Obscure rule comes into play during Yankees-Cubs game on Wednesday

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I have watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my life, and yet, just when I think I've seen it all, the game shows me something new. On Wednesday, an obscure rule I didn't even know existed came into play.

The play occurred in the fifth inning of the first game of the Yankees-Cubs doubleheader, when Chicago catcher John Baker was called for catcher interference on a Jacoby Ellsbury's swing. Nothing weird about that, right? Catcher interference happens all the time. They played out the ground ball, with Brett Gardner scoring from third and Ellsbury being tagged out.

Since there was catcher interference, Ellsbury was awarded first base and Gardner was sent back to third. That's what usually happens, but not on Wednesday. Yankees skipper Joe Girardi spoke the umpire and declined the interference call, instead taking the play on the field. Here's the video:

Instead of having first and third with one out, the Yankees chose to have the bases empty with two outs and a run in by declining the catcher intereference. Obviously you take the sure run each time. Rule 6.08(c) is the one that allows a manager to reject a catcher interference call in favor of the outcome of the play. Here's the text:

The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when --
(c) The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.

I always thought catcher interference meant dead ball and the runner was awarded first base. The ability to decline the penalty like some common NFL game is not something I knew was possible in baseball.

So, how did Girardi know he could decline the catcher interference? After the game he told reporters it happened to him as a player. Apparently he interfered with a Bobby Bonilla swing during his days as a catcher with the Cubbies, but Bonilla hit a three-run homer and the interference call was declined. Weird.

Baseball, man. Something new everyday.

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