Infield fly rule

The infield fly rule is a rule of baseball that treats certain fly balls as though caught, before the ball is caught, even if the infielder fails to catch it or drops it on purpose. The umpire's declaration of an infield fly means that the batter is out (and all force plays are removed) regardless of whether the ball is caught. The rule exists solely to prevent the defense from executing a double play or triple play by deliberately failing to catch a ball that an infielder could catch with ordinary effort.

Infield fly
An umpire calls an infield fly.


A ball batted into the air subjects baserunners to a dilemma. If the ball is caught, they must return to their original base; if not caught, the batter becomes a runner and certain runners are forced to advance to the next base. Baserunners study the fielder and advance only far enough from the base to ensure that they can return safely. If a presumed catch becomes a non-catch, forced runners must run forward instead of back. This creates an advantage for the defense in intentionally failing to execute an easy catch, which the infield fly rule exists to remove.


The infield fly rule is explained in the Official Baseball Rules in two places:

  • Definitions of terms: Infield Fly
  • Rule 5.09 (Batter is out)

The rule applies only when there are fewer than two outs, and there is a force play at third base (i.e., when there are runners at first and second base, or the bases are loaded).[1] In these situations, if a fair fly ball is in play, and in the umpire's judgment is catchable by an infielder with ordinary effort, the umpire shall call "infield fly" (or more often, "infield fly, batter's out" or "infield fly if fair" when there is a chance of the ball drifting foul). When in effect, the batter will be out[2] regardless of whether the ball is actually caught. Umpires typically raise the right arm straight up, index finger pointing up and call to signal the rule is in effect.

If "infield fly" is called and the fly ball is caught, it is treated exactly as an ordinary caught fly ball; the batter is out, there is no force, and the runners must tag up. On the other hand, if "infield fly" is called and the ball lands fair without being caught, the batter is still out, there is still no force, but the runners are not required to tag up. In either case, the ball is live, and the runners may advance on the play, at their own peril.

An infield fly may be declared by any umpire on the field.

"Umpire's judgment"

The infield fly rule is a judgment call, as the rule states that "The judgment of the umpire must govern".[1] The rule directs the umpire to declare an infield fly immediately on determining that the play meets the criteria described above, solely based on the umpire's discretion. Since different umpires may have different definitions of what constitutes "ordinary effort," the rule may be applied differently depending on the umpire and game conditions.[3]

"Catchable by an infielder"

Any fair fly ball that could be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort is covered by the rule, whether or not it is in the infield, and whether or not an infielder catches it, or even attempts to catch it. For example, if an infielder retreats to the outfield in an effort to catch a fly ball, the infield fly rule may be invoked because the ball could have been caught by the infielder. Similarly, infield fly may also be called if an outfielder runs into the infield to catch a fly ball, if it could have been caught by an infielder with ordinary effort. It may be helpful to think of it as the "infielder fly rule". Specifically, the rule states an infield fly call should be determined by "whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder, not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire's judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder."

"Ordinary effort"

The term "ordinary effort" considers all circumstances, including weather, lighting, positioning of the defense, and the abilities of the players involved in the play. A fly ball catchable with ordinary effort in Major League Baseball might not be in a junior high school game, due to the ability of the players involved.

Foul balls

If the fly ball is near the foul lines, the umpire is to declare "infield fly, if fair". If the ball is not caught and ends up foul (including if it lands fair and then rolls foul before passing first or third base without being touched by a fielder), the infield fly call is canceled, and the play is treated as an ordinary foul ball. In contrast, if the ball lands foul and then rolls fair before passing first or third base without being touched, the infield fly takes effect and the batter is out.[1]


Declarations of the infield fly rule are not included in the statistical summary of a baseball game and are not a separate category in player statistics.

A fielder who misplays an infield fly is not charged with an error because the batter is out through the infield fly rule. In fact, the fielder who should have caught an infield fly earns a putout. But a fielder who fails to touch an infield fly that then rolls foul may be charged with an error for letting the ball roll foul; the batter is not out, and the misplay prolongs the batter's time at bat.


