I didn't find a dupe on this and it's an age old topic


Why do they call it a foul pole? Fly ball, hits the foul pole and it's a home run. That doesn't make any sense to me.

So my question

Have there been any initiatives in the past or currently where they may amend the name of the foul pole to a fair pole?


If such an amendment were to begin, where would it begin with? The commissioner, the owners, the Players Union?

1 Answer 1


It is probably to just keep with the same terminology. The lines extending from home to first to right field and then third to left field, are both called foul lines. Anything outside of them are foul, just like the pole.

The fact is there were no foul poles when baseball was invented and I think they were incorporated in the 20s or 30s. Before foul poles the umpires used the foul lines to judge if a homerun was fair or foul. That line would go on forever and the ball was not judged where it crossed the fence, it was where it landed. So think about the lost homeruns from players of the eras before.

So you have foul lines that are fair and when the poles were inserted into baseball there was already common language. So it was called foul poles. Why isn't it changed? Because tradition often trumps logic.

  • How would a rule change occur in MLB?
    – Citizen
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:30
  • 1
    What reason would MLB have for changing the name of the pole? They would then have to update hundreds of rulebooks and then have fans of 5 generations that have to relearn what to call the foul line or foul pole. There is just no reason. Really the only reason baseball would ever think about doing this would be a publicity stunt to garner more attention. I played baseball since 4 years old through college. I have umped baseball for 25 years. I have never had angst on calling it the foul pole. I know its fair, but still its purpose is for showing if a ball is foul.
    – Coach-D
    Jan 26, 2016 at 17:59
  • It's more of an if question. Where do rule changes occur? Not so much that it 'should' be changed. :-)
    – Citizen
    Jan 26, 2016 at 18:06
  • Maybe the rule change process is my next question
    – Citizen
    Jan 26, 2016 at 18:06
  • Rule changes happen by MLB and are often voted on by owners. Note that in the past 60 years I cannot think of many changes - replay, contact at homeplate... Most other organizations (college/high school/pee-wee) simply start with the MLB rulebook and have their own addendum. These get changed based on the rules of the organization.
    – Coach-D
    Jan 26, 2016 at 18:09

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