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In the game of baseball, the hidden ball trick is a play in which the runner is deceived about the location of the ball, in an effort to have him tagged out.



Typically, the hidden ball trick is tried when the runner has beaten the throw to second base. There are a number of ways that this play can be executed:

  • The second baseman mimes throwing the ball to the pitcher, or goes to the mound and appears to give the ball to the pitcher, but actually hides the ball on his person. When the runner takes his lead off second base, the second baseman tags him out.
  • The second baseman, shortstop or other nearby fielder will pretend to drop the ball into the outfield for an apparent error (after hiding it on himself). If executed correctly, the runner will begin running for third, setting up the easy out.

However, the hidden ball trick is illegal (and a balk is called) if the pitcher is standing on or astride the pitcher's rubber. This makes the hidden ball trick far more difficult to successfully pull off.

Third baseman Matt Williams used a different technique; on more than one occasion, he asked the runner to step off the bag so that Williams could sweep the dirt off it, then tagged out the runner when the runner complied.

Passing the ball to another player during suspension of play is not a valid hidden ball trick, as it is not possible to tag a runner out this way - play does not resume until the ball returns to the pitcher on the pitcher's mound.


There have been fewer than 300 successful executions of the hidden ball trick in Major League Baseball. On June 8, 2007 shortstop Julio Lugo of the Boston Red Sox caught Alberto Callaspo of the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, teammate and third baseman Mike Lowell claims it was not a true hidden ball trick since the pitcher did most of the work "selling" the trick.[1] The previous successful hidden ball trick was August 10, 2005, when Lowell (with reliever Todd Jones on the mound), then of the Florida Marlins, caught Arizona Diamondback Luis Terrero, who represented the tying run, taking a lead off third base in the eighth inning, with Florida leading 6–5. Florida won the game, 10–5. The previous victim was Brian Schneider of the Montréal Expos, who was caught in 2004, also by Lowell.

Third baseman Bill Coughlin was reputed to have been the maestro of the hidden ball trick. Although not verified, Coughlin reportedly pulled it off seven times.[2][3] He pulled it off on May 12, 1905 against Hobe Ferris of the Boston Red Sox.[4] He did it again on September 3, 1906, catching George Stone in the first inning. In Game 2 of the 1907 World Series, Coughlin caught Jimmy Slagle with a hidden ball trick, the only one in World Series history. The play went from Germany Schaefer to Coughlin[5].

A hidden ball putout is scored as an unassisted putout for the fielder making the play.

See also


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