The rule was introduced in 1895 by the National League in response to infielders intentionally dropping pop-ups to get multiple outs by forcing out the runners on base, who were pinned near their bases while the ball was in the air.[4] At that time, the rule only applied with one man out.

The current rule came into effect in 1901. It was amended in 1904 to exclude line drives, and in 1920 to also exclude bunts.[5]

2008 World Series

In the fifth game of the 2008 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pedro Feliz of the Phillies hit a pop-up to the right side of the infield with runners on first and second and one out, in strong rain and swirling winds, and the infield fly rule was not invoked. Umpiring crew chief Tim Tschida explained that "The infield fly rule requires the umpires' judgment to determine whether or not a ball can be caught with ordinary effort, and that includes wind" and that the umpires' determination was that in this case there was no infielder who could make the play with "ordinary effort".[6]

2012 National League Wild Card Game

In the eighth inning of the 2012 National League Wild Card Game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves, Andrelton Simmons of the Braves hit a pop-up into shallow left field with one out and men on first and second bases. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who was playing in normal position, ran out to left field to catch the ball while left fielder Matt Holliday, who was playing very deep in left, ran in to catch it as well. Although Kozma initially called to catch the ball, as the ball came down, he suddenly moved out of the way and the ball fell between him and Holliday. While it initially appeared that Simmons (the batter) had safely reached first base and the Braves had the bases loaded with one out, Simmons was called out because left field umpire Sam Holbrook had called "infield fly" just before the ball hit the ground, and the Braves now had runners at second and third with two out, instead of bases loaded with one out. The Braves did not score in the inning, and the Cardinals went on to win the game, 6–3, eliminating the Braves from the postseason.

After the call, angry Braves fans began throwing plastic bottles and other debris onto the field, causing the game to be delayed for nearly 20 minutes.[7] The game was played by the Braves under an official protest from their manager, but shortly after the game, Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations, denied the protest, citing umpire's judgment. Torre made the ruling immediately following the game (waiving the normal 24-hour review period) due to the importance of the game and the quick turnaround time before the next playoff game.[7][8][9] The ball landed 225 feet (69 m) from home plate. Between 2009 and 2012, there were six infield-fly rulings on balls that weren't caught, and the longest was measured at 178 feet (54 m), 47 feet (14 m) less than the ball Simmons hit.[10]

Additional details

Umpires' signals

As the infield fly rule is a special case, umpires signal one another at the start of an at-bat to remind one another that the game situation puts the rule into effect. A typical signal is to touch the brim of the cap so as to show the number of outs.[11][12]

Second base unoccupied

The infield fly rule is not in effect if there is no runner on second base. Provided the batter runs to first base, the greatest benefit the defense could achieve by intentionally letting the fly ball drop untouched is to force out the runner at second rather than the batter, resulting in a runner on first base either way. However, if the batter is significantly slower than the runner, the defense may elect to let the ball drop untouched and achieve the force play, replacing the runner at first base with the batter.

Risks for the defense are that the uncaught ball may roll away from the fielder, and any runner on third base can try to score but has the option of remaining on his base.

If the batter gives up on the play, the defense can achieve outs at second base and first base by deliberately letting the ball drop untouched.

Intentional drop rule

A related rule called the intentional drop rule (Rule 5.09(a)(12)) applies even when second base is unoccupied (so long as first-base is occupied), and applies even when the batted ball is a line drive or a bunt that could be caught on the fly. This rule likewise prevents a fielder from deliberately dropping a ball and thereby achieving a double or triple play. If an umpire invokes this rule, the drop is ruled a catch, the ball is dead, and no baserunner may advance. The rule is not invoked when a fielder plays a ball on a bounce that might have been caught on the fly, or a fielder lets the ball fall to the ground without catching the palm of the mitt, or, in the judgment of the umpire, the ball was mishandled and not cleanly caught.

