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Baseball Slang

SlangsPeople started playing baseball over 100 years ago, and in that time the game has collected a dictionary’s worth of mystifying slang terms that are difficult for the beginners to understand.

Batting a thousand or Batting 1000 – It is sometime used sarcastically when someone is getting everything wrong. It is also used when someone with a batting average of 1.000 (one thousand) has had a hit for every at bat in the significant time period.

“It’s déjà vu all over again” – A famous yogism, which is a redundant way of saying “Here we go again!” It has come into general circulation in the language to describe any situation that seems to be perceptibly repeating itself.

Brush-back – It is also known as chin music or purpose pitch. It means a pitch intentionally thrown close to a batter to brush him back i.e. to intimidate him from the plate.

Bush League – It is a slang term used to describe the play that is of unprofessional quality, or amateur quality, or minor league. OED mentions its first baseball use in 1906 and non-baseball in 1914.

Ballpark: ballpark figure, out of the ballpark and in the ballpark – Ballpark is a slang term used to mean a wide area of a range within which comparison is possible. Ballpark figure, also known as ballpark estimate, which means “one that is reasonably accurate.” In the ballpark, this means “within reasonable bounds” and out of the ballpark means to do well.

Cover all the bases or cover one bases – It is used to ensure safety. It means a player covers a base by standing close to it, ensuring that a runner cannot reach it.

Curveball, Curve – In baseball, curveball is a pitch designed to fool the batter by dropping unexpectedly.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe” - It is a reference to the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when the Chicago White Sox lost the World Series on purpose. When Joe Jackson was caught up in the scandal, a mythical chronicle said that an immature fan approached him and said, "Say it ain't so, Joe!"; an expression of incredulity.

Foot in the bucket – It means to act cowardly or timidly. A batter who steps away from the home plate with his leading foot instead of a straight-ahead stride is said to “foot in the bucket”.

Going….. Going…… Gone – It is a dramatic description of anything departed. This term is used by baseball announcers when a ball is hit over the wall.

Home run – A home run is a base hit in which the batter is able to circle all the bases. OED dates this use to 1965.

“It ain’t over till it’s over” – A famous yogism, quoted by the baseball player Yogi Berra. In baseball, it means that a game isn’t over until the time expires, final out is registered, etc., and that the players need to stay focused until the game is officially over.

Off base – It means working on faulty assumptions, mistaken, or misguided. OED cites the first usage in 1940. Off-base is derived from the situation of a runner being away from a base and thus in a position to being put out.

Screwball – It is a seldom used pitch that is projected to behave erratically. This is because of its effect on the arm. It was used by the New York Giants players Christy Mathewson and Carl Hubbell. OED dates this usage to 1933.

Southpaw – It means a left-handed person, especially a pitcher. Since, a left-handed pitchers arm is always facing south when he faces the south.

Strike – The word strike has crept into common English usage to mean a shortcoming or failure. In baseball, a strike is when the batter fails to hit a good pitch. A batter with three strikes is out and stops batting.

A swing and a miss – It means an attempt and consequent failure.

Touch base – In baseball, a player who is touching a base is not in danger of being put out.