Game Rule Oddities and Curiosities

Don't look for big-time chess on TV anytime soon.

Don’t look for big-time chess on TV anytime soon.

There are more strange game rule conditions, oddities, and ironies out there than we will ever have time to remember or consider in total here today, but let’s have some fun, anyway, with a run at a few. Please enter your favorite example(s) here as a comment.

(1) Baseball gets criticized by some for being short on action and but too long on the time it takes to play a full game. If that’s so, how about chess? The action is 99% mental and only 1% physical – and the amount of time it takes to play a full game by mail between foes on different continents can take months. – Small wonder that the highest level chess action is not a big-time TV attraction.

(2) Sometimes different sports take totally opposite views of the same game condition. In football, the team that last had control of the ball before it went out-of-bounds gets to keep it on offense. In basketball, the team that last touches the ball before it goes out-of-bounds must then give up to the other team.

(3) I have never quite “gotten” the intentional grounding rule in football. If a QB throws the ball away to avoid getting sacked, he will be found guilty of intentional grounding and his team assessed a yardage penalty on the next play. If, on the other hand, the QB takes the snap from center and immediately throws is straight down into the ground to stop the clock, there is no penalty at all. How is the second circumstance NOT intentional grounding too? It’s even more obvious as an intentional act than the QB condition that draws all the penalties for throwing the ball away.

(4) I’ve always disliked the rules governing sacrifice fly balls in baseball – in addition to the fact that these acts variably have counted and not counted as times at bat over the years. – Why should a player be given credit for an RBI and a sacrifice attempt and not be charged with a time at bat for a ball that is caught 395 feet deep in center field just because his mighty swat gave a runner at 3rd base time to tag and walk home for a run? Are the rules makers asking us to buy into the idea that the batter gave himself up on purpose here as the batter who bunted in this situation more credibly might have truly done? – I don’t buy it. Let the long fly out guy keep his RBI, but charge him a time at bat. – If we must keep this ruse-rule, then give the guy who grounds out up the middle credit for a sacrifice grounder when it scores a runner from third base. He should get a pass on a time at bat charge too – especially, when we consider that the only difference sometimes between the ball that is driven in the air to the wall – and the one that goes bouncing on the ground up the middle – is little more than the break on the ball thrown by the pitcher. – How does “sac grounder” sound? In my book, it’s as sensible and intentional as the “sac fly”.

(5) Up through some time in the 1920’s, baseball teams occasionally asked permission from their opponents for the use of a “courtesy runner” for a player who had reached base, but had been temporarily hurt or shaken up on the play that made him a base runner. With permission granted, another healthy (presumably fast) runner would take the wounded player’s place on the base paths, but the relieved player would remain in the game once the inning changed, if he were able. Then it all stopped. – I’ve never been sure if this action was permitted by the official rules – or if it were simply one of those things that was permitted by a cavalier dismissal of the official rules by the baseball culture that was once in place. – It’s impossible to imagine it happening today.

That’s enough for one morning. Like the rest of you, I’ve got other fish to fry on my Monday calendar, but I would love to hear from the rest of you on any of these ideas – or you own favorite game curiosities.





4 Responses to “Game Rule Oddities and Curiosities”

  1. Greg Lucas Says:

    Like #4 and #5… (they use courtesy runners for catchers in HS baseball last time I worked a game. Reason is to allow them to get their gear on and not delay the game.)

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Greg, on (4) above ~

      Would you rather:

      (a) leave the sac rule as it is?

      (b) charge a time AB for the fly ball out that scores a run?

      (c) simply expand it to give the ground ball out batter a pass on his time AB too when a run scores?

  2. Cliff Blau Says:

    The courtesy runner was in the rule book until the book was rewritten in the 1949-50 offseason (you can see the 1939 rule here:

    It wouldn’t necessarily be a fast runner, since the opposing manager had to agree; often it was another player in the lineup. I think they should have used invisible runners as we did as kids.

  3. Cliff Blau Says:

    Perhaps my favorite oddity in the baseball rules is that according to rules 1.04 and 2.00, the only player who is an infielder is the pitcher (he’s the only person who plays inside the 90-foot square that is the infield). That definitely needs to be rewritten

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