Baseball Unwritten Rules
Baseball is a sport with an almost-unparalleled culture. Much like soccer, there are a number of unspoken traditions, guidelines, and superstitions surrounding the game, and some of these have become pseudo-rules in the sport, binding players, coaches, and even fans with unwritten rules of etiquette and behavior.
Unwritten Rules in Baseball
Baseball has a long history of unwritten rules, which are guidelines, practices, and manners that are expected of those at a baseball game regardless of not being explicitly stated in the rulebook. Many of baseball’s unwritten rules have to do with conduct, and were developed over many years by general consensus, rather than being written down. Indeed, many of baseball’s unwritten rules have changed over the years, but many have also existed since the earliest days of the game.
Ironically, though they are referred to as “unwritten rules,” baseball’s unspoken practices have been written about multiple times, though they have never been incorporated into the rulebook. Joe Garagiola Sr., a former baseball player and announcer, wrote about the game’s unwritten rules in his 1960 book Baseball is a Funny Game. In 1986, a column for the Orange County Register by Peter Schmuck and Randy Youngman, which was later reprinted in Baseball Digest, listed 30 unwritten rules of baseball.
Many of the unwritten rules of baseball have received scrutiny form players, coaches, fans, and even the MLB. For example, some people see the unspoken rule that pitchers should hit players on the opposing team with a pitch if the other team’s pitcher hit their player as a retaliatory and unnecessary rule. The MLB has even subtly criticized the unwritten rules before, such as through their 2018 “Let the Kids Play” Campaign, which encouraged allowing players to flip their bats after a hit, which is not allowed in one unwritten rule.
General Unwritten Rules in Baseball
These are some general unwritten rules in baseball, which apply to all players and coaches on the field:
- Do not assist a member of the opposing team.
- Do not speak to a pitcher who is in the process of throwing a no-hitter.
Unwritten Rules for Batters
These are some unwritten rules for batters in baseball:
- Do not use a bunt to break up an ongoing no-hitter.
- Do not swing on a 3-0 count if your team is ahead by a large amount.
- If you hit a home run, do not spend a lot of time admiring it.
- If you hit a home run, do not run too slowly around the bases.
- If the pitcher has allowed back-to-back home runs, don’t swing at the first pitch of your at-bat.
- If your team is winning or losing by a significant amount, don’t work the count.
- If you are hit by a pitch, don’t rub the spot where you got hit.
- When walking to the batter's box, don't walk in front of the catcher or umpire.
- Don't throw your bat at the catcher or umpire while on your backswing.
- Keep away from the batter's box while the pitcher is warming up.
- Don’t flip your bat after a hit.
Unwritten Rules for Runners
These are some unwritten rules for runners in baseball:
- If a batter hits a pop-up, do not distract fielders near you from catching it.
- Do not slap a caught ball out of a fielder's glove.
- Do not step on the chalk between the bases.
- Always hustle when running the bases.
- If your team is ahead by a large amount, don’t steal bases.
- Do not cross the pitcher's mound while on your way back to the dugout.
Unwritten Rules for Pitchers
These are some unwritten rules for pitchers in baseball:
- If a pitcher is removed from the game in the middle of an inning, they must stay in the dugout until the inning ends.
- A pitcher should not yell at fielders who commit errors.
- If you are a pitcher, don’t field pop-ups.
- If a pitcher from the opposing team hits your teammate with a pitch, you must hit one of theirs.
- If you are going to hit a batter with a pitch, aim below the head.
- Don’t use your closer if the game is tied and you are on the road.
Unwritten Rules for Fielders
These are some unwritten rules for fielders in baseball:
- In fielding situations, the center fielder has priority to call off other outfielders.
- In fielding situations, the shortstop has priority to call off other infielders.
- Do not make the first or third out of a half-inning at third base.
Unwritten Rules for Fans
These are some unwritten rules for baseball fans and spectators:
- Do not discuss an ongoing no-hitter.
- Do not pretend to know the answer to a baseball question that you don’t know for sure.
- Cheer for your pitchers and hitters when they perform well.
- Heckle the opposite team, but respectfully.
- Keep any chants going until the at-bat ends.
- If fans leave early, their seats are up for grabs.
- If seats are empty at the start of the game, wait until at least the seventh inning to take them.
- If you are an adult who catches a home run ball, you should give it back to the team.
- Kids who catch fouls and home runs get to keep the ball.
- If you are an adult and catch a foul ball, give it to a nearby child.
- Do not do the wave if your team is ahead during the first five innings.
What are unwritten rules in baseball?
Unwritten rules in baseball are a series of rules that are not in the MLB Rulebook, but are generally expected to be followed by those at a game in order to promote sportsmanship and good manners. There are many categories of unwritten rules, including rules for hitters, fielders, runners, pitchers, and even fans. Not everyone necessarily follows these unwritten rules, but they are generally accepted to be good conduct.
Are unwritten rules in baseball actually enforced?
Different unwritten rules in baseball are enforced in different ways, and also to different degrees. Certain rules are enforced more loosely than others, such as the rule against admiring a home run, which is often not enforced against veteran players, or for major home run milestones in a career. However, other rules are enforced more strictly, and many a bench-clearing brawl has erupted over violations of the unwritten rules.