Archive for March, 2022

They’re Moving Second Base

When I first heard that baseball is moving second base, my first thought was, “My, goodness! Isn’t it enough that we’re dealing with a global pandemic, a Russian tyrant invading a neighboring country, a humanitarian crisis in Nicaragua, food insecurity in Somalia, Haiti, and Madagascar, an ever-widening wealth gap, an uptick in calls from unknown numbers, paper cuts, and excessively long lines at the Starbucks drive-thru? I mean, when’s it gonna stop?”

But my second thought was, “This is going to wreak havoc on the secondary textbook publishing industry.” Just look at all the problems that exploit the baseball context:

All of those problems are predicated on a consistent distance between bases. Won’t the relocation of second base cause inconsistency?

Well, actually, it won’t.

According to the official rules of baseball, one vertex from first base, third base, and home plate are to be coincident with three vertices of the infield square; but, the center of second base is to be coincident with the fourth vertex. With the rule change, second base will be moved so that one of its vertices will be coincident with the fourth vertex of the infield square, finally bringing a state of geometric consistency to the game that I, for one, believe is long overdue. The image above shows the new (white) and old (gray) locations of second base.

The question all fans should be asking isn’t why are they changing the layout of the infield. The more pertinent question is, what took so damn long?

As it turns out, second base doesn’t get all the credit for the previous configuration issues. To the contrary, it was the movement of the other bases that resulted in a problem. In the 1860s, it was generally agreed that all four bases should be positioned with their centers at the vertices of the infield square. And by “generally agreed,” I mean that there was consensus about this, but it wasn’t officially stated in the rules until 1874. Then in 1877, the rules changed so that the back corner of home plate — at the time, home plate was still a square, not a pentagon like today — coincided with the vertex of the infield square, positioning all of home plate in fair territory. A decade later, first base and third base were moved to be entirely within fair territory, too; but most folks didn’t even notice, because that same year (1887) a number of other rules changes garnered more attention:

  • Pitchers were limited to just one step when delivering a pitch; previously, they could take a running start
  • Batters were prohibited from requesting a high or low ball from the pitcher, as they had been allowed in the past
  • The pitcher’s mound was moved back five feet (from 50′ to 55′)
  • Five balls were required for a walk, reduced from six
  • Four strikes were required for a strikeout, increased from three

With so many drastic rules changes happening simultaneously, it’s hardly a surprise that first and third were repositioned in relative obscurity while second was left floundering in geometric misalignment.

Just so you know, the rules change will only occur in the minor leagues this year. If it pans out, you can bet you’ll see it in the MLB in a year or two.

But why stop there? Here are some other rules changes in sports that should probably be implemented.

Scoring system in football. I mean, you can score 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, or 8 points depending on what you do. Isn’t that a little excessive? While we’re at it, let’s change the width of the field, too — who the hell thought 53⅓ yards was an appropriate dimension?

College basketball uniforms. Bring back 6, 7, 8, and 9. You may not have known that those digits are not allowed, because each of them requires two hands. Referees indicate the player who committed a foul using their fingers — for instance, holding up two fingers on the right hand and three fingers on the left to indicate that an infraction was committed by number 23 — and the digits 6‑9 would require more than five fingers.

Jan 4, 2020; Philadelphia, PA — Penn State basketball players pose in front of the student section, but do you see a 6, 7, 8, or 9 on a single jersey?
Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Frames in bowling. Two balls ain’t enough. Give everyone three attempts to knock down all ten pins.

Cheerleader weigh-ins. Really, folks? The 15th century called, and they want their misogyny back. One anonymous NFL cheerleader wrote that she was banned from performing because she weighed more than 122 pounds. While we’re at it, ban weigh-ins for jockeys, too. The Kentucky Derby — which apparently has one of the more liberal weight allowances — caps the weight at 126 pounds; that includes 7 pounds for the jockey’s gear, so the jockey can’t tip the scale at more than 119 pounds.

Taunting. Allow it everywhere. In college football, the rule is just stupid. Admittedly, one player shouldn’t be allowed to stand over another player while making insulting comments about their mother; but “taunting” according to the NCAA Rule Book includes spinning or spiking the ball, choreographed acts, and the player altering stride when approaching the end zone. C’mon! Further, I’d like to see taunting encouraged a bit more at some events, such as math competitions. Wouldn’t it be great if one participant walked up to another and said, “You can’t even spell Q.E.D.!”

March 30, 2022 at 5:47 am Leave a comment

The Great Puzzle Hunt

A woman after my own heart, Millie Johnson loves both puzzles and jokes. She regularly posts to Facebook, and these two gems appeared recently in her feed:

  • If all whole numbers between 1 and 1000 were spelled out and arranged in alphabetical order, which number would be next-to-last?
  • Arrange the digits 0‑9 into a ten-digit number such that the leftmost n digits comprise a number divisible by n. For example, if the number is ABCDEFGHJK, the three-digit number ABC must be divisible by 3, the five-digit number ABCDE must be divisible by 5, and so on.

The answers to both can be found with an online search, and the latter can be computed in milliseconds by writing some code, but you’ll have more fun if you find the answers using that big lump of gray matter in your skull.

She also recently shared this joke, which I just adore:

Millie is also the founder and puzzle creator for the Great Puzzle Hunt, a free, fun, full-day, team puzzle-solving event. While folks in and around Bellingham, WA, on April 9 will be lucky enough to participate in the face-to-face event on the Western Washington University campus, the rest of the world is invited to participate virtually. There are divisions for secondary (middle and high school), open (any age), WWU students, and WWU alumni. And in case you missed the subtle mention above, I’ll say it again: registration for a team of up to six participants is FREE!

Participants will engage with four puzzles; then, the answers to those puzzles will be used to form a fifth and final meta-puzzle. How hard are the puzzles? See for yourself; the puzzle below, My Life Is In Ruins!, is from the 2021 Great Puzzle Hunt:

The Great Puzzle Hunt is a full-day event, so pack a lunch! But my sons and I participated last year and had a phenomenal time. By the end, we were mentally exhausted but invigorated and intellectually satisfied. If you like to solve puzzles, head on over to https://www.greatpuzzlehunt.com/register and register today!

March 1, 2022 at 5:27 am 1 comment


About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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