The “Foul Tip”
The foul tip is one those baseball rules that confuses the casual enjoyer of America’s pastime and infuriates baseball purists. This article is designed to help you understand this simple yet often misunderstood rule.
According to MLB.com, “A foul tip is a batted ball that goes sharply and directly to the catcher’s hand or glove and is legally caught.” This should be easy, right? Unfortunately, the name “Foul Tip” is a misnomer, not unlike “Koala Bear” or “Tin Foil” (I know you are going to look up Koala Bear – while you are at it, look up monotremes – they are fascinating).
This is actually easy: If the catcher catches the ball, it is a strike. Note the punctuation mark after the word “strike” – it is a period. It is a live ball and runners can advance on the foul tip (PHBA Division Rules permitting).
If the catcher does not catch the ball, it is a foul, not a foul tip. Runners cannot advance, batter gets a strike. If there are already two strikes, the batter gets another pitch.
If this seems easy, it is because it is. Lore and myth have begun to call as foul tips those balls popped back into the stands, or down the baseline, confusing what should be a simple rule.
You may ask “Why call it a foul tip if, according to the rule, it doesn’t really seem to be a foul at all? This is an outstanding question; my research indicates the same person who named the foul tip has descendants who came up with the term “Friendsgiving.”
You may have a typo in the last paragraph: “Lore and myth have begun to call as FOULS those balls popped back into the stands, or down the baseline…” was probably intended to refer to “foul tips.”
Yes, it hurts my ears to hear “foul tip, back to the screen.” But you left out perhaps the most annoying of all: “Foul tip–but the catcher can’t hang on.” As I commented to Ray earlier today, my summation is quite brief: “Every foul tip in the history of baseball has been caught by the catcher.” This astonishes a lot of people, but it makes it oh so easy for them to understand.
Kurtiss, well put.