Steve Chapman

A pitcher, however, may not carry out his duties until his offensive counterpart is ready to fulfill his. The other day I watched a clip of Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, when Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers shut out Minnesota, and I was less amazed by his pitching prowess than by a strange, inexplicable habit exhibited by the hitters: remaining in the batter's box between deliveries.

Youngsters who have grown up in the intervening years may be surprised to learn that the official rulebook does not strictly require the hitter to remove himself from the vicinity of home plate after each offering. There is no penalty for staying put.

But there might as well be. Today, every self-respecting batsman finds it impossible to perform his function without repeatedly adjusting his helmet, pulling on his gloves, hitching his pants, tugging his shirt, tapping his cleats, checking his grip and silently reciting the Gettysburg Address.

In the 1980s, the Cleveland Indians' Mike Hargrove engaged in dilatory antics that earned him the nickname The Human Rain Delay. Nomar Garciaparra, who played for the Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers and Athletics, conducted bizarre clinics in the suspension of time every time he strode to the plate.

Players like them used to stand out, but not so much anymore. From the approach of many hitters, you would think they were getting paid by the second. That, or there's a bill collector outside the locker room who they hope will tire of waiting and leave.

More likely it will be weary fans who will run out of patience and flee in hope of finding some sport that is more respectful of the demands on their time. Like the Iditarod.

But Major League Baseball has given the umpires the authority to eliminate the pointless prolongation of games. Some of them, at least, are resolved to act.

Go for it, men in blue! And make it snappy.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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