Off Base

Pitching Probables
Power Alley
Message Board
Minor Leagues
MLB en espanol

Wednesday, May 30
Updated: June 5, 9:57 AM ET
Spelling out the unwritten rules

By Jim Caple

Arizona manager Bob Brenly criticized San Diego's Ben Davis over the weekend for bunting for a base hit when Curt Schilling had a perfect game going in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game. Florida pitcher Brad Penny, meanwhile, threw at Tsuyoshi Shinjo after the New York outfielder had the audacity to swing at a 3-0 pitch when the Mets held a big lead.

Both Davis and Shinjo supposedly broke baseball's unwritten rules of etiquette, a collection of long-standing statutes as involved, confused and open to interpretation as the U.S. tax code or Ralph Kiner's play-by-play.

The underlying problem with unwritten rules is they're not written down. You want someone to obey a rule, you post it on the clubhouse wall next to the one warning players not to gamble on baseball. You stick with an unwritten code and you're asking for it to be violated as easily as Chinese airspace.

Of course, the underlying problem with unwritten rules is they're not written down. You want someone to obey a rule, you post it on the clubhouse wall next to the one warning players not to gamble on baseball. You stick with an unwritten code and you're asking for it to be violated as easily as Chinese airspace.

At least, those rules used to be unwritten. But while reading the galleys to "Tuesday's With Maury Wills," I came across a copy of Major League Baseball's Official Unwritten Rule Book. Its publication, however, remains uncertain due to a lawsuit from the Margaret Mitchell estate.

Fortunately, I have obtained expressed, unwritten permission from the commissioner's office to write down for the first time a few of baseball's unwritten rules ...

1.20: What goes on in the clubhouse, what is said in the clubhouse and what is seen in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse. This means you do not go on a radio show and criticize a teammate for nursing an injury.

1.20 (b): Or at the very least, wait until after the MRI results come back.

2.16: Some batters must never flip their bats when they hit a home run nor take leisurely trots around the basepath. This is considered showing up a pitcher and is very bad form. Some batters, however, may flip their bats when they hit a home run and circle the bases so slowly that Miss Jane Pittman would lap them. This is considered "style" and is quite acceptable.

2.17: If a player doesn't know which group he belongs in, the opposing pitcher will let him know.

2.68: Do not date the editor of "Out" magazine.

2.68 (b): In a profession where you wear a tight uniform, regularly shower with 24 other men and slap teammates on the butt several times a day, it is verboten to suggest that anyone in the "clubhouse" might be gay.

3.5: If an opponent hits a home run, you are obliged to hit another batter with a pitch, though you must not throw this pitch in the vicinity of the head. After the game, you must maintain to reporters that you were simply trying to establish the inside part of the plate.

3.51: The reporters must quote you as if it's really true.

3.51 (b): When an opponent hits a teammate with a pitch, you are obliged to retaliate by hitting an opponent with a pitch. After the game, you must maintain to reporters that your opponent was throwing at your team but that you were simply trying to establish the inside part of the plate.

3.51 (c): The reporters must quote you as if it's really true.

4.1: You may steal a base at any time unless your team leads by six or more runs with two or fewer innings remaining, your team leads by eight runs with three innings remaining or your team's lead at any point equals the circumference of Richard Garces.

Don't play cards in the clubhouse during the game unless nobody can see you.

4.33: You may bunt at any time unless you are being no-hit and you are behind by more than five runs and there are fewer than three innings to play or the combined outs remaining and runs behind equals the square root of the relative humidity.

5.53: When a pitcher has a no-hitter going, you must avoid the words "no-hitter" as scrupulously as a sportswriter would say, "Let me get the check." Between innings you also are to leave the pitcher sitting by himself as if he were carrying the Ebola virus.

5.72 (d): Don't play cards in the clubhouse during the game unless nobody can see you.

6.9: Coaches sit in the front of the plane. Players sit in the back. Flight attendants sit on the Tigers' laps.

7.14: Do not sign autographs before batting practice.

7.14 (b): Do not sign autographs during batting practice.

7.14 (c): Do not sign autographs after batting practice.

7.14 (d): Unless she has other assets.

7.8: When leaving a first-place team to sign a $252 million contract with a last-place team, you must say, "It isn't about the money."

7.81: Try to say it with a straight face.

Box score line of the week
On the day "Pearl Harbor" opened, Ichiro was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Kazu Sasaki earned his major league-leading 19th save and Hideo Nomo pitched a one-hitter, striking out 14. That same day, Kerry Wood also pitched a one-hitter and struck out 14. The next day, Schilling had a perfect game until Davis' bunt heard 'round the radio band.

Deserving performances all, but Los Angeles rookie Paul LoDuca takes this week's award when he went 6-for-6 Memorial Day, tying a National League record, in the Dodgers' 11-10 extra-inning victory over Colorado. The performance lifted his batting average from .365 to .420. His line:

6 AB, 3 R, 6 H, 4 RBI

"I never thought I'd say this," Todd Helton said, "but Paul LoDuca beat us today."

