IT CAN take weeks to get the cable guy to your house, and yet sometime in the very near future—perhaps as early as this week—Major League Baseball will have each of its 30 stadiums wired for instant replay. On Aug. 20 the commissioner's office reached a replay agreement with the World Umpires Association. A similar deal with the players' union and a start date for the replay system was expected to be announced this week. "I told our members that it's just another tool that we can use to get the play right," said umpires union president John Hirschbeck.
Specifics on how replay will work were sketchy as of Monday—the commissioner's office asked teams to refrain from comment until the players' union signed off on the plan—but some details had emerged. Umpires will use replays only on disputed home run calls, and each ballpark will have a station near the field that will include a flat-screen TV, a remote control and a phone that will connect umps to a command center in New York City. Technicians and supervisors in New York will send the men in blue multiple camera angles of a play taken from the game's television feeds; the umpiring crew chief will decide what the correct call should be.
The decision on whether a play should be reviewed will rest with the umps—managers won't get to fling an NFL-style flag out of the dugout. Baseball also hopes to avoid the delays that replays sometimes cause in the NFL and NHL, especially since this season the commissioner gave teams and umpires a mandate to speed up games. (The average nine-inning game time this year is 2:50, down a minute from 2007.) But, after a rash of controversial home run calls, most baseball people think replay's time has come. "There are too many other things that Major League Baseball can do to shorten games," says the Braves' Chipper Jones. "Instant replay is not going to make that big a deal." Adds an AL G.M., "I can't see any negative in this. We've got the technology and the ability to get calls right, so we should."
The Pop Culture Grid
How do sports stars fit in?
Michael Phelps should now ...
I'd be the perfect person to ...
Favorite thing to chew
I'm dying to get an invitation to ...
Chris Brown, Sugarland or Kid Rock
STUART HOLDEN Dynamo MF
Run for president
Host a talk show with Oprah
Hannah Montana's birthday party
Sugarland (my hometown)
JORDAN SENN Colts LB
Try a new sport
Do all the dirty work
My new nephew's birthday party
LOUISE FRIBERG LPGA
Talk to the Swedish about durable swimsuits
Own a European-car dealership
The Dalai Lama's birthday party
Chris Brown (left)
JUSTIN FORSETT Seahawks RB
Go to the Bahamas
Big Red gum
Alicia Keys's birthday party
Games this season in which the Red Sox' Daisuke Matsuzaka, who leads the AL in bases on balls, has walked at least five batters.
Wins by Matsuzaka in those games, the most five-walk wins by an AL pitcher since the Rangers' Bobby Witt had eight in 1987.
Amount awarded by the Orioles to University of Baltimore School of Law student Kevin Gracie on Aug. 19 for being the 50 millionth fan to pass through the gates at Camden Yards.
Years it took for Camden Yards to hit the 50 million mark, faster than any other stadium in major league history.
Olympic medals won since 1896 by athletes who attended an Ivy League school; if the Ivy were a country, it would rank ninth on the alltime medal table.
Percentage of Olympic-related news stories (including newspapers, websites, network and cable TV and radio) during the Beijing Games that focused on Michael Phelps, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
Percentage that focused on U.S. gymnast Nastia Liukin, the second-most covered Olympic athlete.
Hits by the Cardinals in an 18--3 win over the Braves, the team's highest single-game total since 1930.
RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS (DAMON)
BORDERLINE CALLS Several dubious home runs this year convinced Bud Selig it was time for replay.
TOMASSO DEROSA/US PRESSWIRE (YANKEES)
FRANK PERRY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (DALAI LAMA)
JEFFREY MAYER/WIRE IMAGE (BROWN)
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (PHELPS)
GETTY IMAGES (FORSETT)
GETTY IMAGES (SENN)
DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES (FRIBERG)
TONY MARSHALL/EMPICS SPORT/ABACAUSA.COM (HOLDEN)