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The hidden-ball trick is not something we see often in Major League Baseball.
One of the only times I have seen it, personally, is in the movie “Rookie of the Year.”
In this movie, 12-year-old Chicago Cubs pitcher Henry Rowengartner uses the hidden-ball trick during the race for the pennant against the New York Mets.
The Dickson Baseball Dictionary defines the hidden-ball trick as “a time-honored legal ruse in which a baseman conceals the ball in hopes that the base runner believes it has been returned to the pitcher.”
Once the base runner takes his lead, the baseman then tags him out with the ball that was most likely hidden in the baseman’s glove.
The ESPN Uncyclopedia said the ruse was used so often back in the early days of baseball that a new rule was written to discourage the use of the hidden-ball trick. Although discouraged, the ploy is still legal.
In fact, in the past 12 years, the trick has been successfully used six times in an MLB game, according to baseball historian Bill Deane.
The ESPN Uncyclopedia said that the first time in the last 12 years that the stunt was used successfully was Sept. 19, 1997.
In a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals, first baseman of the Indians, Matt Williams, tagged out Kansas City Royal, Jed Hansen.
The Baltimore Orioles used the trick again on April 25, 1998.
The Orioles first baseman, Rafael Palimero, tagged out Oakland A’s left fielder and notorious base stealer, Ricky Henderson.
On June 26, 1999, San Fransisco Giants’ first basemen, J.T.
Snow fooled Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, Carlos Perez, getting him out by using the hidden-ball trick.
Again, in 2004, Florida Marlins first baseman (former Boston Red Sox third basemen) Mike Lowell, tagged out Brian Schnieder of the Montreal Expos. In August of 2005, Lowell used the hidden-ball trick again, but this time, Lowell was playing third base. The victim was Luis Terrero of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Out of the very few times the hidden-ball trick has been used, it’s strange that Mike Lowell was responsible for two of these base running mishaps.
You’d think base runners would be more likely to watch out for Lowell’s antics following the first time he made Brian Schnieder look foolish on the diamond.
The last time the hidden-ball trick was used successfully in a MLB game was by Boston Red Sox short stop, Julio Lugo. He tagged out Arizona Diamondback infielder, Alberto Callapso, at second base mid-game.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have had the most contact with the infamous hidden-ball trick. Out of six in-game uses, two of them have been against Diamondback base runners.
These infield tricksters may have been urged by their managers to use the ol’ hidden-ball trick. But, I’d like to think that they had watched the inspirational “Rookie of the Year” movie in the locker room just before taking the field.
Whatever the reason for the infamous trick being used, there are six players wishing to take their base running mishaps back, even years after falling victim to the hidden-ball trick.
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org