Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Hidden Ball Trick

The hidden ball trick is one of those rare baseball morsels that comes and goes quickly, a glance in the wrong direction and you missed it. Many think it is extremely rare, but in fact, according to, there were 231 of these gems over the years, and several others that are unsubstantiated possibilities.

“It likely is baseball's most famous act of deception and trickery, which results in the victim being greatly embarrassed in addition to making an out. To pull it off, an infielder keeps the ball but tries to make it appear to a runner that he no longer has it. If the runner falls for it and wanders off the base, he is tagged out. The play was more common in the early days before rules were adopted that limited what the pitcher could do to make it appear that he had the ball when he did not. However, it is far from extinct as can be seen in the list below.”

The hidden ball trick confirms that a player wasn’t paying attention, was played the fool, is embarrassed in front of thousands, and laughed at on Baseball Tonight and Sportscenter.

Imagine getting tricked and making the last out in the game. There were eight instances of that happening, including Gary Carter on 4/8/1988. And it was Gary’s 34th birthday, no less. Vada Pinson was also victimized on his birthday, 8/11/1959 when he turned 21.

Two players had it happen three times: Ozzie Guillen (twice in 1989, 1991) and Jack Martin (1912, twice in 1914)

Three players were each fooled twice: Bill Dahlen (1902, 1906), Billy Werber (1937, 1940) and Birdie Cree (1910, 1913)

There must be some connection between a player’s name and his gullibility.
Victims include:

  • A Buck (Ewing) and a Bucky (Harris), two Chicks (Fewster, Hafey), a Chief (Zimmer) and a Cupid (Childs).
  • Three Docs (Cramer, Johnston, White), a Ducky (Holmes) and a Dusty (Baker).
  • A Yost (Eddie), a Flick (Elmer), two Everetts (Booe, Scott), a Gabby (Street), and a Boots (Poffenberger)
  • A Mickie (Cochrane) and a Minnie (Minoso), a Rabbit (Maranville), a Goose (Goslin) and a Ping (Bodie).
  • A Stuffy (McInnis) and a Topsy (Hartsel), a Vada (Pinson) and Zoilo (Versalles)
  • A Deacon (McGuire) and two Patsy’s (Dougherty and Gharrity)

What first name was the most common among victims?

  • There were five Jimmys (Jimmie Foxx, Piersall, Sheckard, Slagle, and Wynn)
  • Five Willies, (Davis, Horton, Keeler, Mays, Randolph)
  • Seven Joes (Benz, Gedeon, Kelley, Keough, Quinn, Sargent, and Tinker)
  • Eight Johns (Knight, O’Brien, Roseboro, Vander Meer, Bates, Butler, Evers, Mostil

Charlie Jamieson was the victim as part of a triple play on 4/30/1929, as was Chick Hafey on 9/6/1931.

Chief Zimmer was played the fool on opening day, 4/22/1897.

This famous threesome were also victims: Tinker (Joe), Evers (Johnny), Chance (Frank)

And Jimmy Slagle suffered the embarrassment in game two of the 1907 World Series.

The last one occurred on 9/15/2004 when third baseman Mike Lowell of the Florida Marlins fooled Brian Schneider of Montreal in the 4th inning.

Here is an exerpt from

MIAMI -- Falling under the heading -- You don't see this every day -- the Marlins successfully pulled off a hidden-ball trick against the Expos on Wednesday in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Pro Player Stadium.All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell caught the Expos napping, enabling the Marlins to pull off a sandlot play.To set the stage, the Expos went ahead 2-1 on Brian Schneider's double. With two outs in the fourth inning, Maicer Izturis was intentionally walked, bringing up pitcher John Patterson.Patterson lined a single to left field. Expos third base coach Manny Acta held Schneider at third, and left fielder Miguel Cabrera ran the ball in. Cabrera flipped the ball to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who quickly tossed it to Lowell at third.By rule, the pitcher cannot be on the mound when the hidden-ball trick is executed. To keep the Expos off guard, Lowell trotted to pitcher Carl Pavano, and the play was on. In the confusion, the Expos never detected Pavano didn't have the ball.Lowell returned to third, and Pavano milled about the grass around the mound. When Schneider took a one-step lead, Lowell snapped a quick tag, and third base umpire Paul Emmel pumped out Schneider.

Ah yes, the glory of baseball.

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