Runner advancement

For the runners, an infield fly is little different from an ordinary fly ball. If an infield fly is caught, the runners must retouch their original bases ("tag up") after the catch before attempting to advance. If an infield fly is not caught, no tag up is required and the runners may advance at their own risk. The only difference is that the umpire's declaration that the batter is out removes force plays and gives runners the option of staying on the base.

The infield fly rule states that runners may advance "after the ball is touched". This rule governs the tag up if the infield fly is caught. The runner does not need to wait on base until the fielder achieves full control of the ball. There is no need to tag up at any time if the ball is dropped. There is no concept of tagging up under the intentional drop rule, as base advances are not allowed.

Hit runners

A runner hit by an infield fly while standing on a base is also protected from being declared out due to interference, unless this interference is deemed intentional (which appeared in the rules in 1940).[5]

Rule not declared

The rulebook definition of Infield Fly[1] says the umpire "shall immediately declare 'Infield Fly' for the benefit of the runners." However, sometimes they do not. As in the 2008 World Series game, there may be doubt as to whether the ball was catchable by an infielder with ordinary effort. If not called, the infield fly rule is not in effect. The same definition includes a comment that "The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play." This suggests that the batter cannot be ruled out retroactively to settle a debate that occurs after the play ends.[13] However, in Major League Baseball, the umpires are likely to correct their mistake if it leads to an unfair double or triple play.[14]

Batter passing another runner

In adult baseball, a fly ball usually reaches the fielder before the batter can run the 90 feet to first base. However, in youth baseball, the distance between bases is shorter, and in some youth leagues, the infield fly rule is not in effect.

In this case, a baserunning gambit can be used to avoid a double or triple play. A fast batter may reach first base before the pop fly reaches the fielder. If the fielder fails to catch the ball, then the batter runs toward second base while the runner originally on first base remains there. Under Rule 7.08(h), the batter is out for passing a preceding runner, and under Rule 7.08(c), this out removes the force so that other runners are able to remain on their bases.[15]

Legal theory

The infield fly rule was the subject of an article in a U.S. law journal. William S. Stevens was a law student in 1975 when he anonymously published The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.[16] The article was humorous but also insightful on how common law related to codified regulation of behavior. It has been cited in numerous legal decisions and in subsequent literature.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d "2.00 Definition of Terms". Official Baseball Rules. Professional Baseball Playing Rules Committee, Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  2. ^ "6.00 The Batter". Official Baseball Rules. Professional Baseball Playing Rules Committee, Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  3. ^ "Rule 2.00 Infield Fly and 6.05(e): Getting to Know the Rule". Close Call Sports. May 15, 2012.
  4. ^ Marazzi, Rich. "Baseball rules corner: many players unaware of tag requirements when Infield Fly rule is called", Baseball Digest, January 2004. Accessed September 30, 2007. "The batter is automatically declared out, but the runners may attempt to advance at their own risk. The purpose of the rule, instituted in 1895, is to protect runners from deceitful acts by members of the defense."
  5. ^ a b Infield Fly Rule at
  6. ^ Sheehan, Joe (October 28, 2008). "Unconventional Thinking: MLB makes right decision to cancel". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Wild-card game stopped after call". Associated Press/ESPN. October 5, 2012.
  8. ^ "STL-ATL Infield Fly (NL Wild Card): Why call was Correct". Close Call Sports. October 6, 2012.
  9. ^ Ray Glier (October 5, 2012). "Iffy call against Braves sets off Turner Field fans". USA Today. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  10. ^ "Braves 'emptiness' after Wild Card loss; infield fly debated". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. October 6, 2012. Archived from the original on December 15, 2012.
  11. ^ "Infield Fly Rule - Signal". 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  12. ^ Steve Orinick. "The Infield Fly Rule". Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  13. ^ Infield Fly Rule on Rulebook Edge
  14. ^ Discussion at
  15. ^ "Minimax Solution of the Infield Fly"
  16. ^ "Aside, The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule," anonymous, 123 Univ. Penn. Law Review 1474 (1975).
  17. ^ E.g., "The Contribution of the Infield Fly Rule to Western Civilization (and vice versa)," Anthony D'Amato, Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 1 (2005)
2012 National League Wild Card Game

