Official Rules: Foreword
This code of rules governs the playing of baseball games by
professional teams of Major League Baseball and the leagues
that are members of the National Association of Professional
We recognize that many amateur and non-professional
organizations play their games under professional rules and we
are happy to make our rules available as widely as possible. It
is well to remember that specifications as to fields,
equipment, etc., may be modified to meet the needs of each
In baseball, an uncaught third strike
(sometimes inaccurately referred to as a dropped third strike)
occurs when the catcher fails to cleanly catch a pitch for the
third strike. A pitch is considered uncaught if the ball
touches the ground before being caught, or if the ball is
dropped after being grasped (see also catch). The specific
rules concerning the uncaught third strike are addressed in
Rules 6.05 and 6.09 of the Official Baseball Rules, under
which Major League Baseball is played.
On an uncaught third strike with no runner on first base (or
with two outs, regardless of whether there is a runner on
first), the batter immediately becomes a runner. The strike is
called, but the umpire does not call the batter out. The umpire
may also actively signal that there is "no catch" of the pitch.
The batter may then attempt to reach first base, and must be
tagged or thrown out.
One intent of this rule is to ensure that a defensive player
fields the ball cleanly in order for that team to record an
out. It was thought that it is not enough that the offensive
player is unsuccessful in order for an out to be made; a
defensive player must be successful as well.
Regardless of the outcome of an uncaught third strike, the
pitcher is statistically credited with a strikeout. Because of
the uncaught third strike rule, it is possible for a pitcher to
register more than three strikeouts in an inning, a feat which
has been accomplished in Major League Baseball 53 times since
1901. At one point in history, nearly forty years passed
before this feat was repeated (1916-1956).
Note that if, at the time of the strike
three pitch, first base is occupied with fewer than two outs,
the batter is automatically out and cannot become a runner.
This is to prevent the defense from deliberately
dropping a third strike pitch and getting a double or triple
play as a result, because of the possible force play at second
or third base in this situation.
Rule 6.09(b) Comment: A batter who does not realize his
situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the
process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he
leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate."