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Friday, April 11, 2008

Gentleman´s Guide to Baseball

Gentleman´s Guide to Baseball

Baseball games are one of the few occasions for adults to act like complete assholes with impunity. When they announce the players before the game I like to screech like a 13 year old girl at a boy band concert when they introduce the equipment manager. Is there a better excuse to have a beer before noon than a day game? At a pre-game event in Seattle they had some 9 year old cancer survivor run the bases. While most of the crowd was teary-eyed and cheering, everyone in my cheap-seat section was screaming at the kid to show some hustle. OK, replace “everyone in my section” with “me” but I think they were all thinking it. And would it have killed the kid to slide into home? It´s not like he just hit a walk-off home run. In almost any other aspect of modern life this sort of behavior would be awful. At a ball game it is practically normal. However, as much fun as it is to act like an idiot, I think all fans will agree that there are limits to the level of stupidity accepted at the ballpark: certain things just aren´t done.

Like a complex jazz improvisation, enjoying a baseball game is open to a high degree of personal interpretation; however, like staying on key in jazz, baseball does have certain standards. It´s what separates us from the animals…and hockey. The rules for watching baseball at the park are few and uncomplicated yet people continue to behave badly. It´s time to put down the rules for fandom in writing.

Pre-Game Rituals

Baseball is a game with more traditions than the Catholic Church so it is important to develop your own set of rituals when you go to the game. We as fans need our own customs just as all the players have their personal quirks and superstitious rituals. It is essential to have at least one beer at a neighboring bar before you enter the ball park. I can walk to the stadium so I pity the people who drive to the stadium, park, enter, and immediately start paying $9 for crappy beer in a plastic cups.

There´s nothing like a good bar on game day and when the Mariners are at home one of my rituals is to get a beer at FX McCrory´s, a fine old saloon in Seattle´s Pioneer Square district a couple blocks from the ballpark. The street leading to the park is lined with a gauntlet of hot dog stands and food concessions. If you forget about the cholera epidemic of the 2003 season, this isn´t a bad place to buy some cheap eats before you enter. If your tradition is to eat sunflower seeds and spit the shells all over the people in the two rows in front of you, save some money by buying the seeds at one of the concessions outside the park.

What´s That In Your Hand?

There are only a few acceptable items that you can have in your hands while the game is in play.

I guess it goes without saying that beer is one of the suitable items you can grip with your hand. Ditto soft drinks. If you are in a luxury suite I suppose things like mimosas or wine are allowed. Rich people have their own rules. They aren´t watching the game anyway.

Food is another one of those things. From all of the public eating that goes on at baseball games you would think that the fans are all famine victims. Bad food is as much a part of baseball as the intentional walk and the infield fly rule. I think that we can all go nine innings without trying to be health conscious. When I see a guy eating sushi at the ball park I wonder if he is going to take off his shoes and paint his toenails when he finishes. Stick with hot dogs, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.

You can have a baseball mitt in your hand.

You can have a scorecard in your hand.

If you are a Yankees fan it is OK to have your finger knuckle-deep in your nose.

That´s it. Everything else is a disgrace. Talk on your cell phone while you are waiting ten minutes in line to buy a beer or while you´re taking a leak. There are no rally monkeys, thunder sticks, or other gimmicks in baseball. Sit in front of me with that kind of crap and you´ll be watching the final innings of the game on the TV in the emergency room.

Foul Tips

I´ve lived in three cities with major league baseball teams (Baltimore, Miami, Seattle) and I´ve been to more games than I can count, but I´ve never been in the same area code as a foul tip so all of this advice is pure theory. Bare-handing is the perfect way to handle a foul ball. Just try not to make too big of an ass out of yourself if you are going after a foul tip. Don´t end up on ESPN because you fell out of the top tier seats going for a ball that retails for about $5. After you bare-hand the foul tip, do the decent thing and give the ball to the nearest kid—you may be on camera so try to be noble for once in your life.

You Don´t Know Shit

To be a baseball fan is to be a geek. Baseball enthusiasts know more about their game than any other sport fans, so don´t make yourself look like a stupid turd by screaming “Balk!” at the top of your lungs every time the opposing pitcher throws over to first base. Trust me; nobody knows what the fuck constitutes a balk. You have a better chance of guessing a random number between 1 and 1,000 than you do of correctly calling a balk.

Remember To Keep Your Eye On The Ball

There are signs at the park warning you to watch out for flying balls and bats. Bats! If these aren´t good enough reasons for you to hang up your phone and pay attention, then you´ll have to let me explain the rules to the game we invented that allows us to bet on every single pitch. Enjoy the game.


My friends, Andy and Tom, and I came up with this game one summer afternoon while watching the Orioles. I have heard other people claim to have invented similar games but I think I´m the first to actually write down the rules, so I own it. It goes like this.

Everyone who wants to play puts a dollar in an empty beer cup. One person takes the cup. That person takes the first batter. If the batter hits an extra base hit the person with the cup keeps the kitty. If their batter fails to get an extra base hit that person puts another dollar in the cup and passes it on to the next person. If he walks you just pass the cup with no penalty. If your batter strikes out, hits into a double play, or flies out to the warning track you must put in two dollars before passing the cup. If your batter hits a home run all other players must give you an extra dollar. After someone takes the pot everyone must ante up again and play resumes.

The beauty of our game is that it gets non-fans involved in every play of the game; something real baseball fans do anyway. I wouldn´t suggest you play with more than ten people and 6-7 is ideal. During the course of the game any player has the right to yell out “Embellishment” and add another rule which must be approved by a majority of participants.

P.S. After the seventh inning stretch song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is played, some stadiums follow that with their own song. In Seattle they play “Louie, Louie.” In Baltimore it was “Thank God I´m a Country Boy.” What song do they play in your park?

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