Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kelly Now Catching for Boston

In the early days of baseball the rules were constantly being modified and better defined. I bet Mike “King” Kelly’s name came up quite often in the meetings. Kelly saw rules more like suggestions and frequently identified loopholes.

During the late 1800’s games were played with just one umpire and Kelly took full advantage of this fact. Though he was lauded for his baserunning, he didn't always touch all of the bases if the umpire was distracted by watching the ball. In his autobiography Kelly describes one such incident when he was on second and a Chicago teammate came to bat, “We needed the run badly, and I was also very tired in the bargain. So I started to run to third, but cut across the diamond in my haste, and making a long slide, reached the home plate before the ball arrived.”

It wasn't that Kelly didn't know the rules of the game, he knew them very well. He knew them so well he often used them to his advantage, identifying loopholes at strategic moments in the game. While playing for Boston he was the team captain. At the time, to make a player substitution the captain announced the change to the umpire at any point in the game. During one game Kelly was seated on the bench and a foul ball was popped up in his direction with no chance of being caught by a player on the field. Thinking quickly, Kelly announced “Kelly now catching for Boston” and caught the ball for the third and final out. The substitution rule was changed by the following season.

We can thank Kelly for forcing baseball to close the loopholes and do a better job of defining and enforcing its rules. This is something that I think of as a parent of two preteen girls. I learned that my husband and I need to to clearly state the house rules, even writing them down and maybe having everyone in the house sign a contract. We can’t leave any room for loopholes. Trust me, they’re looking for them. Also it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more umpires on the field so when I turn my back someone else can keep an eye on them!

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