This solution probably would have worked best back in the days of Lou Piniella and Tommy Lasorda, but I'm confident it could still find use today. And, with the likes of Cowboy Joe West and Angel Hernandez wearing the blue, it may even apply to the umpires better than the players! (Rays fans would probably agree with that.)
In the October 1951 issue of Baseball Digest, we're told of an old joke about how cellmates in a prison have heard each other's funny stories so often all they have to do is yell out a number "like '33' or '89'" and everyone will bust out laughing. Because they know the anecdote by heart, you see.
Well, I guess it was funny in 1951.
Anyhow, the suggestion stems from the joke:
Vern McMillan, the new, bustling Three I League president from Terre Haute, Ind., recalled that yarn recently and explained jokingly he hoped to institute a similar program in the league to save the sensitive ears of spectators.
"We'll list every cuss word and nasty name we can think of," Vern said slyly, "and give each one a number. We'll post the list in every dressing room and dugout in the league and give each umpire a copy.
"Then, when a manager or player wants to pop off at one of our umps, he can check the list and find the name he wants. Instead of cussing he can simply yell, 'You dirty 46!' or 'That was a foot outside, you 12-56 blind 91!'
"The box seat customers won't be embarrassed by any foul language, the umpire can check his list to see if the name called is bad enough to warrant a heave-ho. If it is, he can thumb ther player out and we'll go on with the game."
Brilliant. Commissioner Selig should implement it right away, if for no other reason than for us to wonder exactly what kind of names and cusses each team put on their list. I suspect they would be rather entertaining if they ever leaked out. My only question, though, is who would add the most, ahem, colorful words to the list? And, no, as a retired player, George Brett doesn't count.