thrown to him, he touches first, and the umpire agrees. B1 is out. Now the second baseman wants to appeal that R1 missed second. Legal appeal. The appeal at first was NOT a play.

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5. The defense may not appeal the same runner at the same base twice.

That is one of the most widely misunderstood of the appeal procedures. Too many coaches (and some umpires) think that if they appeal a runner at third, they cannot appeal another runner at third, or the same runner at second. Not true.
Play 7: Bases loaded, B1 doubles, three runners score. How many appeals may the defense make? Answer: Seven.

They may appeal that:

R1 missed second, third, plate. R2 missed third, plate. R3 missed plate. B1 missed first.

The point of not allowing the defense to appeal the same runner twice at the same base is simply to bring closure to the appeal process. Without it, the defense in a game with a four-man umpire crew might appeal to U3, U2, U1, etc.

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6. The defense may not re-appeal if they err on their first appeal.

"Err" means to throw the ball to dead ball territory.
Play 8: B1 triples. The pitcher throws to third, but the ball gets away from F5 and rolls across a line dividing live ball from dead ball territory. The result: B1 scores, and the defense, having erred, may no longer appeal.

Play 9: B1 triples. The defense wishes to appeal that he missed second. The pitcher throws a live ball to F5, but the third baseman misses it. B1 scores. The ball remains in live-ball territory. The left fielder retrieves it and throws it to F5, who throws to F4, who tags the base. "Blue, he missed second." Legal appeal.

Aside: Here, the NCAA again differs from the OBR. If the defense throws the ball away and any runner advances, all further appeals are lost, even if the ball remained in live-ball territory.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The book actually says the defense may not appeal the same runner at the same base if they err on their first appeal. The current professional interpretation is that an "err" on the first appeal cancels ALL further appeals at any base on any runner.

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7. The defense must announce which runner is being appealed if two runners passed the base.

Play 10: B1's triple scores three. The pitcher throws a live ball to F5, who says: "Blue, he missed third." The umpire will make no signal until the third baseman tells him which runner.

That is only a convenience for the umpire since there's no penalty involved at the OBR level. (As you would expect by now, NCAA is different. Those wacky college boys!)

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8. A balk is considered a play.

Play 11: R1, R2. B1 doubles but misses first. R2 scores, R1 goes to third. Time is called. The defense announces they will appeal at first. The pitcher gets onto the rubber, the ball becomes alive, he steps (while on the rubber) toward first and drops the ball. Balk. The runners each advance a base, and no further appeal will be allowed.

Play 12: R1, R2. B1 hits an inside the park home run but misses first. The defense says they will appeal; the pitcher (while on the rubber) steps toward first and drops the ball. Not a balk because there are no runners on base. The defensive may still appeal B1.

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9. The pitcher may throw for an appeal WHILE STILL ON THE RUBBER.

The common myth is that the pitcher must step OFF the rubber before he can make an appeal. Otherwise, he would be throwing to an unoccupied base, which would be a balk.

That's just not so.

A pitcher may throw to an unoccupied base if it is for the purpose of making a play. (8.05d) A runner attempting to steal that base is an example. But, some argue, since an appeal is not a play, he can't appeal from the rubber if he's throwing to an empty base.

But an appeal is clearly a "play" on a runner. It's just NOT counted as a play for purposes of post-continuous action. See Section 4 above.

The purpose of having the pitcher step off after the ball is alive is simply to reduce greatly the chance he will balk. Once he's off the rubber, that possibility is gone.

Now, so many people believe otherwise, I'm going to quote the NAPBL manual here. That is the book of interpretations published for the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. It is official in all of minor league baseball and in almost all amateur associations around the world. The Netherlands, we are told, is the notable exception.

NAPBL 6.5 (p. 62): "It is NOT a balk for the pitcher, while in contact with the rubber, to throw to an unoccupied base IF it is for the purpose of making an appeal play."

Note: You'll read posts by umpires who refer to Jim Evans' "Official Baseball Rules Annotation," (JEA) or Jaksa/Roder, the training manual for the Brinkman umpire school. Some umpires quote from "Baseball Rule Differences," my book explaining how and when FED, NCAA, and OBR diverge. Those are "authoritative sources," used to help umpires make consistent rulings. The NAPBL, however, is official. What they say, goes.

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My intent here was simply to outline the "procedures" for making an appeal.

Next week, I'll go into the issues of how appeals can affect the scoring: the advantageous out, the fourth/fifth/sixth out, multiple appeals, order of appeals, force outs and timing plays.

Appeals don't happen often, of course. But when they do, a team that executes efficiently looks mighty good from the stands.

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