B-L Term of the Day: Boner


noun:  A bonehead play or “boner” is a mental mistake that changes the course of a game dramatically. A play where there is an obvious loss of focus and a bad choice was made when the alternative was clear.

(definition from Wikipedia’s Glossary of Baseball)

Variances:  bonehead play, muff, boot, error


Git yer mind out of the gutter, baseball fans.  We’re talking about sports, now.

The interesting thing about the term ‘boner’ is its legacy.  Baseball words like ‘can of corn’ and ‘jaking it’ were coined years ago and somehow have hung on even though most people have forgotten their origin.  I’m sure the term ‘boner’ presents a dilemma, though for mainstream media.  In efforts to not offend because of its sexual nature, I think the term has decreased in use among venues that attempt to reach a wide audience.  You do still see it used now and again though.

Famous Bonehead Plays

Fred_Merkle_1908Historically speaking, the most famous use of the term is of course, ‘Merkle’s Boner’.   Fred Merkle (left) was a young 19 year old first baseman playing for the New York Giants in 1908 when his base running mistake nullified the winning run of a late-season game with the Cubs at the Polo Grounds.  The game was eventually ruled as a tie and the game was replayed and the Cubs won 4-2, ensuring the NL championship.

Baseball Almanac has the boxscore of that game.  Probably one of the best written accounts of the event can be found over at the Baseball Reference Bullpen.  B-R Bullpen notes the prominence of so many baseball stars of the time that were involved in that play.  Christy Mathewson, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance, Iron Joe McGinnity and John McGraw all played a role in this mini-drama.

Fred Merkle’s failure to touch second base in that game and therefore granting him notoriety for decades draws some interesting analogies with Jake Stahl.  Both were star first basemen in the deadball era both defensively and with the bat.  Merkle played 14 years in the National League and two more in American League.  He was especially good with the glove.  Yet both have the distinction of having their names associated with a negative event or trait (the term ‘jaking it’ is attributed to Stahl’s refusal to play because of an injury).  Perhaps unfairly so.  Merkle was only 19 at the time and had a whole career ahead of him to redeem himself.  In contrast, Stahl was already an established star when the term ‘jaking it’ was allegedly cast on him.

Other Famous Bonehead Plays

Snodgrass’ Muff

1986 Bill Buckner


Other uses

Apparently a ‘sports boner’ has a another definition that I was not familiar before.  According to Urban Dictionary: Sports Boner:  ‘Excitement do to a great physical sports related feat’.  I got a major sports boner when Kirby Puckett made that leaping catch in the 1987 World Series”

Must be what the kids are saying these days.

The term ‘boner’ (meaning blunder) is used in general conservation not just in sports lexicon.  However, according to Urban Dictionary, it also has roots in the theater especially as in ‘pull a boner’.

The expression “to pull a boner” comes from the old American minstrel shows. There was a man in these shows who was called Mr. Bones because he carried two small sticks of bone that he used as an instrument. He was asked questions by one of the other men in the show, just to get stupid but funny answers. This became known as “pulling boners.” But in time, the expression, “to pull a boner,” meant something more than getting an answer to make you laugh. It meant a bad blunder a mistake that was costly. And a man who pulled such boners was often described as a “bonehead.”

Now, after researching for this article, you’ll have to excuse me.  I’m going to have to clear my search history.  Yikes.

B-L Term of the Day , , , ,

B-L Term of the Day: Rake


to rake, raking

verb:  To really hit the ball hard, all over the park. When you’re raking, you’re hitting very well.

(definition from Wikipedia’s Glossary of Baseball)

I’ll admit it, rake or raking as a baseball term is a term I wasn’t too familiar.  However just today, I came across it twice including a tweet from the University of Illinois sport information director in reference to Justin Parr’s continued hitting prowess with his summer team the Rochester Honkers.

