MANY baseball rules are not known by the general public. Rule V, 14, B of the Official Baseball Rulebook, for example, has rarely been enforced and came only to my attention in mid-September of this year, when I had the fortune (good or bad? Who can say?) of attending a game at Yankee Stadium when the venerable pin stripes took on the hapless Baltimore Orioles. A friend of mine had purchased the tickets from an ex-student of his, and very good tickets they were, too. We were to be seated in the front row, right behind the catcher. At least I believe they were good tickets. I never got to use mine. As I entered the stadium, a burly man in a bright red blazer caught my right elbow and quickly led me off to one side. He informed me that I could not take my seat.
``Why?'' I asked. I gazed uneasily toward my friend. Had he set me up for some practical joke? Had I been stopped because my loyalties to the Boston Red Sox were widely known? My friend did not look back. He merely hurried on to his choice location in the stadium. No doubt he believed that whatever minor confusion there was would be quickly cleared up and that I would soon join him. Unfortunately, he believed wrong.
The man in the red blazer was quickly joined by five other security-minded individuals. ``You've been traded to San Francisco,'' he said, though he refused to look me in the eye. He was a big man, some 350 pounds, but his voice was very soft. I had difficulty making out all the words, but the general idea came through.
``Traded? What are you talking about? Has everybody out here gone mad? I'm not even a member of the team!'' I mustered as much indignation as I could.
The man reached into his hip pocket and brought forth the rule book. ``You don't understand, sir,'' he said. ``George Steinbrenner has retained the right to trade at least one fan per game.'' The man in the red blazer read Section V, 14, B to me: ``Any fan who purchases a ticket for a New York Yankees baseball game becomes, from the time he or she enters the ballpark until he or she exits, the exclusive property of the New York Yankees. Such a fan can be activated to the roster, can be traded, or, if necessary, be named interim manager.''
I could feel myself going weak in the knees. I have been a baseball fan almost all my life, but I have never read the rule book from cover to cover. ``But no one has ever enforced this rule before,'' I sputtered.
The man in the red blazer nodded. ``Not until today. Now if you will be so good as to follow me.'' The guard led me out of the stadium and toward a black limousine. I certainly had no desire to upset the authorities of the game. Baseball is more important than any one individual, and so I decided to abide by the decision of the baseball commissioner.
Seeing that I was not going to fight, the man decided that I was entitled to a bit more information.
``This has been a difficult season,'' he said, ``and Mr. Steinbrenner is in no mood to be trifled with. He has been frustrated all year, and some of the fans are turning rowdy. He feels that a better class of fan is to be found on the West Coast, and so, for the good of baseball, this trade has been deemed necessary.
``The limo here will take you straight to La Guardia. Here are first-class plane tickets to San Francisco, and a season pass to the remainder of the Giants' home games. You are expected to be on hand for tomorrow night's game with the Dodgers. Blessings on you. And good luck.'' With those words he placed a Giants cap upon my head and pushed me into the back seat of the limo.
As the limo pulled away from the stadium, I turned to see a well-dressed young lady carrying a briefcase. The man in the red blazer carefully placed my ticket into her hand and escorted the woman inside. At least I had some notion for whom I had been traded.
And that is why I have not been home lately. I hope my wife reads this account and realizes that I did not run off with my secretary. I have, of course, been very busy trying to find decent housing and a new job, but I believe I have adjusted to my new team very well. I hope that the trade has worked out well for all concerned. In the meantime, I am doing my best to make Mr. Steinbrenner proud of me.