Sunday, April 29, 2007

Baseball Glossary, Part 1 of 5

Since the Boys of Summer are in full swing, and I am a big baseball fan, I thought I'd do you a little public service and go over some of those colorful expressions the announcers use as you watch the ball games. I won't attempt to go into the etymology of these words or phrases, as that would go into extra innings, but I will give you a handy little reference guide. Today we will discuss some of those quirky terms that describe some of the plays in baseball. But first, one general definition:

Bush League - The minors. You've heard explorers in Africa talk about going out into the bush, which essentially means the wilderness. The same reasoning applies here. All major league teams are in major cities, leaving the minor league teams to find support in the "wilderness" of small town America. (Well, smaller town America.) Places like Peoria, or Wilkes-Barre, or Grand Rapids. Interestingly, this has also become an insult in our culture, as in, "That was really bush league, George," meaning not professional, or intentionally small-minded and mean.

Can of Corn - an easy fly ball. (As easy to catch as a can of vegetables tossed to you lightly, and hit about as well.)

Frozen Rope - a baseball hit very hard on a line drive to the outfield. Hit so hard it almost leaves an after-image on your retinas, hence the frozen rope image.

Seeing-Eye Single - kind of the opposite of a frozen rope. This is a base hit (meaning the batter hit the ball and reached base safely) that more or less dribbled through the infield and none of the fielders were able to reach it and make a play on the ball.

Texas League Single - a cross between the previous two. It generally defines a ball hit in a little "flare" of an arc and it lands softly - and safely - between an infielder who went back to try and catch it and the outfielder rushing forward to try and catch it. The Texas League wasn't quite up to major league standards, and neither is this base hit.

Grand Slam - Despite both tennis and golf appropriating this term, it refers to a home run hit when the bases are loaded, driving in four runs. The "grand" refers to the bases being full of runners and the "slam" refers to the home run.

Ducks on the Pond - this means there are runners on base for the batter to try and drive home with a base hit.

Walk Off Homer - a home run hit in the bottom of the last inning that gives the home team the victory. You hit the homer and then everyone can walk off the field because the game is done.

Bunt - this is a play where the batter intentionally tries to tap the ball just a few feet from home plate, attempting to force the first or third baseman to field the ball so the runner on first (usually) can safely move to the next base. It is also called a "sacrifice" because the batter has sacrificed his turn at bat to move up the runner. (The batter is almost invariably thrown out.)

Swinging Bunt - this is kind of a comedic version of the previous. The batter takes a full swing, but catches just a small bit of the ball and the result dribbles in front of home plate just a few feet, as if he had intentionally laid down a bunt.

Squeeze Play, or "Suicide Squeeze" - this is a bunt with a man on third base, who comes screaming down the third base line attempting to slide home when the ball was hit just a few feet from the plate. You don't see this in major league baseball much anymore.

Hit and Run - technically this is a "run and hit." The runner on first base takes off for second, drawing the second baseman back toward that bag, thinking the runner is attempting to steal. The batter then attempts to hit the ball between first and second base, which - theoretically - should be open because the second baseman is sprinting toward second base. The success of this play usually depends upon the batter having what is called "good bat control." If he misses the ball, the runner is usually thrown out stealing. If he hits the ball but not where he should, the play often results in two outs instead of one.

There you have the first installment. Hope that helps. I'll also be doing "glossaries" on hitting terms, fielding terms, and pitching terms over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Of Unicorns and Alligators

I woke up this morning with the refrain from "The Unicorn Song" running through my head. Y'know, that old hit by The Irish Rovers that some radio stations drag out every March.

You got your green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants
But sure as you're born
Don't you forget the unicorn

Only in my dream/wake version, I was singing "You got your blue alligators."

Why? Why?? WHY??? Why would my brain do that? Any armchair psychologists out there?

I left a window cracked open last night. You think maybe I was just cold? You can't get much more cold-blooded than a blue alligator, am I right?

Am I right?

Idiots Are Among Us

First of all, let me tell you right up front that I say that with love.

The other day I read in some random "Overheard in the Office" pages about one worker saying to another coworker, "Hey, it's not my fault the guy is an idiot. Though it was probably my fault that I told him so." The tag line was, "But in all fairness, he didn't seem to know."

I confess I laughed until I stopped.

Let me give you an example from my everyday life. One of the things we do at my job is process applications for United States passports. The questions are really pretty basic, and one of them is your height. The State Department doesn't care about your weight, apparently, but they want to know how tall you are.

I overheard this conversation transpire between one of my coworkers and a passport applicant.

"Ma'am, you put down that you're 10 feet, 6 inches tall?"

"I did?"

"I don't think you're 10 feet tall, ma'am."

"No, I'm not."

"See right here? Where you wrote 10?"

"That's my shoe size."


"Well, it says 'feet'!"

In all fairness, I don't think she knew she was an idiot.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Signs of Spring

I saw the first real signs of Spring just a couple of days ago.

I saw my first housefly of the year.

I saw a blonde in a convertible, hair flapping in the wind.

This weekend I experienced something that tells me Spring is finally here for sure.

I mowed my yard.

What are your signs of Spring?