Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Batter's Box

By Eric Bronson | Go to book overview

TOP OF THE FOURTH
7 Baseball, Cheating,
and Tradition: Would
Kant Cork His Bat?

RANDOLPH FEEZELL

Nobody denied that Sammy Sosa corked his bat. The evidence was in the shards of his bat that had splintered on a routine groundout, in a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, June 3rd, 2003. Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president for on-field operations, said the bat was “illegal,” and suspended Sosa for eight games. Sosa called his action a “mistake.” After his appeal, baseball's president and chief operating officer, Bob DuPuy, reduced Sosa's suspension to seven games, citing Sosa's exemplary “sincerity” and “candor.” Throughout the brief investigation, none of the principal people involved dared to use the word “cheating.”

Long before I became a philosopher and a coach, I played on a summer semi-pro team in a league primarily made up of college players, some of whom would go on to play major league baseball. (The competitive details may be relevant.) Here's the scenario. We're playing an excellent team coached by a former major leaguer (who remembers Bob Cerv?) and our starting pitcher is a crafty little lefty with a good curve and a mediocre fastball. I suggest to him that he might add a couple of feet to his fastball in crucial situations by stepping in front of the rubber, to shorten the distance to home plate. When you step up, be sure to put the ball on the batter's hands, I suggest. Great idea! He uses the “strategy” effectively in the early innings until the voluble third base coach (Cerv) notices a hole dug in front of the rubber in a very unusual place. He blows up and

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