Lies, damn lies and statistics
Every NL West team has been in first place since the last week of April and the first-place team has changed 10 times since May 15. ... After being at or under .500 all season, the Athletics finally had a winning record Saturday -- for about four hours. Oakland won the first game of a doubleheader with Minnesota to improve its record to 24-23, then dropped the nightcap to fall back to .500. The doubleheader, by the way, was the only scheduled twinbill in the majors this season. Ernie Banks would roll over in his grave if he weren't still alive. ... In between the Reds getting shut out (the last day of the 1999 season to last Wednesday), the Tigers were shut out 15 times, all last year. ... The Devil Rays have had exactly two winning streaks, both of two games. ... With 13 home runs and 26 RBI, Andruw Jones has driven in himself as many times (13) as he has his teammates. ... Is it the sign of the devil or just bad pitching? Three pitchers finished a game with a 6.66 ERA last week (Paul Abbott, Andy Benes, Shawn Chacon. Abbott, by the way, threw his first career complete game Memorial Day, almost 11 years after his big-league debut). ... Toronto's Alberto Castillo homered off Boston's Frank Castillo on Saturday, for a rare Castillo vs. Castillo homer. ... Since striking out 20 batters May 8 and throwing 146 pitches in his next start, Randy Johnson has twice failed to get past the fifth inning. ... Mike Hampton has as many home runs (two) as Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr. combined.

From left field
Eddie Oropesa defected from the Cuban baseball team eight years ago, beginning a long and circuitous journey that would take him to Taiwan, Mexico and St. Paul before it brought him to the majors. Oropesa signed with the independent league St. Paul Saints in 1993 along with fellow defector Rey Ordonez. While Ordonez had a more or less direct route to the Mets lineup, Oropesa did not. The Dodgers drafted him, then the Giants grabbed him in the Rule V draft, then he played briefly in Taiwan and Mexico, then he played winter ball in Venezuela. That's where the Phillies saw him and signed him as a six-year free agent.

And so, eight years after leaving Cuba, Oropesa pitched 1.2 innings last Friday to earn his first major-league victory. "It's unbelievable," he said.

Oropesa is the fourth former Saint to reach the majors this season, bringing the St. Paul team's total to a dozen and the Northern League total to 22. Not bad for a league that was referred to by major-league execs as "Mike Veeck's beer league" when it started in 1993.

The dozen Saints to go from St. Paul to the majors:

The Saint The skinny
Frank Charles Played briefly with Astros last year
Doug Dascenzo Season with Saints helped him return to bigs
J.D. Drew Leads Cardinals in home runs
Luis Lopez Role player for Toronto
Kevin Millar Batting .299 for Marlins
Michael Mimbs Ex-Philly pitcher was first Saint to reach majors
Rey Ordonez One of game's best fielding shortstops
Eddie Oropesa Philly reliever just won first game
Dan Peltier Season with Saints got him back to majors
Roy Smith Cleveland just called up reliever
Scott Stewart Pitching for Montreal
Darryl Strawberry Don't even ask

Win Blake Stein's money
This week's category is: The Second Place Team Couldn't See Them Even With Harry Caray's Glasses.

Q: Which team won its league or division by the most games?

Power rankings
1. Mariners
Seattle set for October: Police receive go-ahead to use tear gas in World Series victory parade.
2. Casey Martin
Next case facing Surpreme Court: Should Rich Garces be able to use bullpen cart?
3. Phillies
Good: Philly strengthens lead. Bad: Bowa may get book deal for sequel to "Bleep."
4. Diamondbacks
Brenly's other etiquette complaint: Padres wore white pants before Memorial Day.
5. Mark McGwire
Mixed week. Homers in return, Supreme Court rules against using walkers for home run trots.
6. Pearl Harbor
Memorial weekend haul: $75 million, virtually enough for a large soda and popcorn.
7. James Jeffords
James Jeffords
Leaves GOP in biggest Senator move since Washington traded John Kennedy for Frank Howard.
8. Florida
Where managers have shorter careers than Billy Ray Cyrus.
9. David Wells
Boomer's latest gripe: Frank Thomas always takes up two parking spots.
10. Rick Ankiel
Next solution: Panties, garter belt and breathing through his eyelids.

A. The 1995 Cleveland Indians, who won the AL Central by 30 games.

Voice of summer
"I looked around and saw all the names and then saw mine. It's just unreal. It's amazing. I called my parents like 10 times. They called back five times to make sure it was real."

-- Roy Smith after walking into the Cleveland clubhouse for the first time following his callup to the majors.

Jim Caple is a Senior Writer for

 More from ESPN...
ESPN experts on baseball's unwritten rules
ESPN's Dave Campbell, Mike ...
Kurkjian: The codes of baseball
Don't know baseball's ...

Jim Caple Archive

 Ben Davis continues to defend his actions, saying the score was too close for etiquette to come into play.
wav: 228 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 ESPN's Peter Gammons, Rob Dibble and Dan Patrick discuss the unwritten rules of baseball.
wav: 4293 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story