An inside-the-park home run occurs when a batter hits the ball into play and is able to circle the bases before the fielders can put him out. Unlike with an outside-the-park home run, the batter-runner and all preceding runners are liable to be put out by the defensive team at any time while running the bases. This can only happen if the ball does not leave the ballfield.
In the early days of baseball, outfields were much more spacious, reducing the likelihood of an over-the-fence home run, while increasing the likelihood of an inside-the-park home run, as a ball getting past an outfielder had more distance that it could roll before a fielder could track it down.
Modern outfields are much less spacious and more uniformly designed than in the game's early days. Therefore, inside-the-park home runs are now rare. They usually occur when a fast runner hits the ball deep into the outfield and the ball bounces in an unexpected direction away from the nearest outfielder (e.g., off a divot in the field or off the outfield wall), the nearest outfielder is injured on the play and cannot get to the ball, or an outfielder misjudges the flight of the ball in a way that he cannot quickly recover from the mistake (e.g., by diving and missing). The speed of the runner is crucial as even triples are relatively rare in most modern ballparks.
If any defensive play on an inside-the-park home run is labeled an error by the official scorer, a home run is not scored. Instead, it is scored as a single, double, or triple, and the batter-runner and any applicable preceding runners are said to have taken all additional bases on error. All runs scored on such a play, however, still count.
An example of an unexpected bounce occurred during the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco on July 10, 2007. Ichiro Suzuki of the American League team hit a fly ball that caromed off the right-center field wall in the opposite direction from where National League right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. was expecting it to go. By the time the ball was relayed, Ichiro had already crossed the plate standing up. This was the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history, and led to Suzuki being named the game's Most Valuable Player.
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