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The classic baseball movie, Little Big League, has a hidden ball trick.

Would a play like this be considered legal in the MLB? Or is this a balk or another rule prohibiting a play like this?

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  • It looks like a similar hidden ball trick was used in the College World Series. The pitcher steps off the rubber and does the "throw" to first base. youtube.com/watch?v=j45ztPQ6i2I
    – Zach
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 16:56

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From the Major League Baseball Rulebook, 2021 edition, a Balk is covered in 6.02, Pitcher Illegal Action, (a), Balks:

If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when:

(2) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first or third base and fails to complete the throw;

The pitching mound is not fully visible in the film at that point, so it is unclear if the pitcher is touching his plate or not. However, it would be a highly unusual action for him to remove his foot from the plate and then throw to first; it would almost certainly not result in what happened, as the baserunner would notice the odd action (would notice that the pitcher had not returned to the mound).

If the pitcher was on the pitching rubber, and took two steps, one then a second, to make the throw (as he appears to have), then that would be illegal - the second step doesn't make it any better, and would be a feint in any event.

Only if the pitcher were off the rubber for a meaningful amount of time, would it be legal to feint a throw - at that point the pitcher is treated as an infielder; see this note to 5.07 (e):

Rule 5.07(e) Comment: The pitcher, while off the rubber, may throw to any base. If he makes a wild throw, such throw is the throw of an infielder and what follows is governed by the rules covering a ball thrown by a fielder.

However, this does not appear to be what happened in the film.

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As long as the pitcher steps off the rubber prior to the fake throw to first, it would be legal. Him being off the rubber is the key to it not being illegal.

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  • 2
    Hi! Welcome to the site. Answers to rules questions should be complete, and include references to the rules documents or umpire guidance or similar when at all possible. You also might want to clarify whether you think this specific play was legal or not, as that is what is asked - it's unclear to me if you are saying you think he was off the rubber sufficiently to get the pass here or not.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 19:02

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