It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Unwritten Rules?

Did you know baseball has dozens of unwritten rules? Author Jason Turbow has a book out called "The Baseball Codes" that purports to detail the specifics of this unofficial codex.  In an article on a Yahoo! baseball blog, he describes ten of the most obscure of the rules.  Some examples:

  • When hit by a pitch, don't rub the mark.
  • Don't walk in front of a catcher or umpire when getting into the batter's box.
  • Pitchers never show up their fielders.
  • There's no crying in baseball. (Sorry, this was one of Tom Hanks's unwritten rules.)
This kind of platitudinous canon initially struck me* as a kind of Miss Manners' Guide to Baseball. However, I'm sure there are good reasons why players kowtow to these obnoxious, uninscribed maxims. So, quite naturally, I dug a little deeper. I called in a number of favors, spoke with my many connections in minor league baseball**, spit a gallon of chaw juice, adjusted a cup or two (both mine, thank you very much), and discovered that Mr. Turbow had barely scratched the surface. There are actually thousands of unwritten rules in baseball.

And you thought baseball statistics were complex? Check out some of these little known uncodified edicts:

  • Fans who run onto the field uninvited may be tasered ...but you knew this already.
  • Dirt should always be kicked onto the umpire's feet with your strongest foot. Kicking dirt with your weaker foot is viewed as demeaning to the umpire.
  • Baserunners should never steal a base by actually picking it up and carrying it into the dugout. You'd think this would be obvious, but...
  • Players get a free hot dog from vendors for any home runs hit during batting practice
  • No actual bulls in the bullpen. Seriously, a bull could get hit by a pitch.
  • Players who hum along with the stadium organ tunes will be beaten senseless in the dugout.
  • Spitting tobacco, crotch adjusting, and the occasional colorful language are all a normal part of baseball.  Flatulence is not. Save it for the football fields.
  • If a player can get a vendor to sell them a beer without the manager spotting it, they get to keep it.  Otherwise, it belongs to the manager. This kind of drinking game explains a lot of managerial decisions in baseball. 
  • Stepping out of the dugout and tipping your hat to the crowd after a home run at an away game is considered bad form. FYI - the term "bad form" in baseball means "suicidal."
  • Conferences at the pitcher's mound should never include phones, videoconference equipment, or tables.
  • Walk your dog between innings, not during them.  Corollary rule: you are responsible for any "gifts" your dog leaves on the field. 
  • Pitchers caught throwing spitballs have to lick the ball clean after the game. What? With the spitting and crotch adjusting, now you're offended?
  • Any player whose beltline falls below his butt crack during the game will have the full version of "Pants on the Ground" added to his personal IPod by management staff.
  • Coaches must perform a minimum of eight fake signs for every one real one.
  • Pitchers must never throw to first base more than 15 times in succession.
  • Anyone who pulls a muscle during the seventh inning stretch must be ridiculed for the rest of the game.
  • If a celebrity's ceremonial first pitch goes into the stands, the celebrity has to run a lap.
  • If a singer botches the National Anthem, a pitcher is required to throw at their groin the next time they see them. This applies both in and out of the ballpark.
* So, of course, I took my base.
** The Hungarian semi-pro league, the Tonga league, the Outer Hebrides circuit, and other similarly well-known AA leagues.

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