Skip to content

The lovable, anachronistic bullpen phone

Oct 24, 2011, 3:33 PM EDT


I was barricaded deep within my fortified compound for the weekend, cut off from most forms of media. So this now makes — I think — the third neat story that ran in the New York Times over the weekend that I had missed and that I’m now seeing. It’s about how dugouts are one of the last places where you’ll find land lines being used outside of your grandmother’s house:

The seed-strewn dugouts of baseball stadiums around the country may very well end up the final bastions of corded communication in this wireless era. While landlines in homes collect dust and serve increasingly decorative functions, the attitude among baseball clubs is a familiar one in a sport tied tightly to old-fashioned ways: why change what works?

What follows is a surprisingly neat story about the development and advancement of bullpen phone technology. Technology that still adheres to wired, rather than wireless, communication.

Of course if anyone would bother to dig deeper they’d realize that the wired communications and lack of network integration in ballparks will render the dugouts and bullpens unaffected by the infiltration program used by the Cylons to disable Colonial vessels and defense systems which employ the Command Navigation Program developed by Dr. Gaius Baltar.

Which basically makes Tony La Russa the new Admiral. So, yeah, frak.

  1. thegonz13 - Oct 24, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    They’re useful to order beer and fried chicken from the clubhouse…

    • bloodysock - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:14 PM

      There’s an app for that.

  2. scareduck - Oct 24, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    People keep talking about how obsolete landlines are and how those of us who continue to maintain them are so many fogies. I would like to remember the finger-pointing cell-only folk that

    1) Cellular 911, at least in California, is a jurisdictional nightmare, with the result that I have — without exaggeration — spent upwards of half an hour on hold waiting to talk to a human. (I was once in an accident where this happened, and a random black-and-white cruised into the scene before I hung up on cellular 911.)

    2) It is a fact that living close to two freeways, during drive time there are times I can’t get a cell. (Thank you, AT&T.)

    3) If you need to call 911 from a landline, they know exactly where you are. With a cellphone? Hopefully your GPS had a good view of the sky before you went indoors.

    • scareduck - Oct 24, 2011 at 3:42 PM

      s/remember/remind/. Gah.

    • jwbiii - Oct 25, 2011 at 2:21 AM

      My wife is a 911 operator in the Chicago area. If you call from a cell phone and can’t/don’t give a location, it takes about a half hour to triangulate the signal. Obviously, during that time, your status may have changed from hospital case to coroner’s office case.

  3. halladaysbiceps - Oct 24, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    Reminds me of a parody done by Joe Conklin (Philly fans know this local sports vice impersonation), impersonating the voice of Charlie Manuel at a 2010 sports awards dinner in Philly:

    Charlie Manuel: “I was hoping that when I called down to the bullpen I was going to get voice mail…..Brad Lidge was like 7-11, he never closes.”

  4. proudlycanadian - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    Memo to Craig. On this day in 1992, the Blue Jays defeated Craig’s beloved Braves and won their first World Series. Joe Carter was playing first base and recorded the final out. He gave the ball to Mike Timlin who still has it. A year later, Carter scored the final run in the 1993 World Series in memorable fashion. In 1992, Timlin was a young pitcher in the Jay’s pen and eagerly awaited that phone call to the pen.

    • Old Gator - Oct 24, 2011 at 5:04 PM

      And on this day in 2011, the Jays play at the Rogers Center, and any member of the team who allows himself to be photographed using a land line may be exiled to Tadussac to dispatch whale watching day cruises.

      • proudlycanadian - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:41 PM

        Watching baby beluga’s at Tadussac is not on my buckett list.

  5. kopy - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    This is a long shot, but does anybody remember a prank phone call where a retired pitcher called his former team’s bullpen and pretended to be the manager and told a reliever to warm up? The ex-pitcher was calling from his couch, and just happened to remember the bullpen phone number. The funny part was the pitcher on the mound was spinning a gem, and got a little rattled when he saw his bullpen prematurely get active.

    I know it happened because I read it in some sports-for-kids book in the early 90s, so it probably happened in the 80s. I’m like 60% sure it was the White Sox. It’s been bugging me to find the specifics.

    • Old Gator - Oct 24, 2011 at 5:07 PM

      Vífill Atlason. He was calling George Bush, but he got a wrong number.

    • unclemosesgreen - Oct 25, 2011 at 6:31 AM

      Moe Drabowsky.

      Us Moe’s gotta stick together.

  6. clydeserra - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    If the point is communication with one specific place, what is the problem? I guess skype to see into the pen may be useful, but as I recall MLB doesn’t allow video in the dugout.

    Putting in wireless equipment may be easier with a new stadium, but since all the stadiums are already wired, is there a problem?

  7. Panda Claus - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    If Bud Selig could get away with it, he’d install those crank-up phones and have every team hire a Lily Tomlin operator for each home game.

  8. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    I’m glad bullpen phones are still around as they are. It would be way too bizarre to see a bullpen coach being called by the manager on an iPhone or Droid.

  9. thegonz13 - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    @ Panda Claus… I don’t care, I don’t have to!

  10. alexb64 - Oct 24, 2011 at 9:29 PM

    No cell carrier would ever want that exposure for chance of the first nationally televised moment where a call to the bullpen was dropped & a pitcher’s tosses were delayed.

    I worked for a talk show for a few years back & a cell carrier sponsored an interview segment on the show, they paid a pretty good amount for it but their insistence was no interviewee ever be calling in from a cell phone because they didn’t want people to associate their name with dropped calls. So its kinda funny, it would be like if Pepsi was doing commercials with people actually drinking but insisted that no one actually be drinking Pepsi in case they openly didn’t care for the taste.

  11. dmccarrie - Oct 25, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    Ironic that this was posted before last night’s bullpen communications debacle.

    • cshearing - Oct 25, 2011 at 8:06 AM

      That’s exactly what I thought when I was reading this.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Baez (2416)
  2. C. Correa (2382)
  3. B. Crawford (2329)
  4. H. Pence (2329)
  5. B. Harper (2125)