Earlier this month, a reader pointed out that Oakland’s Gabe Gross had swung at the first pitch after Jack Cust and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit back-to-back home runs against the Red Sox, and wondered about the propriety of the action.
My initial response was that it was a 9-6 game, the ball was clearly flying at Fenway, and Gross had the leeway to take liberties.
Then I realized just how long I’ve spent with my nose in the Code. Much more important than Gross’ leeway is the fact that this rule barely exists anymore, if at all.
It serves as a great example of the evolution of the Code; in the 1970s, Sparky Anderson lived by the rule, as did many of his disciples. Now that power numbers play such a vital part in contract negotiations, however, it’s fallen into such disuse that finding a player who has even heard of it is a feat.
Gross certainly hadn’t.
“If I have a 3-0 count in a blowout game, I don’t swing,” he told me recently. “That, I understand. But the first pitch thrown over the plate after back-to-back homers . . . With all respect to Sparky, I don’t see any reason to be taking it. I’d never heard of that before.”
The swing in question—Gross fouled the pitch off—was not meant to disrespect the pitcher, Manny Delcarmen, nor did Delcarmen take it that way.
Heck, just across the bay, it recently happened with the Giants—twice. Both times, Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe went back-to-back; both times, the next hitter (Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval, respectively) swung at the next pitch.
Let’s have a moment of silence. As charming as this rule may be, I officially pronounce it deceased.