Q: This week, I caught the tail end of a sports story which said that baseball is thinking of changing how extra-inning games are played to speed things up. Please tell me they aren’t going to monkey around further with more than a century of tradition. The designated hitter rule is bad enough.
Steve Quirin, of O’Fallon
A: Even if they’ve never paid much attention to it in the past, baseball fanatics may want to keep a close eye this year on the World Baseball Classic, which opens March 6 at four sites around the world.
Like it or hate it, you will be witnessing a radical new way of finishing off extra-inning games that may eventually make it in some form to a pro stadium near you.
According to new rules being instituted this year, once a WBC game reaches the 11th inning, the team at bat will start each inning with runners at first base and second base before the first batter even steps to the plate. That first batter will be the player who would have normally led off the inning anyway. The two baserunners will be the players who precede the leadoff hitter in the lineup — or, perhaps, faster substitutes if the manager so chooses. The idea is to shorten the game, save wear and tear on pitchers and lessen the chance of a third-string catcher pitching the 19th inning.
Already, Major League Baseball is planning to test a modified version of this rule this summer in the lowest levels of the minor league system, according to a recent report by Jeff Passan for Yahoo Sports. While all the specifics are yet to be ironed out, the idea is to begin all extra innings with a runner at second base, starting immediately in the 10th inning. The experiment is slated to be tried in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Arizona League.
“Let’s see what it looks like,” Joe Torre, baseball’s chief baseball officer since 2011, told Passan. “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch.
“It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”
Apparently, the change is favored by the sport’s grand pooh-bahs, who continue to hunt for ways to speed up a game that now drags on for an average of three hours, up nearly 30 minutes from 1981. It is hoped this new rule would cut the duration of extra-inning games for a younger audience but also offer at least three other benefits: Players would be less likely to face playing until the wee hours one night only to take the field for a businessman’s special the next day. It would save on young arms. And, it would present new strategic challenges. Would you bunt? Would you give an intentional walk? Etc.
“What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves,” Torre said. Besides, the NFL and NHL already have modified their overtime format for many of the same reasons.
As Passan notes, the idea of starting the rule in the minors is likely a smart one. By the time young players make it to the big time, they will be used to the system and less likely to object to a change. Stay tuned.
Q: Can you tell me whether Herman Reis was a registered pharmacist? He owned Reis Drug Store in Belleville for many years.
A.A., of Belleville
A: Unfortunately, I can find no evidence that Herman was registered, but I can tell you that his older brother, Valentine M. Reis, was.
Born in 1868, Valentine graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1888 and was working at Schmitt Drug Co. in Belleville by 1890. According to the Annual Report of the State Board of Pharmacy of Illinois (Volume 31 — 1912) Reis was a registered pharmacist, holding certificate number 6336.
I uncovered no similar designation for Herman, which I thought was odd. Herman graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1902, so I would have thought he would have applied for his certificate by 1912, but he was not listed, and further searches proved fruitless. Of course, he apparently dabbled in other things. In 1912 for example, he helped incorporate the St. Clair Hosiery Mills. According to Belleville Daily Advocate records, it wasn’t until 1925 that he and his brothers Valentine and George incorporated their drug store at 29 W. Main St. As I suppose you know, he ran that store for 30 years before retiring in about 1953 and dying in 1962 at age 82. His obituary did not mention him being registered.
I did call the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which now keeps track of such things, but I was told their easily accessible computerized records only go back to about 1960. They suggest you send all of the information you know about Herman to the IDFPR at 320 W. Washington St., 3rd Floor, Springfield, IL 62786 and they say they will make a more extensive search. They may have hard copies of that annual pharmacy board report for, say, volume 45 (1926) and beyond. As a long shot, you also might try contacting the University of Wisconsin library, which originally had Volume 31 with Valentine’s name on its shelves.
Who is the first and only recording artist in history to put a Top 5 hit on five different Billboard music charts?
Answer to Saturday’s trivia: If you thought Hawaii might be the most populous island in the United States, you’re not even in the ballpark. With nearly 7.7 million inhabitants, Long Island, N.Y., makes Hawaii (1.4 million residents) look like the Sahara desert populationwise. Even so, Manhattan remains the most densely populated American island with more than 71,000 people per square mile. But when it comes to stuffing people on a piece of land surrounded by water, both Long Island and Manhattan pale in comparison with Java (140 million), Honshu (104 million) and Great Britain (62 million).