Why Do Baseball Teams Still Use Landlines?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 25 2011 5:47 PM

Why Do Baseball Teams Still Use Landlines?

127519334
Pitchers for the Toronto Blue Jays watch the last game of the season from the bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Andrew Keh’s Oct. 22 New York Times story on dugout phones was alarmingly prescient. “Every now and then, over the course of a long season, problems can arise,” Keh wrote, two days before Tony La Russa’s allegedly crowd-noise-abetted call-for-the-wrong-pitcher foul-up in Game 5 of the World Series.

Keh’s excellent story leads one to believe that the Times is in possession of a bullpen-car-shaped time machine that grants its journalists access to baseball minutiae in defiance of the usual bounds of space and time. If the front of tomorrow’s sports section features a 2,000-word essay on the secrets of the rosin bag, my eyes will be fixed on the back of the pitcher’s mound for the entirety of Game 6.

Advertisement

Keh’s piece also points up the bullpen’s strange existence as one of the few places in contemporary life untouched by 21st-century technology. A major-league bullpen is, befitting the word’s origins, the sports world’s closest equivalent to a maximum-security prison. Deep in the outfield or in foul territory, long men and situational lefties sit for hours in isolation, marking time until a tinny phone rings. As the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham wrote last week, bullpen denizens resort to bartering with fans for food, trading autographed balls for pizza and hot dogs. They also, Abraham explains, spend ample energy scouring the stands for candidates for post-game conjugal visits.

Relievers, who take the mound for at most a handful of innings each night, are not granted the same rights as full-time players. “I go out there, the phone rings and we get going when we’re told,” Cardinals closer Jason Motte said on Monday night, explaining why nobody in the bullpen questioned La Russa’s nonsensical Game 5 strategies. If La Russa screws up again on Wednesday, I’m hoping a faction of aggrieved, emboldened Cardinals pitchers launch a late-inning prison riot—benches overturned, baseballs flung, Lance Lynn and Marc Rzepczynski taking the bullpen catcher hostage.* Their list of demands should include more comfortable seating, an in-game buffet, and, most important, unlimited wireless data plans.

Correction, Oct. 26, 2011: This post originally misstated the day of the next World Series game. It is Wednesday, not Tuesday.

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.