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didn’t want him to get hurt if the bat slipped from his arthritic and age-weakened hands. The catcher complied, and on the

first pitch, Cobb

bunted the ball toward third base. By the time the catcher got to the ball, Cobb was safely on base.

Odd Home Runs While many fans appre- ciate precision pitching, everyone likes to see home runs, where the ball is shot high and far and out

of the ballpark. And while most home runs are straightforward events, some oddball round-trippers have been hit. For example, there was a home run in 1914 that traveled only seventy feet. It happened during a Federal League game between the Brooklyn Feds and the Chicago Whales, and a missing umpire was to blame for this baseball oddity. Bill Brennan was one of the two umpires scheduled to work the game that day, and when his partner didn’t show up, he decided to stand behind the pitcher so he could call the plays on bases as well as the balls and strikes at the plate. In the course of the game, Brennan grew weary of making trips to the home team’s dugout for new baseballs when batters hit foul balls into the stands. Consequently, he decided to stack a pile of balls behind the pitcher’s mound. That worked fine

until Grover Land came to bat and smashed a line drive straight into the stack of balls. Baseballs rocketed in all directions, and it seemed like every infielder grabbed a ball. Which was the game ball and which had come from the stack of spare balls? No one could tell, so Brennan declared the hit a home run.


Taken in 2003, this photo shows a perfect day for baseball at the Cleveland Indians’ home field. Once known as Jacobs Field, the ballpark is now called Progressive Field.

T H E E L K S M A G A Z I N E 33 Reuben’s Rule

T’S an accepted part of baseball today that any ball hit into the stands belongs to the fan who catches it. However, this wasn’t always the case. In the early days of baseball, spectators were expected to return balls that were hit into the stands, and as late as 1916, only some major league teams allowed fans to keep balls they caught. On May 16, 1921, however, a fan at a New York Giants game named Reuben Berman helped change this tradition when he grabbed a ball that was hit into the stands at the Polo Grounds and declined to return it. After being ejected from the park for refusing to give up the ball, Berman sued the Giants for $20,000 (nearly $250,000 in today’s dollars) over the treatment he received. His complaint cited the “mental and bodily stress” he had endured because of his humiliating ejection from the ballpark. Although the court did not ultimately award him the $20,000 he was seeking, it did rule in his favor and awarded him $100 (a little over $1,200 in today’s dollars). The decision has subsequently become known as “Reuben’s rule,” and although at the time it did not result in all major league teams allowing fans to keep foul balls and home runs hit into the stands, it helped pave the way for the development of this tradition. —RB


Ty Cobb, shown here during his time with the

Detroit Tigers, was known for having a violent temper.



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