The return of baseball is generally a welcome sight to individuals across America. It means the return of hot dogs, stadium lights visible from the interstate, cold drinks and everything else that you can find in the lyrics of a Kenny Chesney song.
Baseball is a game of tradition, and one of the most long-standing and entertaining traditions is the terminology used by self-described “lifers” of the game. For a sport with no time limit that can, theoretically, go on forever, it seems like the collective announcers, managers and players in baseball have created a term for every situation that pops up in a game.
While most fans are familiar with terminology such as “balls,” “strikes,” “bunts,” “home runs” and “stealing bases”, most would probably not know what to do or where to run if a banjo hitter dropped a texas leaguer in the 3-hole — and no, you would not have to go see a doctor.
That’s why I’ve dedicated this article to defining some of the most entertaining and obscure terms in America’s pastime. After sifting through some of the great resources on the world wide web — including Grantland.com’s phenomenal Baseball Dictionary — I’d like to present some of my favorite baseball terms.
LOOGY – LOOGY is an acronym that stands for (L)eft-handed (O)nly (O)ne-out (G)u(Y). This roughly-assembled acronym is a term that is given to left-handed specialists who come out of the bullpen to face only a single batter — usually a left-handed batter who struggles against pitchers throwing from the same side of the plate — and then exit the game. Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is given credit to being the first manager to utilize LOOGYs on a consistent basis and the role has since evolved to become a staple of the modern bullpen as more managers turn to matchup-based pitching decisions.
Pickle – “Getting in a pickle” is probably the most familiar term on this list. A pickle refers to a situation where a runner is caught between two bases and proceeds to be chased back-and-forth between the two. Usually, pickles end with the exhausted baserunner either being tagged out after sprinting back and forth five or six times or with the runner stepping “out of the baseline” and being called out. However, there are rare occasions when a runner works himself out of a pickle and successfully reaches base.
TOOTBLAN – TOOTBLAN is an acronym that stands for (T)hrown (O)ut (O)n (T)he (B)ases (L)ike (A) (N)incompoop. While this acronym is rather self-explanatory, it is important to recognize the distinction between a TOOTBLAN and a pickle. A runner can get caught in a pickle, but not be guilty of a TOOTBLAN (i.e. a “strategic pickle” used as a distraction to score a runner from third); and a runner can commit a TOOTBLAN without ever getting close to being in a pickle. Generally, though, a pickle is an event that occurs in the midst of a TOOTBLAN.
Duck Snort – A duck snort, also known by its many other names such as a blooper, Texas Leaguer or the lesser-used “duck fart”, is a softly-hit ball that falls in the area between the infield and the outfield for a base hit. Generally, duck snorts are not hit very hard and the sound the ball makes off the bat has a nasty, almost hollow tone — a sound baseball enthusiasts naturally likened to the sound of a duck snorting underwater.
Banjo Hitter – A banjo hitter is, quite simply, a batter who hits a lot of duck snorts. Banjo hitters typically excel at making contact with the ball, but struggle to hit for power. Thus, when the ball makes contact with their bat, it sounds as if they were swinging a hollowed-out swampland instrument rather than a baseball bat. Banjo hitter is typically not a term of endearment.
Eephus – Eephus is a term that refers to a pitch that is thrown so slow — usually 30 to 40 miles per hours slower than a pitcher’s normal speed — that the batter is taken aback and does not know how to approach hitting the ball. The term eephus itself is of unknown origin, but according to Wikipedia, may originate from a Hebrew term pronounced “EFF-ess” that translates to “nothing.” Some notable pitchers who have an eephus in their arsenal include current Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish, Hall of Famer Satchel Paige and, perhaps most notably, Bugs Bunny when he famously struck out a batter who swung three times at the same pitch before it hit the catcher’s mitt.
Chin Music – Chin Music could be argued as the exact opposite of an eephus pitch. Chin Music describes a pitch that is thrown high and inside with a high velocity to instill fear in a batter who is too close to the plate. The term was given its name due to the whistle-like sizzling noise a ball makes as it travels past a batter’s chin. Chin Music is generally frowned upon in baseball circles and has been a lead perpetrator in most benches-clearing brawls.
Golden Sombrero – A Golden Sombrero is a negative term referring to the “honor” given to a player for striking out four times in a single game. While striking out three times may only result in a “hat trick,” striking out four times is truly an impressive feat and is thus honored with a Golden Sombrero. Former Philadelphia Phillies first-baseman and known hacker, Ryan Howard, is currently the all-time leader in Golden Sombreros with 27 four-strikeout games.
While this is certainly not the complete list of obscure and entertaining terms that decorate the language of America’s pastime, I believe this list is a fun view into the world of baseball lingo. As we get closer and closer to spring, it’s always nice to remember that another baseball season is on its way. Here’s to the 2018 baseball season: may all of your duck snorts fall in for base hits along the way.
Questions, comments, any favorite terms that I might have forgotten? E-mail me at email@example.com or send me a tweet @mjhausfeld!