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Archive for Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Series games too long

October 22, 2002

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As I was desperately trying to keep my eyes open during the ninth inning telecast of Sunday night's interminable World Series game, I thought about all the children particularly in the eastern time zone who had long ago hit the sack.

Too bad the kiddies can't experience the World Series anymore. It's a darned shame television demographics dictate every World Series game be played at night.

Then I realized that when I was a kid I wasn't able to watch World Series games, either. Or even listen to the games on the radio. Not because I couldn't stay up late, but because the games were played in the afternoon while I was in school.

My first memory of the World Series was listening to a game on an October afternoon during sixth grade shop class. Mr. Highfill, the shop teacher, had the radio tuned to the Series as we went about learning how to apply a Band-Aid, secure a tourniquet and treat a sucking chest wound.

As I recall, the Yankees were playing the Dodgers dey were da Brooklyn Bums then and the melodious voices of New York broadcasters Mel Allen and Red Barber were detailing every pitch between huckster pitches for Gillette Blue Blades, Chesterfield cigarettes and the new Studebaker Champion.

Later, when I was in high school, I remember sitting in the lunch room and listening to a few minutes of the Series while I wolfed down an egg salad sandwich my mother had manufactured that morning. The lunchroom was the only place to listen because audio technology had reached the stage where an ear phone was only slightly smaller than a banana. A teacher would spot it right away, and high school teachers back in those days thought the World Series was worse than Elvis Presley, duck-tail haircuts and reefers.

Same thing in college. If you wanted to listen to the Series on the radio or watch it on TV, you had to wait for the weekend or skip class. On paper anyway. I have no memories of the World Series while I was in college. I'm not a sociologist, but I expect it's probably because the World Series is for kids and adults and college students hover uncaring in their own hormonal netherworld.

Not that I haven't listened to the Series through an earphone. On an October afternoon in the early '60s, Sandy Koufax helped me relieve the baleful boredom of guard duty at Fort Leonard Wood, that U.S. Army rockpile in the Ozarks built as a outpost to protect Branson from invasions by motor coaches bearing anyone under the age of 60.

Anyway, as Koufax hurled magnificently, I traipsed monotonously around a seedy one-story wooden building two hours on, four hours off guarding rudimentary cipher machines that had been used in World War II until the codes were broken by a fourth-grader in Dusseldorf who figured it out by using the Captain Midnight decoder ring he found in a bottle of Ovaltine.

After Fort Leonard Wood I have no real defining memories of the World Series until 1980 when the Royals made the big show for the first time, then bowed to the Phillies in six games.

Five years later we all reveled in the Series no Kansas City fan will ever forget the stirring disposal of the St. Louis Cardinals after the Royals trailed three games to one. So what if Jorge Orta was out at first base? Who cares? Hard to believe 17 years have passed and Don Denkinger still isn't the first umpire to be inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame.

All in all, though, whether played at night or in the afternoon, no nine-inning World Series game, even if the score is 11-10, should last four hours.

Wouldn't you love it if baseball made a batter remain in the box until he either reached base or made out? Wouldn't you cheer if baseball made it mandatory that all pitchers deliver the next pitch within 20 seconds after receiving the ball from the catcher?

And while they're at it, how about banning thunder sticks?

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