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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Part V of the History of the Infield Fly Rule

PART 5: THE AGE OF RELIGION
by Tony D’Amato


According to recent computerized compilations of medieval box scores, the E.R.A. (earned run average) of medieval pitchers was surprisingly low. This fact has figured prominently in the oft-heard theory that the balls used in the Middle Ages were not as "lively" as they are today. Manufacturers, however, insist that the baseball has not changed one iota since its standardization in the early Olympics.

It should come as no surprise that the most important contribution to the Infield Fly Rule made in the Age of Religion was authored by its most imposing figure, St. Thomas Aquinas. He might never have seen a baseball game were it not for an invitation he received from Pope Urban IV, who was traveling to Paris to root for the visiting team, the Papal Bulls. Aquinas was a quick study, and by the top of the sixth he had learned the rules of baseball. Or so he thought. The batter for the Bulls lifted a pop fly, and the umpire immediately yelled "Infield fly! Yer out!" Aquinas had counted on a sure double play. From his diary we learn that he said, "Urban, what manner of abomination is this?" "Tom, my son," the Pope replied, "it is a rare rule of baseball. Aristotle speaks of it."

After a few months of study, Aquinas concluded self-referentially that he could not attack Aristotle without jeopardizing the entire edifice of natural law upon which the Church had been justifying itself through his own efforts. Then one day a shaft of golden sunlight came through the window and fell upon his brow. "Aha!" he exclaimed presumably.

Aquinas had realized that the Infield Fly Rule was the work of devilish pragmatism, concocted to perpetuate this morally pointless mind-numbing sport. Satan, with consummate ad hocery, had invented the Infield Fly Rule in utter disdain of all relevant theories. Therefore no theory could now be cobbled together that would defeat the King of Darkness. Aquinas resolved to fight pragmatism with pragmatism. Recalling the game he had witnessed, it had been a left-handed pitcher who threw the ball that was popped up. Using rapid mental extrapolation in an age even before sampling was invented, Aquinas concluded that infield flies only occur when the pitcher is left-handed. Since the Latin term for the left hand is "sinister," and inasmuch as the Church traditionally considered the left hand diabolical, it followed conclusively that all left-handed pitchers were agents of the devil. Aquinas posted a "finding" (Dominus prohibitum) on the church bulletin board banishing left-handed pitchers from the game of baseball. In one bold stroke he had purified the game as well as rendering the Infield Fly Rule inoperative.

For the next century or two, left-handed ballplayers were not allowed to pitch. On those occasions when a right-handed pitcher pitched into an infield fly, he was branded a "closet lefty" and taken out of the game. But over time there came a Reformation: the Aquinan rule was modified to disallow left-handed pitchers only when there were runners on first and second and fewer than two outs. The rule was further chipped away in an oft-shepherdized game (many fans in those days brought their sheep with them) in which the left-handed pitcher was taken out but all the available relief pitchers were left-handed. A dispensation was allowed in that situation for the relief pitcher, provided that he confessed to a venial sin within three days. In turn, this latter provision was dropped when the abrasively atheistic Mongolian Hordes came into town. Following eleven straight humiliating losses to the Hordes, the Catholic teams banded together in a nationwide protest, claiming that they were being discriminated against on account of their majoritarian beliefs. As a result the Aquinan rule was only honored in the breach (in the dugout) until it was eventually forgotten. Nihil Obscura (“not my problem”).


Earlier posts:
Part I
Part II
Part III

Part IV

Posted by Administrators on March 29, 2007 at 06:11 AM in Legal Theory | Permalink

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Comments

I got it the second reading; it is a bit spotty reading every other word, but with a good memory, the second time thru is a charm, provided one remembers to begin on word 1 the first pass, then beginning with word 2 the second pass; next is somehow intercalating these readings to produce the entire linear original text. Actually I worried about the contribution yesterday, and thought the advice to keep the eye on the ball as sage as keeping the eye on that bull. Nice salve to the readers of this blog, and I appreciate the reply.

Posted by: John Lopresti | Mar 30, 2007 1:59:55 PM

There was no typographical error; the words that John Lopresti discovered in my manuscript on this subject that I thought I had destroyed did indeed read "infidel fly rule." But in mistakingly thinking it was a typo, Mr. Lopresti goes on to delude himiself into thinking I had said things that I had not said. For example, I said:

The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss'd Thee down into the Field,
*He* knows about it all---He knows---HE knows!

