Baseball Strikes Out In Manners Game

As you can see, I have been working on a difficult rhyme that has delayed my usual World Series report:

A shortstop named Robert Dumont

Once hit the long ball in Vermont;

His incredible feat

Has never been beat,

As the baseball came down in Rhode Island.

Having now returned to subnormal, I congratulate the Atlanta Braves on their deserved victory and commiserate with the Cleveland tribe for the same kind of defeat.

This is not easy for me to do, since I was a confirmed fan of the good old Boston Braves and have nurtured a thorough disinterest since the team left Boston and sought prosperity in Milwaukee, which is west of Framingham, Mass., and therefore without culture. Until this fall, I thought they were still in Milwaukee.

Our Braves left Boston just about the time Warren Spahn began pinch hitting, and he had just connected for the circuit and brought home the winning RBI. That was also about the time Babe Ruth introduced the designated hitter on the curious hypothesis that pitchers can't hit. Baseball has a lot of such foolishness. I never pitched a game in my entire baseball career and I couldn't hit for sour grapes. Things even out.

I am not at all sure from recent advisories if organized baseball has a commissioner nowadays, and my present effort may come to naught for lack of someone to talk to. I'll throw the idea out and hope for something.

I suggest plaintively that any big-league baseball player engaged in the World Series who spits while on the television camera be immediately fined $1,000, to be collected by the nearest impoverished umpire and forwarded to Washington to be applied to the national debt. For a second offense, $5,000 and banishment from the game. And so on and on and on.

Ours is a decent and cultured society, nurtured from the cradle in clean living and the fastidious allegiance to the niceties of conduct. We are also a society that supports baseball with unflagging devotion and reveres its heroes no matter how rich they become.

Not only that, but mankind, since the dawn of distinctions, has deplored promiscuous expectoration as a crude and uncivilized deviation from gentility. There are, for example, the discreet notices in the railway cars of Europe, phrased in gallant terminology the poet Ronsard would approve, translatable so pleasingly, ''Notice - forbidden to spit on the carpets!''

I remember as a child, when my mother was using Boston Elevated car posters to teach me the alphabet, and I would spell out, to the amusement of nearby passengers, ''S-P-I-T-T-I-N-G-O-N P-L-A-T-F-O-R-M-P-R-O-H-I-B-I-T-E-D. F-I-N-E $200.'' We all know well that the threat of a fine would never deter the untutored Bostonian; both of them are well-to-do. It is rather that good breeding has its high standards and admonishes the right things. I have never seen a proper Bostonian spit on the rugs.

We might put it this way: Take a baseball pitcher who is being paid two million dollars a minute and then sits on the bench while somebody bats for him. I believe the gentleman is making enough money to afford a few off-season evenings at a charm school, where he can be introduced to niceties that will make his life more meaningful and cause him to be better admired by his fawning public.

I don't mean to embarrass him by calling attention to his faulty etiquette but rather to make him aware, a bit at a time, of his regrettable loutishness. This is a matter in which tidy awareness must come slowly, without sudden shock to tender sensitivities, so the baseball player will learn not to spit as an adornment to his public image, and not as something forced upon him in the zeal usually given to reform.

A baseball player, we all know, has a winsome spirit and should never be rudely bothered by smallish things that would divert his attention from his principal purpose. Personally, I never speak to a baseball player on his way to the bank.

While on this lamentable subject, excused only because we hope for reform, I am reminded of the long-ago swindle that was thought up by Chet Gorman of our Maine town of Palermo. Chet was aware of the vast magazine business developed by James Blaine, a Maine governor who became secretary of state and held other positions in Washington.

Chet wrote out a small advertisement and paid to have it printed in Mr. Blaine's ''Home Comfort Magazine.'' It said, ''Send 10 cents to learn how to stop your horse from drooling.''

Pestered by their bits, horses had a tendency to slobber, and this could be disconcerting to the fastidious to the extent that a remedy would be welcomed. Just about everybody who had a horse sent 10 cents to Chet, and Chet would push his wheelbarrow to the Palermo post office every morning to get his mail. A first-class reply in those days cost two cents, and a popular expression was to refer to ''my two cents' worth.''

Chet had his reply printed in quantity by the Augusta Printery and he faithfully and honestly sent a reply to every reader who sent the stipulated 10 cents.

Chet told them how to stop a horse from drooling. He advised: ''Teach him to spit!''

Yes. Yes, indeed. I have spoken. Let us look forward to a team of horses.

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