‘Raking’ is derived of course, from the word for the common garden tool and indicates ‘to sweep or traverse with shot’ only with the baseball bat.  Uses of the term ‘rake’ in the baseball realm date as far back to 1990.  Boston Globe writer Larry Whiteside wrote of Cecil Fielder:

“He rakes pitches like that because he’s a low-ball hitter. His power is to right and right-center. They can come inside, but he has the strength like Jim Rice to fight it off. And if they make a mistake…”


Let’s not forget how interconnected the language of baseball can be.  In baseball, the outfield is often colloquially referred to as the garden and the outfielders as gardeners.  A ‘rake’ reference is not much of a stretch.  To take it bit further, a batter who hits well especially to all fields can graphically be displayed like this…


baseball rake

…not unlike the tines of a garden rake.

Baseball Chatter has good post on the term ‘rake’.  They also note that in general use, ‘rake’ also denotes a ‘cheeky guy’.

Rake continues to be used more and more it seems.  LestersLegends.com earlier this month came out with an article entitled Can Alfonso Soriano Continue to Rake?

I guess I’ll start adding this to my baseball vocabulary.

B-L Term of the Day , , , , ,

Appropriate (and maybe not so) names in baseball history

I’m going in a different direction today.  Names of ballplayer that have coincided with their professions.

With 96 career homeruns, deadball third baseman Frank ‘Home Run’ Baker might raise some eyebrows with his nickname among the modern crowd.  But check the stats… he led the AL for four years straight in homeruns.  The name was well deserved.

But Frank Baker’s nickname was just that… a nickname.  There were plenty of players throughout history whose given names just happened to coincide with the game they were paid to play.

There were plenty of baseball players named ‘Homer’ since it does happen to be a legitimate man’s name.  There’s current day Cincinnati Red Homer Bailey and position player like former Blue Jay outfielder Homer Bush and Homer Summa of the 1920s (proving that having the name ‘Homer’ doesn’t indicate any slugging prowess).  Grant_Balfour

Some pitchers throughout history were bestowed names that had hurler connotations of one sort of another.  I grew up watching Pittsburgh Pirate Bob Walk facing my beloved Cubs hoping he would do exactly that.  Current journeyman pitcher Grant Balfour (right) has the distinction of having a full name that is pretty much a sentence (albeit a confusing one from his point of view).


On the positive side, I’ve always liked Colorado Rockies’ pitcher Josh Outman’s Win_Ballouname.  It pretty much describes his job, getting people out.  Same goes for the AL pitcher from the 1920s, Win Ballou (left) though he only did it 19 times in his career.  There’s never been a ‘Loser’ or ‘Loss’ but there was a pitcher who pitched for Allentown in the minors named Kevin Losty.

We know two baseball players with the last name Fielder.  Prince Fielder and his father, Cecil Fielder.  Pops wasn’t much of a fielder at first base before he was relegated to the designated hitter role.  As for Prince well, I guess he’s serviceable.  Ask a Brewers fan.

There was an outfielder named Fielder Jones who played in the 1900s and yes, his given name seems to be Fielder.  Unlike Prince and Cecil, he seemed to be a true glove man leading AL outfielders in fielding percentage twice.

Finally I leave you with Herb Score, a young pitcher with lots of potential had his career shortened by a line drive to his eye in 1957.  If anything, his name epitomizes what is necessary to win baseball games.

Names and Nicknames , , , , , , , , , , ,

Base Ball at Cantigny: Vintage Base Ball tournament July 7th

base ball at catigny

Baseball fans in the Illinois-Wisconsin-Indiana area might find this interesting.  There will be a vintage base ball tournament at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois on July 7, 2012.  As of now there will be ten teams participating including my favorite base ball team, the Vermilion Voles with their captain, Jim “Weed-eater” Knoblauch.

Here is a pdf promoting the event.

6-16-07 128If you have not been to a vintage base ball game before and are a baseball history buff, you have been missing out.  They are quite fun. Your mileage may vary depending on which particular base ball league you watch but the Vermilion Voles play by the base ball rules of 1858.  Usually the events don’t just entail a game.  The whole production is geared around the pre-Civil War era including uniforms, equipment, and yes, vernacular.

