Welcome to my second web toot!
Baseball is a beautiful sport. America’s premier contribution to the sporting world has elegant rules, eye-pleasing playing fields, and a leisurely pace punctuated with exclamation points of excitement. I love baseball’s history, I love its pageantry, I love everything about it.
And then someone fouls out.
You know – the batter hits a pop-up out of play, but it doesn’t go into the stands, allowing a defensive player to catch it for an out. What? An OUT? Didn’t we just say the ball was out of play? And it’s an OUT? In what galaxy does that make sense?
As I said, I think baseball’s rules are elegant. But I also think old Abner Doubleday must have been beaned by a foul ball when he came up with that one. The playing field is the PLAYING field. Foul territory is FOUL territory. If not, then why bother making a distinction? If a foul pop fly’s an out, then the infielders should be allowed to snag a foul ground ball and throw out the runner. What difference is there if the ball is flying or bouncing? For that matter, if the fielder can catch a foul ball, then the batter should be allowed to hit a ball out of the park in foul territory for a home run.
What if this insanity ruled in other sports? “And there’s a long pass down the field, it’s going out of bounds, but the safety catches it behind the cheerleaders for an interception!” Or, “Murray serves a hot one down the line, it’s out of bounds, but Federer can’t get to it. Fifteen-love, Murray.”
Even worse, what if daily life was like this? Imagine:
Police Officer: I’m going to ticket you for speeding.
You: But – I’m in a parking lot. I’m not moving.
PO: Doesn’t matter. Boy, that guy who just went by was really flying.
You: But officer, shouldn’t you give him the ticket then?
PO: You were a lot easier to catch.
You: But it’s not fair!
PO: Well, I like to grab as many foul balls as I can.
If the IRS gets into this mode of operation, we’re really in trouble:
IRS agent: You didn’t file a tax return for 2016. I’m citing you for income tax evasion.
You: It’s only 2012! 2016 hasn’t even happened yet!
IRS agent: Tell it to Abner Doubleday.
Is it all Abner Doubleday’s fault? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. We can just fire up the patented, exclusive Joe-ma-Tron. The Joe-ma-Tron is a combination time machine, teleporter, dream extractor, fantasy generator, and deluxe snack and gourmet beverage machine. So let’s jump in and talk to Abner.
(Cue flashing lights and wailing sirens.)
Joe: So, Mr. Doubleday, what’s up with this foul ball “out” business?
AD: It’s all a big mistake. I was only kidding. What nut job would think a caught foul ball is an out?
Joe: You were kidding?
AD: Yes, kidding, yes.
Joe: Tell me what happened.
AD: It was April first. They’re asking me the rules. I tell them a ball caught in the air in foul territory is an out.
Joe: And they believed you?
AD: Yes, they believed. Like they never heard of April Fool’s Day.
Joe: I’m just glad you didn’t tell them there are four strikes to an out.
AD: There ARE four strikes to an out.
Joe: You can’t be serious. Everybody knows it’s three strikes and you’re out.
AD: No! Four! Four! You mean they’ve been using three strikes?
Joe: Oh, for about a hundred and thirty years.
AD: Throw out the record books! Start over! Next you’ll be telling me they don’t use five outs in an inning!
Joe: Ha! Good one, Abner! It’s three outs, of course. Ab, hey, chill. Here, try a nice latte.
AD: Three strikes? Three outs? They’ve maimed my game! This is sacrilege! Let me at them!
Joe: Fire up the Joe-ma-Tron! Get me out of here!
This business has taken a foul turn. But I’m not going to let Abner down. So, to straighten out this mess, who you gonna call? Your congressman, of course. They have more important work, you say. Don’t worry about interrupting them. I know they’re busy lining up pet highway and bridge projects for unpopulated areas in their districts, but just go ahead and let them know what’s on your mind. If they can worry about when we’re mandated to have digital TV, they can worry about this.
When Congress writes the new no-foul-out law, it will probably be challenged by some reactionaries. The law will be fought up through the court system, and end up at the Supreme Court.
On second thought, never mind. Talk about a bunch of foul balls.