Ground Rule or Automatic?

Few things get my blood pressure up when watching a baseball game more than when an announcer misidentifies a batted ball that bounces into the stands after first landing fair.  There are very few, Jon Miller is one of them, that use the correct term (others that I have heard recently use the correct term are Matt Vasgergian and Greg Amsinger).  The proper way to identify such a play is as an “automatic double,” not a “ground rule double.”

According to the MLB rulebook, “ground rules” are those that are specific to each individual park.  Thus, a feat that can be achieved in any park cannot qualify as a “ground rule double.”  Check out this link from to see what I mean (or if you don’t want to click, read below).

A ground rule double is a double awarded by the umpire because a fair ball became unplayable according to the ground rules of the ballpark.  The ground rules technically only cover ways in which the ball can become unplayable, such as becoming lodged in the ivy at Wrigley Field; the rulebook  specifies that the award is always two bases.  The only exception to the two base rule is in the now very uncommon case of overflow crowds placed in cordoned off sections of the playing field, in which case the managers may agree on other base awards.

“Ground rule double” is also colloquially used for doubles awarded because “a fair ball, touching the ground, bounds into the stands”.  This colloquial usage is technically incorrect as the ruling is applied equally in all ballparks and has nothing to do with “ground rules”.  Some commentators will use terms such as “bounce doubles”, “rulebook doubles”, or as Jon Miller prefers, “automatic doubles” in lieu of the misappropriation of “ground rule double”.

The site references a ball becoming lodged in the ivy at Wrigley Field, and that is correctly a “ground rule.”  I picked today to write about this because I saw a lot of automatic doubles yesterday watching the Yankees destroy the Red Sox, and when I was watching highlights of today’s games on MLB Network, there was another fine example of correct usage.

In the Twins-Rays game, Evan Longoria lofted a ball toward left field.  The ball landed on one of the catwalks above the field.  Had the ball merely deflected off that particular catwalk and come down, he would have been awarded a home run; because the ball landed on the catwalk, he was awarded a double….a ground rule double.  This was correctly identified by Greg Amsinger.

My dad and I usually wait a few weeks before one of us will point out to the other when they have had enough of this mistake.  He hasn’t said anything yet, but I am sure that he has heard it already, and will probably appreciate this post.

Just because something is universally misidentified, the way that ground rule double is, does not make it right.


One Response to Ground Rule or Automatic?

  1. theDAWG says:

    I agree 1000% and I think that more attention should be paid to this misuse of terminology. Broadcast guys and analysts are certainly aware of the difference, but choose to call plays incorrectly.

    If a batter is hit with a pitch that would be ball four, would it be acceptable for a broadcast to call it a “base on balls”?

    I don’t think knowledgeable fans can, in good conscience, continue to stand aside and let other fans remain ignorant of the rules of the game or let the media get away with this travesty.

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