Diamond Notes: Baseball Expressions II

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By: Austin Alexander-September 14, 2007

dp logo1Whether I find myself in the mix of casual baseball people or those who consider themselves “diehard fans”, I continue to be amazed when folks don’t know the language of baseball.

Over the next few weeks we will explore The Dickson Baseball Dictionary and pull terms out of it that you need to know, what they mean and where the expression originated. Hopefully at the end of our little quest through diamond diction, you will have a greater knowledge of the jargon used around our nation’s pastime…you may not be a baseball genius but you might learn just enough to fool some people!


Boot: An error, such as one made while handling a groundball.

A shortstop hearing this term very often can prove costly. Used in a sentence it may go something like this, “For us to win the close games, we have to stop booting balls all over the place.”

Oh-fer/Wearing the collar: A game or series of games in which a batter fails to collect a hit.

If Chipper Jones went 0-for-4, it could be said that he went “oh-fer” or “wore the collar” that night. You’ll also hear of players going “oh-fer the series”, Yankee fans would argue that Alex Rodriguez is “oh-fer October.”

Toe the rubber/Toe the slab: To take the mound or prepare to pitch.

An example of its use would that Carlos Zambrano is the projected starter on a given night could be said to be “toeing the rubber/slab for the Chicago Cubs tonight.”

Texas Leaguer/Banjo Hit/Bleeder/Blooper/Duck Snort/Humpback Liner/Pooper/Flair: A poorly hit ball that loops meekly over the infield and lands for a hit.

A pitcher and manager’s nightmare are the hits that fall just out of the reach on infielders going back and outfielders charging in. See Punch-n-Judy.

Punch-n-Judy: Said of a hitter who tends to hit well-placed, but weakly hit, balls for singles; one who chokes up and punches at the ball rather than take full swings.

Also referred to as a Punching Judy, it’s the guy that flairs balls left and right. Obviously the connotation makes reference that the hitter is not completely masculine in his batting style. See Texas Leaguer/Banjo Hit, etc.

Baltimore Chop: A batted ball hits the ground close to homeplate and then bounces high in the air, allowing the batter time to reach base safely.

Legend has it that in the 1890’s, the Baltimore Orioles grounds crew purposely hardened the ground around homeplate so that Wee Willie Keeler and John McGraw could chop balls into the dirt and beat out balls that became high choppers.

Ducks on the Pond: Runners on base.

The phrase was coined in the 1930’s by Yankees announcer Arch McDonald. It may be heard like this: Next up is Manny Ramirez with “ducks on the pond.” That means the hitter is at the plate with a chance to drive in some runs.

Headhunter: A beanball pitcher; one who aims for the head.

A pitcher with a reputation of throwing at hitters is quick to adopt this moniker, whether he goes for a batter’s head or not. Throughout history, Early Wynn, Bob Gibson, Sal Maglie, Don Drysdale, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez are just a few names of guys who used that reputation to their advantage.

Blue-darter/Screaming Mimi/Tracer: A line drive.

Pick one of these terms, Dave Winfield and Gary Sheffield have made  a living putting balls in play with plenty of pace, these expressions have been used hundreds of times to describe balls off their bat.

The Hot Corner: A third baseman.

This expression has been used for as many years as this game is old…The third baseman is the guy who often has to play even with the bag and defend bullets off the bat. See Blue-darter/Screaming Mimi/Tracer.

Olay: To attempt to catch a hard groundball while playing it to the side and avoiding being hit by it.

To stay with our theme of blue-darters and the hot corner, many infielders throughout history having tried to catch a ball with a do-or-die approach…Coaches on the other hand would much rather see a player “put a chest on the ball” as opposed to “olaying” a hard grounder.