So, we were watching Game One of the Lafayette Super Regional on TV. ULL was two runs up on Ole Miss when Rebel relief pitcher Jeremy Massey was called for a balk, allowing another run to score.

That's when I made a critical mistake.

"Where was the balk?" I asked to no one in particular.

They showed the pitch again, and I asked again:

"Where the (devil) was the balk?"

And then came these words from my wife: "Honey, what's a balk?"


Instantly, I was reminded of what Leo Durocher once said about baseball. Said Leo the Lip, "Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand."

Fewer, still, understand a balk.

My wife does not understand. She appreciates the beauty of a well-groomed baseball diamond. She knows left field from right. Most times, she knows a hit from an error. She definitely knows the home team bats last. She loves the fact you can watch a baseball game and work a crossword puzzle at the same time. She thinks Chipper Jones is "really cute."

But she does not know what consitutes a balk (and neither, apparently, did the home plate umpire at ULL).

So, you tell me: How does one explain a balk?

Well, it's like this....

Only, it isn't.

Better to keep it simple. Balks occur when the pitcher tries to deceive a baserunner. When that happens, the umpire calls a balk and the baserunners advance one base.

Pretty good explanation, or so I thought.

"You got to be more specific than that," my wife said.


Now seems the right time to point out that the official rules of baseball contain a lengthy treatise on what constitutes a balk. When I say lengthy, I really mean interminable. Baseball's rule book uses precisely 3,302 words to explain all the ins and outs of what constitutes a balk. In other words, if you really want to explain a balk to the uninitiated, you can do so in about the time it takes to play a doubleheader with several rain delays.

A balk is really complicated, because if you really want to explain a balk, you must first explain such intracacies as a pitcher's set position vs. a wind-up and the importance of whether or not a pitcher's foot is in contact with the rubber.

Try it sometime....

"Rubber? Why do they call it a rubber?"

You also have to also explain why it's OK to fake a pickoff throw to second base or third base, but not to first base.

So, it's OK to deceive a runner on second base or third base, but not first base?



Just because.

See, the problem is, you would have to know why it's OK to fake a throw to second base and not to first, and I don't. Do you?

That makes no sense, she said.

And she's right.

She usually is.

I don't have a clue how they came up with the rules for a balk. But those rules date back to 1898 and I do understand them for the most part. I just do not understand how some umpires interpret said rules. Neither did Steve Carlton, the great lefthander. He balked 90 times, a Major League record.

By the way, the official explanation from the umpire in Lafayette was that Massey, the Ole Miss lefty, did not come to a pause.

But Massey did pause. He paused and he in fact paused pregnantly, which is something my wife does understand much better than I.

Rick Cleveland ( is the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.