Why is it Called a Balk?

Baseball is a complex game with a wide variety of rules and regulations. One such rule is the balk, a defensive maneuver that can be called when a pitcher makes an illegal pitching motion. The term “balk” has long been used in baseball and its origins go back to the 19th century. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of why it’s called a balk and how it’s been used in the game of baseball over the years.

Origin of the Term “Balk”

The term “balk” originated in the 19th century, although its exact origin is uncertain. It is thought to have come from the Middle English word “balke”, which means “to balk”. The term was commonly used to describe a player’s hesitation or lack of progress when attempting to perform a task. This led to its use in baseball, where a balk is a form of hesitation by a pitcher that results in an illegal pitching motion.

Early Uses of the Term in Baseball

The term “balk” was first used in baseball in the 1870s, when the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) first introduced the rule. The NABBP was the first major league baseball organization and the first to use the term “balk” in the rules. The rule was designed to prevent pitchers from using certain motions or gestures to deceive or distract the batter.

The Modern Rules of the Balk

The modern rules of the balk have been in place since the mid-1980s. According to Major League Baseball (MLB) rules, a balk occurs when a pitcher:

• Moves his body or his feet in a way to deceive the batter

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• Fails to step off the rubber before throwing to a base

• Throws to an unoccupied base

• Makes an illegal pitch

• Fakes a throw to a base

When a balk is called, the pitcher is immediately charged with an error and the batter is awarded first base. The rule is designed to prevent pitchers from using illegal motions or gestures to deceive the batter.

Impact of the Balk Rule

The balk rule has had a significant impact on the game of baseball. It has made it more difficult for pitchers to deceive batters and has forced them to be more careful with their pitching motions. This has helped to make the game more competitive and has increased the number of close games.

The balk rule has also led to some interesting moments in baseball history. In the 1984 World Series, Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris was called for a balk in Game 4 that allowed the San Diego Padres to score the winning run. In the 2001 American League Championship Series, Seattle Mariners pitcher Freddy Garcia was called for a balk that allowed the New York Yankees to tie the game in the ninth inning.


The term “balk” has been used in baseball for more than a century and is a key part of the game. It is an important rule that has helped to make the game more competitive and has led to some memorable moments in baseball history. The origin of the term is uncertain, but it is thought to have come from the Middle English word “balke”, which means “to balk”. Regardless of its origin, the balk is an important part of the game of baseball and will continue to be used in the future.