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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Joshua and the Balk Rule

Before this game goes into the books for good or ill (ill's tucked in by the rail and riding hard), a word about the improbable events of last night — perhaps the only time in Mets history a walkoff home run will leave me and Emily blinking in puzzlement instead of leaping about. (I mean, we were happy, but in a pinch-me startled way. And we agreed, to our horror, that we felt mildly sympathetic towards Armando Benitez!)

Joshua and I now have a morning ritual — at some point during the getting dressed, the wrangling of school items and the walking to school, he'll ask if the Mets won last night, since he rarely gets to see anything beyond about the fourth. The kid is working on his math, so he particularly likes the score — not the final score, but what the score was each time it changed.

I always happily indulge him as far as my poor memory will allow — I mean, my goodness, my kid wants to know exact details about the Mets game. This morning, as you might imagine, I was particularly happy to do so.

Daddy: Well, Joshua, in the first inning two Giants hit solo home runs, so it was Giants 2, Mets 0.

Joshua: That's not good.

Daddy: Then Carlos Delgado hit a home run with Carlos Beltran on base….

Joshua: That's A DOUBLE-DECKER HOME RUN!

Daddy: Yep, a two-run home run.

Joshua (very fierce): No, it's a double-decker home run!

[Daddy backs down hastily. Yes, it was a double-decker home run. Hell, that's more fun to say anyway.]

Joshua: And it was Mets 2, Giants 2. And that's good!

Daddy: Yep. And then Carlos Beltran drove in a run, so it was Mets 3, Giants 2. But then ANOTHER Giant hit a home run, so it was —

Joshua: Mets 3, Giants 3. That's NOT good.

Daddy: No, it wasn't. And then Joe Smith allowed a walk and hit a batter —

Joshua (confused): He hit the batter?

Daddy: He threw the ball and it hit the batter. That's the same as a walk.

Joshua: He shouldn't do that. That's not nice.

Daddy: He didn't do it on purpose. It was an accident. He didn't want to do it because then the Giants had runners on first and second. And then [we'll skip the long explanation of bunting, which is a lot harder to explain to a child than you may think, if you've never tried it]. And then a Giant hit a ground ball to Carlos Delgado, who got the batter out at first and threw home but he was JUST TOO LATE to get the runner at the plate.

Joshua: So it was … Mets 3, Giants 4.

Daddy: Right. So [reminder of extra innings and how they work]. And Armando Benitez — who used to be a Met — was pitching for the Giants. And he walked Jose Reyes.

Joshua: I LOVE when Jose gets a walk! Or hits a home run!

[We pause to sing the Jose Jose Jose song. Because.]

Daddy: And then Armando committed a balk, so Jose got to go to second.

Joshua: What's a balk?

Oh boy. How to handle that one? Well, son, a balk is when … what the hell is a balk, exactly? It's when the pitcher tries to deceive the runner, but of course the pitcher does that all the time. It's … gee. I settled for saying it's when the pitcher doesn't throw smoothly to the base or to the batter, when he flinches or stops and starts. (Right? Kinda?) And when Joshua pressed me, I couldn't resist saying that a balk is the word that comes out of Bob Davidson's mouth when a neutrino unsettles a neuron in his brain. Because that first balk, wow. Sometimes Davidson is like a small-town cop a ticket shy of his quota at 4:35 p.m. on the 31st. There's a violation out somewhere, and Bob's gonna find it.

Anyway, eventually we got the balk sorted out and moved on to Endy's bunt, which happily we'd already covered, and then the disappointment of Beltran not getting the job done, which led to a revisiting of the sacrifice fly, which is also harder to explain than you might think. And then the second balk. Joshua thought this was fairly amazing. I told him he didn't know the thousandth of it.

The second Delgado home run? We were united in the opinion that it was very, very good.

* Trivia question for the adults: There is ONE situation where a baseball team may “decline a penalty” and choose the outcome of a play. What is it?

11 comments to Joshua and the Balk Rule

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes, my good man, you are just a little too precious.

  • Anonymous

    Aw, that's easy — a spitball or other defaced-ball violation. The pitcher has to deliver the pitch to the plate to break the rule, and there is always the chance that the batter will have put that pitch in play despite the cheat. It'd hardly be fair to the team at bat to either let stand a very bad result – a strike-em-out, throw-em-out DP, say — or call back a good one like a home run. So the batting team is allowed the option of accepting the results of the play, or having the pitch instead become an automatic ball (and, if runners are on base, a balk as well).

  • Anonymous

    It's very awesome to see our kids get into the Blue & Orange, no?
    My two year old was gleeful at the noise and action on the screen. Even though she doesn't understand it, she knows that whatever just transpired on the screen made her mama very happy.
    She's got the Lets Go Mets chant down. When anyone tries to tell her to say “lets go Yankees” she shakes her head and says, “No, Lets go Mets!” She also likes the Jose chant. Very adorable.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I was kind of weirded out by my own feeling bad for Benitez as well.

  • Anonymous

    That defaced ball call seems like a pretty likely answer.
    My guess was a HBP. If a batter is hit by a pitch, I believe he has the option to decline first base and remain at bat.

  • Anonymous

    I so did not know this until looking up Billy Loes the other day, but one of the articles mentioning his '52 Series balk also mentioned the rule change which made a balk a declinable call. I imagine someone got a base-clearing hit off a balk which got called back under the old rule.
    And seeing that you'd moved me up on the Blog Roll (which I rarely see, reading you through an RSS feed) just made my morning:)

  • Anonymous

    Well, apparently Davidson giveth & Davidson taketh away.
    The 3rd SF run last night was an absolute joke. Glavine had Molina struck out twice to get out of the inning, but Balkin' Bob's hand stayed in his pocket.
    Aaah, well…
    We weren't hittin' Zito anyway, but coooomeooooooooooonnnn…

  • Anonymous

    < <[We pause to sing the Jose Jose Jose song. Because.] >>
    I love that! It's something my little guy would have done when he was younger :)

  • Anonymous

    “Sometimes Davidson is like a small-town cop a ticket shy of his quota at 4:35 p.m. on the 31st. There's a violation out somewhere, and Bob's gonna find it.”
    Jason,
    Two things:
    1) Davidson's hero was Barney Fife. He once measured the distance to see if the back of a car was less than ten feet from a fire hydrant and was depressed to see it was about an inch or so within the law (he also arrested everyone in the town (including Aunt Bee) when Andy left him in charge of Mayberry for a day).
    2) Even more important – what happens when, with a runner on third, the batter steps out of the box causing the pitcher to stop his motion without asking the home plate umpire to call time? If Davidson was umpiring the game, everytime we'd get a runner on first I'd order the next batter to do that until the pitcher wised up.

  • Anonymous

    Trivia: Interference. If, say, there's a runner on third and one out, and the catcher interferes with the batter but the batter hits a sac fly, the team can decline first base and take the play.

  • Anonymous

    He shouldn't do that. That's not nice.
    This made me chuckle.
    As did
    I LOVE when Jose gets a walk! Or hits a home run!
    [We pause to sing the Jose Jose Jose song. Because.]

    I gotta work on the latter with my two little girls.