He's informative. He's hilarious. But best of all, he's...

MR. BASEBALL

April 14, 1994

He's informative. He's hilarious. But best of all, he's anonymous. Meet the man with all the answers, and a serious attitude problem, Mr. Baseball.

Dear Mr. Baseball:

I know that in a three-game series between two teams, when each team has won a game in the preceding two, the third game is referred to as the "rubber game." How did this term come to be used?

Paul Iwancio

Baltimore

Dear Paul Iwancio:

Thank you for your letter, which I recognized as ideal for starting off the exciting Mr. Baseball column. Your question contains a lot of stuff we're looking for around here. By that, I mean it's original, it's offbeat and I knew where to get the answer.

I placed a call to Paul Dickson, who wrote a book about baseball terms called, inventively, "The Dickson Baseball Dictionary." Dickson reacted as you would expect to a phone call from Mr. Baseball. He helped anyway.

Dickson said baseball got "rubber game" from bridge, a pastime that is quite popular in Miami Beach. Dickson said that when bridge players use the word, they mean the same thing baseball fans do -- a deciding game of a match or series.

There will be no charge for this information.

Dear Mr. Baseball:

Have the Orioles ever played their first game of the season away from home?

Sonya Bohle

Baltimore

Dear Sonya Bohle:

I want to thank you for this probing question, which tells me you are a student of the game and reminds me of a visit long ago to a baseball shrine, the Pumpsie Green Birthplace. Few are aware that the legendary Red Sox outfielder never received an intentional walk on Opening Day.

Your question led me to Bob Brown, managing editor of Orioles Gazette who explained that, long ago, the Orioles frequently opened the season on the road. That changed when the Washington Senators moved away, leaving Baltimore as the nearest major-league city to the Oval Office. Since 1981, baseball schedulers have been careful to put a game here Opening Day, in case the president or a special prosecutor decides to drop by.

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