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This Is What a Never-Ending Baseball Game Would Be Like

Baseball is a restrictive sport—players are literally fenced in, batters stay in a box, and runners must stick to a path. That extra innings can amass ad infinitum and a game could conceivably last forever is counterintuitive to the nature of the game itself, yet it's the most interesting thing about it.

I think about it any time a game goes to extra innings. This is it...these idiots are going to keep playing forever. But then there's a wild pitch or a bloop single or a balk and runners advance and the game ends. Fans go home, players start thinking about the next one, and everyone is spared from baseball purgatory.

But what if a game never ended? What would that be like?

I asked baseball historian David Vincent that question. "Theoretically," he said, "a game could go forever, but I doubt that will ever happen." Theoretical is good enough for me. Let's make this happen.

The rules are set in place, and with baseball being baseball, they are a little complicated. First, we must eliminate scenarios in which a contest can end in a tie. According to Vincent, Rule 4.12 (b)(4)(ii) allows for ties in games that are suspended but aren't in the postseason or critical to a playoff race:

Any suspended game not completed prior to the last scheduled game between the two teams during the championship season shall become a called game. If such game becomes a called game and has progressed far enough to become a regulation game, and the score is tied, the game shall be declared a “tie game.” A tie game is to be replayed in its entirety, unless the league president determines that playing the rescheduled game is not necessary to affect the league championship.

Regular season games are often postponed to a later date in order keep the schedule going (Vincent references a 2009 Houston-Washington game that started in D.C. in May, but was delayed by rain and resumed in Houston a full two months later). In order to facilitate a near-continuous, never-ending affair, our game will have to take place in the postseason.

Why not a Game 7?

World Series Game 7

October 30, 2014 (estimated start date): The teams run out onto the field for what promises to be a thrilling, winner-take-all showdown. What these innocent ballplayers don't know is that this stadium will become a prison of sorts.

Top of the 1st. Play Ball! (Forever): The first of an infinite number of pitches is thrown. Because this is a World Series game, we assume it has a start time of around 8 p.m. EST. Were this a regular season contest, we might run into curfew issues. The NL abolished its league-wide curfew in 1964, but the American League has a curfew for night games (games starting after 6.00 p.m.), and no inning can start after 12:59 a.m. However, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, that curfew is "waived for the final game of the season between two teams in each of the cities."

Individual parks have their own rules. For example, on Saturday nights in Baltimore, games must stop play at 11:59 p.m. no matter what. In a ballpark with no curfew, we can keep the lights on and play as long as we need (unless the game is suspended by the umpires. We'll get to that).

Seventh-Inning Stretch: Time to stretch those legs. You won't be going anywhere for a while. A pop singer comes out to sing "God Bless America." Fans roll their eyes as she uses extended vibrato during the overlong, self-indulgent performance. Years later they will laugh at the irony.

Top of the Eighth: Beer sales stop. This is not a big deal...at the time. Stadiums have individual policies on when they stop serving alcohol, but MLB as a whole does not.

Bottom of the Ninth: It's a tie game and the away team's closer strikes out the side. Assuming an average baseball game lasts around three hours (and a postseason game lasts longer), the time is about 11:45 p.m. EST.

"How exciting, Game 7 is going into extras!" a little boy thrilled to be up so late tells his father. Little does he know, he will be watching this game until he dies of old age.

Bottom of the 18th: It's been a long night. Every pitcher has been used, so outfield players are on the mound. It is 3:24 a.m. This is now the latest a Major League Baseball game has ever gone (a rain-delayed Expos-Phillies game in 1977 lasted until 3:23 a.m.). The fans are still in their seats. "Looks like I'll be calling in sick to work tomorrow," a woman jokes to her seat mate. By the time this game ends, her job will have been made obsolete thousands of times over.

Top of the 23rd: Precedent. It is now 4:09 a.m., the time umpires suspended the previous longest game in baseball history. That was April 19, 1981, and the Rochester Red Wings were tied 2-2 with the Pawtucket Red Sox. The game was resumed two months later.

Because of the magnitude of the World Series, I imagine these umpires would elect to keep it going as long as they can. Be it just past sunrise or another full day, they will break out of exhaustion and eventually suspend the game. It is scheduled to recommence the next evening.

Everyone goes home to sleep. The stadium's grass needs to be mowed.

The Days Ahead: In order to stave off exhaustion, the remaining outfield players take turns pitching every inning. No rule states that they can't swap in and out, so this rotation will have to work lest they do serious damage to their arms.

Assuming we aren't in a dome, the skies will eventually open up and cold rain will start to fall—our first weather delay. The grounds crew rolls out the tarps. Players dance deliriously in the downpour. Finally, a break in the repetition.

The game resumes a couple hours later. The stadium reevaluates its policy on the sale of beer.

The Months Ahead: The pattern continues: Players show up and play ball from where they left off until the umpire suspends the game again. They take the team bus to the stadium and back over and over again. They notice stores and restaurants along the route close for business, only to be replaced by new establishments days—or is it weeks??—later.