The 2012 National League Wild Card Game was a play-in game during Major League Baseball's (MLB) 2012 postseason played between the National League's (NL) two wild card teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves. It was held at Turner Field in Atlanta, on October 5, 2012, at 5:07 p.m. EDT. The Cardinals won by a 6–3 score and advanced to play the Washington Nationals in the NL Division Series. In addition to being the inaugural NL Wild Card Game, it is notable for being the final game of Chipper Jones's career, as well as for a controversial infield fly rule call made by umpire Sam Holbrook. The game was televised on TBS.

Baseball law

Baseball law refers to the various civil statutes, local ordinances, and court decisions pertaining to the game of baseball and its institutions, as distinguished from the Rules of Baseball, which are a private codification of rules governing the internal workings of baseball games.

Batted ball

In baseball, a batted ball is any ball that, after a pitch, is contacted by the batter's bat. One or more of several terms are used to describe a batted ball, depending on how it comes off the bat and where in the field it lands.

There are generally three descriptive categories for balls hit in the air:

A fly ball or simply fly is a ball that is hit in the air, usually very high. Fielders attempt to catch fly balls on their descent.

A pop fly or pop-up is a specific type of fly ball that goes very high while not traveling very far laterally. From the perspective of the fielder, pop-ups seem to come straight down. A fly ball is usually caught in flight and thus results in an out, called a fly out or a pop out as the case may be. Despite the subtle difference, however, the words fly ball and pop fly are often interchangeable.A pop fly in or near the infield is almost always easily caught, because infielders (also at times the pitcher or catcher) can easily approach the fly ball before it falls. A special rule, the infield fly rule, applies to any fair fly ball that looks like an easy catch for an infielder when baserunners are on first and second base and there are fewer than two outs. When fielder drops a fly ball, runners that expected having to tag up must run immediately to avoid the incoming batsman, allowing an easy force play on them at third base or home plate. The umpire calls "Infield fly if fair", indicating that if the batted ball remains fair, the batter is out automatically and baserunners are not obligated to vacate their bases to avoid the force-out. The infield fly rule does not apply to a bunted ball of any kind or a foul fly of any kind.

A line drive or a liner. This is a sharply hit, low-flying batted ball. The threshold between a line drive and a fly ball is subjective; liners tend to have little noticeable arc. Liners also tend to be the hardest balls to catch due to their speed and rapid descent; however, very fast liners hit directly to an infielder are often caught by instinct without the need for judgment, making the catch easy, though perhaps unexpected. Line drives can be especially dangerous to baseball players and spectators. As recently as July 22, 2007, Tulsa Drillers first base coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed in a line drive accident at a minor league stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas.A ground ball or grounder is a batted ball that rolls or bounces on the ground. A line drive in the infield may become a hard grounder to an outfielder; these are usually called line drives regardless.

Bunts are generally not considered to be ground balls; they are a distinct type of batted ball, where the batter, in effect, tries to "block" the ball with the bat held steady, rather than taking a full swing.

Any of the above types of balls might be fair balls or foul balls. Umpires will also signal first signal fair or foul on fly outs near the foul line, but the result of a foul fly out (or foul out) is no different from a fair fly out; it is not a foul ball.

A foul tip, a very different type of batted ball, is a ball that only grazes the bat, and does not change direction much if at all. If the catcher does not catch the ball, it is an ordinary foul ball. If the catcher has to move either his mitt/hand or body to catch the ball, it is not a foul tip, as the ball would no longer have traveled directly to the catch. However, if the ball deflects from either the mitt or hand and is subsequently caught before landing, it is still a foul tip. A foul tip is always a strike, and is a strike-out if there are two strikes on the batter. The foul tip is a live ball and runners may advance.


