TIL of MLB rule 3.03 – A player may only be substituted if the ball is dead. This rule came about from a play in 1891. A pop fly was hit near a team’s bench, out of reach of all fielders. The player-manager called for a sub when the ball was in the air, lept off the bench and caught it

TIL of MLB rule 3.03 - A player may only be substituted if the ball is dead. This rule came about from a play in 1891. A pop fly was hit near a team's bench, out of reach of all fielders. The player-manager called for a sub when the ball was in the air, lept off the bench and caught it

  • In the Official Baseball Rules, the first sentence of Rule 3.03 states, “A player, or players, may be substituted during a game at any time the ball is dead.” It seems obvious to us today that substitutions cannot be made while the ball is in play, but this sentence was not included in the rule book for no reason.
  • The rule was created after a play by Michael Joseph “King” Kelly, a popular catcher-outfielder in the late-nineteenth century.
  • As Kelly sat on the bench one day in 1891, an opposing batter hit a high foul ball.
  • Kelly quickly recognized that the pop up would be out of the reach of all of his teammates.
  • As a player-manager, Kelly jumped up and went after it, crying out, “Kelly now catching!”.
  • This clever bit of quick thinking allowed Kelly to make the catch, but the umpire refused to call the batter out.
  • The rules were changed the following winter to prevent this type of play from ever happening again.