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Don't play games with national pastime.

I was only 13 when I became a Red Sox baseball fan, and I've followed the fortunes (and failures) of New England's hometown team ever since. (Well, most of New England is together in this: Western Connecticut, for all practical purposes, is part of New York and behaves accordingly, in baseball as well as less significant matters.)

So, it goes without saying that April, which is coming up almost anytime now, is pretty much my favorite month.

Scratch pretty much.

Every year about now, some fruitcake comes up with a proposal to change the way the game is played -- as if you can improve on perfection.

This year's dilly was advanced in a prominent journal by a well-meaning student of the national pastime with an apparently straight face. It advocates shaving an inch or so off each side of home plate, so pitchers have to groove their darts even closer to the sweet spots the hitters feast on.

More fun for the fans, he says. And maybe it would be -- for the first few hours of the game, that is. After that, when the other team finally came to bat, it would probably be midnight in San Francisco. Just what we needed -- games that last longer than a Senate filibuster. OK, so while we're making all these unnecessary suggestions for overhauling a game with no real flaws, allow me to advance an idea that's been percolating in my skull throughout the hot-stove season.

It's this: Why not use a black baseball in all day games so outfielders don't lose so many of them in the sun? Keep the white ball for night games, sure. Better yet, implant a substance inside it that will light it up. But how many times have we watched a player settle under a high fly ball on a bright sunny afternoon, only to duck away at the last possible second blinded by Old Sol and throwing his glove over his head to protect his wealthy noggin, while the baseball falls untouched 10 feet away? And worse, the official scorer usually scores the thing a HIT.

Ridiculous. All because he "lost'' the ball in the sun.

With all the weird stuff pitchers have been known to employ to get an advantage over hitters, what could be so wrong with applying bootblack to the ball, say, so games are not prolonged or unduly affected by the sun's quirky rays?

In earlier times, horsehide was used to cover baseballs. In 1974, the switch was made to cowhide. That shouldn't present any real problems. I haven't seen a lot of albino cows, but Holsteins should provide enough black hide to keep the National Pastime in business for the foreseeable future and before all the players go blind.

I have another nutty idea to keep things moving so we don't have to stay up 'til the paper boy comes by in the morning. How many times do we see a batter get two strikes on him, then foul off one pitch after another? My idea is that once the guy has fouled off four straight pitches, he should be automatically called out. That's it, Charley, you had your chance, grab some bench.

One time in a college game light-years ago, I was at bat with a two- strike count and a runner on first with one out. I fouled off the next seven pitches while my teammate at first, Benny Zecker from Worcester, a legitimate big league prospect, kept trying to steal second, and had to keep going back. On the next pitch, I swung and missed, and Benny was so winded, the catcher threw him out by a mile. Double play.

I always felt I owed him one, so if my idea gets adopted, I hope they'll consider calling it the Benny Zecker Foul Ball Rule.

Meantime, please, let's leave home plate alone.

Reach Sid McKeen at mckeensidney@gmail .com.
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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 16, 2014
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