(This was originally published in 2017).
If you’ve been to a baseball game, you’ve seen the pregame meeting at home plate where the managers present their line-up cards to the umpires. One of the things that are discussed at such meetings are the ground rules of the park.
Every ballpark is different, so there are specific rules that apply to situations that could occur at that park.
Some ground rules are common to every park. A ball that bounces into the stands in fair territory is ruled a double. It’s called a “ground rule double.”
Other ground rules are more specific to that park. For instance, at old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, the upper deck in right field hung over the field by a few feet. Fly balls hit off the facing of the upper deck were ruled home runs.
At Chase Field, there are seating areas that overhang the field on either side of the center field batters’ background. A fly ball that hits the overhang and falls back onto the field is still in play. To get a home run, a batter has to hit the ball into those seating areas.
There’s one event that never happened that some historians have wondered what the ground rules would’ve been. That would’ve been what if a batter hit a fly ball off the clubhouses at the old Polo Grounds in New York and it came back onto the field. Apparently, there was no ground rule for this as no one thought it could happen.
The Polo Grounds was the Giants’ home until they moved to San Francisco following the 1957 season. It was the Mets’ home in 1962 and 1963 before they moved to Shea Stadium in Queens. It was built to fit the property it was sitting on, and was described as being shaped like a horseshoe. I think a bathtub was a more accurate description.
It was 279 feet down the left field line, and 257 down the line in right field. Chase Field’s right field corner is almost 80 feet longer. Center field at the Polo Grounds was 480 feet from home plate. That’s 40 feet further than center field at Tiger Stadium, and more than 60 feet further than the deepest recesses of Chase Field.
The clubhouses were atop a garage that housed the grounds keeping equipment. No one ever hit a ball that reached the wall in dead center in the Polo Grounds, although a handful of home runs had landed in the bleachers on either side. It’s easy to see why there was no ground rule applying to a baseball hitting the clubhouses. It was one of those things no one thought was possible.
This raises the question of what the umpires would have ruled had a fly ball hit the clubhouses and come back onto the field. It’s entirely possible that this would’ve been ruled a double, even though it would’ve been one of the longest balls ever hit.
This is speculation, of course, but that’s part of the fun of baseball. If it weren’t for speculation, the fans would lose a lot of what they do.
For me, it’s always fun to speculate on what a baseball hit into the goofy foul corners at Chase Field is going to do. I don’t think even someone who perfectly understands E=mc2 could be 100 percent right on that one.