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PHOTOS: Hey, look, a bullpen telephone

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

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LOS ANGELES -- Coming to you live from the home dugout, it's the Dodger Stadium dugout telephone!

As the bold lettering suggests, it's a telephone. As the fine print suggests, it will dispatch your call to the bullpen.

Now for the steaming entrails ...

There's a non-zero chance that I absolutely wasn't supposed to touch that phone, but I have within me the buccaneering spirit upon which the Republic was built and with which Rock and or Roll music was forged. So I when I open the hatch, I do so in naked defiance of the social order.

The phone, as you can see, is as black as a Bible, and it looks like one of those spartan, ad-hoc horns that a salt-and-pepper-haired gentleman might dutifully lift from its cradle and intone into it, with the sparest hint of a cracking voice, "The president has ordered a full nuclear retaliation against the Soviets."

You'll recall that not long ago a movement was afoot to replace these Buick-sized horns with branded cell phones, but that's yet to really catch on. After all, the dugout-to-bullpen phone has been a quirky fixture in the game since at least 1930.

In 1909 or so, Red Sox manager Fred Lake jury-rigged a battery apparatus that sounded a buzzer in the bullpen -- one buzz meant start warming up; two buzzes meant, seriously, get warmed up; and three meant take the mound and do your job, you rapscallion. Before that, bullpen instructions were relayed town-crier style -- i.e., they were shouted, and those shouts were maybe even heard sometimes. Is it possible that the decline of the complete game was hastened by the manager's increasing ability to, you know, actually communicate with his relievers? It says here probably not but whatever.

So progress progresses as it will, but may the dusky, unwieldy beast you see above remain a part of our baseball until the cellular providers become one and rip it from our clutches.

 
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