Members of the away team miss their families and invite them to stay at the team hotel. Living in a small hotel room wears on them. The few hours a day not spent playing baseball are tense. But they persevere.

Depending on the game's location, there might be an extended winter break. If it's in a warm climate or played indoors, then the luxury of a few months off is out of the question. The umpire walks onto the field and glares into the low, setting December sun. "Play ball," he sighs.

The players, undoubtedly exhausted, will start succumbing to injuries and normal seasonal illnesses brought on by stress and lack of sleep. Given that the game is suspended daily, teams have the opportunity to substitute in new players. According to Rule 4.12(c):

A player who was not with the club when the game was suspended may be used as a substitute, even if he has taken the place of a player no longer with the club who would not have been eligible because he had been removed from the lineup before the game was suspended.

This is huge, and it's the key to this game lasting forever. Teams are allowed to bring in new players at will, just as long as the replacement occurs after the game is suspended. Front offices start cutting their stars to replenish the side with players from the minor leagues and overseas.

Fans who have been redeeming their weathered old ticket stubs to gain reentry to the game every day no longer recognize their favorite team's players. The box score grows vertically as well as horizontally now.

It is no longer a war of attrition. It is a full-fledged nightmare.

April 1, 2015: The start of the new season is delayed until the completion of the 2014 World Series.

Top of the 10951st (October 30, 2015): The one-year anniversary of the game's beginning. FOX Sports ∞, a television channel created just to broadcast this game, features a short, 45-minute highlight package to commemorate the anniversary.

The Decades Ahead: By the turn of the 22nd century, interest in baseball has waned. The sport isn't helped by the fact that only one game has been played for nearly 90 years. A great-great-grandson of one of the original players is brought up to play and wears his ancestor's number in his honor. He, like all the other players playing now, is terrible at baseball.

The talent pool has shrunk and the quality of the game has plummeted to the point where pitchers can't even throw strikes. Unfortunately, this evolution occurs during the top of an inning, so players are repeatedly walked around and around the bases. The away team's score stretches toward infinity and the home team will never get another chance to bat.

The Centuries Ahead: Civilizations rise and fall. The game is kept playing because, as the oracles say, "It has always been so."

5 Billion Years Later: The sun explodes as yet another ball four is called. Eight minutes later, an unspeakably bright light cleanses the stadium in a blanket of flame. According to MLB Rule 4.12 (a)(iii):

A game shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date if the game is terminated for any of the following reasons: Light failure or malfunction of a mechanical field device under control of the home club. 

The game is suspended and rescheduled.

All photos courtesy Getty Images

Note: Regarding the rule that postseason rosters must be submitted and cemented before the playoffs start—there are ways around this that our two teams would find given the extreme circumstances. In the case of injury, teams can bring up replacement players that were not on the postseason roster. The rules state that any player listed in the organization (including the minors) before August 31st is eligible. Our teams would argue that once the calendar year ends, MLB's postseason eligibility calendar rolls over as well (it has to sometime). The two teams' minor league programs would then be used as literal farm systems, bringing in players in order to send them up and provide this game with sustenance. The postseason injury call-ups are dependent on the commissioner's approval, so we have to assume he or she would allow it.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About The Sandlot
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.

No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE BOYS OF SUMMER.

Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.

2. IT WAS PARTLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.

3. IT WAS A QUICK SHOOT.

It was shot in just 42 days.

4. THE KIDS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MUCH YOUNGER.

Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans told Sports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."

5. THE GIANT OAK TREE THAT HOLDS THE TREEHOUSE WAS SALVAGED.

The cast of 'The Sandlot' (1993)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.

6. YEAH-YEAH ORIGINALLY READ FOR BERTRAM.

Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.

7. THE CHEWING TOBACCO WAS MADE OF LICORICE AND BACON BITS.

The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)

8. IT WAS DANGEROUSLY HOT.

It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.

9. IT WAS ALSO REALLY COLD.

On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.

10. SQUINTS WAS GIVEN A STERN REMINDER.

Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”

11. WENDY PEFFERCORN WAS BASED ON A GIRL NAMED BUNNY.

Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.

12. THE KIDS WERE EXCITED TO MEET DARTH VADER.

The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)

13. THE CAST SNUCK INTO A SCREENING OF BASIC INSTINCT.

When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.

14. THE BEAST WAS PARTLY PUPPET.

The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.

Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry told Time. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”

15. THE MOVIE WAS AT THE CENTER OF A MAJOR LAWSUIT.

The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.

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10 of the Most Valuable Baseball Cards in the World
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

If baseball is America’s national pastime, then collecting baseball cards is a close second. Closets, crawl spaces, and attics across the country are full of cards from every era—from the days of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. But not all of them are going to pay off your student loans or put you in a new house.

Baseball card values depend on many factors, like age, condition, scarcity, and the collectible market trends at the time. With all that in mind, we're taking a look at 10 of the most valuable baseball cards in the world.

