You have come upon a rare gem. You have before you the only book in the century-and-a-half history of America’s pastime to make sense of the rules governing baseball.
Whether you are an aspiring young umpire or a battle-scarred veteran of the diamond, whether you are a league president or commissioner, manager, coach, player, announcer, reporter, official scorer—or simply a baseball enthusiast—you will reap many rewards from this book. The young umpire will benefit from a comprehensive source that covers rules in an easy-to-read “A to Z” format. The arbiter with “elder statesman” status will discover helpful concepts never before identified—and treatment of plays not addressed anywhere else. Curious baseball fans will have a place to go to have their questions answered after an unusual play occurs. All who read this book will discover a fresh vantage point, and gain a new understanding for the game our country grew up with. Perhaps this book will even contribute to an increased appreciation for the job of umpiring—where knowing the rules means being 100% prepared for plays that may happen only once in a lifetime.
“What is the best way to learn the rules of baseball?”
The Official Baseball Rules, as they exist, are roughly equivalent to the U.S. federal tax code—so complex that only an expert could thoroughly understand them. Thrown into the mix—sort of like state and local taxes—are the rule differences to be found in the amateur ranks, from college on down. Many umpires have understandably asked, “How will I ever learn the rules of baseball?” Joe Brinkman, Major League Crew Chief, and probably the most widely respected educator of umpires alive today, said,
“If you want to truly know the rules of baseball, you have to start with the professional rules. They are closest to the heart of baseball. After you understand the professional rules, learning and remembering the differences at the various levels is much easier.”
Brinkman, Major League Umpire Jeff Nelson, and other respected educators of umpires often speak about how the professional rules, as practiced, remain closest to the roots of original and true baseball concepts. Thus, anyone who hopes to fully understand rules and interpretations must begin at the source. Of course, the problem is that the written source, the Official Baseball Rules, is a vague, inaccurate, and incomplete representation of how the game is actually officiated. The Rules of Professional Baseball originated as a remedy for this problem. It evolved into much more, and stands alone in the following aspects:
• The only comprehensive treatise in existence that pares the rules of baseball down to their essentials.
• The only baseball rules guide to organize the essentials into a logical presentation.
• The only baseball rules aid in which every word has a specific and unequivocal meaning.
• The only book to clearly define baseball concepts taken for granted since their inception.
• The only complete and accurate portrayal of how professional baseball is currently officiated.
• The only book to offer interpretations and/or penalization for official baseball rules that are incomplete or vague.
• The only book to identify all interpretation differences between the Major and Minor Leagues.
• The only book to offer full access to the rules as taught at professional umpire schools.
• The only practical, usable, and concise guide to the differences between professional and amateur rules.
• The world’s only baseball rules textbook.
• The world’s first and only complete re-write of the Official Rules.
What is the background of The Rules of Professional Baseball?
This book has a fascinating history. It began in the only place such a book might have begun, one of only two places in the world where the rules of professional baseball were officially being taught. In the mid-1980’s the Joe Brinkman and Harry Wendelstedt Umpire Schools held sole responsibility for cultivating new talent for baseball’s minor leagues—on-the-job training for the Major Leagues. Joe Brinkman, American League umpire and one of the foremost educators of umpires in the history of the game, led an innovative staff at his camp in Cocoa, Florida. Nick Bremigan, an American League umpire, was his choice to teach the rules in the classroom to the one hundred or so candidates who attended each year. Nick was a cerebral umpire, and dabbled in new approaches to teaching the rules, including flow charts and visual aids. He died suddenly in 1989.
