A family story I hadn’t heard before

I told my dad the Parents of Visitors story today, having temporarily forgotten that back when I was in diapers my dad was himself a junior-high principal, and therefore that he would identify with the principal in my story. He enjoyed my story…and then he told me a story I’d never heard before.

Back in the day, Pop’s school held a baseball tournament, which he as principal was responsible for overseeing. One of the things that he saw a lot of was bad calls on the infield fly rule, which, to be fair, is a bit of a head-scratcher if you don’t know what it’s for. (For the benefit of non-baseball fans, the infield fly rule gets called when you have runners on first and second and fewer than two outs already in the inning, and a batter hits a high pop-up in the infield. Under the infield fly rule, the batter is automatically called out whether anybody catches the ball in the air or not; otherwise an unscrupulous infielder could almost always get a double play by catching the ball in the air if the runners go to the next base, and by letting it hit the ground if they don’t go to the next base.)

Well, Pop decided that in his tournament, by George, the umpires were going to get it right. So before the tournament started, he held a mandatory meeting for all the people umpiring in the tournament, and he went over the infield fly rule in detail, with examples. Then he headed out to the field and sat back to relax and enjoy the games. And he was enjoying himself quite happily…

…but then it happened. One team loaded the bases with two outs. The next batter up, then hit a high pop-up. The runners took off, an infielder called for the ball, then got disoriented and wound up missing the ball entirely. He scrambled to grab the ball as the runners gleefully tried to get an extra base — and then one umpire came charging in, waving his hands, stopping play. And why?

So he could call the infield fly rule.

That was almost half a century ago and I think my dad still can’t believe that umpire called the infield fly rule with two outs.


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