As we all know, the foul lines on a baseball diamond run straight through the bases with no interruption. It’s such an obvious thing that I feel silly even spelling it out.
But for a while in the 1990s, that wasn’t the case with the first base line in Cleveland. Check out, for example, this screen shot from a game in the 1996 American League Division Series:
As you can see, the baseline stops a few feet before the bag and then resumes behind the bag. Now, you might be thinking, “The baseline was probably fully intact but then it got erased by the first baseman’s feet.” Maybe, but I don’t think so. Consider, for example, this shot from the 1997 World Series:
It looks like the line comes to a dead stop, and there’s no trace of white residue in the blank area.
Update: Phil has found this photo taken during infield practice prior to Game Four of that World Series:
Still not convinced? This shot from the 1998 American League Championship Series should be the clincher:
As I hope you’ll agree, it is plainly obvious that the baseline was purposefully left incomplete.
This odd phenomenon at Cleveland’s ballpark seems to have happened primarily from 1996 through 1998. Here’s a shot from the 1995 World Series, with the line fully intact:
And here’s one from the 1999 American League Division Series, again showing the line fully intact:
But the incomplete line reappears in this shot from a regular season game on Aug. 5, 2001:
Weird, right? I was completely unaware of this phenomenon until reader Alex Kinkopf recently brought it to my attention, so I asked the Guardians about it. The good news is that, somewhat incredibly, they still have the same head groundskeeper today that they had back then, and they even put me in touch with him. The bad news is that the groundskeeper never responded to my inquiries, and then my PR contact also stopped responding. I’m not sure why these people don’t find an odd-looking baseline from a quarter-century ago as compelling as I do, but I guess it takes all types.
Anyway: I’d love to know more about this. Did it start in 1996, as my video research seems to indicate? When did it stop? Was it ever discussed on TV broadcasts? And, most of all, why? If anyone has hard info (not just guesses or speculation, like “I bet the groundskeeper got sick of the first baseman messing up the line with his spikes”), I’m all ears.