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Gentlemen callers go wireless

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With steroids and human growth hormone scandals surrounding it, Major League Baseball (MLB) has gone into a desperation mode where it tries to find dignity in the strangest of places. On Tuesday, for example, MLB and Hall of Fame officials were on hand in Chicago to celebrate - get this - the use of a cellphone.

For the first time ever, a Chicago Cubs coach used a mobile to call from the dugout to the bullpen to get a relief pitcher stirring. The use of a cell phone replaces a decades long tradition of lifting up a bulky landline receiver to make the bullpen call.

Chicago-based Motorola celebrated it position as provider of the push-to-talk technology used by the big leaguers.

"At Motorola, we strive to bring technology breakthroughs to the world and especially to those organizations in our own backyard,” said Peter Aloumanis, a general manager at Motorola. “We are pleased to provide the Chicago Cubs with this innovative solution that allows managers and coaches to have the freedom to make a call to, or from, the bullpen without being tethered to a wall.”

Of course, baseball coaches have always seemed rather fond of being tethered to a wall. They rarely move throughout the course of a three-hour game other than to hack out some chaw or to touch their push-to-swell device.

A Cubs vice president was even more breathless about the cell phone advance during his team's game yesterday against the Houston Astros. Wrigley Field stands as the second oldest baseball stadium in the US, and the VP believed the cell phone arrival to be yet another history making event at the Friendly Confines. He gushed and gushed and gushed some more throughout the third inning of the televised broadcast about the momentous day at hand.

Sadly, it was during the VP's time in the broadcast booth that the Cubs had to use the "cell phone" for the first time. They were getting pounded by the Astros early on, and had to bring in some help.

You'll all be happy to know that the cutting-edge, wonder phone worked - rather like it does for millions of people every day.

MLB expects more teams to pick up the push-to-talk wireless system. The two handsets will only work with each other on a private channel.

We can't wait until someone figures out how to hack into the system. It should make for much more exciting games around the country.

Why even bother with wireless, you ask? Well, it's a branding opportunity. Have a look out for the gaudy Motorola handset holders in a dugout near you.

While the use of a cell phone seems pretty basic to us, you'll find most of the press fawning over the telecommunications achievement. Enjoy. ®

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