Major Leaguer Ozzie Guillen Was Fooled Several Times
The hidden ball trick in baseball is a play of trickery that is rarely used but when it does work it certainly adds a most humorous element to the game as well as make a player feel like a fool. The hidden ball trick usually occurs when a player with the ball fakes a throw to the pitcher but holds onto it secretly. Then, when a runner on the basepaths leaves the base thinking the pitcher has the ball, the player who faked the throw tags them out.
One player, Ozzie Guillen (now a manager of the White Sox), was victimized not once, but to his admitted embarrassment, several times throughout his career. In fact, Guillen fell victim to the hidden ball trick twice in less than two months. To see footage of how Ozzie Guillen fell prey to the hidden ball trick or to see the hidden ball trick executed at the Major League level click here (video here).
There are at least three known times that Ozzie fell to the hidden ball trick. Here they are:
1) June 23, 1989, Ozzie fooled by Brewers first baseman Greg Brock.
2) August 5, 1989 Ozzie fooled by Tiger first baseman Dave Bergman.
3) May 13, 1991 Ozzie fooled again, this time by Red Sox’s second baseman Steve Lyons.
Hidden Ball Trick Methods
There have been a number of other popular ways in which the hidden ball trick has been attempted and executed over the years than the one mentioned above. Here are a few of the more popular methods:
1) After a runner slides safely into a base, whoever caught the ball and tried to tag the runner out either pretends to throw the ball back to the pitcher for the next pitch or goes to the mound and pretends to give the ball to the pitcher but actually sneaks the ball back into his own glove. When the runner takes his lead off the base, the person with the ball tags the runner out.
2) An infielder will pretend to drop the ball into the outfield for an apparent error (after hiding it on himself). If executed correctly, the runner will begin running for third for an easy out.
3) Third baseman Matt Williams used a different technique. On several attempts, he would asked the runner to step off the bag so that Williams could sweep the dirt off it, then tagged out the runner when the runner complied.
Marlins’ third baseman Mike Lowell successfully completed the hidden ball trick using method #1 as seen here (video here).
It was a hidden ball trick that almost wasn’t. Lowell admits that he was a few seconds from just giving up on the trick and just throw the ball back to the pitcher. “I looked at Jonsey (the pitcher) and we made eye contact, and he started walking behind the mound. He was stretching, tying his shoes. Jonsey sold it so well,” said Lowell, smiling at the memory. “It was taking a long time. Honestly, after about three seconds I was going to forget about it because we couldn’t keep waiting. But then he took a step off the bag and I tagged him,” said Lowell, according to projo.com.
Illegal Hidden Ball Trick Methods
The hidden ball trick is illegal if: 1) The pitcher is standing on or beside the pitcher’s rubber without the ball (this is what makes the hidden ball trick far more difficult to pull off), 2) When time is called, the only way to start play again is for the umpire to signal so. Most baseball rulebooks (Major League, Little League, high school and college) state that for the ball to be put back into play, the pitcher must be standing on the mound with the ball, the catcher in his catcher’s box, and the batter in the batter’s box. This is why coaches will tell their players to stay on base until the pitcher is on the mound.
At any time, if the pitcher is on the mound and he doesn’t have the ball it is a balk – which by definition is an illegal act intended to deceive a runner who is on base. The penalty for a balk is to award ALL runners one base. Therefore, in order for the hidden ball trick to be perfectly legal the pitcher cannot be on the mound (which often times will alert the runner that something is up).
The Umpire Has To Be Aware Of What Is Going On In Order For The Trick to Work
The hidden ball trick, in order for it to work, must have the umpire’s full attention as the play unfolds entirely or he will miss making the call. On Friday, June 8th, 2007 the alertness of second-base umpire Chris Guccione helped thwart a comeback attempt by the Diamondbacks. On the play, Arizona baserunner and rookie Alberto Callaspo was too aggressive rounding second base on a base hit and had to hustle back to the second base bag while right fielder J.D. Drew threw behind him to Julio Lugo, who was covering the bag.
The Diamondbacks runner went in headfirst to the bag and was declared safe by the umpire. The play wasn’t over though as Lugo proceeded to circle a bit behind Callaspo, keeping the ball in his glove, and when Callaspo pulled his hand off the bag to stand up and put his foot on the base, Lugo lunged forward and slapped the tag on the unsuspecting Callaspo.
Lugo, breaking out into a huge smile in discussing the moment said, “I tried it once [before] and I got a guy but the umpire didn’t see it. I just thought at the time that maybe this was something that would work. [Callaspo] was surprised. I didn’t say anything to him. And the ump was right on top of the play,” according to projo.com.
In a LSU college game the umpire must have been caught off guard by the hidden ball trick as he totally blew a call by calling the runner out when replays clearly show the runner was safe. In this case the hidden ball trick should not have worked (video here).