Here’s a list of 19th century base ball slang so you can understand what’s going on.  Also, there somewhere out there is a gallery of photos I’ve taken of the Vermilion Voles games I’ve attended.  That should whet your taste.

If I can, I’m hoping to go to this.  Anyone else?

Events ,

B-L Term of the Day: Walk-off Homerun

Walk-off Homerun

noun:  A homerun that the ends the game.

variances:  Walk-off hit, Walk-off error, walk-off walk

I’ll say this from the get-go… it took me a while to get used to the term ‘walk-off homerun’.  I didn’t ring right with me when I started hearing it.  It had a media-driven “buzzword” feel to it that left a bad taste in my mouth when I said it.

That all said, I’m surprised that it took baseball fans as long as they did to come up with an apt term for one of the most exciting events in a baseball game.  The term didn’t gain popularity until around mid 90’s to 2000.  We’ve had the more vague term ‘game winning homerun’ but of course that encompasses so much more.  A game winning homerun, for example. can take place in the 8th inning.  ‘Walk-off’ means simply that.  You hit the homer and you walk off.


Interestingly, one of the known origins of the term comes from the perspective of the batter and his happy teammates but from the pitcher who gave up the homerun.  San Francisco Chronicle writer Lowell Cohn wrote an article describing Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley’s notations about homers.  He wrote:

“For a translation, I go in search of Eckersley. I also want to know why he calls short home runs ‘street pieces,’ and home runs that come in the last at-bat of a game ‘walkoff pieces’. . . .”


Yes, the pitcher has to walk off too, I suppose.

Famous Walk-off Homeruns


Most baseball history buffs are familiar with one the most famous walk-off homerun of all time (though it wasn’t billed as such).  I’m talking about Bill Mazeroski’s homerun at Forbes Field that clinched the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 against the Yankees.  Here is the boxscore for Game 7 of 1960.  Do a Google search on “Greatest Homerun” and I’ll bet Maz’ homerun will show up #1.

Other Walk-off Homeruns of note

  • Bobby Thomson’s homer in the Dodgers-Giant’s 1951 NL tie-breaker.
  • Carlton Fisk’s famous homerun to tie the World Series against the Reds in 1975.
  • LA Dodger Kirk Gibson’s fist-pumping homerun against the A’s in 1988 (I remember Tommy Lasorda jumping up and down quite distinctly).

For those interested, Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of walk-off homeruns in postseason play.

Leaders in Walk-off Homeruns

Baseball Reference has done some fancy stat work and figured out who the career leaders in walk-off homers are.  These stats reflect figures since 1950:


Player Career Walk-off HR
Frank Robinson 12
Mickey Mantle 12
Jim Thome 12
Tony Perez 11
Sammy Sosa 10
Dick Allen 10
Harold Baines 10
Barry Bonds 10
Reggie Jackson 10
David Ortiz 10
Mike Schmidt 10
Alex Rodriguez 9
Hank Aaron 9
Eddie Murray 9
Roy Sievers 9
Vladimir Guerrero 9

Other uses of “Walk off”

As noted above, “Walk-off” can be attributed to pretty much any offensive statistic that can score a run and therefore win a game.  Sports journalists and broadcasters are known to use the term with hit, walk, hit by pitch, even steal.  Case in point, this video was trending a few weeks ago:  High school ball player executes the super rare walk-off steal thanks to some fancy footwork.

Yes, I suppose I’ve gotten used to the term.

B-L Term of the Day , , ,

B-L Term of the Day: Stealing for the Cycle

Stealing for the Cycle

verb:  The act of stealing second, third and home in the same inning (or game).

(definition adapted from LISNews)

Long story short…this past weekend I spent playing APBA Baseball at the Illowa APBA League’s Spring Convention.  For those who haven’t played it, APBA is an addicting simulation tabletop baseball game.  While there, another person had Eric Hosmer on his team and he hit for the cycle AND stole a base in the same game.

