Play Ball


I am well aware that the title of this column is Golf Talk, but please bear with me as I stray this one time into a related area. I have loved baseball since I was a toddler, and my dad, a true Brooklyn Dodgers fan who never forgave the team for moving to Los Angeles, indulged me by making regular treks to Yankee Stadium so I could cheer on the great Bronx Bombers of the late 1950s and 1960s. For the last several decades, I have lived among the legions of Boston Red Sox fans here in northern New England, and I have grown to appreciate the Beantown boys; being a fan of baseball, I love a good game no matter who is winning. They are now the best team in baseball, and I heartily congratulate them on their victory.

In the last few months, I have been watching a great deal of baseball, and even though no one in the Major League Baseball offices is hanging on my every word, I would like to offer some suggestions that might perpetuate the game—or save it from itself. Five-hour games may sell a great deal of TV advertising, but I don’t think they serve the fans that have made the game what it is.

For starters, stop letting FOX, or any other network, dictate when the games shall be played. The game risks losing an entire generation of fans when the first pitch isn’t thrown until shortly before 9 p.m. in the East. Most games don’t even conclude on the same day, and some have run to 1 a.m. If there are 10-year-olds out there who are allowed to stay up to watch such carnivals, I can guarantee you they don’t have their best thinking caps on at school the next day. I understand that it will never be like it was in 1961, when we ran home from school to see, or maybe just listen on the radio, to an afternoon game; and I also realize there are three other time zones across the country to consider, but think about what the kids might appreciate for one second.

Secondly, here are some suggestions for getting closer to two-hour games again. The pitcher should be made to stay on the mound at all times. No wandering around the infield, clutching his prayer beads, gesturing to the skies or tightening the webbing on his glove. Penalty for each mound vacation is the addition of a ball to the count for every infraction. Likewise, hitters must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times. No spacing out and wondering where you are like Manny Ramirez, inspecting the logo on the grass behind home plate or walking around aimlessly while the crowd chants to the public address system “Charge” jingle. Penalty for infraction: one strike for every excursion.

A word to equipment manufacturers: You must make some pretty cheap batting gloves, because even if the player fails to swing at the ball, several straps on the gloves need to be retightened between every pitch. What would happen if they didn’t: would the bat really go flying from their hands? Never mind the fact that no one even wore batting gloves in the 1950s, and league batting averages are above what they are today. Penalty for each glove tightening: bare hand hitting next at bat.

While we’re at it, how about keeping the same ball in play even if it hits the dirt for a fraction of a second? I realize it will have a smudge on it, and the hitter might not get a perfect look at it in the fraction of a second from when it leaves the pitcher’s hand and arrives at the plate, but so what?

And, now a word about spitting. Why is it that every baseball player must demonstrate how to rid your mouth of saliva on a perpetual basis? Do you see basketball players spitting constantly? What a cleanup job that would be on the hardwood. Besides Sergio, have you ever seen a golfer spit while on camera? I searched the Web for studies on the effects of saliva on turfgrass, and all I came up with was cinch bug saliva; but somehow I can’t believe that turfgrass managers want their field to be constantly bombarded with this human byproduct. Besides that, it’s disgusting, and it sets a really bad example for those few young athletes who are watching at 11 p.m. Contain your body fluids like a gentleman for heaven’s sake. Penalty for spitting: your mom will appear to wash your mouth out with brown soap.

Bob Labbance is Turf’s golf editor and a frequent contributor. He resides in Montpelier, Vt. He can be reached with your ideas and comments at