Ways to reach first base

When reading Cecil’s column on ways to reach first base (in the baseball sense) I happened to remember an entry in ESPN The Magazine in their “Answer Guy” feature, where when trying to determine whether it was possible to steal first base, they quoted Eric Enders, a researcher at the Baseball Hall of fame, who rattled off the 23 legal ways to reach first. There’s quite a bit of overlap in the methods, such as a walk versus an intentional walk, but it certainly seems exhaustive:

  1. Single
  2. Walk
  3. Intentional walk
  4. Hit by pitch
  5. Dropped third strike
  6. Failure to deliver pitch within 20 seconds
  7. Catcher interference
  8. Fielder interference
  9. Spectator interference
  10. Fan obstruction
  11. Fair ball hits umpire
  12. Fair ball hits runner
  13. Fielder obstructs runner
  14. Pinch-runner
  15. Fielder’s choice
  16. Force out at another base
  17. Preceding runner put-out allows batter to reach first
  18. Sac bunt fails to advance runner
  19. Sac fly dropped
  20. Runner called out on appeal
  21. Error
  22. Four illegal pitches

And, my favorite

  1. A game is suspended with a runner on first who is then traded prior to the makeup, and is replaced with another player

As for stealing first, the column goes on to quote John Thorn from Total Baseball who says that Germany Shaefer and Fred Tenney both stole first base from second in 1907 and 1900 respectively, in an effort to provoke a throw so the runner on third could score, but such a practice has been made illegal.

Gee all those specific cases that are the same as you say and no mention of double, triple, or home run. It’s true you don’t stop at first base in those cases, but you do reach it. For that matter, the batter “reaches” first base often on a ground out or fly out. He just doesn’t get to stay there.

I suppose the correct way to think of it is the ways one can “posses” first base, as in taking refuge there until the ball is put back into play or until you attempt to steal another base.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but it seems to me that 16, 17, and 18 are all different versions of # 15 (fielder’s choice). Number 19 is a specific case of # 21 (error). 7 and 8 are the same thing (a catcher is a fielder), and 13 is a specific case of fielder interference. “Spectator interference” and “fan obstruction” are the same thing.

I did like # 23, though.

I recall from my youth with the Official Rules of Baseball that the instance of first base being stolen was a German player who didn’t understand English and never had the rules properly explained to him. He dropped the bat and ran to first (I believe he made it). As that book explained, the rule was added immediately thereafter that one could not steal first.

He left off ‘buy her a whole lot of alcohol’.

(Runs away.)

Well if you’re pointing out ways that are the same, 23 is just a pinch runner which was already mentioned.

I think #19 actually is a unique way to get to first. A dropped sac fly would go into the books, I think, as a sacrifice, an RBI if applicable, and a reached-on-error. A regular dropped fly ball would be an 0-1 and a reached on error. So statistically, it’s an at-bat vs. no at-bat. The fielder’s choice options do seem like they’d all count the same in the scorebook, though.

I was a bartender for some time, and this question came up often. However, it was always asked in this way:

“What are the SEVEN ways to get to first base without GETTING A HIT”. This phrasing eliminates all hits, including a single, from the possible answers. As such, the accepted seven answers were always:

Base on Balls
Hit by Pitch
Catcher Interference
Dropped Third Strike
Fielder’s Choice
Pinch Run

The ones Cecil mentions never came up, though. I am quite certain that I have seen a pick-off attempt (trying to catch a runner) go into the stands and the dugout, but have never seen the batter awarded a base for this. I am not saying Cecil is wrong, but this rule 7.05(h) is not enforced.

7.05 (i) speaks of the runner and batter being awarded one base if a third strike or fourth ball somehow misses the catcher and becomes lodged in the umpires mask or equipment. In the case of ball four, they each get the base anyway and this is just another, albeit funnier, base on balls. In the case of strike three, however, this would have to be number eight. It’s different than a dropped third strike, in that the runner is not awarded first, but must beat it out.

As far as the list that ESPN complied, #6 is not true (8.04). The rule about twenty seconds applies to the pitcher when the bases are empty. Each infraction of this rule results in the umpire calling a Ball. If the pitcher does this four times, or on a three ball count then indeed the batter is awarded first base, but as the result of a base on balls.

Tell the girl she’s really pretty, open the car door for her, and put your arm around her shoulders during the movie. That should get you started…


Sorry, just had to try a joke along those lines. I know it’s a bad one. (Can any doper out there do any better??) :smiley:

I dunno about better, but I beat you to the concept six weeks ago, up above. :stuck_out_tongue:

(You know, I got to first base with a girl once. But then I tried to steal second & got thrown out.)

Hmmm… I looked for it, but couldn’t see anything in that vein.

Still can’t. Was it in another thread?? I just tried searching for ‘first base’, but the search page threw out ‘first’ and gave me all kinds of irrelevant responses. LOL.


I believe this is the one. Not flattery, but alcohol. Still, it’s the same joke.

Ahh, okay, I see it now.

Was being lazy and searching through the thread for the word ‘girl’, but he didn’t use it. :wink:

Umpire nulification???

If the Ump. just doesn’t prevent a batter from just caliming 1st???

Can someone explain to me why the HOF guy quoted in the OP and Jimmy Chitwood think #19 is not simply an error?

How can there be such a thing as a dropped sac fly? A fly ball hit to the outfield deep enough to score a runner tagging up at third base can only be called a sac fly if it’s successful, that is, if the ball is caught. If a fly ball hit to the outfield hits the ground, it’s either a hit or an error (depending, of course, on how the hit ball is played by the fielder).

I’ve never heard of a dropped sac fly … it’s simply an error.

And that means that the batter reaches first base on an error, gets no RBI (an RBI can never be awarded on an error), and the batter is 0-1.

A batter may *intend * to try to lift a ball deep into the outfield, but this is by no means obvious, and it differs significantly from a sac bunt attempt, where it’s clear from a batter’s stance that he is sacrificing himself.

For example, plenty of batters will try to hit a pitch out of the ball park when there’s a sacrifice possibility (runner on third with fewer than two outs), but end up hitting the ball deep, but not quite clearing the fence.

If an outfielder catches such a ball, and the runner from third tags and scores, it’s a sac fly. If the ball drops, it’s either a hit or an error (again, depending on how the hit ball is played by the fielder).

But in these cases, there’s just not any clear indication that the batter was intentionally sacrificing himself, which, to me, means that one cannot declare that a “dropped sac fly” is in any way different from an error.

You need alcohol for first base? Casanova you ain’t.

Because it’s not.

MLB rule # 10.09 (e)

Today … ignorance has been successfully fought, at least in regards to me and my obviously less-than-complete knowledge of the rules of baseball.


Tomorrow is another day …