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May 12

The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca

Posted on Saturday, May 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

In baseball, as in life, there are the written rules and the unwritten rules.  In major league baseball the unwritten rules are known as “the code.”

While I’d heard of “the code,” it’s even more complicated than I realized.

This week I finished reading The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca.

As a lifelong baseball fan I found it valuable to understand how the game of baseball is actually played by major league players.

Personally I would be annoyed having so many unwritten rules to try to understand, maintain and pass on to the next generation.

Each rookie class was expected to learn, know, and follow the code; no questions asked.

Unfortunately, players don’t always remember the code in the midst of the game.

Respect The Code

The book is filled with insightful illustrations of the code and how the code is maintained and broken. The code says that code-breaking demands retribution.  If, there is no retribution that’s also a code-breaking offense.

For example, the written rules have no “mercy” rule, but the code does.  The code demands that when your team is ahead by seven runs in the eighth inning, it’s a code-breaker to swing at a three balls-no strikes pitch because the pitcher has to throw a good pitch or walk the batter and prolong the game.

The code expects the batter to be merciful.  If the batter swings it’s considered “rubbing it in.”

My favorite example from the book features former Minnesota Twin Torii Hunter made the mistake of swinging on a 3-0 pitch late in the game with a big lead against the Boston Red Sox.

After the game, Twins’ manager, Ron Gardenhire, brought Hunter — like a parent leading a child back to the store from which he stole — to the Red Sox clubhouse, to apologize in person to the team’s manager, Terry Francona.

Gardenhire said that he wanted Francona “to know we didn’t give a sign for him to swing away, that Torii just made a mistake…I thought that it was good for Torii to explain it to him, so I took him over.”

Gardy was also trying to prevent retribution that would likely escalate and lead to unnecessary bad blood between the two teams.  Why would there be bad blood?  Because there was an offense.  The code was broken.  Gardy was trying to smooth things over.  (See Chapters 7 and 9)

Here is the list of the chapters to give you a greater sense of what the code entails:

1. Know When To Steal `Em
2. Running Into The Catcher
3. Tag Appropriately
4. Intimidation
5. On Being Intimidated
6. Slide Into Bases Properly
7. Don’t Show Players Up
8. Responding To Records
9. Gamesmanship
10. Mound Conference Etiquette
11. Retaliation
12. The Wars
13. Hitters
14. Off The Field
15. Sign Stealing
16. Don’t Peek
17. Sign Stealing (Stadiums)
18. If You’re Not Cheating, You’re Not Trying
19. Caught Brown-Handed
20. Don’t Talk About A No-Hitter In Progress
21. Protect Yourself And Each Other
22. Everybody Joins A Fight
23. The Clubhouse Police

Conclusion: I enjoyed reading The Baseball Codes, though the language can be raw as the authors explain the multifaceted “code” in great detail. Herein lies one of the flaws of the book, the book drags as times.  More than a few couple times I skipped ahead.  Too often, in my opinion, the authors gave us several examples to illustrate part of the code when the best two or three would have been sufficient.

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