It’s surprising how typically this worry comes up: Tie goes come the runner. I obtain emails through the internet site, or I’m approached by world who understand I’m an umpire, and also the thing world want come vent around are the near plays at very first base: the runner’s foot hits the bag and the round hits the fielder’s gloves in what appears to it is in the very same instant. The umpire phone call the runner out and all hell division loose.

You are watching: Tie goes to the runner rule

Once top top a time, us all play by this rule. Us played this rule in our youth, on school playgrounds and also sandlots. The was the rule and it served us well. There were no umpires on the sandlots, and also close dram at first base to be (and remain) the reason of many disputes. So when consensus and arguments failed, the dominance (that rule) helped resolved the arguments. In those days, ~ above those ball fields, ties visited the runner.

Not on the big field. No in “real” baseball

Nope, ties do not walk to the runner. Not on the large field. No in “real” baseball. Not where there’s one umpire make the call. Rather, the prevailing interpretation is that the runner should beat the throw; if he doesn’t, he’s out. That’s the ideal call. And that’s whereby the arguments begin.

The discrepancy between the sandlot rule and also the big League preeminence is interesting, since to a details extent, the discrepancy exists in a vacuum. The truth is, over there is no dominance in the official Baseball rule (OBR) the offers any guidance in situations where both events (runner’s foot poignant the base, and the ball getting to the fielder’s glove), when they occur at exactly the exact same time. The prevailing (but quiet controversial) interpretation, the the runner must beat the throw, has however shadowy stand in the OBR. Part of the problem is that there’s no ascendancy covering this situation; at the same time, however, over there are rules, 3 of them, that surround the issue, and also the three don’t completely agree. Therein lies among the number of shadowy seams who ambiguous threads wind about the OBR favor the stitching on a baseball.

There room three rules

The fact is, 3 rules apply, yet none that them apply directly come the instance of a tie, so you finish up with a Bermuda Triangle of rules the surround the issue, and also between them every is a foggy interpretation that relies much more on heritage than rule.

Here room the 3 rules. I’ve trimmed lock to their essentials (click the links for the complete text):


Rule 5.09(a)(10)6.05(j)>A batter is out once … ~ a third strike or after ~ he hits a same ball, the or very first base is tagged before he touches an initial base
Rule 5.09(b)(6)7.08(e)>A runner is out once … he or the next base is tagged prior to he touch the following base
Rule 5.06(a)(1)7.01>A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base as soon as he touches it prior to he is out

It doesn’t take also close the a reading to check out the contradiction. The an initial two <5.09(a) and also 5.09(b)> make it rather clear the a runner is out if the or the basic (when a force) space touched before the runner reaches the base. However, the third rule us cited <5.06(a)(1)> is same clear that a jogger is safe so lengthy as the reaches a base before he or the base (when a force) room tagged.

What we have from the rules, then, is this: on one hand, the runner have to beat the throw or tag to it is in safe, while on the other hand the defense should beat the runner to the bag to gain the out. It appears that as soon as the two events are simultaneous, the umpire have to flip a coin to identify which that the rule to apply. The mind boggles.

In all of the OBR, the only cite of a tie is in link with taking care of a tie score, for example, as soon as a game is suspended. There is neither point out nor indict of the instance of simultaneous events (ties), and also because the this, there exists a great black hole at the facility of the baseball galaxy that we orbit, job after day, video game after game, beat after play, argument after argument.

There are no ties in baseball

As ingrained as tie-goes-to-the-runner is in sandlot and also playground baseball, an equally time-honored expression amongst baseball insiders (and umpires in particular) is the axiom the there room no ties in baseball. The axiom was likely spawned, at the very least in part, by the black hole we’ve just discovered.

Clearly, though – if we’re moral with ourselves – the is not true the there room no ties. The truth is, there room ties ~ above the base route not infrequently. Let’s remain with the pat at an initial base because that a moment. Amongst the plenty of perfections of baseball, the length of the base path (90 feet) has actually proved one enduring testament to man’s ability (every now and also then) to get things right. Legendary sports writer Red Smith stated it well: “Ninety feet in between home key and an initial base might be the closest man has actually ever come to perfection.” What he method is, the balance in between offense and also defense is nearly perfectly well balanced by those perfect 90 feet.

A batted round to the infield will practically always create an the end if the defense plays the sphere cleanly, there is no a bobble or one error. Include a bobble to the play and you probably have a close beat (bang-bang), and even a tiny chance the a fast runner will beat the throw and be safe at first. (Ichiro go this in Seattle ~ above a constant basis.) Misplay the ball much more severely than a an easy bobble, and the runner is for sure close to half the time. Misplay the ball entirely and also the runner is virtually always safe.

