The Ole Ball Game

When was the sacrifice fly rule changed to only include fly balls that resulted in a run scoring?

by Tony
(East Meadow, NY)

Sac Bunt

Sac Bunt

Sac Bunt Sac Fly

Tony asked: I remember in the early 60's players getting credited with a sacrifice fly if a runner tagged from second base and advanced to third on a fly ball.


A friend of mine disagrees. Can you please help me out?

I have a box score of a game I attended in 1960 which shows as sacrifice fly with no RBI for the person who hit it.


Rick answered: Tony, thank you for your question.

The status of sacrifices in baseball has deviated back and forth, many times.

For most of baseball history the sacrifice has followed essentially the current rule: A sacrifice was awarded only on a bunt that was not an obvious attempt to bunt for a hit.

At other times, the rules have given credit for other ways of advancing runners with outs.

Timeline:

1889 - 1893: A sacrifice is credited only with one out; but is awarded for any out or error that advanced a runner. The batter is still charged with a time at bat.

1894 - 1896: A sacrifice is awarded with either zero or one out, but only for bunts that advanced a runner and resulted in an out. Sacrifice hits no longer count as a time at bat.

1897 - 1907: A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter would have been out but for an error.

1908: A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter succeeds in driving in a run with a fly ball.

1909 - 1919: A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter drives in a run with a fly ball that results in an error; but would have driven in the run if the error had not been committed. Although sacrifice flies were included in the sacrifice hit total, they were also counted separately.

1920 - 1925: The scoring distinction between sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies is abolished.

1926 - 1930: A sacrifice is awarded on any fly out that advances a runner, or on a fly ball resulting in an error that would have advanced a runner had the out been recorded.

1931 - 1938: No sacrifice is awarded for a sacrifice fly.

1939: Sacrifice flies are again counted as sacrifice hits; but only those that result in a score.

1940 - present: Sacrifice hits are awarded only on bunts that advance a runner and result in an out, or would have resulted in an out but for an error or unsuccessful fielder's choice.

Rule 10.08 Sacrifices...(d) Score a sacrifice fly when, before two are out, the batter hits a ball in flight handled by an outfielder or an infielder running in the outfield, in fair or foul territory that:

1) is caught, and he runner scores after the catch, or

2) is dropped, and a runner scores, if in the scorers judgment the runner could have scored after the catch had the fly ball been caught.

If Baseball Reference has their timeline correct, the year would have been 1939 or 40.

I always believed it was as you thought, as long as you moved a runner, it was a sac. Wouldn't be the first time I was wrong for sure. Good thing I don't mess with our score books!

Yours in baseball,

Rick

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