"Beanball" is a colloquialism used in baseball, for a ball thrown at an opposing player with the intention of striking them such as to cause harm, often connoting a throw at the player's head (or "bean" in old-fashioned slang). A pitcher who throws beanballs often is known as a "headhunter". The term may be applied to any sport in which a player on one team regularly attempts to throw a ball toward the general vicinity of a player of the opposite team, but is typically expected not to hit that player with the ball. In cricket, the equivalent term is "beamer". Some people use the term, beaner, though that usage is discouraged because of the negative connotations associated with that usage.

Bunt (baseball)

A bunt is a batting technique in baseball or fastpitch softball. To bunt, the batter loosely holds the bat in front of home plate and intentionally taps the ball into play. A properly executed bunt will create weak contact with the ball and/or strategically direct it, forcing the infielders to make a difficult defensive play to record an out.

Ed Doheny

Edwin Richard Doheny (November 24, 1873 – December 29, 1916) was an American baseball player. He played pitcher in the Major Leagues from 1895 to 1903, first for the New York Giants, then for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1903 he violently attacked several people, was declared insane and was committed to Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts. He died on December 29, 1916, in Medfield Insane Asylum.

Fredi González

Fredi Jesus González (born January 28, 1964) is a Cuban-born American baseball coach and manager. He is currently the third base coach for the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball (MLB). He managed the Florida Marlins from 2007 to 2010 and the Atlanta Braves from 2011 to 2016. González was fired from both managing positions. For four seasons prior to 2007, he was the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves. Despite never reaching the playoffs with Florida, González nearly led the Braves to a playoff berth in his first season as manager in 2011. He then guided the Braves to the postseason in 2012 and 2013.


Gamesmanship is the use of dubious (although not technically illegal) methods to win or gain a serious advantage in a game or sport. It has been described as "Pushing the rules to the limit without getting caught, using whatever dubious methods possible to achieve the desired end". It may be inferred that the term derives from the idea of playing for the game (i.e., to win at any cost) as opposed to sportsmanship, which derives from the idea of playing for sport. The term was popularized by Stephen Potter's humorous 1947 book, The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship (or the Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating). It had, however, been used before by Ian Coster in his autobiographic book Friends in Aspic, published in 1939, where it was attributed to Francis Meynell.

Out (baseball)

In baseball, an out occurs when the umpire rules a batter or baserunner out for one of the reasons given below. When three outs are recorded in an inning, a team's half of the inning (their turn at batting), ends.

To signal an out, an umpire generally makes a fist with one hand, and then flexes that arm either upward, particularly on pop flies, or forward, particularly on routine plays at first base. Home plate umpires often use a "punch-out" motion to signal a called third strike.

Protested game

A protested game occurs in baseball when a manager believes that an umpire's decision is in violation of the official rules. In such cases, the manager can raise a protest by informing the umpires, and the game continues to be played "under protest." An umpire's judgment call (such as balls and strikes, safe or out, fair or foul) may not be protested.

Sam Holbrook

Samuel Woodford Holbrook (born July 7, 1965) is an umpire in Major League Baseball. He wears number 34.

Switch hitter

In baseball, a switch hitter is a player who bats both right-handed and left-handed, usually right-handed against left-handed pitchers and left-handed against right-handed pitchers.

The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule

The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule is the title of an article by William S. Stevens published in 1975 in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. The brief eight-page article has vastly surpassed its modest original context, having been cited in federal and state judicial opinions and more than 100 works of legal literature. It has been included in a number of anthologies of baseball law, and prompted copycat and parody articles. The New York Times called the Article "one of the most celebrated and imitated analyses in American legal history."

