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The Straight Dope

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A baseball-playing friend stymied me with this question. Seven batters step up to the plate in one inning, all from the same team. The inning ends and no one has scored. How? We came up with bases loaded, two pop-outs, a grand slam, and one more pop-out, when the other team claims the grand slam hitter didn't tag third and the four runs are nullified. But we regard this answer as a copout, and the guy won't tell us the solution. Help! --Rene C., Chicago

Some essential part of the riddle must have slipped by you, champ, because this one wouldn't stump a bump. But first let's dispense with your excuse for a solution. Failing to tag a base is what we call an "appeal" play. The runs are nullified only if the opposing team appeals to the umpire before the next pitch. Since you throw in an intervening out, the runs stand. I learn this from rule 7.10 of my Official Baseball Rules, the holy Koran of the sport.

Back to business. Your question seems so easy because even a casual baseball fan like me (I hate wearing ties) knows you can substitute batters freely during an inning. All the question says is that the batters have to step up to the plate--they don't actually have to do anything (although for that matter they could be replaced in mid-count). You could have a lot more than seven batters that way, but I suppose if you put that in the riddle you'd give away the game.

Not having really earned my paycheck this week--I'm such a Protestant about these things--allow me to lay this one on you, guaranteed to net you macromazuma if used judiciously during your next trek to the corner saloon. Nine players have been named most valuable player in two consecutive years. Coincidentally they constitute a complete lineup (all positions covered). Name the nine. SURPRISE ANSWER: Hal Newhouser, pitcher, 1944-'45; Yogi Berra, catcher, 1954-'55; Jimmie Foxx, first base, 1932-'33; Joe Morgan, second, 1975-'76; Ernie Banks, shortstop, 1958-'59 (he played short in the 50s, so no snotty letters please); Mike Schmidt, third base, 1980-'81; Mickey Mantle, outfield, 1956-'57; Roger Maris, outfield, 1960-'61; Dale Murphy, outfield, 1982-'83. There we go, full value for the money. Whatever it takes to keep you guys happy.

A quick question from a bunch of us born in '67: When did the "Age of Aquarius" officially dawn, and is it still going on now? --Saul Kaiserman, Brooklyn

This may come as a surprise, Baby Busters, but there's going to be a short wait. The Age of Aquarius, introduced with such hype back in the 60s, isn't actually due on the scene until 2150 AD. Obviously when they talked about it being a long, long time before the dawn they weren't kidding. But you have to realize that astrological ages last quite a spell--2,150 years, to be precise. (The previous age--the Age of Pisces--began with the birth of Christ.) I'm told you have to sort of sidle into these things gradually. Get a good book and some crossword puzzles and I'm sure the time will fly.

Then again, everybody has different ideas about this stuff. A gent named Marc Edward Jones, who wrote a book called Fundamentals of Number Significance in 1978, claims the Age of Aquarius commenced with the discovery of Pluto in 1930. The Age of Aquarius, in Jones's view, was thus ushered in by the Depression and World War II. Not an auspicious start for an era of peace and love, but like I say, these things start off kind of slow. (Jones also thinks each age lasts 2,500 years--trying to get a straight story on this stuff ain't easy.)

Jones sees the Aquarian Age as "the equalitarian new age of mankind," characterized by "a universality of cooperation freely accepted and tendered by all people everywhere." But don't dust off those love beads yet. This cooperation stuff cuts both ways. Some interpret it to mean we're going to have a highly regimented society in which you cooperate or die, the prototype being modern Japan. So it could be jumping jacks and the company song in the morning and 12 hours on the job per day. But don't worry. You'll still be able to whistle while you work.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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