My curiosity got the better of me and I wondered if there a term for that.  ‘Cycle Deluxe’, maybe or ‘Cycle Plus’. Someone else jokingly suggested ‘Super-sized Cycle’.  Alas, I couldn’t find one.  But, in my search of web, I found a baseball term I don’t think I’ve heard before… stealing the cycle

You’ll find a good article about Jayson Werth’s over-the-top performance three years ago when he stole for the cycle against the Dodgers.  He stole second base, third base then home all in the same inning.  Werth claims he felt “frisky” that day.


Also, it is said that Ty Cobb stole for the cycle during the seventh inning during a game against the Boston Pilgrims on June 22, 1909.

Of course, ‘Stealing for the Cycle’ is obviously derived from the more conventional term ‘hitting for the cycle’ in which a batter hits a single, double, triple and homerun in the same game.

ty cobbNo doubt, the hardest part of the Steal for the Cycle is the steal of home plate.  And interestingly enough, steals of home is not an official statistic of baseball but you can find numbers on the web.  The Baseball Almanac has a good list of career leaders.  Not surprisingly, Ty Cobb is the leader with an amazing 54.  The two most modern players you’ll find on that list are Rod Carew and Paul Molitor which might tell you that the steal of home might be a dying art.

Just curious, is the term Stealing for the Cycle a relatively obscure term or had I just never heard it before?  And really, ‘Super-sized Cycle’ does have a ring to it, doesn’t it?

Update:  @TheBuccosFan tells me that Honus Wagner did this 4 times in his career.  He would know.  :)

B-L Term of the Day , , ,

B-L Term of the Day: Perfect Game

Perfect Game

noun:  A perfect game is a complete game pitched without a runner reaching base either by hit, base-on-balls, or error. It’s one of the rarest feats in baseball and a subset of no-hitters.

(from Baseball-Reference.com)

Variances:  perfecto, perfie

This term is certainly relevant after Matt Cain pitched the first perfect game in San Francisco Giant history.  He did it in style striking out 14 Astros on his way to a 10-0 win.  Not only that, it was the second time the feat has occurred this season.  Pretty unlikely considering how rare such an event is in baseball history.  Only 22 perfect games have ever been pitched in Major League history.

As B-R’s definition states, the Perfect Game is indeed one of the rarest feats to accomplish by any player rivaled only by the unassisted triple play perhaps.  Baseball Reference has a comprehensive page of all perfect games in baseball history and yes, they have already updated it to include Cain’s gem.

Notable Notes on Perfect Games

  • don larsenI don’t need to remind any baseball fan of the most famous perfect game.  Of course, I’m talking about Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series effort in which he mowed down the Brooklyn Dodger.  Here’s the boxscore of the game that took place on October 8, 1956.  Take a look.  It feeds the soul just to look at it.
  • White Sox pitcher Charlie Robertson pitched a perfect game in 1922 in only his third start of his career.  He went on to pitch 8 years in a otherwise un-noteworthy career winning 49 games and losing 80.
  • It wasn’t until 1964 when the National League could make claim to a perfect game.  That was when future Senator and current Phillie ace Jim Bunning won the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets by retiring all 27 in a row.
  • Finally, this year isn’t the first year to have multiple perfect games.  That occurred just two years ago in 2010, the year of the no-hitter.  Six no-nos were pitched that year including perfect games by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay.  Some analysts are wondering if we’re headed toward that same trend this year with four no-hitters already on the books and two them perfectos.

Of course, the term ‘perfect game’ isn’t relegated to baseball.  Independent of the baseball term, ‘perfect game’ is used in other sports.  Most popularly, it is used in the sport of bowling to refer to a game when the bowler reaches the highest score of 300.

B-L Term of the Day , ,

B-L Term of the Day: Jaking it


verb:  To loaf or to stall; to refuse play because of a real or imagined injury

noun: a player who is often out of the lineup because of a real or imagined ailment or feigned injury

Variances:  “jaking it


Jake_stahlIt is widely accepted that the term “jake” originates from the name of Garland “Jake” Stahl, an American League first baseman who played for 12 years between 1903-1913.  He played for Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators and the New York Highlanders.

