Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Snow Cone

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 4, 2013

When it comes to baseball, a snow cone is used to describe the appearance of a baseball caught in the tip of the webbing of a glove … making it look like a snow cone.   It’s also occasionally referred to as an ice cream cone.

On June 30, 2010, the MLB Advanced Media uploaded a video on their website with a description that read:

Bobby Abreu makes an amazing snowcone catch in right field, somehow hanging onto the ball to retire Michael Young in the first.

On September 8, 1985 the Gainesville Sun newspaper carried New York Times columnist, George Vecsey’s article “Reality And The Baseball Games.” With four days to go before Baseball Thursday happened (when both New York teams would find out their fates and learn who their nearest competitors were), baseball was really under the glass. The article stated in part:

It was some night to be perched in the fetid air of early September in the Bronx, watching Mattingly and then Dan Pasqua hit three-run homers. It was also some night to listen to Bob Murphy, his voice undulating like a calliope, describing Tom Paciorek’s “snow cone” catch to save the game, and, long after midnight, watch, on television, Darryl Strawberry’s radar-guided double beat the Dodgers in the 13th inning.

Now the baseball term snow cone is difficult to trace back, and for that reason Idiomation decided to approach the search from another angle by tracking down when the term snow cone was coined. Going back to 1919 when Samuel Bert was selling snow cones. In 1920, he invented the first snow cone making machine, and introduced at the State Fair that year. Delving further into snow cone history, there were different variations on the theme of where snow cones were first made. Having hit another difficult crossroad, Idiomation decided to come at the idiom from the direction of baseball’s history.

In September 1845, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was founded, and a set of rules were codified that were the basis for the modern game of baseball thanks in large part to bank clerk Alexander Joy Cartwright. The rules included details for a diamond-shaped infield, foul lines and the three-strike rule, making it faster-paced and more challenging than its predecessor, cricket. The New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club played its first official baseball game against a team of cricket players in 1846 thereby kicking off this American sports tradition we’ve all come to know and love. Fast forward to 1876, as fielding gloves were introduced to the game, and history says that the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs was formed.

With this information in hand, Idiomation tracked down proof that the first constructed ball park anywhere in the world was Shibe Park (later renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953) in Philadelphia which opened on April 12, 1909. The stadium was named after Ben Shibe, an Athletics stockholder and manufacturer of baseball products, and built by William Steele and Sons (the stadium cost $141,918.91 for the land and $315,248.69 for construction). It could hold up to 13,600 spectators!

What we have then is this:  The first ball park constructed was built in 1909.  The first snow cone making machine was marketed in 1920.  And the term snow cone was used in parenthesis in a newspaper sports article in 1985.  In other words, the idiom was recognized by baseball fans and newscasters but not necessarily by everyone who read the newspaper.  For that reason, Idiomation is pegging the expression snow cone as it pertains to a baseball catch to a generation before the newspaper article in 1985 and a generation after the snow cone making machine was invented, putting the date at some time in the 1950s.

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