Baseball's Unwritten Rules, Uncovered After 26 Years

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A few weeks ago, I found myself in Austin and happened upon one of these flea market-type warehouses. It's like a ginormous, impersonal yard sale: People come with their stuff, set it up in their little station, put a price tag on everything, and hope it eventually sells. As it turns out, one of these dealers had an area that was filled with sports memorabilia, unopened packs of cards, pins and programs, all sorts of cool crap. Before long, I made the ultimate discovery.

Somehow, after living the shadows for 26 years, I unearthed a long-lost copy of Baseball Digest, June 1986 issue. Right there on the cover: THE UNWRITTEN RULES OF BASEBALL. Surely this was a hoax, was all I could think. But it most definitely was real, and they sold it to me for just $1.50 (a whole quarter off the $1.75 cover price).

Just to give you a reminder as to what the baseball world was like in 1986, here are some of the other headlines from this issue:

What Eddie Murray Needs For Recognition Is A Flashy Nickname! (page 13)

The Best Is Yet To Come for the Mets' Sid Fernandez (page 27)

Pete Rose's Final Image: One of Greatness or Fading Skills? (page 29)

Bob Feller Would Like To Work Against Today's Hitter (page 55)

Bob Dernier: Captain of the Cubs Outfield (page 58)

The San Francisco Giants: In Search of Past Glory (page 71)


All gems, let me tell you. The must-read, however, is on the 30 unwritten rules, conveniently presented in written form and reprinted here for all posterity.

1. Never put the tying or go-ahead run on base.

2. Play for the tie at home, go for the victory on the road.

3. Don't hit and run with an 0-2 count.

4. Don't play the infield in early in the game.

5. Never make the first or third out at third.

6. Never steal when you're two or more runs down.

7. Don't steal when you're well ahead.

8. Don't steal third with two outs.

9. Don't bunt for a hit when you need a sacrifice.

10. Never throw behind the runner.

11. Left and right fielders concede everything to center fielder.

12. Never give up a home run on an 0-2 count.

13. Never let the score influence the way you manage.

14. Don't go against the percentages.

15. Take a strike when your club is behind in a ballgame.

16. Leadoff hitter must be a base stealer. Designated hitter must be a power hitter.

17. Never give an intentional walk if first base is occupied.

18. With runners in scoring position and first base open, walk the number eight hitter to get to the pitcher.

19. In rundown situations, always run the runner back toward the base from which he came.

20. If you play for one run, that's all you get.

21. Don't bunt with a power hitter up.

22. Don't take the bat out of your best hitter's hands by sacrificing in front of him.

23. Only use your bullpen stopper in late-inning situations.

24. Don't use your stopper in a tie game—only when you're ahead.

25. Hit behind the runner at first base.

26. If one of your players gets knocked down by a pitch, retaliate.

27. Hit the ball where it's pitched.

28. A manager should remain detached from his players.

29. Never mention a no-hitter while it's in progress.

30. With a right-hander on the mound, don't walk a right-handed hitter to pitch to a left-handed hitter.


Great! Now that we know all of that, everyone get out there and win some baseball games.