Did Eddie Stanky Develop a Unique Way of Scoring on Sacrifice Flies That MLB Eventually Banned?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Eddie Stanky developed a unique way to score on a sacrifice fly that was later specifically banned by Major League Baseball.

Eddie Stanky is probably best known for the last team he played in the Majors, the St. Louis Cardinals, who he joined in 1952 as the player-manager (he became a full-time manager the next season).

He managed the team until 1955. He gained a good deal of press during that period, but he was already well known in the world of baseball, and not for his three All-Star appearances as a player. No, Stanky was well-known for being one of the most annoying baseball players ever.

And Stanky would not even deny it if asked about it – he knew that he was annoying, but he felt that doing so would be the best bet for his team to win. Occasionally his annoying actions went beyond annoying and entered into just flat out bad behavior (like when he tried to get his team at the time, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to refuse to let Jackie Robinson play for the team – perhaps non-coincidentally, 1947 was Stanky’s last year with the team), but for the most part they had a certain sort of charm to them.

For instance, the “Eddie Stanky Manuever” is what other players would call it when Stanky came up with the idea of “Hey, if I’m playing second base, why don’t I jump up and down to try to distract the batter?”

But what I wish to talk about here is another one of Stanky’s innovations, one that, while perhaps a little annoying to Major League Baseball (as they banned the practice) I think is actually pretty darn ingenious (and no wonder he was picked up as a manager – he had a good brain for baseball strategy).

You see, in baseball, with less than two outs, a player is allowed to attempt to run to the next base on any groundball or any flyball. In the case of the former play, the player can just run to the next base and be safe. In the case of the latter play, the player must wait until the catch is made by the fielder, at which point the player can try to run from their base to the next base before the fielder throws the ball to that base. The most extreme case of this rule is when runners on third base try to advance to home plate to score a run under what is called a “sacrifice fly.” It’s often a dramatic play, as the runner and the ball from the fielder often arrive at home plate at roughly the same time, so you never know whether the runner will score.

Well, Stanky came up with an idea that, as I’ve already noted, was pretty ingenious. Whenever he was on third base, he would actually stand a few feet BEHIND the bag, in left field!! He would do this so that he could watch a fly ball hit to the outfield and see from the arc when it would hit the glove of the fielder. Stanky would then figure out the timing in his mind and then race full speed from BEHIND third base so that he would hit third base in full stride right when the ball hits the fielder’s glove. Since Stanky would already be in a full-out run, he would score easily (as typically, players don’t START running until the catch is made, making them easier to throw out). It’s a brilliant little attempt at a loophole in the rules.

Alvin Dark and Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants began doing it frequently, as well.

Finally, in 1953, they closed the loophole by stating that runners must leave the base from a standing position.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

One Response to “Did Eddie Stanky Develop a Unique Way of Scoring on Sacrifice Flies That MLB Eventually Banned?”

  1. For that ingenious reason of standing behind third plate , revolutionized baseball, and as a couch makes Ed Stanky’s couching card jump to the thousands of dollars even in poor condition. 1955 Ed Stanky 191 sure will increase minute by minute as more of them are vanishing, its like gold bar now.

Leave a Reply