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Take The Baseball Challenge

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I learned I wasn’t smart enough to watch baseball, even though I’d been watching it since Zagnut candy bars cost only a nickel.

I moved into a new apartment, and a neighbor invited me over to watch the game and meet the “guys,” all of them wearing baseball jerseys. During the bottom of the sixth, the announcer remarked on the batter’s “isolated power rating” and I said something like, “What the fig does that mean?” I was immediately looked upon askance and persuaded to go into the kitchen and help the “women” cook up hot wings before my baseball stupidity caused everyone to break into tears.

It struck me that others lack even the most fundamental baseball lingo essential to understanding the game. The following challenge is a handy primer for anyone who fears banishment to kitchen duty during baseball-watching parties as the playoffs and World Series approach.

1. ERA: What is it?

A. A brand of laundry detergent

B. A well-intentioned Constitutional amendment that never stood a chance of adoption because it meant women could use the men’s bathroom

C. An ingenious statistical calculation that confirms what our own eyes have already told us: The pitcher stinks

2. What does “ducks on the pond” mean?

A. Runners on first and second, or first, second, and third, all wearing Donald Duck costumes instead of regulation uniforms

B. A common sight at retention ponds in suburban apartment complexes

C. An opportunity to enjoy good eats during hunting season

3. Now that you got that right, define “duck snort.”

A. Supposedly coined by White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson, it’s a cheap hit that barely makes it into the outfield, often by a batter who closed his eyes and swung with all his might, although Hawk never said that last part

B. The derisive laugh of a duck when told that tax cuts for the wealthy will benefit the middle class

C. The sound a duck makes when it has a cold and inhales a load of phlegm through its bill

4. In which situation is the infield fly rule enforced?

A. When there are “ducks on the pond” with less than two outs and the batter pops up in the infield, he is automatically booed by the home crowd

B. When the pitcher swats at a fly on his nose while standing on the “mound,” he is charged with cruelty to insects

C. When an infielder forgets to pull up his zipper, he is prosecuted for violating local blue laws

5. Describe a “back door slider.”

A. A pitch that’s unhittable because of the way it breaks over the “plate” but the batter strikes out trying to hit it anyway

B. A runner who slides butt-first into second base

C. A popular hamburger slid discreetly under the back door to a baseball fan who’s not supposed to eat meat because of a cholesterol problem, but he has a sympathetic friend

6. Complete the following: A triple play is . . .

A. Not as lucrative to the average baseball fan sitting in the bleachers as winning the trifecta is to the average racing fan standing along the rail

B. A seemingly impossible act made to look simple on porn websites

C. Three outs recorded on one play, resulting in someone on the hitting team being vanquished to the minor leagues

7. What happens when the infield “turns a 6-4-3?”

A. It develops a simplified tax code based on Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan (anyone remember that?)

B. It completes a complicated stitching pattern on the shawl it’s sewing for the team trainer’s kindly aunt

C. The shortstop fields a grounder, throws to second for one out, the second baseman throws to first for another out, but the first baseman forgets to throw to the plate for the third out and is sent to the minor leagues for failing to record a triple play

8. TV announcer: “Hal is the league’s all-time leader in ribbies.” Explain.

A. Hal ate twelve McDonald’s McRib sandwiches between a double-header, topping Babe Ruth’s record of eleven

B. Hal was born with an extraordinary number of ribs and looks like a full slab without his shirt on

C. Hal leads in RBIs (“ribbies”), the majority from being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded but which the announcer fails to mention

9. Hal “sacrifices” with a runner on third. What did Hal do?

A. Tried to hit a “duck snort” to bring the runner home but ended up popping out to a relief pitcher warming up in the “bull pen”

B. Got intentionally hit by a pitch to add to his “ribbies” total, but since there was no one on second or first the run was not forced in; plus, Hal hurt his elbow

C. Constructed an altar on the pitcher’s mound but was restrained by his teammates, allowing the runner on third to escape unharmed

10.  How do you calculate a pitcher’s “cheap wins” percentage?

A. Divide the number of batters faced by the number of batters bribed with McRib sandwiches to swing at anything and strike out

B. Divide the number of plate umpires bribed with McRib sandwiches by the number of times the batter was called out on strikes while he was still in the on-deck circle

C. No one except guys who wear baseball caps backward gives a fig about the cheap wins percentage

Now score yourself!

Zero: You’re one of the “guys” who takes his baseball seriously and didn’t get past the first question.

Five: You became distracted because the washer was making that noise again, but as soon as it’s fixed you’ll pick up where you left off.

Ten: Congratulations! You read the whole thing. Come over to my house and we’ll watch the game together.

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