Dear Dr. Boli: Now that baseball season is upon us, I was wondering whether you might take the time to explain the game to a visitor from foreign shores. I have attempted to understand the rules without success, and every time I watch a game, the only thing that occurs to me is that, whatever it is, it’s not cricket. —Sincerely, A Resident Alien, Originally from Karachi.

Dear Sir or Madam: Dr. Boli is delighted to be of assistance. Baseball, unlike other American spectator sports, is a game for gentlemen, because it is the only outdoor sport in which the players have the good sense to come in out of the rain. This has always made it Dr. Boli’s favorite sport, which is to say the one he is least likely to avoid. The other rules are fairly simple, and easily remembered once you notice the general tendency of them all.

The first rule is that each “team” of players should hire a graphic designer to create an attractive logotype suitable for a wide variety of applications, from shirts to bumper stickers to coffee mugs. This is probably the most important rule. It enables the team to attract an entourage of “fans” (short for “fanatics,” in the religious sense) who can identify with the athletic exploits of the players even when the fans themselves cannot lift anything heavier than a Quarter Pounder. Without the fans, the team ceases to exist—a principle of quantum physics first enunciated by Heisenberg in a paper that Dr. Boli is sure he has around here somewhere.

It is then required that the team should hire a marketer to license the logo to the manufacturers of consumer goods, thus accumulating license fees, which help fund the next rule.

The team shall then hire a number of recognizable star players to provide a human interest that a mere logo cannot supply. These players shall pose for posters, magazine covers, paper cups at fast-food joints, and so on, creating a climate in which the ordinary citizen cannot avoid their faces no matter which way he turns, which (it is hoped) may help turn some ordinary citizens into fans (see above).

It is also required that the team shall play a certain number of baseball games. For this purpose, it is necessary to blackmail the local governing authorities into providing a new ballpark or stadium every decade or so. The threat is commonly that, if the new ballpark is not forthcoming, the team will depart for another city, leaving its former city with hundreds of thousands of disgruntled fans who will riot in the streets and lynch the local governing authorities. The team that puts any of its own money into a ballpark is considered to have lost, as victory can be achieved only if the building is paid for entirely with the taxpayers’ money.

Finally, after the half-billion-dollar ballpark has been built, it is considered good form to move the team to another city that has promised a more luxurious ballpark worth three quarters of a billion dollars.

These are the fundamental rules of baseball. There are also certain customs that have to do with the playing of the game itself, but if you can hit a ball with a stick and run around in a circle, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.


  1. Captain DaFt says:

    My experience is that baseball consists of a large number of people paying exorbitant amounts for the privilege of gathering together to drink over priced beer and consume over priced junk food.

    The entertainment provided consists of two teams that take turns alternating between standing in a field and sitting in a stall called a ‘dugout’.

    Periodically, one of the members in the dugout attempts to take a position in the field, and has balls thrown at him in an attempt to force him ‘out’, which means to force him to return to the ‘dugout’.

    This usually leads to loud arguments with a person called a ‘referee’, whose job it is to determine who stays on the field, and who goes to the dugout.

    These arguments either result in the man attempting to take the field gaining a position there (though bizarrely all his efforts are then directed to returning to the ‘dugout’, while other members of his team attempt to join him on the field), or the referee directs the two teams to change places.

    This change happens about nine times, though depending on a factor called a ‘score*’, it can occur more times.

    *I’m not to sure what the ‘score’ means, apparently there are shenanigans going on in the ‘dugout’.

  2. Caren says:

    Perhaps the good doctor could take this opportunity to explain the role of chewing, scratching, and spitting in this game. Every time I view baseball on TV (not often, but sometimes I inadvertently tune into sports), it always seems to involve some guy in a lumpy outfit staring contemplatively into the middle distance before chewing some unknown substance, scratching an unmentionable body part, or spitting something disgusting onto the ground. Because the camera lingers on these activities, I’ve come to believe that chewing, scratching, and spitting are very important to baseball.

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