Pre-season games have started, and I thought I’d take a few moments to review a few baseball terms for our MLB-challenged readers.
We all know what a pitcher does and what a home run is, but do you know what a balk is? Or a rhubarb? What exactly is a pass ball? Does it differ from a wild pitch?
I was raised on Phillies baseball. In the 60’s, mom took me to Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium (which was pre-Veterans Stadium which was pre-Citizens Bank Park). My early memories of baseball can be put into a few words – picnic of nine innings. Peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jack, ice cream, hot dog …
Balk – In all my years of watching baseball, I’ve only caught one balk though I have seen a lot called. A balk, as explained by dictionary.com, is “an illegal motion by a pitcher while one or more runners are on base, as a pitch in which there is either an insufficient or too long a pause after the windup or stretch, a pretended throw to first or third base or to the batter with one foot on the pitcher’s rubber, etc., resulting in a penalty advancing the runner or runners on base.” Uh, yeah, this is why I was able to catch just one.
Pass Ball – Charged to the catcher when the ball is deemed catchable but the robo-gear-wearing catcher lets the ball get past him.
Wild Pitch – Charged against the pitcher when he throws the baseball too high, too low, or two wide of home plate and the catcher – with ordinary effort – can’t get a mitt on it. To wit: Pitcher Mitch Williams of the Philadelphia Phillies in the sixth game of the ’93 World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. The guy got death threats after this game.
The Rhubarb – While it can be one of several plants belonging to the genus Rheum of the buckwheat variety, it is also a quarrel or squabble of the bench-clearing baseball variety. Also functional is brouhaha.
Pitchout (one word in baseball) – It’s when the pitcher chucks the ball way outside the strike zone so the batter has no way of putting wood to it. These tick me off. I think all batters should be pitched to no matter their batting average.
Rundown (one word in baseball) – Sounds like something you’d like to do to your ex (which would then make it two words). It’s when a runner gets caught off the bag and is stuck between two fielders. The fielders throw the ball back and forth to catch the runner. These are fun to watch.
Spitballs and ball mangling were long ago deemed illegal, but the colorful language is pure prose – spitter, mud ball, shine ball, emery ball, cut ball, and the heroic-sounding supersinker.
Batting averages are written as .366 (#1 Ty Cobb), .358 (#2 Rogers Hornsby), .356 (#3 Shoeless Joe Jackson), or in the case of Mark McGwire, .263*. The asterisk indicates a situation that could or might change the validity of the statistic. To me it means cheater.
There are a dugout-full of odd baseball words. But for now, let’s play ball!
“Sandy’s fastball was so fast, some batters would start to swing as he was on his way to the mound.” ~Jim Murray, on Sandy Koufax