aerial view of sports stadium during daytime
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Baseball is a languid exercise, unsuited to impatience. As the aging, legendary pitcher Satchel Paige once noted, “I never rush myself. See, they can’t start the game without me.”

The writer Edward Abbey described baseball as slow and sluggish, “with frequent and trivial interruptions, offering the spectator many opportunities to reflect at leisure upon the situation on the field.” And, he was quick to add, “This is what a fan loves most about the game.”

It’s true that waiting is as much a part of baseball as are home runs and stolen bases. So as a new season approaches, one views the newly mandated intrusion of a time clock with mixed feelings.

Fortunately, the clock ticks only to quicken player at-bats, but not to impose a time limit on the games themselves.

That, of course, would be sacrilege. In his book “The Summer Game,” sports essayist Roger Angell explained why: “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is… keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.”

Still, there’s reason to suppose that in moderation, requiring hitters and pitchers to get a move on can eliminate some tedium.

As the iconic San Francisco columnist Herb Caen once wrote, “The clock doesn’t matter in baseball…. Theoretically, one game could go on forever. Some seem to.”

In New England, one almost did – ingrained in memory is the longest professional game ever played, when in April of 1981 the late Pawtucket Red Sox took more than eight hours over two days to beat the Rochester Red Wings.

The possibility of such a meander enhances the game’s sultry appeal. As Baltimore Orioles’ manager Earl Weaver said, “In baseball you can’t kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why this is the greatest game.”

Greatest in many eyes, but not the most fervently watched any more. Some say boredom sets in as pitchers stroll the mound between throws and hitters adjust their batting gloves, spit, rap the bat on their spikes, and kick dirt around.  

Despite these distractions, baseball’s allure persists to the point where it has inspired lasting imagery. Who could top Joe Adcock when he said admiringly of a fellow slugger, “Trying to sneak a fastball by Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak the sunrise past a rooster.”

Or as journalist Arthur “Bugs” Baer once said of pitcher Lefty Grove, “He could throw a lamb chop past a wolf.” 

Long before a time clock, baseball was capable of mesmerizing its fans. Columnist George Will wrote of it: “All I remember about my wedding day in 1967 is that the Cubs lost a doubleheader.”

There’s no sports writing quite like baseball writing; perhaps the lulls between plays gave pundits time to embrace their muses.

Author James Thurber summed up the game’s allure when he asserted, “The majority of American males put themselves to sleep by striking out the batting order of the New York Yankees.”

Novelist Michael Chabon once called baseball “nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day.”

Cadence, that’s the ticket. Maybe we can quicken it some, since this year’s spring training games indicate the new time limits will save 20 minutes or so over nine innings.

On the other hand, there are few better places to savor an extra 20 minutes than amid the murmur and roar, the sunshine and shadow, the glorious, lovely lassitude of the old ball park.

Gerry Goldstein ( a frequent contributor, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist. 

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