The point is, the balance in between the defense and the violation on a batted ball to the infield is nearly perfect, so much so that almost all dram at first base are reasonably close, and also a great many are so nearby they’re a an obstacle to call, as well as a good many very close plays (the bang-bang plays).

The upshot, then, is the this perfect balance between offense and defense leader necessarily come a huge number of practically simultaneous events, and also some unknown number of truly simultaneous ones. Given every one of the tens (maybe hundreds) of hundreds of close plays at first base in a given baseball season, it’s only organic that some number of them result in dead-even ties. In other words, there are plenty of ties at first. And also by the prevailing convention, this ties normally result in the runner being referred to as out.

What us have, then, is an alternative axiom – one that’s no written, nor spoken, yet exists nevertheless: Tie goes come the fielder.

Umpires sweet in

There room two authoritative sources of case law (if girlfriend will) and also rules interpretations: Jaksa-Roder and also Wendelstedt. Every umpires with salt know both of these resources. Both space oft-used authorities for untangling thorny rule issues, of which there space no shortage in baseball. Let’s view what they have to say around this black hole.

Nothing. Nada. Niente. Nothing but silence.

Both comment on the rules (the 3 rules we’ve framed), however neither resource addresses the worry of the simultaneous events, the tie at the base. Neither of this honored reference texts even has words “tie” in your index.

Tim McClelland

Interestingly, on MLB.com, in a section entitled asking the Umpire, veteran umpire Tim McClelland does resolve the worry in a Q-and-A. Here’s both question and answer.


I am an umpire for tiny League. The coach called me the ties go to the runner. I stated the batter needs to beat the throw to an initial because there space no such point as ties. Who is right?– L.M.F.

McClelland: the is precisely right. There space no ties and also there is no preeminence that says the tie goes to the runner. But the rule publication does say the the runner should beat the ball to first base, and so if that doesn’t to win the ball, climate he is out. For this reason you have to make the decision. That’s why umpires room paid the money lock are, to do the decision on if the did or if he didn’t. The just thing you deserve to do is go by even if it is or no he win the ball. If he did, climate he is safe.


This is interesting, because McClelland is speak he’s going through 5.06(a)(1) and also leaves it in ~ that. His comments around “you need to make the decision” is really just a smokescreen come cover the ambiguity that’s he’s chosen to ignore. Yet he’s in good company; this interpretation (that the runner must beat the throw) is the see that pervades, specifically in the major Leagues. And umpiring conventions often tend to filter under from there.

But that interpretation is not embraced universally. This topic comes up time and again ~ above umpire conversation rooms and discussion boards and the debates are intense and also passionate. There’s McClelland’s view, the the runner have to beat the throw. Then there’s the opposite view, which drops on 7.08(e), arguing that if the ball fails to reach the base before the jogger touches it, the jogger is safe. In other words, tie goes come the runner.

And climate there are the umpires who (stupidly, in my view) shot to have actually it both ways. They case that on truly bang-bang plays at an initial they’ll judge by circumstances. If the defense to be sloppy, they’ll speak to a jogger safe. Same thing if a slow-moving player reflects extraordinary hustle. A runner who dog it, on the various other hand, is getting dubbed out. This is the worst the all possible approaches to resolving the ambiguity.

Interestingly, a great many umpires assert the literal ties (true coincided events) are close to impossible. One commentator claimed to have umpired for 50 years and in that span had never seen a tie top top the bases. Our new world of supervisor slow-mo and instant replay is progressively undermining this view. The fact is, ties happen.

Sadly, there’s no genuine conclusion come the story. Ties at first are a truth of life, and also they’ll proceed being referred to as in a manner continuous with the umpire’s religion, so to speak. And it’s not really so large a problem as it might appear. It’s certainly not so big an problem as the variability in the win zone. However don’t acquire me began on that deserve to of worms.

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Joseph Paraso says:

If you listen for the ball, and watch the base….and both it seems to be ~ to take place at the very same time…then the runner is out. Due to the fact that light travels quicker than sound. You space seeing “the tie” in ~ the same 2nd as the sound, therefore the sound to be a nanosecond earlier than the sight. (If i remember mine science). If you clock a person hit a ball from a great distance, you hear the ball obtain hit, what seems like seconds after you saw it. That is mine theory and also I have actually been law this for 30+ years. Never ever really to be a difficulty to me.