Joe Brinkman called upon Nick’s classroom assistant, minor league umpire Chris Jaksa, to replace Bremigan as head classroom instructor. A brilliant person and an educator at heart, Jaksa was determined to carry on the innovations of his predecessor. However, while Bremigan had made due with the Official Baseball Rules as the classroom textbook, Jaksa decided that the official book mostly hindered his teaching efforts. The cross-referencing alone posed extreme difficulty. For instance, Jaksa found seven separate references to offensive runner interference! He identified rules that were repetitive, outdated, and unused. He quickly discovered that the process used to compile the Official Baseball Rules had caused most of the problems. Major League Baseball’s Rules Committee had added, deleted, or changed many rules over the course of the years, usually without any regard for the document as a whole. This process resulted in the conflicts between rules, inaccurate and vague wordings, and a constantly increasing problem of disorganization. Jaksa did not have time to waste—especially considering that the term of umpire school was only six weeks.
Jaksa decided upon a radical course of action—he would write a textbook on his own that he could use to effectively teach the rules to prospective professional umpires. He began by dissecting (literally!) the Official Baseball Rules during his free time as a minor league umpire. He cut out each phrase from the official book with a scissors and glued them all on a large piece of cardboard in a semblance of order. His new textbook quickly took form. The crude reorganization resulted in about twenty-five “clusters” of clippings, which evolved into the present twenty-nine-chapter arrangement.
Jaksa reduced piles of cross-references to singular, clear concepts. He omitted outdated rules such as 8.04, which requires the umpire to call a ball every time the pitcher fails to deliver a pitch within twenty seconds. He called upon umpires and supervisors—minor and major league alike—for clarification of questionable rules. He asked that common, unwritten practices of umpires be added to the written record. In the interest of his umpire school candidates, he painstakingly ensured that interpretations were “official,” backed up by the committee-based decision makers in the major and minor leagues. When he could not get answers from his superiors (many plays and rules remain unresolved to this day) he suggested interpretations to his students. Jaksa wanted confident and decisive umpires. He refused to reply to a question in the umpire school classroom with, “There’s not an answer.” Jaksa’s technical rules manual first appeared in Joe Brinkman’s school in January of 1986. Much of his work is identifiable in both the major and minor league interpretation manuals in use today.
Chris Jaksa’s legacy to the game was the technical analysis and re-organization of the rules in this textbook, which he named The Rules of Professional Baseball: A Comprehensive Reorganization and Interpretation. It remains the only book of its kind in the world. Jaksa retired from professional baseball umpiring in 1989, having risen to the Double-A level. He attended the Medical School of the University of Michigan, and presently works as an emergency physician in California.
Jaksa passed on The Rules of Professional Baseball to his co-author, Rick Roder, who had assisted in its development beginning in 1988. Roder attended the Brinkman School in 1987, assisted in the rules classroom in 1988 and 1989, and was the head rules instructor from 1990-1995; he was a professional umpire for ten years. Roder’s job was to enhance Jaksa’s brilliant work by placing it in simple, straightforward, and understandable language. Another vital contribution by Roder was the extensive index, which remains the most comprehensive and simple way in the baseball world to find quick answers to a rules question. He has carried the book through to its twelfth edition. The collaboration of Jaksa and Roder has become world-renowned.
Thirteen present Major League umpires (recognized in “Acknowledgements”) began their rules instruction with The Rules of Professional Baseball as umpire school novices. All thirteen have acknowledged the pivotal role that the manual played (and continues to play) in their careers. Many professional umpires who attended the Wendelstedt or Evans umpire schools found their way to this manual through their colleagues who attended Brinkman’s school, and benefited as well.
The Rules of Professional Baseball employs methodology that would be considered standard in any technical manual or course. Rules and their related concepts are presented with painstaking attention to details of language. For instance, a “catch” very specifically means “catch” of an airborne batted ball (or airborne pitched ball) for an out; to be distinguished from “gloving” the ball—gaining possession of any throw, or a batted or pitched ball that is no longer airborne. Since every word has a specific meaning, confusion is averted when the terms are used in examples or related rules. Also, similar concepts are presented together. For example, “catch” (for an out) and “tag” (of a runner or base for an out) have identical requirements; the fielder must gain complete control and show voluntary release of the ball in completing the catch or tag. Concepts that are directly opposed are also presented in tandem, such as ball versus strike, safe versus out, fair versus foul, interference versus not interference, and so on. Such methods of simplification and organization greatly enhance the process of learning and recall, which is of vital importance when a quick ruling is needed in the heat of the contest.
