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Gentlemen, Please! No Spitting!

Hark, good sirs, to a modest request aimed at further refining the honorable pastime of base ball.

Lopes is not alone in his traditionalist posturing. San Francisco manager Dusty Baker, a touchy-feely kind of guy if ever there was one, recently took exception when Arizona's Matt Williams swung at a 3-0 pitch with the Diamondbacks way ahead, and Arizona manager Bob Brenly blew up when San Diego's Ben Davis tried to bunt in the midst of a potential no-hitter by Curt Schilling. Sensitive, right-thinking, tradition-honoring gentlemen all, are they not? Evidently, they've never seen Seattle play Cleveland.

If baseball is going to indulge mumbo-jumbo and unwritten codes, maybe what it really needs is some new rules of the official, chiseled-in-stone variety. For instance, from now on, if the Chicago Cubs or Boston Red Sox ever happen to be in first place in the last week of September, they will promptly be docked 5.5 games in the standings. After all, it's always been an unwritten rule that the Cubs and Red Sox don't win the World Series, so they must never be given the chance. Also, this home-run thing has gotten out of hand. Sluggers like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire have so badly damaged the delicate psyches of the pitchers who face them, that the poor fellows are in need of major self-esteem therapy. To that end, all batters will now be allotted two home runs per month -- no more. Violators will be demoted to the Toledo Mud Hens. Second-time offenders will be sentenced to watching an entire season of Montreal Expos home games.

Because baseball, as we have pointed out, is a game played by gentlemen, certain new rules of on-field decorum will also now be enforced. For one thing, no cursing. Not even if you give up seven runs to Pittsburgh in the bottom of the ninth. Simply put, bad language is vulgar and has no more place in baseball than stealing a sign for the knuckleball. As an alternative, the recitation of Bible verses or selections from Ovid's Metamorphoses is acceptable. In the same vein, no more spitting. It's unsanitary and sets a bad example for youngsters. And no more scratching, rubbing or yanking of the genitals while fidgeting in the batter's box or standing at first base. While these are traditional baseball activities, they are inimical to gentlemanly behavior and are now prohibited.

Under the new rules, batting helmets will be banned. As any traditionalist can tell you, the skill level of so-called major-league pitching has fallen so low that any player too cowardly to step into the batter's box without cranial protection isn't worth the measly $11.8 million per year his club is paying him. If these rag-arms can't get it over the plate, they certainly can't stick it in your ear. That's always been an unwritten rule. Now it's written. Lastly, there is to be no touching. No more pats on the backside, no high fives, no dusty collisions between runner and shortstop at second base. Should a catcher notice a baserunner rounding third at full tilt at the same time the throw is zinging into him from the outfield, he shall heretofore be required to step aside and allow the runner to cross home plate unimpeded. After all, baseball is for sensitive men. Men rightly offended by breaches of etiquette and protocol. It is most certainly not a contact sport like the ones that crude ruffians play. If you don't believe us, ask Mr. Davey Lopes.

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