But Mr. Lopresti thinks I said that "what had gone up might ascend into the celestial realms and never actually respond again to the forces one lives with in this quotidian mortal frame in which that lofted hardball ineluctably would have descended back to earth."

Close, Mr. Lopresti, but you're skipping over the nuances. Take, for instance, the part of my manuscript where I said:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Now, I grant you, Mr. Lopresti, that when this image is pressed into the adversary system in a courtroom, it might well come out, as you wrote: "one could discern a veritable transcendance of the kind of dissimilation and bickering for which humankind has become renowned and which in litigious behavior has supported fine income albeit at some measurable peril for barristers since prehistoric times."

It's not that you've misinterpreted me, exactly, but somehow your synopsis seems to be missing a little bit of soul. Perhaps this is due to your penchant for only reading every other word. Allow me to suggest to you that when you only read every other word, you ought to practice the fine art of extrapolation.

My discarded manuscript went on to say:

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse---and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness---
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Frankly, I cannot tell how you get from this quatrain (no, not quartet, not even quarter) to the Lettermen conceit that

Standin' on the corner
Watching all the girls go by.
Standin' on the corner,
Giving all the girls the eye.

I say this even though your translation is fairly good, you switch from the active "Thou beside me singing in the Wilderness" to the meekly passive act of standing on a corner watching all the girls go by. Have we become a nation of Peeping Toms? Nay, I say:

Ah, fill the Cup:---what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:

How you get from this to your conclusion is beyond my powers of ratiocination. You conclude that a "blend of the eastern sufist assessment that naught would fall from the sky and the western belief that the bull was insignificant compared to losing the game by failing to tag-up if one is a baserunner" is mistaken. I never said that.
My conclusion, if you recall, is larger in scope than yours:

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and---sans End!


Posted by: Anthony D'Amato | Mar 29, 2007 7:18:02 PM

ERRATUM: make that a quartet, instead of a quarter; NB: this quartet was different from the Alexandrine quartet, but that is a different story; in fact, four different stories, but somehow the same tale told.

Posted by: John Lopresti | Mar 29, 2007 3:16:12 PM

There was a typographical error for the mss read 'infidel fly rule', instead of 'infield popup...'; now, it is said that there were at the time of the centenary celebration of 1200 certain teachers in a school in Ur still accustomed to conceive of the universe in nonpapist terms, and upon tablets in cuneiform script arduously recorded their own ideas of the sport one might make in the parsing game so popular in Greek and Roman spas, which latter lexicography tradition infused the early writings and studies performed by Thomas. By the time Thomas was age 40 the rules of the game fairly universally recognized the quintescence of the teaching in the Ur tablets which held that when there is an infield popup at the same time there is a bull in the arena, the best decision in the logic diagram is to forget cerebral ratiocination altogether, and, instead to remain in one's basal instinct mode, vigilant of the movements of said bull, and trusting, perhaps adumbratively speaking, somewhat quixotically, that what had gone up might ascend into the celestial realms and never actually respond again to the forces one lives with in this quotidian mortal frame in which that lofted hardball ineluctably would have descended back to earth.

In modern courtrooms, one extrapolator was annotated by a clerk to have kept faith in the possibility that sampling the emotional state of the human during the scant microseconds during the flight of that hardball one could discern a veritable transcendance of the kind of dissimilation and bickering for which humankind has become renowned and which in litigious behavior has supported fine income albeit at some measurable peril for barristers since prehistoric times, though in our era sentencing guidlines ease the burden of interpreting earlier otherwise harsher codes of conduct and criminal sanctions.

Perhaps this clerk touched in that observation upon one of the most elusive of human insights, one that some in our own times in the 1950s were said to hold as a surefire baseline principal to guide our own appreciation for jousting sports of all sorts, be they games of baseball, or courtroom battles of deceit and twisted logic; that 1952 lemma was best phrased perhaps by the musical quarter group known as the Lettermen, whose song, Standin on the Corner enjoyed some pop chart prominence; indeed, when performed in nightclub venues the line from that composition which seemed most enduring, juridically, was fairly meditative in itself, maybe representing a blend of the eastern sufist assessment that naught would fall from the sky and the western belief that the bull was insignificant compared to losing the game by failing to tag-up if one is a baserunner: the line went, 'brother, you can't arrest a man for what he's thinkin...'

Posted by: John Lopresti | Mar 29, 2007 3:11:34 PM

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