What is not quite clear is why the term originated with Stahl though there are a few ideas.  The most prevalent theory is that Stahl refused to play in a game due to an injured foot.

In 1911, baseball writer Alfred Spink is quoted in The National Game:

“If Stahl could get a case of swelled head and begin to think he is really as good as he is, he would be the greatest of them all.  Modesty has held him back and I have feared he would finish his career without out how good he his.”

These days, Spinks would have had a lot of fun on Twitter, I’m sure.

Truth was Jake Stahl was pretty good.  Maybe not Honus Wagner good or Ty Cobb good but he a solid fielding first baseman who had a decent bat.  He consistently was among the league leaders in several offensive categories most notably, rbis, extra base hits and hit by pitches.  In 1910, he even managed to lead the AL in homers with 10.  Of course, I’m a bit biased in my evaluation of Stahl.  I noticed a few years ago that Jake Stahl is a University of Illinois alum and played on the Fighting Illini back in the day (Go Illini!)

Modern Day Usage

The use of term “jaking it” hasn’t subsided much over time even if the most seasoned baseball fans couldn’t tell you who Jake Stahl was.  In 1987, Rickey Henderson was accused of “jaking it” by then-Manager Lou Piniella who wanted him traded from the Yankees.  The term is not limited to baseball either.  Two years ago, cantstopthebleeding.com asked “Is Turkoglu Jaking It? referring to the Toronto Raptor’s Hedo Turkoglu.

Deserved or not (and certainly not intentional), Jake Stahl has lent his name to our game of baseball. He can commiserate with Mario Mendoza, I’m sure.

B-L Term of the Day , ,

B-L Term of the Day: Can of Corn


Can o’ Corn

noun: an easy fly ball or pop fly.  An easy catch.  More generally speaking, an easy play made in the field. 

The term “can o’ corn” (or “can of corn”) is one those archaic terms of baseball that has withstood the ages. In fact, it seems to have originated in the nineteenth century.  Yet you still hear it today during Major League Baseball games.  It’s a favorite of iconic broadcaster (it pains me to refer to him as that) Hawk Harrelson.  As the definition states, the term implies a fly ball that was caught with little or no effort.

The origin of the term depends varies but historians have settled on a couple of accepted theories.   The most widely accepted is the theory that old time grocers would access cans of corn high on the shelf by knocking it down with a stick and catching it “easily”.

But why “corn”?  Well, in the early days especially in amateur baseball, the outfield was known as the “cornfield” (think Field of Dreams, if that helps).

Modern day example

Take this Bleacher Report article about Albert Pujols as another current day example:

“I am not a professional hitting coach, but even I can tell Pujols’ approach at the plate has been a mess this season. He’s starting his swing too early, resulting in a lot of can-of-corn fly balls and weak ground balls to the left side of the infield.”

Ugh, as someone who has Pujols on his APBA baseball team, that hurts.  Fortunately, he’s turned that around a bit (right? please say yes).

Additional References

Answer Guy: Getting inside a ‘can of corn’

B-L Term of the Day , , ,

First Base

From dictionary.com:

base·ball  [beys-bawl]

noun:  a game of ball between two nine-player teams played usually for nine innings on a field that has as a focal point a diamond-shaped infield with a home plate and three other bases, 90 feet (27 meters) apart, forming a circuit that must be completed by a base runner in order to score, the central offensive action entailing hitting of a pitched ball with a wooden or metal bat and running of the bases, the winner being the team scoring the most runs.



noun, plural lin·goes :  the language and speech, especially the jargon, slang, or argot, of a particular field, group, or individual: gamblers lingo.


So the journey begins.

Short story:  I got knocked on the head last week and that got my creative juices going.  So with nothing to do over the weekend, I brought up this website.  If you want a more in depth into why I’m doing Baseball-Lingo.com (or B-L as I’m prone to shortening it), I encourage you to check out the About Page.  I go into a tad more detail there.

And don’t forget, you can follow B-L on Facebook or Twitter!

Enjoy the Ride!  I will.


Blog Admin