1. HONUS WAGNER, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $3.12 MILLION

If you know anything about baseball cards, it won't come as a shock that this Honus Wagner card sold for a staggering $3.12 million in 2016, besting its previous high of $2.8 million from 2007. Widely considered to be the "Holy Grail" of baseball collectibles, the card's value is forever tied to its backstory. It was originally produced by the American Tobacco Company and was included in packs of the company's cigarettes. But, for reasons that still aren't completely clear, Wagner made the company pull the card from the market, resulting in anywhere from only 25 to 200 ever being released—and more than 100 years later, the scarcity has made it a landmark in sports collectibles.

2. MICKEY MANTLE, 1952 TOPPS // $1.13 MILLION

Joining Wagner in the more-than-a-million-dollars card club is none other than Mickey Mantle. More specifically, it's his 1952 Topps Major League card that went for $1.13 million at auction in 2016. Its Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grade, which scores a card's condition, is an astounding 8.5 out of 10, making it one of the most attractive Mantle cards out there. But even copies with lower scores have gone for significant amounts, with grades of 6 and 7 regularly going for more than $100,000. But in a few weeks this list might need updating—another 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is up for auction in April, this time with a PSA grade of 9. Its pre-auction estimate is a mighty $3.5 million-plus.

3. BABE RUTH, 1916 SPORTING NEWS // $717,000

Babe Ruth’s Sporting News card from 1916 (his pre-Yankee days) sold for $717,000 in a 2016 auction. It was far from the only auction that featured this card of a young Bambino, though. In 2017, the same card with the same PSA grade fetched around $550,000. It's just another example of how selling at the right time and finding the right buyer can make a six-figure difference.

4. PETE ROSE/PEDRO GONZALEZ/KEN MCMULLEN/AL WEIS, 1963 TOPPS // $717,000

So how did a card like this wind up taking $717,000 at auction? It's not nearly as old as a Ruth card, yet it went for just as much money. Well, for one, it features Pete Rose on it, and anything with "The Hit King" is going to get some interest. Another reason is that it was graded a perfect 10 by the PSA, which is exceedingly rare for any card of its age. It's the only copy of this particular card ever to get that rating, and for collectors, that's a big deal. This one won't fetch nearly as much in any other condition, though, as a 9 grade might get around $70,000 at auction.

5. "SHOELESS" JOE JACKSON, 1909 AMERICAN CARAMEL // $667,149

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the most high-profile baseball name to be linked to the notorious Black Sox Scandal, but that hasn't hurt his worth on the collectible market. In 2016, a PSA grade 8 copy of what's considered to be Jackson's rookie card sold at auction for $667,149. In 2008, the same card with a lower grade went for $86,975, so it just goes to show that a card's condition can make all the difference.

6. NOLAN RYAN/JERRY KOOSMAN, 1968 TOPPS // $612,359

Like the Rose rookie card, this Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman combo piece was rated a perfect 10 and was rewarded with $612,359 at auction, far higher than it would have been otherwise. In fact, of the 8000 Ryan/Koosman rookie cards that have been submitted, it's the only one to receive a perfect score. And that pristine condition is exactly why it commanded that price—when you put a 9 grade on the same card, for example, its value goes down to around $20,000 to $30,000.

7. BABE RUTH, 1914 BALTIMORE NEWS // $575,000

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Babe wound up on this list twice. This time, the Sultan of Swat is seen as a minor league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, well before his home run prowess was realized. In 2012, Robert Edwards Auctions sold a PSA 2 graded copy of the card for an impressive $575,000. And if you want a rare card, this is it: It's generally agreed upon that there are only around 10 in existence.

8. WILLIE MAYS, 1952 TOPPS // $478,000

In 2016, Heritage Auctions held a Sports Collectibles Auction that over three days sold $11 million of memorabilia. The single most valuable item sold was a $478,000 Willie Mays card. While not his rookie card, it was the first Topps card to feature the legendary centerfielder.

9. ROBERTO CLEMENTE, 1955 TOPPS // $478,000

All-time great Roberto Clemente, a member of the 3000-hit club and the Baseball Hall of Fame, died tragically in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua to contribute to earthquake relief in 1972. In 2012, his 1955 rookie card—graded a rare 10 by PSA—sold for $432,690. But four years later (showing that timing can be more important than grade), a 1955 Roberto Clemente card that was graded a 9 sold for $478,000 (however, the same card with a PSA grade of 8 is worth around $30,000). An interesting note about the 2012 sale is that the card was owned by former big leaguer Dmitri Young, who auctioned a large portion of his impressive collection in 2012 for $2.4 million.

10. JOE DOYLE, N.Y. NAT'L, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $414,750

“Slow Joe” Doyle might not be the most famous player on this list, but he has one of the most notorious cards on the market. First off, this particular card is over 100 years old, so there are reported to be less than a dozen in circulation. But most importantly, there was a printing error on the card, listing Doyle as playing for New York's National League team, rather than the correct American League team (he was a member of the New York Highlanders, which would eventually become the Yankees; it’s thought the confusion was due to Larry Doyle being on New York’s National League team). The error was quickly fixed, so a majority of them hit the market with the correct wording. The card has come to auction only a few times in recent years, bringing in anywhere from $64,099 to a staggering $414,750. Not bad for a pitcher with a career record of 22-21.

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