By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist
Hi, folks. My name is Thompson, and I don't have much space for this high-speed presentation, so let's get started and see how tight we can make it. My job is to devise a whole new set of rules and concepts to shorten the time it takes to play a game of Major League BASEBALL, or any other kind.
Everybody agrees that Baseball games Must be shortened, but nobody is really Working on it. ... And meanwhile, the games get longer and longer. The good old "meat in the seats" argument won't work after midnight, when the seats are mainly Empty, and TV networks get nasty when they start having to refund money to advertisers when the ratings sink lower and lower. Pro wrestling and golf are bigger draws than baseball games. ... I have not been to a live baseball game in 20 years, and I hope I Never see another one. Not even the New Rules would drag me back to the Ballpark -- but I am a Doctor of Wisdom, a professional man, and some of my friends in the Business have asked me to have a look at this problem, which I have, and this is my solution, for good or ill.
I am keenly aware of the angst and bitter squabbling that will erupt when somebody tries to screw with the National Pastime. ... But it must be done, and if I don't do it somebody else will. So here's the plan.
ELIMINATE THE PITCHER:
This will knock at least one hour off the length of a game, which is now up to 3:42. One World Series game took five hours and 20 minutes, which is unacceptable to everybody except the Pitchers. Yes. ... So we will ELIMINATE THE PITCHERS, and they won't be missed. Pitchers, as a group, are pampered little swine with too much money and no real effect on the game except to drag it out and interrupt the action.
LIMIT ALL GAMES TO THREE (3) HOURS:
even the New Rules would drag me back to the
Ballpark -- but I am a Doctor of Wisdom, a
professional man, and some of my friends in the
Business have asked me to have a look at this
problem, which I have, and this is my solution, for
good or ill. ”
Like football and basketball and hockey, the Baseball game will end at a fixed time. THE SCORE, at that moment, WILL BE FINAL, based on an accumulation of TOTAL BASES IN 3 hours.
ALL BASE-RUNNERS MAY RUN TO ANY BASE
(but not backward) -- First to Third, Second to Home, etc. And with NO PITCHER in the game, this frantic scrambling across the infield will be Feasible and Tempting.
ALL "PITCHING", by the way, will be done by a fine-tuned PITCHING MACHINE that pops up out of the mound, delivers a remote-controlled "pitch" at the batter, and then drops back out of sight, to free up the whole infield for running. ... If a batter hits a home run with the bases loaded, for instance, his team will score 16 total bases (or 16 points). But, if it's 3 up and 3 down in an inning, that team will score Zero points.
Think of 22-5, perhaps, or 88-55. Yes sir, we will have Huge scores and constant speedy action for three straight hours.
The heroes of the game will be CATCHERS, not Pitchers. The CATCHER will dominate the game and be the highest-paid player. ... With no Pitcher and no Mound to disrupt the flow, runners on base will be moving at the crack of the bat, and it will be the catcher's job to shut them down or pick them off whenever possible. Foot-speed and a bazooka throwing arm will be paramount. ... There will be no more of this bull about Bullpens and Managers scratching their heads on TV for hours on end, no more lame pick-off throws to first, no more waving off signs and agonized close-ups while pop fouls bounce off the roof.
No, there will be no such thing as a base on balls. Each batter will get five "pitches" from the robot -- only FIVE (5) and if he doesn't get a hit by then, he is Out. ... And the CATCHER will control the kind of drop or curve or speed he wants the machine to throw. And it will obey.
Those damn pitching machines can put a Slider past you at 98 miles an hour five times in a row, with no problem. They can throw hideous wavering knuckleballs and half-moon curves -- all depending and according to what the CATCHER wants to dial up on his remote-control unit. He can even order that the batter be whacked in the ribs by a 102-mph fastball, although that will cost his team TWO (2) bases, instead of one. And you won't want to have some poor Cuban drilled in the ribs when you're nursing a 31-30 lead.
OK, folks, that's it for now. I am already late, and I have written too many words -- but the Concept is sound, I think, and there is a clear and desperate Need for it. ...
Next spring ESPN will put my theories to the test by sponsoring a series of "New Rules" baseball games in New York, Chicago, Omaha and Seattle, among others. ...Tickets will be sold and big-time sports talent will be employed. The success or failure of these Games will determine the fate of Baseball in America.
Purists will bitch and whine, but so what? Purists will Always bitch and whine. That is their function. Res Ipsa Loquitor
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's books include
Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Proud Highway, Better Than Sex and
The Rum Diary. His new book,
Fear and Loathing in America, will be released in December. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," will appear each Monday on Page 2.