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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 welcome
 
"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 batted balls.

"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."

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 
 

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