Hidden Ball Trick

Does anyone know when the last time the hidden ball trick was pulled in baseball? Is there any respect in such a move?

I don’t know if there’s any “respect” to getting a guy out with the hidden ball trick, but there’ sure a lot of DISRESPECT for the baserunner dumb or unlucky enough to get caught with it!

I haven’t seen anyone do it in years and years… but when I was a kid in New York, the Yankees shortstop Gene Michael did it 5 times, for sure (maybe more). The last time would have been… oh, 1973 or so.

“hidden ball trick”


Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

The “Hidden Ball Trick” is when a fielder - usually the first baseman - has the ball but somehow hides it. Most common on a fake throw back to the pitcher while the runner is paying attention to something else, like that base he is holding onto.

Picture a guy taking a lead and getting tagged out by the fielder next to him… Going back to the bench after being victimized by this rare play must be indescribably painful to all involved, except the defensive team, of course.

I remember hearing on Sports Center either just this year or last that there was a victim, so it was within the past two years, but I don’t recall any details.

You figure they keep a stat for this - Baseball keeps a stat for EVERYTHING!

Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis ad capul tuum saxum immane mittam.

Thanks, Satan. Just as it sounds, huh. That’s pretty funny. I can imagine the hell the runner would catch from his team mates.
This is legal, yes?

This happened 2 months ago at a San Francisco Giants game.

The Braves tried to pull it once against the Mets already (didn’t work). The Mets tried to use it with a runner on second during the last month of the regular season. Orel Hershiser was pitching, runner on second. I saw the repay on Sportscenter, and it was a heck of a smart play by Orel, but it didn’t work out either.

I got a lot of energy ready to be wasted on somebody - Mookie Wilson

If done properly, yes. The key is that the pitcher cannot stand on the pitching rubber; if he does without the ball, it’s a balk. The pitcher on the play usually wanders around the mound as though trying to stay loose. A smart ballplayer will stay on the base until the pitcher stands on the rubber, but occasionally someone fails to concentrate and gets caught.

Here’s the way we used to pull it. I was a catcher. I’ve just thrown the ball back to the pitcher after a pitch. The pitcher calls timeout. I walk to the mound for a conference. The pitcher discretely slips me the ball. I start to walk back to the plate I turn to the first baseman (or whoever is going to execute the tag - we used to pull this on any base) and say something like, “don’t let the runner pull a dongle.” The fielder says, “What?” I repeat, he acts even more confused, so we walk towards each other and I slip him the ball. He walks back to the base. The umpire says play ball. The pitcher steps on the mound. The runner takes his lead. The baseman tags him. “Yer out!”

There are other ways to pull it, as well. We did it once where the whole infield met at the mound for a conference. There was a lot of talking and pointing going on. The second baseman comes away with the ball. We already had a reputation for “hidden ball tricks”, so the runner even said something to the first basean, who showed him his empty hands and glove. The runner on first starts to take his lead the second baseman moves back a bit and colser to first base, then he throws the ball to the first baseman behind the runner’s back. Tag.

“Is there any respect in such a move?”

I don’t know, but it was a challenge for us to see how many times we could get away with it, both in little league and pony league. We got away with it a lot!!! People are dumb. BTW, we were pretty good at serious ball, too.

The Cubs did this back in '89. Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams and Mark Grace pulled it off. Grace had just received a late throw and the runner was safe at first. He went over to the mound to have a “conference” with Williams. I don’t know exactly how he bamboozled the opposition, the announcers, 35,000 fans, and who-knows-how-many TV viewers, but he did it! I remember the Phillies runner standing there looking like an idiot, grace with this smirk on his face, and Harry Caray shouting: “sshhh bll shshhhshh bllll H-H-Hiddenn sshehhh blh b-b-bb-b-b-b-ball shshehhhh bll trick!” (He was drunk, you see.)

For a nice treatment of baseball chicanery, check out “The Baseball Hall of Shame” series, by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo. Volume 4 has some real doozies.

That should be Grace, not grace.

Has the potato/baseball switch ever been pulled in the majors?

“potato/baseball switch”

Omigod, now what the hell is THAT? :slight_smile: Please tell me it’s not what it sounds like.

OK, since we’re in baseball chicanery, here’s a question that’s always puzzled me. (Forgive my terminology, I’m only a casual baseball fan.)

A runner is going from third to second base. When halfway between third and second base, he notices that the third baseman has the ball in his hand (thrown to him by an outfielder.) The runner usually gives up. Now doesn’t the third baseman have to tag him out with the ball? Why doesn’t the runner try dodging him by running all over the field, and then getting to third base? If he’s a fast runner, he might be able to dodge around the defense and get to third base after all. We used to try that when I was a kid. Or is that contrary to the rules?

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Don’t remember all the details, but the baseball/potato switch happened several years ago in the minor leagues.

The catcher peeled a baseball sized potato. With a runner on third, he threw the spud over the head of the third baseman on an apparent pick off play. The runner came home and the catcher tagged him with the real ball.

IIRC, the umpire, team, league, etc. were NOT amused.

Jacques, the runner has to stay within the baseline (which is narrower than just the dirt portion), so he is fairly limited to where he can run.

As for the potato/baseball thingy, a minor league catcher had a peeled potato with him while catching. A runner was on 3rd. After a pitch, the cather threw the peeled potato to 3rd, but purposefully threw it over the 3rd baseman’s head and into the outfield. The runner, thinking the potato was the ball, headed for home to score an easy run where he was promptly tagged by the catcher who still held the real ball.

Yes, the weather is the same up here. Yes, I play basketball. No, never heard a tall joke before. Aaaargh.

But that wasn’t the first time the potato baseball switch was pulled. I had read about it prior to it happening a few years ago.

For my money the best hidden ball trick was pulled back in the 80’s at the College World Series. Wichita State was playing Miami. A Miami runner was leading off first base. The WSU pitcher stepped off the rubber and faked a throw toward first. The 1b faked diving for a wild throw and scrambling after it. The WSu bench was all yelling wilding pointing out where down the RF line the imaginary ball had been thrown. The Miami baserunner had dived back to first,got up and started running toward second, but the WSU pitcher, who still had the ball, tossed it to the SS who tagged out the shocked baserunner.

Someone working on “Little Big Leauge” must have seen that game.

“Age is mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” -Leroy “Satchel” Paige

The play the University of Miami used was called, in an homage to Renoir, “The Grand Illusion.”

It has since been declared illegal at the college level.

The Giants pulled the hidden ball trick this year against the Dodgers. First baseman J.T. Snow did it to Dodger pitcher Carlos Perez who had just reached first on an infield hit.

The key is to make sure the pitcher is not standing on the mound. If he is standing on the mound without the ball, the umpires will call a balk.