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Baseball has developed all types of jargon for over a century and a half, an impressive phraseology that has expanded Americans’ vocabulary while at the same time confounding those not too involved with the game.
Those who enjoy the game but lack deep insight may be perplexed hearing a broadcast announcer say things like, “And he’s in with a stand-up double.” A stand-up double, of course, refers to an extra-base hit where the batter reaches second base so easily he does not need to slide to avoid being put out.
Basically, the ball was struck so hard or fortunately away from defenders that as a runner he (or she) ran right or walked right onto second base without the evasive slide maneuver. There was no threat of being put out by a challenging throw or tag.
As with many instances in baseball terminology, there are different types of stand-up doubles, and even stand-up triples which are very rare. Let’s take a deep look into the stand-up double and its history.
Origins of the Phrase
It’s generally accepeted that baseball was invented in 1839; and what is known today as Major League Baseball began in 1869. It’s the oldest major sport in America and as such has a robust history filled with characters, near-mythological feats — and a lasting and growing lexicon of words, phrases and idioms.
It’s assumed that the phrase “stand-up double” was born at the dawn of the broadcast age, when radio announcers tried to verbally paint pictures of play on the field. Just calling a double a double could leave the listener fan hungry for more.
Was it a close play? Did the runner have to really hustle and scamper to make it to second base safely? Was there drama, or not?
It’s difficult to believe the term was used prior to around 1920, the end of the Dead Ball era. In the 19th century, a single baseball would last an entire game and would become soft, and hard to hit far or with the gusto needed for extra-base hits. It was a game of singles, and moving runners over and around to home plate.
Besides, there were no broadcasters to announce what might have been a stand-up double, right?
Different Types of Doubles in Baseball
What differentiates the types of doubles is the slide. That term does date back to the 1800s, eventually made very famous by “King” Kelly and his daring hook-slide along his rear end into bases.
Not all stand-up doubles are the runner’s choice. Take for instance the ground-rule double, which always is also a stand-up double. A ground-rule double refers to a play where the ball bounds out of play, is interfered with somehow (usually by fans reaching over fences), or otherwise violates ground rules arranged for a particular game.
When a struck ball hits the ground for a hit but then bounces into the grandstand or out of play, the umpire will call a ground-rule double while the batter is still running. At that point this runner can just jog or even walk into second base — standing up.
Finally, there is the bunt double, where a batter bunts the ball softly yet still reaches second base. This has only occurred 9 times in baseball history. This phenomenon was born due to the game’s growing tendency for radical shifts in where fielders are stationed.
If a team on defense loads fielders on the right side of the infield, for instance, batters may bunt or slap the ball to the opposite side (as in between second and third base) and scamper into second base before a pitcher or outfielder can race to get the ball. This first occurred in 2009.
Why do baseball players slide?
To avoid being tagged out by a fielder, or over-running a base. When a runner approaches a base standing up, his entire body is a target for tagging by a fielder holding the ball. Sliding only exposes the feet and ankle, or the hands and forearm if a player slides head-first, resulting in better odds of reaching the base safely. Additionally, some runners choose to slide to prevent over-running a base because they approach so fast at full speed. Sliding is like a jet airplane switching to reverse thrusters to slow down fast on short runways.
Sometimes runners slide anyway just to be safe — it’s hard to tell while running full-bore whether or not a fielder has the ball or fielded it cleanly. Also, batters usually know the fielding skills and arm strength of outfielders, so they slide out of respect because of a defender’s history or reputation.
Which is harder to get, a double or a triple?
A triple is much more difficult, because that last 90 feet is stressful on a runner who already just sprinted 180 feet. The outfielders have more time to get the ball back into the infield, and the final plays for triples are often very close. There are very, very few stand-up triples. There are even fewer inside-the-park home runs, where a batter touches all bases without hitting the ball over the outfield fence.