Charging the mound

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In baseball, charging the mound is assault by a batter against the pitcher, usually the result of being hit by a pitch or nearly being hit by a pitch, such as a brushback. It can also occur when the batter hits a pop-fly, or when a runner is stuck in a rundown that he knows he can't get out of. The first incidence of a professional charging of the mound has not been identified but the practice certainly dates back to the game's early days. Charging the mound is the most common precipitating event of a bench-clearing brawl.

In baseball, the pitcher occupies the most commanding position on the diamond, since it is he who initiates every play. One of the key ways he controls the game is by intimidating the batter at the plate. Typically before charging, bat and helmet are thrown aside so that batter may face pitcher unarmed (it is a very serious breach of baseball etiquette, not to mention dangerous, for the batter to charge the mound with a bat). Though serious injuries have occurred from charging, usually fights are either broken up or joined by all other players so the conflict turns into at best harmless posturing and name-calling; in baseball parlance this is known as a rhubarb.

Charging the mound is usually more about responding to an indignity than actually an attempt by the batter to injure the pitcher. There is long-standing etiquette in baseball regarding what is an acceptable offense to warrant a beaning, and there are similar "unwritten rules" for charging in response to being hit. While these unwritten rules have become somewhat more vague, the response of Major League Baseball to the incidents has become far more strict. Whereas suspensions in the past were rare and usually short, Commissioner Fay Vincent and his successor Bud Selig have reacted harshly to both instances of beaning and charging. Recently, most incidents which have caused the benches to clear have been met with large fines and lengthy suspensions.