Baseball riddle

What are the 5 ways a runner can get on first base without his bat making contact with the ball?

(OK, it’s not really a riddle - more of a trivia question/stumper - but I’m trying to make it go with the theme. Work with me people…)

I count six.

  1. Walk
  2. Hit by a pitch
  3. Passed ball
  4. Catcher interference
  5. Catcher drops third strike
  6. Being designated as a pinch-runner

Can you name another way a runner can get to base without getting a hit?

I’m pretty sure your #3 and #5 are the same - batter can only advance in either case on 3rd strike, if catcher doesn’t cleanly catch the ball. Whether it’s scored as a passed ball, wild pitch, or just plain dropped 3rd strike, it’s the same rule that gets the batter to first.

But otherwise, yes, you’ve got it.

I wondered about those two, too. You hardly every see a passed ball called, but you do see the occasional mad dash to first with the dropped third strike.

So, can you (or anyone) name one other way a runner can get to first base without getting a hit?

Well, “without getting a hit” is (potentially) a lot broader than “without his bat making contact with the ball” - it would include errors, fielder’s choice, and possibly others…

Right. I was thinking of fielder’s choice. I can’t think of an additional error that would get you to first, besides the ones already listed.

Sign #7981 that I’m an idiot: “Catcher’s interference” and “dropped 3rd strike” popped into my mind immediately, but I couldn’t think of the incredibly obvious “pinch runner” until I read the spoilers.


I acutally thought the pinch runner was tricky because I was thinking along the lines of someone who was at bat, not someone who could come in from the dugout.

A “passed ball” is not an official play in baseball. From an umpire’s perspective, it is no different from a wild pitch. It is a ball in play, but a passed ball on strike one or strike two does not allow the batter to take first.

The difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball rests solely in the judgment of the Official Scorer of the game. Wild pitch implies the pitcher is at fault, but no error is awarded and any runs scoring as a result are earned. A passed ball results in an error “awarded” to the catcher, and may result in unearned run(s). Official scorers are usually pretty loath to give too many passed balls, and will usually give the catcher the benefit of the doubt.

BTW, here’s one for you:

What is the minimum number of pitches a pitcher can make to retire the side in an inning.



3 batters in a row come to the plate out of order.

Also, I think if a pitcher delays too long, the umpire can call a ball. Do that enough, then pick off the guys on base, and you can get through an inning without throwing a pitch.

I think a passed ball allows all the runners to advance.

  1. The pitcher tries to catch a runner leading off the base and overthrows the baseman with the ball going into the stands

  2. A pitched ball gets stuck in the umpire’s equipment

Or a pitcher comes in with the bases loaded and the team pulls off the hidden ball trick three different times without the pitcher throwing a pitch.

(though I guess technically, someone else had to throw some pitches that inning.)

I’m pretty sure that any ball that passes the plate is considered to be in-play and the runners may advance or not, at their own risk.

— Alan

That sounds right, Alan.

But my point was I thought there was a difference between passed ball and the third strike dropped ball. But I can’t seem to google up a difinitive answer.

A batter may not take first on a passed ball unless it is a dropped third strike and first base is open.

One more time: a passed ball is NOT a call that the umpire makes. It is for scoring and statistical purposes only.

Unless the umpires have notified both teams that due to low temperatures they are waiving the rule, a pitcher cannot put his hands or fingers in or near his mouth while standing on the mound. If he does this, a ball is called.

So…pitcher goes to his mouth four times, picks the guy off first. Repeat three times.

The player at-bat is not a runner. A runner has earned at least first base.