All baseball teams in the Olympics may play by the same set of international rules, but there are many, many variations at national, local, and league levels. Here are some of the hitherto unknown rules of the game in different parts of the world.
- In Mongolia, baseball is played on horseback, but without saddles. The horses wear shinguards and shaffrons. If the pitcher beans either the batter or his horse, the batter is awarded first base–provided he manages to stay on the horse.
- In the U.S. Beantown League, by contrast, any batter who is beaned is permitted to go directly to second base–by way of the pitcher’s mound, but without the bat.
- In Philippines Peoplepowerball, the spectators in the stands are permitted to throw an umpire out of the game if they disagree with the call. The hometeam usually wins.
- In U.S. Ownerball, the owners of the opposing teams are permitted to place bids with the homeplate umpire for as many as three strikes and four balls per game. The richer owner’s team often wins.
- In the sparsely populated Australian Outback, where the outfield is the outback and a home run is a walkabout, Ockerball only requires three players (and 27 beers) per side. On the tiny islands of the Torres Straits, this is known as Beach Baseball.
- China’s Iron Ricebowl League, by contrast, allows up to 18 players per side, two at each field position. In ideal cases, one is a better fielder and the other a better hitter, but in actual practice, one is usually an unambitious young person and the other an elder dependent.
- In China, spitballs are permitted.
- In Korea and the Philippines, hot dogs are served in bowls, not buns.
- In Japan, tie games are permitted, but not counted as wins or losses. In Canada and New Zealand, a tie game is regarded as a win-win.
- Japanese Pro Baseball allows foreign players, but with restrictions: only two foreign players are permitted in the field at any one time, and only one foreign player is allowed to be on base at any one time. If a foreign player comes up to bat when another is already on base, the former must either bring the latter home, sacrifice to move him forward, or strike out. (A walk, whether intentional or not, will advance the lead runner unless the manager of the team at bat elects to replace the batter with a native-born pinch runner. This is an example of how protectionism breeds regulatory excess.)
- In China, first base is down the left foul line and base runners run clockwise around the diamond. In Taiwan, first base is down the right foul line and base runners run counter-clockwise around the diamond.
- North Korea requires all players to bat, throw, and pitch left-handed. South Korea used to require all players to play right-handed, but its new Sunshine Policy now requires all players to be ambidextrous. The home team must play right-handed and the visitors left-handed.
- In the Micronesian Lagoon League, the ball field is underwater and the infield must be at least 1 meter deep. A hit that lands in the ocean outside the atoll is a home run, and one that touches the land qualifies as a ground-rule double, even if it rolls into the ocean.
- In the old Siberian League, the bases were 90 meters apart, the outfield barbed wire was at least 500 meters distant, the 50-meter warning track was mined, umpires were armed, and guard towers were placed at the end of each foul line. Home runs were extremely rare, but ground balls could go a long way on the ice if they got past the outfielders, and mine-rule doubles were fairly common.
SOURCES: Herodotus, Confuseus, Marco Polo, Reuters, Katie Couric, faroutliars