Whatever the outcome when the Yankees and Red Sox play Sunday night, it’s unlikely that when the game is over, the teams will form two lines and parade by each other, shaking hands.

Not that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have any objection. When a group of students from the Merriam School in Acton, Massachusetts, suggested that a post-game handshake between the Yankees and the sox would set a good example for children everywhere, Mr. Steinbrenner’s spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, said the boss thought it was a great idea.

Red Sox manager Terry Franconia has nothing against handshakes, either. When he heard about the letter from the youngsters in Acton who were promoting the Merriam School handshake project, he called school officials to say he liked the idea, though he wouldn’t force it on the players.
Manager Francona did not offer an opinion on the students’ contention that “fans and players are getting too worked up about what’s just a game.”

Shaking hands after a major league game should be more likely now than it was in days of yore, because free agency has fixed it so lots of opponents know each other as former teammates, and those who don’t soon might. Nomar Garciapara is a cub. Pedro Martinez is a met. Derek Lowe and Orlando Cabrerra are dodgers. Big Papi himself advised us all last spring to avoid falling in love with a player who was merely transient labor.

The handshake idea is lovely in its innocence, and if there’s one thing that the current, steroid-besmirched, congressionally investigated version of major league baseball is lacking, it’s innocence.

But the handshake after the game is unlikely to catch on as long as lots of fans, players, managers, and even owners continue to believe that a mob of men charging on to the field for a brawl is a splendid demonstration of team unity, and, more specifically, that Boston’s rush toward its first world championship since 1918 began when Sox catcher Jason Veritek jammed his glove into the face of Yankees super star Alex Rodriguez.

Then there’s the problem of timing. the Merriam School kids maintained in their letters to the Sox and the Yankees that they’d like to see the professionals show good sportsmanship after the game, but unless those kids all have parents irresponsible enough to let them stay up until at least 11:30 on a school night, they’d miss the handshake, even if it did happen.