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End-of-the-World Series

WHILE THE ISSUE may be moot by the time this newspaper hits the stands, the prospect of a Red Sox -- Cubs World Series raises a disturbing question: Could these two perennially luck-starved teams face each other for the World Championship and both lose?

Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about doomsday scenarios, has been quoted as saying that a Chicago -- Boston match-up would bring on the apocalypse. If a ninth-inning rip by Manny Ramirez were to clear the Green Monster for a tie-breaking home run, surely the earth would open up and swallow Fenway Park whole.

Other scenarios stop just short of Armageddon. First of all, a tie game is technically possible under the rules. In fact, two out of the three games recorded as ties in World Series history involved either the Cubs or the Red Sox. And in the 1920 regular season, the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins played the longest game in baseball history: After 26 innings, with both starting pitchers still throwing, they called it a tie at 1-1 because there was no way to light Braves Field.

Just last year, baseball commissioner Bud Selig pulled the plug on the All-Star Game when both teams exhausted their pitching rosters at the bottom of the 11th. As Harvard mathematician Paul Bamberg reminds us, "The probability that the first game [of the Series] will go into extra innings and remain tied until it snows is not zero."

The only outright lose-lose scenario would be a simultaneous double forfeit. Here is one way it could happen: The seventh game of a Sox vs. Cubs match-up goes into extra innings. Both teams quickly exhaust their postseason pitching rosters, and eventually play enough pinch runners and hitters so that they're both down to just nine men.

With one out and Johnny Damon on third, Nomar pops a shallow fly to right field, which Sammy Sosa catches and relays straight to Cubs catcher Damian Miller. Johnny comes into the plate hard, trying to knock the ball loose from Miller's glove, but instead he just knocks both men out cold. Each team now has eight players; the rules state that if you can't put nine men on the field, you must forfeit. Clearly no one wins, but who loses?

In such an event, says Major League Baseball spokesman Dominick Balsamo, "Decisions would have to be made at a higher level than anything that's written down right now."

As Stephen King might add, tell that to the Fan Upstairs.

Jascha Hoffman lives in New York but roots for the Red Sox.

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