Has There Ever Been A Plate Appearance Without A Bat In MLB Baseball?
In professional baseball, we typically see the batter approach the batter’s box with a bat in hand, ready to try to hit the incoming pitches. However, there are always exceptions in any sport. Find a discussion of the appearance of a batter in the batter’s box without a bat below.
Plate Appearance Rules
The Major League Baseball (MLB) Rulebook states that a batter must approach the batter's box with a legal bat, as defined by the MLB. This means that the bat must be made out of wood and may not exceed 2.7 inches in diameter at the thickest point and no more than 42 inches in length.
Michael Morse’s Phantom Grand Slam
On September 29, 2012, the Washington Nationals were playing the Saint Louis Cardinals in Saint Louis. During the first inning of this game, Michael Morse of the Nationals hit a long ball toward right field with the bases loaded. The ball bounced off the wall of the stadium and was fielded back toward the Cardinal’s first baseman so that Morse was tagged out.
This call was contested, however, and it was determined after review that the wall that the hit had bounced off before being fielded for the tag-out was out of play. This was due to the ground rules of Busch Stadium, the home field of the Cardinals. The ground rules state that the outfield wall around the stadium is eight feet high all around, with no abnormalities of height. The ball struck the lighted sign board above and slightly behind this eight-foot wall before it was fielded. This rendered the ball out of play since it was already a home run before the outfielder collected the ball.
Substantial confusion resulted among Morse and the three runners on base from the unclear outcome of the hit. After the umpires determined that the hit constituted a home run, the runners were ordered back to their positions at the start of the play. Morse was also required to step back into the batter’s box. He then had to take an imaginary swing, without a bat, and run around all the bases. This was done to ensure all the scoring runners had touched all the bases properly since they had all abandoned their positions during the confusion of the umpires’ review.
Norm Cash’s Table Leg
There have been few exceptions other than the case of Michael More. In 1973 on July 15, pitcher Nolan Ryan was throwing a no hitter. First baseman Norm Cash tried to step into the batter’s box holding a table leg instead of a bat during the ninth inning. However, the umpire made him return to the dugout and come back with a standard bat instead.
Such cases, including the Michael Morse “phantom grand slam,” are incredibly uncommon. Batters almost always appear with the standard equipment, although one can see from these examples that there are exceptions to the rule.