Few things should be as easy in a game as batting in order. On this day in 1945, that proved difficult for the Philadelphia Athletics, and ignited a great deal of confusion.
Generally, there is very little excitement about a player stepping into the batter’s box. We know who is coming, as the lineups are followed without fail. At least, that is the case in 99.99% of baseball games. But every so often, such as on this day in 1945 with the Philadelphia Athletics, a team makes an error and does not realize it until after the fact.
In the Athletics case, the issues stemmed from George Kell and Irv Hall. Based on the lineup card, Hall was batting fifth, and Kell sixth. However, in the second inning, Kell took Hall’s spot in the batting order, which was noticed by Detroit Tigers manager Steve O’Neill. However, as Kell struck out, one of the 15 times he would do so on the year, O’Neill kept quiet, validating Kell’s at bat.
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Then, Hall took his place in the batter’s box, this time bumping Dick Siebert out of order. After Hall singled, O’Neill decided that was the perfect time to protest. After consulting the lineup card, umpire Eddie Rommel called Hall out ending the inning.
That is where the confusion began. Unsure of how to interpret the rule, Rommel had Kell hit again to lead off in the third. Although neither manager was certain of who should be hitting, they both disagreed with the decision. As a result, both umpires played the game under protest, an eventual 7-2 Athletics victory.
The protest found its way to American League president Will Harridge, who ruled against O’Neill, who argued Siebert should have been the next batter. Interestingly, Harridge also misinterpreted the rule in his explanation (the correct answer was the eighth place hitter, Frankie Hayes). Eventually, the rule would be clarified, although it would take another dozen years for that to happen.
Normally, taking one’s turn in the batter’s box would not be a matter of excitement. However, on this day in 1945, the the Philadelphia Athletics batting out of order turned into a great deal of confusion for everyone involved.