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May 3, 2013

Pebble Hunting

Baseball Out of Context

by Sam Miller

It’s the year 3030.

Good morning, and welcome to the International Conference On Reverse Engineering The Rules Of 21st Century Recreational Activities. I’ll be leading this breakout session on a sport called baseball, one of the most popular recreational activities of the era. Much writing about the sport exists from the era, but most of it is vague and mawkish, describing the sport’s qualities in the abstract but offering few specifics. That means that we know, for instance, that baseball has quote no clock, no ties and no Liberal intrusions into the organized progression end quote, but we have never known whether it is played on land or in air, what equipment is needed for it, how a victor is determined, or why anybody would watch it. Now, for the first time, we can answer those questions. A recent cache of photos, the only images known to exist from the era, has recently been discovered. We believe that these images provide all the information necessary to recreate America’s Past Time. Break out the skunks, everybody. It’s time to play baseball!

Next slide please.

We are constantly learning about humans of the 21st century. Recently, as you know, we discovered footage suggesting humans had kinetic powers. In the first stage of the baseball game, one player (known as the catcher) is designated to test his powers against that of another person, sitting in a group of people just off the field of play.

The rules: A baseball is dropped onto the field of play. The catcher, without touching the ball physically, must will it into his glove. A “fan,” however, is mentally pulling the ball away from the catcher. The twist: the catcher does not know which fan he is battling, and hundreds or thousands of other fans also stare intently at the ball to mislead him. The other twist: A different fan, typically under the influence of alcohol, uses his kinetic powers to squeeze the pitcher’s internal organs; if the catcher does not succeed in a given amount of time (12 seconds per pitch), the pitcher’s liver explodes, and he dies.

Meanwhile, there is a one-man wheelbarrow race for cash prizes.

Equipment needed:

  • Ball (fist-sized)
  • Gloves (various sizes)
  • Hats (various hardnesses)
  • Thousands of fans

Next slide please

On a separate part of the field, a secondary competition takes place. In this situation, a collection of players from each team, along with the umpire, are gathered at first base. The umpire takes 1 drug. The first baseman takes 2 drugs. The second baseman takes 3 drugs. The opposing team’s batter takes 4 drugs. And a fifth player, who could be from either team, is given 5 drugs. The men are all sent on a search for the baseball, which is left nearby. This quest usually takes more than three hours, though various efforts to speed up the game are recorded throughout history. Based on our research into drug use during the era, the winner is the person who writes the best song about alienation.

(The ball, it should be noted, is optional, and baseball seems to have phased it out over time, over the objection of “purists.” The removal of the ball doesn’t seem to have dramatically affected the sport, though it arguably led to a more explosive style of play:

Equipment needed:

  • 15 drugs
  • Ball (fist-sized; optional)
  • A permit.

Next slide, please.

On another part of the field, a man tries to climb a wall. His inability to get over the top, while repeatedly saying things to underscore how frustrated he is, such as

  • I wish I could get over this wall!
  • This wall is not getting any shorter!
  • If it was easy everybody would do it!
  • C’mon wall gimme some help!
  • How 'bout some water, pal?
  • Gasp!

stress man’s relentless yet futile drive to conquer nature. The wall is pretty low, low enough that he should be able to climb it easily, which suggests this is simply theater. (Records indicates that tickets for this part of the game are among the least expensive and least popular.) A score is not kept.

Equipment needed

  • Wall (alternately: Shaky ladder; mountain/boulder)

Next slide, please.

In another corner of the field, baseballs are hit in the general direction of a fielder. Just as the fielder prepares to catch the ball, a time traveler in a mismatched uniform appears in his way. (Time travel was possible at the time, as you know. Unfortunately, the technology was lost in the fire.) He steals the ball and just as quickly disappears. The winner is determined by which team loses more players to the Grandfather Paradox.


  • Ball (fist-sized)
  • Galoot with glove
  • Science

Next slide please:

A pretty woman sits near the field and players run toward her. When they get close, they realize she is actually a rabid skunk hiding in a pretty-woman-shaped cutout, and they back away quickly. The players dumbly repeat this mistake dozens of times per game.


  • Skunk
  • Rabid skunk to give the fake-waitress skunk rabies 

And finally, the last slide please. If a winner has not been determined by this point, the teams go into a sudden-death overtime period, in which the protocol changes.

It looks complicated, but we believe the rules are fairly simple. The catcher loudly declares himself the wrath of God. The umpire and batter back away from him cautiously, holding each other back from the impending carnage. The pitcher sprints toward the plate and dives across, at which point he spreads his arms and claims that he was safe. Meanwhile, another umpire confusedly stares at a large “PITCHTRAX” video game board and attempts to solve nonsensical math puzzles. The winner is determined by commissioner fiat.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

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Overthinking It: This ... (05/03)
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