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Honey, I woke the kids

Fans having a hard time staying awake for marathon games

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Posted: Sunday October 24, 1999 01:23 AM

  Nine-year-old Ben Bryan gets ready to cheer on the Braves. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- For once, 13-year-old Brett Poythress won't have to wait until homeroom at school to find out how his beloved Atlanta Braves fared the night before.

That's because Poythress made the 6-hour trek from Richmond Hill on Saturday to be at Turner Field in person for Game 1 of the World Series between the Braves and the New York Yankees, won 4-1 by New York.

"I know a lot of kids who don't watch baseball as much because it gets so late," said Poythress, whose mother Diane won't let him stay up past 11 p.m., "no matter how late the game is going."

And lately for the Braves, they've been going pretty late. Atlanta has gone into extra innings three times during its playoff run, including a 15-inning Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the New York Mets and an 11-inning clincher in Game 6.

"We expect to be here well past 1 a.m.," said Doug Mabeus of Woodstock, who was accompanied by his 11-year-old son Austin at Turner Field.

Despite efforts by baseball officials in the past two years to shorten games, they seem to stretch on during the postseason, as they start later to accommodate television broadcasts and the breaks between half-innings are about 30 seconds longer.

"They need to figure out a way to keep it under three hours," said Joe Farrauto, who brought his 12-year-old son Sam to Atlanta from Buffalo, N.Y. for Game 1. "And there is no reason on a Saturday why they can't start in the afternoon."

During the regular season, nine-inning games averaged 2:53, a seven-minute increase from the previous year and the second-longest ever, just a minute behind 1994.

The postseason has produced even longer games -- an average of 3:23, with the Braves averaging 3:25.

"Even I can't last that long sometimes," said Mary Lynn Larussa of Birmingham, Ala., whose 7-year-old niece Addison Weaver has never seen the Braves in person.

"She probably won't be able to stay awake, even if they don't go extra innings," Larussa said.

Even Braves manager Bobby Cox has had trouble keepiing his eyes open.

"I myself fell asleep when Boston was rallying in the eighth inning in Boston against the Yankees," he said of Game 5 of the ALCS, the clinching 6-1 victory by New York, which lasted 4 hours and 9 minutes and wasn't over until 12:27 a.m.

"I woke up, they were wrapping up the ball game, and it's hard to stay up," said Cox. "The television rights to it, they pay a lot of money to broadcast these, and, you know, huge sums of that money goes to players' salaries, so it's kind of a Catch-22 there."

Cox said the 8 p.m. starts are all right with the players but "the fans, the young kids, obviously are going to fall asleep."

Commissioner Bud Selig vowed before the season started that games would be shorter. His motivation was the length of games during the 1997 World Series between Florida and Cleveland. The average time was 3:31, and Game 3 lasted 4:12.

The Braves and the Yankees hooked up for the longest game in World Series history in 1996, with the Yankees beating Atlanta 8-6 in 10 innings in Game 4, which took 4:17.

Saturday's game lasted 2:57, ending shortly after 11 p.m., meaning many fans didn't get home until well after midnight.

"That's why I got tickets for tonight, because there'd be no way we could do this on a school night," Mabeus said. "He loves baseball, but I don't know for how much longer with as late as these games are getting."


 
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