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Ninety feet is close to perfection

Famed columnist Red Smith stated that “Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection.”

Red Smith was only the second sports columnist to ever win the Pulitzer Prize.  He was the most widely read columnist of his day and has influenced so many so many writers today.  He wrote columns for numerous newspapers from 1927 till the late 1970’s.

Not only was Red Smith a wonderful wordsmith, his statement above might be close to perfect.

Ninety feet…..Oh the stories that could be told by the many who have traveled those ninety feet.  The joy, sadness, contemplation, sorrow and exaltation.

Ninety feet between home and first answers all questions.

It is the perfect distance.

Any player can hit a groundball to the shortstop and if the shortstop fields it cleanly and makes an accurate throw to first base, the runner will be out.  There will be outliers, but statistically, this is a certainty.  The hitter might be out by five steps or by a half step but the result will almost always be an out.

It is the perfect distance.

If a groundball is hit hard to a first baseman who is holding on a runner at first and the first baseman fields it cleanly and fires to second base where the shortstop is covering and scampers back to first just in time to receive the throw from the shortstop in the nick of time, we have a 3-6-3 double play.  If there is any hesitation or misstep, the hitter running from home to first will be safe. But if played correctly, it will be double play

It is the perfect distance.

I recently saw Ian Kinsler, the Detroit Tigers second baseman hit a hard groundball to third base.  The ground ball led the third basemen directly to the bag where he stepped planted and fired a dart to second base where Jose Altuve quickly redirected the ball to first and nipped Kinsler at first for a 5-4-3 triple play. A triple play on a leadoff hitter.

It is the perfect distance.

Lay a perfect drag bunt down and it is going to be a close play.  It does not matter where the third baseman is playing.  It does not matter how fast the baserunner is, if the ball is down in a good spot, the fielder needs to field it cleanly or the runner will be safe.

It is the perfect distance.

A sacrifice bunt, where there are so many moving parts, including a second baseman covering first, a first baseman and third baseman crashing and a pitcher and a catcher converging on the play will always, if executed by the defense correctly, record an out.

It is the perfect distance.

Simple – 90 feet – thousands of plays continue to spell perfection.  Thank you baseball for being perfect to us.


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