Walking across the parking lot at Candlestick--not 3Com--Park, a
friend and I indulged our baseball purism, denigrating the
designated-hitter rule and railing against realignment. Then it
hit me in a flash. Someday baseball will have three big leagues:
Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Here's how the majors will
The Orthodox League doesn't allow the designated hitter, the
Conservative does. The Reform League uses the DH and the
designated runner. It's also doing market research on the
The Orthodox League does not believe in interleague play, except
for All-Star Games and in October, when league champions meet in
the World Series as ordained in the second chapter of Leviticus.
("You could look it up," as the esteemed Rabbi Stengel often
The Orthodox has eight teams, and the team that comes in first
is champion. There is no league championship series, and there
are playoffs only when two teams tie for first. (They meet in a
best-of-three series.) The Conservative has 12 teams, two
divisions and a league championship series. The Reform has 15
teams, three divisions, wild-card berths and playoffs.
All Orthodox teams are north of the Potomac and Ohio rivers and
no farther west than St. Louis. Teams travel only by train.
Conservative teams are scattered across the continental U.S. and
travel by jet. Reform teams are found on the U.S. mainland, as
well as in Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba,
Japan and the European Union. They often travel by supersonic
The Reform League plays all its games at night, or, as it
prefers to say, "in prime time." The Conservative League
sometimes plays day games. The Orthodox League plays some night
games, but never at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Night games are
permissible Tuesday through Friday (Monday is always a travel
day, except when it's a holiday) and are never allowed on
weekends or on July 4.
The Orthodox schedule always includes doubleheaders, partly from
piety and partly from the necessity of working around all the
travel days. The Conservative schedule occasionally includes
doubleheaders and allows for twin bills to make up rainouts,
snow-outs and fog-outs. The Reform League does not allow
doubleheaders or any other revenue-reducing schemes.
A Reform team's schedule consists of 175 games between March and
October. The Conservative League plays a 162-game schedule
starting on April Fool's Day. An Orthodox team plays 154 games,
11 each at home and away against each of the other seven teams,
as revealed by the Prophet Spalding. The Orthodox League,
needless to say, does not recognize records from the other
The Orthodox does not allow artificial turf or indoor stadiums.
The Conservative allows artificial turf only in indoor stadiums.
The Reform does not allow grass.
In the Orthodox League, umpires always wear blue blazers, the
home team always wears white uniforms with the team name and the
visiting team always wears gray with the city name. Teams are
always named after cities, not states or corporations. The
Conservative League has no such restrictions. Reform League
uniforms are selected by a set designer in consultation with an
Every Reform game is on TV, but it's always cable TV. Some
Conservative games are on cable, some on free TV, some not on
TV. Orthodox games are broadcast on radio only, the way Mel
In the Orthodox game, "The strike zone is that area over home
plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the
midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the
uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow
beneath the kneecap." In the Conservative game, the strike zone
is what the umpire says it is. In the Reform game, the strike
zone is what the centerfield camera says it is.
The Orthodox serves only food that is "kosher for ballparks,"
namely beer, soda, hot dogs, Polish sausages, peanuts and
Cracker Jack. Wine is prohibited. The Conservative allows
Orthodox food plus pizza, nachos and wine. Reform stadiums offer
franchise fast food.
No such sectarian divisiveness afflicts other pro sports: NFL
team owners have reconstituted themselves as the College of
Cardinals and replaced the commissioner with a pope, and the NBA
is governed by 29 mullahs and an ayatollah.
Randy Alfred is a Web site editor in San Francisco.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of Orthodox League rules on scroll, Conservative League rules in book, and Reform League rules on videotape]