Intentional walk

What was the reaction to the first use of the intentional walk in baseball ? (I imagine hoots and complaints from the opposing dugout…)

Ua pisia i le tagaliu

The intentional walk didn’t really become fixed in baseball until the early 20th Century. In the 19th century, it would sometimes take up to seven balls to walk a batter and besides it just wasn’t considered sporting.

However, once baseball lowered a walk to four pitches it became easier for a pitcher to avoid pitching to a good hitter by just not throwing the ball in a place where he will hit it.
From that, the next logical step was to avoid the pretense of even trying to throw the ball over the plate and the intentional walk was born.

Once one manager realized “Hey, the next batter can’t hit, why am I pitching to this guy?” it didn’t take long for the intentional walk to catch on.

Though the logic of, “the next guy can’t hit” does occassionally factor as a motive to intentionally walk someone - almost exclusively in the NL where you will see a #8 hitter walked to face the pitcher - most of the time intentional walks have less to do with who is batting than who is on base already.

If you have a guy on second or third with one out, you might walk a guy to set up an inning-ending DP, for example.

Yer pal,

Ah, sorry (not to seem trollish, or question Satan, but…); not the mechanics of it, but rather was it immediately accepted as a tactic ? or on the first times used, was there a bit of a complaint: “Hey, what’s that pitcher doin’? Slugger was gonna hit one out ! That’s b******t !”

Don’t think it was in the original rules, so surely somewhere was the “first”, and some reaction.


Yes, I know I didn’t answer the question very well. I will surmise that baseball had intentional walks way before there was any real danger of “hitting one out” anyway, as until Babe Ruth came along, the game was very much a bases-to-bases proposition.

The reason I assume this is because the Babe didn’t start making the homer a real force until the early '20s, and baseball was around for 50 or so years before the Babe, and I maintain that for tactical reasons, people were intentionally walked prior to this.

As for surprise, my guess is that the art of “pitching around” someone, i.e. not an intentional pass but throwing very carefully and out of the strike zone and not minding if there was a walk, was also standard. But rhen (and this is where I hit some WAG territory) someone was trying to pitch around someone and the guy hit it. Finally, after getting burned, the catcher and/or manager just said, “Hell, throw four balls ten feet outside of the plate to avoid this,” and it happened.

Also, I don’t think there’s an “intentional walk” rule anywhere in the rules to this day. There’s a rule that says that with four called balls a hitter will advance to first, but there doesn;t need to be a distinction on whether those balls missed by a hair or a mile or whether it’s on purpose or not.

Keeping track of “intentional walks” is a matter of score-keeping, not rule-keeping.

The Elias Sports Bureau keeps track of intentional walks where the catcher stands.

It wasn’t until the 50s and 60s that catchers stood and called for a VERY outside pitch.

I’m pretty sure it was Stan Musial who leaned over and nailed a pitch out of the ballpark that was meant to intentionally walk him. He probably wasn’t the first, but because he was such a superstar, it became lore of the bars and “water cooler” crowd (althought there were no water coolers in those days, but anyway…).

By the way, the reason the catcher stands in the box with his arm out is because if he doesn’t, it’s a balk. The catcher must stay in the catcher’s box until the ball has been released from the pitcher’s hand.

I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.

Pete – I thought it was Willy Mays. At least I saw Willy poke at one once (he missed) when he was being intentionally walked.

“The departure of the church-going element had induced a more humanitarian atmosphere.”
Dorothy L. Sayers
Clouds of Witness

The intentional walk has been officially put into the rule book. In the scoring rules, the key definition is that ball #4 must be deliberately thrown outside.

Also, the rules state that the catcher cannot leave the catcher’s box until the pitcher releases the ball.

(Don’t bother looking for the catcher’s box on the field. The first catcher of the game will immediately obliterate it when the pitcher is warming up.)

Wow… Thanks for clearing up my wrong guess, Bob. Seems silly to me to have what is essentially a strategic thing in the rule book (kinda like if the NFL rules said passing on third and long situations is a good idea), but if it’s there, it’s there!

An extremely weird intentional walk took place in game 5 of the Braves-Mets series.

After Mets pitcher Turk Wendell got to a 2 ball, 0 strike count against a hitter, Mets manager Bobby Valentine changed pitchers and brought in Dennis Cook.

Cook proceeded to throw two intentional balls to the hitter (and was then replaced).

According to the scoring rules of baseball, Wendell, since he threw the first 2 balls during the sequence, was credited with the walk.
However, since Cook threw the intentional ball four, he got credited with an intentional walk, but not a regular walk.

My Dad, who is not a sports trivia junkie, nevertheless has told an apocryphal story that relates, essentially, that the Babe was once struck out in a situation that clearly called for an intentional walk. The catcher signalled for a ball but the pitcher threw a strike past the Babe, who never took the bat off his shoulder. The catcher, and then the manager, made a big show of berating the pitcher and making it clear that a walk was what was expected (maybe a couple of balls got mixed in). The upshot was that they got the third strike past Babe who couldn’t believe they would do it to him.

I know, I know, there are a lot of unlikely sounding parts to that, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Can anyone add actual facts?

If the story is true, it would indicate that, by the 20s or the 30s at the latest, intentional walks with the ball well off the plate were commonplace in certain situations.

Don’t know about the Babe, but I know this happened in a World Series. I want to say one of those early-'70s matchups between the Reds and the A’s, but I could be mistaken.