Baseball is a funny game. It’s even funnier if you study the language of the game.
“Baseball-ology — The Humorous Study of the Language of Baseball” is a poster published and distributed by Portal Publications LTD, of Novato, Calif.
Consider the word scorcher. The common definition is a sultry, sweaty synonym for an extremely hot summer day. So hot, in fact, that you could fry an egg on the sidewalk or perhaps prepare a Szechwan noodle stir-fried Ahi with a drizzle of soy and a delicate peanut sauce.
Contrast that with the baseball definition of scorcher — which is a ball hit so hard that when attempting to catch it, a fielder experiences extremely hot, searing pain. Fielders often avoid the scorcher by using the time-honored excuse, “Hey, I lost it in the sun … really.”
The common definition of shelled is the bombardment by tanks or artillery upon a target during a time of war or conflict. Or, the bombastic bombardment of peanut shells, beverages and batteries upon the visiting team during the World Series.
The baseball definition of shelled, according to the poster, is the bombastic bombardment of baseballs upon the pitcher, his teammates, fans, grandstands, scoreboards and windshields. Getting shelled typically generates a negative effect on the pitcher’s E.R.A., ego, salary and job security.
The common definition of picked-off is the removal by hand of fruit, nuts or vegetables from a tree or vine. Or, the removal by finger of strange, unknown substances from one’s nose.
The baseball definition of picked-off is the occasional occurrence of a base runner who is tagged out while trying to get a lead from a base. The red-faced picked-off victim usually hears the manager’s wrath, such as, “What are you?! Some kind of fruit or nut?!”
Then there’s the pickle, also known as a common cucumber miraculously transformed into a delicatessen delicacy by soaking it for months in a brine made of vinegar, salt and other aromatic cesspool-like substances. Mmm. Sounds good.
Compare that to the baseball definition of pickle, which is the running down of a grease-pig-like base runner caught between bases by infielders attempting to humiliate and tag him out. Base runners caught in a pickle have about the same chance of escaping as a well-canned cucumber.
If you stop to think about it, there’s a lot of lingo that probably has non-baseball fans scratching their heads.
In fact, baseball can sound extremely complicated. Good luck explaining the meaning of around the horn, gopher ball, bean ball, bandbox, Mendoza line, painting the black, rhubarb, table setter, tools of ignorance, pepper, can of corn, mustard, tater and sweet spot to someone unfamiliar with the sport. At best, they may ask why there’s so much talk about food. And that’s just a short list of baseball jargon.
One of my personal favorites is the so-called first- and third-base coaches’ box. Visit any Major League Baseball stadium and you may find a three-sided area outlined in chalk, but no real box. And a coach rarely, if ever, stands in the designated box. It’s almost as if they’re allergic to it. Apparently it’s no big deal, though, because umpires never make them stand in their designated spot.
There are other oddities as well. The foul pole is really a fair pole because if the baseball hits the pole in the air, it’s a home run. Is it just me or is calling it a foul pole contrary to common sense?
Let’s end this drivel with a couple of amusing observations.
Broadcaster Vin Skully once said, “Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?”
Abe Lemons said, “Finish last in your league and they call you idiot. Finish last in medical school and they call you doctor.”