Baseball, in so Many Words

800px-Coco_Crisp_on_June_6,_2011As much as I love all the other sports, baseball is, and probably always will be, my favorite sport. I can blame being eight years old in 1967 and Yaz having one of the greatest all-around seasons in the history of the game. I can blame 1975 and Lynn and Rice and Tiant. I won’t blame 1978 or 1986. Of course I can blame 2004 and 2007 and 2013, but especially 2004. Especially 2004.

Part of the reason I love the game, though, is the language. I submit, without documentation, that baseball has a language and terminology that vastly outstrips its competitors. Seeing-eye single, Texas leaguer, tipping your pitches, punchout. I love Eck-speak–yakker, cheese, going bridge.

I especially love baseball on the radio, and the language that fills my ears. Even the names can be great. Take, for example, my half-baked, pun intended, Major League Baseball All-Food Team.

Coco Crisp is the veteran switch-hitting centerfielder who played for the Red Sox for a few years. I don’t even want to know if it is his real name or not, as it rockets him to the top of my all-time Food Team. It puts him past Catfish Hunter, Mudcat Grant, Tim Salmon, Steve and Dizzy Trout, and one-time teammates Chili Davis and Candy Moldonado. Let’s not forget Alfredo Griffin. Bill Bean (and Billy Beane). Randy Bass. Bob Kipper.

(There was also a Barry Wesson in the majors, but I haven’t come up with a rule yet for brand names. That would open the floodgates to the likes of Bill Campbell and Tom Prince, for starters.)

I prefer a name like Strawberry over, say, just Berry. There is only one Strawberry in the history of major league baseball. There are a number of Berrys in the history of baseball; the one I always think about is Ken Berry, who played most of his career with the White Sox and was a nemesis to the Red Sox.

Besides Crisp, the Red Sox have had a few food-named players. Jim Rice of course. Steve Curry. Charlie Berry and, much later, Sean Berry. Jeff Frye and Jack Coffey (admittedly a stretch on spelling, but this is more often a spoken discussion than written, and would allow for names like Johnny Oates and Bob Veale to be added to the larger roster). Rob Deer (if you include game) and Jimmie Foxx (if you include game and allow for a stretch on spelling). Catfish Metkovich (you could look it up! No, really, you could look it up.).

For later discussion, words that are not food per se but food terminology, such as Bernie Carbo, Eric Wedge, Guido Grilli, Jack Baker, Tom Brewer, and old-time player Ralph Glaze. Don’t forget Wes Stock and Taffy Wright.

OK am hungry. Must take a food break.


2 thoughts on “Baseball, in so Many Words

  1. Great post Bill. Maureen forwarded it to me.

    Baseball does have some of the great player names. When I was a kid I learned that the player with the longest name in the history of baseball was a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians whose name was Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish (not sure of the spelling). You may remember him. I’ll never for get his name although I think there was a more recent player whose name is longer still. And speaking of long names, how about Jared Saltilamachia (Sp?), whose last name stretched from elbow to elbow on his jersey.

    But for pure play by play elegance of language nothing beats the English Premiere League broadcasts. For a while I kept a list of some of the wonderful phrases that those announcers would call out with seeming spontaneity. Unfortunately I seem to have lost the list, and can’t now recall any of the phrases. (One of the tribulations of aging!) But those TV broadcasts are worth checking out, even if it is solely for the enjoyment of the play by play. Even some of the the announcers have names that seem to have a special relevance: Jim Proudfoot!

    Keep up the great writing,


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