Uncaught third strike

In baseball and softball, an uncaught third strike (sometimes referred to as dropped third strike or non-caught third strike) occurs when the catcher fails to cleanly catch a pitch for the third strike. In Major League Baseball, the specific rules concerning the uncaught third strike are addressed in Rules 5.05 and 5.09 of the Official Baseball Rules:On an uncaught third strike with (1) no runner on first base, or (2) with a runner on first base and two outs, the batter immediately becomes a runner. The strike is called, but the umpire does not call the batter out. The umpire may also signal that there is "no catch" of the pitch. The batter may then attempt to reach first base and must be tagged or forced out. With two outs and the bases loaded, the catcher who fails to catch the third strike may, upon picking up the ball, step on home plate for a force-out or make a throw to any other base in an effort to force out a runner. An “uncaught” strike includes not only pitches dropped by the catcher, but also pitches that hit the ground before the catcher attempts to catch it.

The purpose of the "no runner on first base or two outs" qualification is to prevent the catcher from deliberately dropping a third strike pitch and then initiating an unfair double or triple play with possible force plays at second base, third base, or home plate, in addition to putting the batter out at first base. The logic of the situation is similar to that which led to the infield fly rule.Regardless of the outcome of an uncaught third strike, the pitcher is statistically credited with a strikeout, and the batter is statistically charged with one. Because of the uncaught third strike rule, it is possible for a pitcher to register more than three strikeouts in an inning. Numerous pitchers have recorded four strikeouts in an inning in a Major League Baseball game, though no five-strikeout innings have ever occurred.In Little League, in the Tee-Ball and Minor League divisions, the batter is out after the third strike regardless of whether the pitched ball is caught cleanly by the catcher. In Little League (or the Major Division), Junior, Senior, and Big League divisions, a batter may attempt to advance to first base on an uncaught third strike. Little League Major Division Softball and many other youth baseball leagues (such as the USSSA) also follow the rule.

University of Pennsylvania Law Review

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review is a law review focusing on legal issues, published by an organization of second and third year J.D. students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. It is the oldest law journal in the United States, having been published continuously since 1852. Currently, seven issues are published each year with the last issue traditionally featuring papers from symposia held by the review each year. It is one of the four law reviews responsible for publication of the Bluebook. It is one of five official scholarly journals at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the third-most-cited law journal in the world.In addition to the print edition, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review also publishes the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online, formerly named PENNumbra, an online supplement, which publishes debates, essays, case notes, and responses to articles that appeared in the print edition.

William S. Stevens

William Stanley Stevens (c. 1948 – December 8, 2008) was an American lawyer best known for his June 1975 law review article The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule, which treated the development of one of baseball's most-misunderstood rules as if it were a legal matter.

William Stevens

William Stevens may refer to:

William Stevens (MP) for Salisbury

William Stevens (writer) (1732–1807), English biographer

William A. Stevens (1879–1941), New Jersey Attorney General

William Bacon Stevens (1815–1887), Episcopal bishop of Pennsylvania

William George Stevens (1893–1975), British born general who served with the New Zealand Military Forces during WWII

William H. Stevens (1818–1880), American architect

William L. Stevens (1932–1997), Episcopal bishop of Fond du Lac

William N. Stevens (1850–1889), first African American to serve in both house of the Virginia General Assembly

William Oliver Stevens (1878–1955), American writer and professor for the United States Naval Academy

W. Richard Stevens (1951–1999), American technology writer

William S. Stevens (1948–2008), attorney who wrote The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule

William W. Stevens, one of the founders of Triad Systems Corporation, now known as Activant

Billy Stevens (born 1945), American football player

Billy Stevens (Australian footballer) (1905–1997), Australian rules footballer for St Kilda

Bill Stevens (footballer, born 1908) (1908–1981), Australian rules footballer for North Melbourne

Bill Stevens (footballer, born 1939), Australian rules footballer for Fitzroy

Will Stevens (born 1991), British racing driver

Will Henry Stevens (1881–1949), American modernist painter and naturalist

Mark Stevens (actor) (Richard William Stevens, 1916–1994), American actor

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