Hidden ball trick

From BR Bullpen

The hidden ball trick is a play in which an infielder pretends to return the baseball to the pitcher, hides the ball in his glove, and tags out an unsuspecting baserunner when he takes his lead. The play is rarely attempted and rarely succeeds, so being caught is very embarrassing to the victim. An important reason that the play rarely succeeds is that the pitcher will be penalized with a balk if he stands on or astride the pitcher's rubber without the ball. A runner who waits for the pitcher to take his position on the rubber before leading off will never be caught by the hidden ball trick. In many other instances, players simply call for time after reaching the next base, making it impossible to pull off the play.

Research conducted by Bill Deane has uncovered at least 250 instances of the hidden ball trick (though unfortunately the list is no longer available on the Retrosheet site).

Gene Michael became known as the master of the trick, having pulled it off five times in his big-league career. In the minor leagues, Buddy Hunter was a true wizard at it.

Ozzie Guillen was also an expert at it, once performing it twice in two days, against the same team.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Bill Deane: Finding the Hidden Ball Trick: The Colorful History of Baseball's Oldest Ruse, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4422-4433-7
  • Matt Monagan: "The master of the hidden-ball trick: This Red Sox 2B was one of the best to do it, and here's why", mlb.com, July 14, 2021. [1]