Hidden ball trick
A defender, or Fielder, may employ the hidden ball trick when a runner (baseball) is on first base, second base, and/or third base. Variations of the play exist: they all involve a fielder holding the ball without the runner's knowledge, waiting for the runner to lead off of his base, and then applying a Tag to the runner.
In all cases, the pitcher (baseball) must be completely off of and away from the pitching rubber. Under Rule 8.05(i), a balk occurs if the pitcher is standing on or astride of the pitching rubber without the ball. As play after a foul ball, hit batsman, or time out, must not resume until the pitcher is on the pitcher's mound, the infielder cannot use these times to obtain the ball.
For the trick to work, the fielder must get the ball while the ball is in play, and a runner must not realize that the fielder has the ball. Essentially, the fielder must be an infielder, for a catcher, outfielder, and pitcher, does not usually position himself near bases or baserunners.
Variations of the play have involved miming a throw to the pitcher once the infielder has the ball, then standing at his position waiting for the runner to stray. Variations have involved hiding the ball, either in the glove or elsewhere. At least one player achieved success with the tactic by neither hiding the ball nor waiting: one variation involves, after receiving a throw to his base, miming a throw then re-tagging a runner very quickly, to catch a baserunner who merely takes his hand or foot off the base after a Slide.
While variations exist, use of the play in major league baseball is somewhat rare. Some say that the hidden ball trick has been pulled fewer than 300 times in over 100 years of major league baseball.
A first baseman may attempt the play after a pitcher, in an attempt to pickoff a runner, throws to first. The first baseman then fakes the throw back to the pitcher while keeping the ball in his glove, and if and when the runner leaves the bag (baseball), tags the runner. Dave Bergman is a former first baseman who pulled this off on multiple occasions. A second baseman could attempt a similar play after a successful steal (baseball) of second base, having received a throw from the catcher.
Former second baseman Marty Barrett also performed the trick successfully more than once. After a runner reached second base on a ball hit to the outfield, and after receiving the throw in from the outfield, he faked a throw to the pitcher while retaining the ball. To aid the deception, Barrett took the throw with his back to the runner, then placed the ball between the back of his glove and one of his fingers: this way, he exposed his glove to the runner without the ball in the pocket, suggesting that he did not have the ball. Other players have hid the ball in their armpit.
Former third baseman Matt Williams used a different technique. On more than one occasion, he asked the runner to step off the base so that Williams could sweep the dirt off it, then tagged out the runner when the runner complied. This worked twice!
Former third baseman Mike Lowell also made the trick work twice, each time after a throw in from the outfield. The key to Lowell's success was acting, placement, and waiting: acting as if nothing was on, standing away from the bag but not too far from it, and waiting . . . and waiting, at least 10 seconds, until the runner on third took a few steps.
On June 8, 2007, shortstop Julio Lugo of the Boston Red Sox caught Alberto Callaspo of the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, third baseman Lowell, Lugo's teammate, claimed it was not a true hidden ball trick since the pitcher did most of the work "selling" the trick. Before Lugo caught Callaspo, Lowell laid claim to the last successful hidden ball trick. Lowell's occurred on August 10, 2005, when he, then on the Florida Marlins, caught Arizona Diamondback Luis Terrero, with reliever Todd Jones on the mound. Lowell also caught Brian Schneider of the Montréal Expos in 2004.
Third baseman Bill Coughlin was reputed to have been the master of the hidden ball trick. Although not verified, Coughlin reportedly pulled it off seven times. He first succeeded on May 12, 1905 against Hobe Ferris of the Boston Red Sox. He did it again on September 3, 1906, catching George Stone in the first inning. In Game 2 of the 1907 World Series, Coughlin caught Jimmy Slagle with a hidden ball trick, the only one in World Series history until Dick Groat of the St. Louis Cardinals pulled the hidden-ball trick on Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees in the 1964 World Series. The play went from Germany Schaefer to Coughlin.
Willie Kamm was considered another master of the hidden ball trick. On April 30, 1929, in a game against the Cleveland Indians, Kamm was involved in a rare triple play involving a hidden ball trick. The Indians had baserunners on first and second bases when Carl Lind grounded out to the shortstop. Johnny Hodapp, who had been on second base, tried to score but got caught in a rundown between third and home. Charlie Jamieson advanced to third. Kamm retrieved the ball and tagged both runners, whereupon the umpire ruled Hodapp out. Kamm then hid the ball under his arm and waited for Jamieson to step off the base. When he did so, Kamm tagged him out to complete the triple play.
A hidden ball putout is scored as an unassisted putout for the fielder making the play.
- Kelly, Malcolm. ""Ozzie, the spud & the Ol' Hidden Ball Trick: Great stories surround baseball's ancient deception play". CBC Sports. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
- Kelly, Malcolm. ""Ozzie, the spud & the Ol' Hidden Ball Trick: Great stories surround baseball's ancient deception play". CBC Sports. Retrieved May 25, 2013. (describing the move first baseman Dave Bergman used successfully)
- Zumsteg, Derek. The Cheater's Guide to Baseball. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007, pp. 66-67. ISBN 978-0-618-55113-2.
- Kelly, Malcolm. ""Ozzie, the spud & the Ol' Hidden Ball Trick: Great stories surround baseball's ancient deception play". CBC Sports. Retrieved May 25, 2013. (referencing Zumsteg)
- Boston Red Sox - Lowell isn't hiding his feelings on trick play - The Boston Globe
- Hidden ball trick [Archive] - NYYFans.com Forum
- BBTF's Dialed In Discussion :: August 18, 2005
- Boston Red Sox Tickets, Red Sox History, Red Sox Baseball Tickets
- The Ballplayers - Bill Coughlin | BaseballLibrary.com
- Kamm-ouflage!, by Edgar Munzel, Baseball Digest, November 1956, Vol. 15, No. 10, ISSN 0005-609X
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- Baseball Digest, June 2005, Vol. 64, No. 4, ISSN 0005-609X