Baseball Names - and
How They Got That Way! Part XVI (I)
The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day,
year after year - generally without any wonderment as to
how they became part of the language. All have a history, a
story. For those of you who liked Part I, Part II, Part III,
X and all the others and wanted more, here is more, just a
sampling. As always, reactions and suggestions always
"I LOST IT IN THE SUN" Billy Loes was a
Brooklyn Dodger pitcher in the 1950s. Possessed with a great
deal of natural athletic ability, Loes never achieved the
success experts predicted should have come to him as a
matter of course. At times he was quicker with a quip than
with his glove. During the 1952 World Series, Loes
ingloriously misplayed a ground ball hit back to the
pitcher's mound. Later he was questioned by a reporter who
wished to learn what had been the problem. Loes responded,
"I lost it in the sun."
"I NEVER MISSED ONE IN MY HEART" Long-time
major league umpire Bill Klem's phrase was his attempt to
explain how difficult the job of umpiring was and how
objective he always attempted to be. Klem retired in
1941--according to him, after the first time he pondered
whether he had correctly called a play.
"IDIOTS " Boston Red Sox manager Terry
Francona explained the name his players gave to themselves
in 2004: "They may not wear their hair normal, they many not
dress normal, but they play the game as good as you can."
"IF IT'S UNDER W FOR 'WON,' NOBODY ASKS YOU
HOW" As a player and a manager, Leo Durocher could invent
more ways to tease and taunt and beat the opposition than
virtually any other figure in the history of baseball. His
was an aggressive, no-holds-barred approach to the National
Pastime. The quote attributed to him reflects his attitude
toward the game.
"THE IGNITOR" Paul Molitor had a long and
distinguished career primarily with the Milwaukee Brewers
and could be counted on to make things happen for his teams.
"IN THE CATBIRD SEAT" Red Barber beguiled
Brooklyn Dodger fans for years with his Southern voice,
narrative skills, honest manner, and down-home expressions.
His pet phrase to describe when someone was pitching,
hitting, fielding or just functioning well was a reference
to that individual as being in the "catbird seat." Barber
also used the phrase to characterize a team ahead by a
comfortable margin and virtually assured of victory.
"IN THE HOLE" On the infield at a location
nearly exactly between fielders, describes location of
"IRON HORSE" Lou Gehrig, a.k.a. Larrupin' Lou and Pride of
the Yankees, earned his main nickname for playing in 2,130
consecutive games--a major league baseball record that stood
until Cal Ripken, Jr. came along. Day in and day out for 14
years, like a thing made of iron, Gehrig was a fixture in
the New York Yankee lineup. He led the league in RBI's, 5
times and 13 years he drove in more than 100 runs a season.
The man they also called Columbia Lou--a reference to his
Columbia University student days--was admitted to the Hall
of Fame in 1939.
IRON MAN Joe McGinnity pitched in the majors
from 1899 to 1908. He started 381 games and completed 351 of
them. He had a lifetime earned-run average of 2.64.
McGinnity could pitch day in and day out like a man made of
iron. In 1903 he pitched and won three doubleheaders. Winner
of 247 games--an average of almost 25 a year--McGinnity was
admitted to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1946.
"IT'S NOT OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER" This phrase,
attributed to Yogi Berra, underscores the former Yankee
great's long experience in the wars of baseball. Berra, as
player, manager, and coach, has seen the game of baseball
from many levels. A victim and victor of late-inning
rallies, of curious changes in the destinies of players and
teams, his stoical attitude to the National Pastime is the
view of a pro, even though it is expressed in perhaps not
the most appropriate syntax.
"IS BROOKLYN STILL IN THE LEAGUE?" At the
beginning of the 1934 baseball season, New York Giant
manager Bill Terry teasingly asked reporters that question
about his team's subway rivals. It was a natural if
uncomplimentary query. The Dodgers were still in the league,
but they had not done much in the past few years. The final
two games of the 1934 season saw the Dodgers still in the
league but long out of the pennant race. On the other hand,
the Giants were tied for first place with the St. Louis
Cardinals. Brooklyn's last two games were with the Giants.
Brooklyn won those last two games, while St. Louis swept its
final two games from Cincinnati to take the National League
pennant. And Giant manager Bill Terry learned the virtues of
letting sleeping dogs sleep. Van Lingle Mungo, the Dodgers'
star pitcher of that year, remembers the way it was:
"Because of Terry's taunt, we wanted to win just a little
more each time we played them that year. The fans were even
more so; they'd boo Terry every time he'd stick his head out
of the dugout." Mungo pitched more innings than any other
hurler in 1934, but he especially remembers the last game he
pitched and won against the Giants. "It was like a World
Series to me. I never wanted to win a game as much. I think
it was one of the best games I ever pitched and I pitched it
for Bill Terry."