I’m going to take a little break from rejection today (we’ll hit the hard stuff again first thing Monday morning) and talk about two of my favorite subjects: baseball and weird slang. Happily, the two go together.
Baseball is one of the oldest organized professional sports in the Unites States, and the first professional game was played way back in 1869. In nearly 150 years, baseball has picked up a bunch of strange slang terms to describe various elements of the game. I love these things, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. Hopefully, these will be of interest to both my fellow word nerds and baseball aficionados.
- Can of Corn. You hear this one a lot, and at first blush it makes absolutely no sense because what it means is a high, lazy, medium-depth fly ball that gives the outfielder plenty of time to settle underneath it. It’s an easy catch. But why call it a can of corn? Remember, baseball is an old game, so some of its lingo originated over a century ago and was drawn from things that make little sense to the modern fan. The origins of this one are debatable and probably lost to time, but this article over at Baseball-Lingo presents one of the more plausible explanations I’ve read.
- Cup of Coffee. Another one you hear all the time, a cup of coffee is when a minor league player comes up to the majors for a temporary stint, sometimes just a single game. The idea being the player is up only long enough to have a cup of coffee. Some players, however, seem to never get anything more than that, repeatedly bouncing from the minors to the majors over the course of many seasons, treating the show like some sad version of an MLB Starbucks. Apparently, even professional baseball players have opportunities to earn Rejectomancy points.
- Duck Snort. Yeah, I swear, this is a real, honest-to-god baseball term. Anyway, a duck snort is a shallow pop up that manages to elude both outfielders and infielders, often landing between them as they race toward one another to catch it. The duck snort is often the culprit when outfielders and infielders collide with one another chasing down the ball. Apparently the duck snort was originally called the duck fart, which is even stranger (and funnier). I have no idea what duck snorts and farts have to do with softly hit fly balls, but such is the enigma of baseball slang. The duck snort is known by many other names, including but not limited to, the bloop, the dying quail, the flare, and even the Rick Flare (yes, in reference to the wrestler).
- Frozen Rope. One of my favorites, the frozen rope is a hard-hit line drive with very little “hump” in it. The idea behind this one, I guess, is that a real frozen rope would be pretty damn straight, just like this type of line drive. This term is sometimes also used to describe a particularly strong throw from an outfielder.
- Seeing-Eye Single. The seeing-eye single is usually a softly hit ground ball that, through blind luck or the grace of the baseball gods, manages to avoid every infielder, often by bare millimeters, and find its way into the outfield. It’s one of those weak, almost embarrassing hits that prompts baseball announcers to use the oft-repeated phrase, “Well, it’ll look like a line drive in the box scores tomorrow.” The seeing-eye single is a close cousin to the excuse-me single, which is one of the more humorous ways a hitter can add to his batting average. It usually occurs on a check swing, where the ball hits the batter’s bat by accident, resulting in a swinging bunt that catches the infielders entirely off guard and allows the batter to leg out an infield hit. The excuse me part comes from the invariable expression on the batter’s face when he makes accidental contact with the ball, a strange mixture of embarrassment and horror.
- Worm Burner. This one cracks me up every time I hear it. A worm burner is a hard-hit ball that hugs the ground, theoretically torching any hapless worms in its path. Not to be confused with the dreaded worm killer, which is a pitch, usually a breaking ball of some kind, that hits the dirt before reaching home plate, possibly slaying the unsuspecting worms there who showed up to watch the game.
I hope you enjoyed this little sojourn into the weird world of baseball slang. I really just scratched the surface, and there are dozens and dozens of even stranger terms that can be found with a simple Google search.
Are you a baseball fan? Got any favorite bits of baseball slang? Tell me about them in the comments.