A fellow who had run for selectman and awakened to find himself elected President of the United States would not have been much more pleasantly surprised than was Jake Jones of the Red Sox when he found himself with a three-base hit after making a 60-foot foul against the Browns yesterday.
It was like caroming a golf ball off the clubhouse for a hole-in-one, fumbling for a 20-yard gain and a touchdown, and hauling in a striped bass while fishing for flounder.
Jones got the cheapest and shortest three-bagger of his or anybody else’s life in the sixth inning of yesterday’s first game at Fenway Park (which the Red Sox won, 4-3, en route to sweeping St. Louis with an 11-2 win in the second game) because Fred Sanford, Browns pitcher, threw his glove at the ball as it dribbled foul down the third-base line.
Sanford threw his glove like a kid trying to kill a snake with a rock. He hit the ball when it was about six inches foul, and just as Bob Dillinger, Brown’s third baseman, was about to pick it up.
Aghast at having to make a silly decision, the four umpires looked sorrowfully at each other for several long seconds. Then Cal Hubbard, chief umpire, did his duty by holding aloft three banana-like fingers.
Desautels Started It
Never before having met Santa Claus face to face, Jones might have shaken hands with Hubbard then and there, but St. Louis objectors were crowded around the unfortunate umpire as though he were doing an off-the-sidewalk broadcast. So Jones, carefully touching every base, ambled to third and was on his way home when Birdie Tebbetts asked him what he wanted for nothing.
The history of the 60-foot foul three-bagger, says Joe Cronin, goes back about eight years to Fenway Park. Gene Desautels, old Crusader catcher with the Red Sox, was responsible.
Gene threw his glove at a dribbling foul, and because it was foul, was charged with no misdemeanor. But Tommy Connolly of Natick, league umpire-in-chief, was in the stands, and he wanted to know why a player could throw a glove, cap, or even a shoe to deflect a ball that might roll fair.
Since then all batted ball, fair or foul, that have been touched by thrown gloves of equipment have been three-baggers in the American League. Muddy Ruel’s only question yesterday was whether or not Sanford’s glove actually hit the ball.
In the National League, the rule does not apply to fouls. It is not uncommon to see National League catcher drop or toss a mask at a foul dribbler. He is not penalized unless he knocks the ball fair. Then the batsman gets a three-base hit.
Penalty Too Tough
Cronin recalled the discussion over the different interpretations of this rule at the 1946 World Series. After a lively argument, the Red Sox had the American League interpretation accepted for the World Series. Unfortunately, no Cardinal was dumb enough to heave his glove or mask at any of the numerous foul dribblers off the Red Sox bats.
Besides giving 33,322 fans the happy idea of a question that would win a set of Encyclopedia Britannica, yesterday’s episode served to show that as old as baseball is, its rules still are not entirely adequate.
First, the National League should not permit gloves or masks to be thrown at fouled balls that might roll fair if untouched.
Second, the American League should lessen the penalty for such an infraction on foul balls between home and first and home and third, by awarding one free base instead of three.
Giving Jones a three-bagger on a 60-foot foul was like standing Sanford before a firing squad for illegal parking. But considering what Durocher got from Chandler, Sanford probably was lucky that he wasn’t ejected from the game, fined a year’s salary, and suspended indefinitely.