AP (March 6, 2009): Major League Baseball has announced that it will enforce an obscure rule, written over 80 years ago, that no one ever thought would be a factor in the game. The Minnesota Twins will soon learn otherwise.
Baseball has long enjoyed an exemption from antitrust laws, based on a controversial congressional act in 1922. Team owners successfully argued that baseball was a unique business, and vital to the American way of life, that should not be viewed as monopolistic in the sense of contemporary cases concerning oil companies. Toward the end of the proceedings, as it became apparent that an agreement would be reached, Senator William Calder (R-NY) lightheartedly attached an amendment that stated “[T]he number of players allowed active at any one time by one Baseball Team in a Major League Baseball game shall be determined by the number of Senators from the State within which the Baseball Team plays its Home Games multiplied by 4.5. If a Baseball Team plays its Home Games outside of the United States, or a Territory unrepresented in the U.S. Senate, that Team shall be allowed a number of players equal to the Baseball Team allowed the most players.”
According to baseball historian David W. Smith, it was intended as a tongue-in-cheek reminder to the owners that the government still made the rules. Since each state has two Senators, of course, baseball carried on with nine players to a side.
With the ongoing battle between incumbent Norm Coleman (R-MN) and challenger Al Franken tied up in the Minnesota courts, that state currently has only one Senator seated in Congress. This means, according to the scripture of Major League Baseball, that the Twins are allowed only 5 players on the field. The Commissioner’s Office has confirmed that this rule, like all others in the MLB rulebook, will be enforced.
Manager Ron Gardenhire seemed to take it in stride. “Well, you have to play by the rules, I guess. We’ll probably play a shortstop and two outfielders, with the catcher playing first, unless there’s a two-strike count. That ‘dropped third strike’ rule never really made sense to me, but like I said, you play by the rules. It’ll drag the game out a bit, with the pitcher having to retrieve his own ball, though.”
Ironically, it was the late owner of the Twins, Carl Pohlad, that alerted the MLB offices to the rule. According to team spokesman Barry McCockner, “Carl was an avid golfer, and truly respected the honesty that golfers show when enforcing the rules upon themselves. Apparently, he valued that enough to bring it to the sport of baseball. He foresaw this political struggle before his death and called [Major League Commissioner] Selig himself.”
Reactions of the players were mixed. Pitcher Francisco Liriano seemed nonplussed. “Hey, I get payed, right? I’m cool.” Catcher Joe Mauer was less diplomatic. “Say what? What the f***? Are you f***ing serious? F*** that.” When assured that the rule was, in fact, in the books, and would be enforced, Mauer sighed. “Well, at least we’ll still finish ahead of Detroit.”
Maybe Cleveland has a shot at second this year.