The overall organization of the manual is based roughly upon three considerations: moving from the easy to the more complex rules; the order in which rulings are likely to occur in a game; and coordination with on-field instruction at a five-week umpire school course.
The twelfth edition of The Rules of Professional Baseball includes all of the on-field interpretations and directives currently in use in professional baseball. Differences between Major League (MLB) and Minor League (National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, or “NAPBL”) interpretations and directives are clearly noted. We employed Part II (“Procedures and Interpretations”) of the Major League Umpire Manual (New York: Office of the Commissioner, 2007). We also employed the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp’s Umpire Manual (St. Petersburg: Professional Baseball Umpire Corp, 2004). PBUC is the governing body of the Minor League Umpires and makes interpretations for the NAPBL.
Rule numbers from the Official Baseball Rules (Copyright , 2007 by the Commissioner of Baseball, and published by “The Sporting News”) are also included. The numbers are printed next to the interpretations to which they correspond, providing a system of reference to the Official Rules.
By including NFHS, NAIA, and NCAA rule differences in The Rules of Professional Baseball, Jaksa and Roder came to the aid of all umpires who have been frustrated by the complex web of differences between the professional rules and the college and high school codes. You will find that no other book on rule differences approaches the The Rules of Professional Baseball in usability. That is because Jaksa and Roder have already built a sound, firm foundation of simplicity and common sense with their original rules manual. Thus, the The Rules of Professional Baseball is the perfect starting place, and a highly effective tool for an orderly and complete course of study.
The authors recommend that readers use the The Rules of Professional Baseball as a starting point, but also as only one volume of a complete baseball rules library. The hundreds of rule differences are so complex and varied (and change so quickly and often) that umpires will not want to rely on any one source in attempting to master them. Umpires will, of course, want to obtain the rulebooks and casebooks from the various levels, along with supplemental books like Baseball Rule Differences by Carl Childress. It is also highly recommended that umpires attend any local meetings that might help them stay up-to-date on college, junior college, high school, legion, little league, etc., rules. NFHS, NCAA, and NAIA rule differences were current as of January 2008.
The examples found in the The Rules of Professional Baseball use professional interpretations only. Please consult Childress’s Baseball Rule Differences for examples of rule differences on the various non-professional levels.
The items in italic print are innovations that the authors believe to be unique or original to The Rules of Professional Baseball: A Comprehensive Reorganization and Interpretation. In some cases they are words used to make certain concepts more clear. In other cases they are interpretations of plays or rules that have not yet been specifically addressed by the Major or Minor Leagues. As umpire school instructors, the authors found need to employ certain words and phrases so that everyone in the classroom could clearly understand what a concept meant, and they found need to make certain interpretations so that every rule question and play question could be answered. Bear in mind that the process for making new rules interpretations in the Major and Minor Leagues can be very involved; oftentimes many opinions must be considered. Be that as it may, the words and interpretations herein printed in italics are not to be considered those officially used on the fields of professional baseball. However, they may very well help you to understand a concept or to decide how to rule on a play that is not specifically addressed anywhere else.
Throughout this book, it is important that the reader assume that there has been no intentional rule violation on the part of a person until such intent is specified.
Finally, the rules of baseball are animate, continuously evolving as they are re-thought and re-hashed. Jaksa, Roder, and their colleagues have always endeavored to employ the governing factors of consistency, practicality, and fairness in any evolution or discussion of rules. The same factors have been used in compiling this manual, and are encouraged in all such exchanges. It is the continued hope of the authors that this manual, through its organization, rigor, and lucidity, may help isolate rules needing further examination by all parties involved, and promote a single, universal, and fair interpretation of the rules of the game of baseball.
Rick Roder (for Chris Jaksa)
Remsen, Iowa, January 2008
Return to checklist