Maybe the biggest difference between baseball and all the other
Baseball is not considered a contact sport, but that doesn’t mean that contact is never made — players slide into one another, catchers are knocked on the head with bats and occasionally a batter will be hit by a pitch. If you’re hit by a pitch, it can hurt, and it can injure you whether the ball was intentionally thrown or not. Here are a few things you should know about batters hit by pitches in the Majors.
1. If a batter’s body, clothing or equipment is touched by a pitched ball, the player advances to first base. There are a few stipulations to this rule, however. The ball has to be outside of the strike zone, and the player has to make an effort to get out of the way if possible. The player also cannot swing at the pitch — if he does, it’s considered a strike.
2. If the bases are loaded when a batter gets hit by a pitch, the player is awarded an RBI, as all runners advance.
3. Being hit by a pitch won’t affect a player’s batting average, but it will affect the on-base percentage (OBP).
4. A pitch that strikes the batter is counted as a ball in the pitcher’s pitch count.
5. If an umpire suspects the pitcher has thrown at a batter intentionally, a warning may be issued to the pitcher, as well as to the benches and managers of both teams. If there is another intentionally hit batter, the pitcher may be ejected from the game. These punishments are doled out according to umpire discretion.
6. To date, only one player has died from an injury received while playing in a Major League Baseball game, and it was the result of being hit by a pitch. In 1920, a Cleveland Indians player named Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch, and he died the next day.
7. After Chapman’s death, a new rule was put into place that requires the balls to be replaced if they become dirty, which can make them hard to see. This presumably is what led to Chapman’s injury and demise, as witnesses said that he never reacted as the ball zoomed towards his head.
8. It wasn’t until 30 years after his death that batting helmets became mandated by any Major League team. The Pittsburgh Pirates required all players to wear batting helmets starting in 1953.
9. In 1956, the entire National League made helmets a requirement. The American League followed suit in 1958, and MLB made the official rule change in 1970 that all batters were required to wear helmets.