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Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Ballpark Figure

Posted by Admin on July 10, 2021

When someone asks for a ballpark figure or a ballpark estimate, they are interested in a somewhat qualified number guesstimate and are willing to accept a very rough estimate where necessary. Sometimes the figure guessed at is pretty close to bang on and sometimes the estimate is so far off-base as to be completely without merit. That being said, one shouldn’t confuse a ballpark figure with a good faith estimate.

In the Fall of 2019, Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith told the media that the first space trips on New Shepard would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Speaking at TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF conference, he stated new technology is never cheap but that the cost of a ticket for middle-class people would eventually be affordable. Until then, GeekWire‘s Alan Boyle reported Bob Smith “hinted at a ballpark figure.”

The Polk County Enterprise newspaper of Livingston (TX) — a semi-weekly newspaper that includes local, state, and national news along with advertising — ran an story with an interesting headline in Volume 117, Number 64, Edition 1 of their newspaper published on 12 August 1999. The article by Enterprise reporter, Emily Banks, reported County Judge John Thompson had asked Clyde Arrendell who was the chief appraiser of the Polk Central Appraisal District to a budget workshop. Emily Bank reported:

Emphasizing that all figres were “ballpark figures” Thompson reviewed the budget schedule, as well as the county’s tax history from 1982 forward.

The title of the news article was this: Court Studies Budget with Ballpark Figures.

In the book “Surviving in the Newspaper Business; Newspaper Management In Turbulent Times” written by William James (Jim) Willis (born 19 March 1946) and published in 1988, the writer paraphrased what Marion Krehbiel, former president of the major newspaper brokerage firm Krehbiel-Bolitho Newspaper Service, Inc. had stated in the late 1970s with regards to arriving at a fair market price for a small to medium size daily newspaper.

Krehbiel added a caveat to these indexes, however, when he noted in 1979 that this forumula is only meant to provide purchasers with a ballpark estimate of a newspaper’s worth.

The 24 June 1957 edition of The Des Moines Register included the column “Washington Memo” which purported to report on what was going on in Washington DC. In this edition, immediately after reporting on how an Army colonel felt about one of this tasks which came about after a Southern congressman “yelped about [the Army’s] handling of racial relations.” Here’s what readers learned next.

CODE: Pentagon language continues to produce new bafflers. One of them is “a ballpark figure” meaning a very rough estimate which doesn’t do much more than indicate that a given program is going to cost somebody an awful lot of money.

Kenneth Patchen (1911 – 1972) wrote “Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer” which was published by the New Directions Publishing Corporation in 1945. In this book, the concept of the ballpark figure is used in conjunction with being out in left field on page 101 in the chapter titled, “The Last Party I Ever Went To.”

“Miro complicates it simply because he doesn’t know how to handle his material.”
“But Arp does, I suppose.”
“Of course he does.”
“You’re way out in left field.”
“And you not even in the ball park.”
I poured it out. The sand looked very sticky and the leaves on the tree were getting sort of yellow around the edges.
“And what about De Niro? This is a serious young painter.”
“All right, what about Kamrowski? – or Lee Bell? – or Jackson Pollock? – or Arthur Sturcke?”

He wasn’t the first to coin the phrase though as some sources claimed. On 1 May 1944, The Morning Herald in Hagerstown (MD) was reporting that on what a senator claimed about U.S. aid for that year.

Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., said in a speech that total U.S. aid for the current year is about $250 million. He said “a ballpark figure” is that his proposal would halt $150 million to $180 million.

Idiomation realizes that many websites claim the expression dates back to the mid-sixties with the understanding we have of the idiom these days, but obviously it was around before then for it to be used in a newspaper article twenty years earlier with the expectation that readers would understand what the idiom meant.

Unable to find an earlier published version of ballpark figure, Idiomation pegs this idiom to at least ten to fifteen years earlier for it to be used to freely in a newspaper article in 1944.

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Snow Cone

Posted by Admin 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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Spitballing

Posted by Admin on June 10, 2013

When someone tells you that they’re spitballing, they could mean one of four things. They could literally mean that they’re making spitballs to use as trajectories. They could mean the baseball pitch that’s referred to as a spitball. They could mean they are making unfounded accusations against someone else. Or they could mean they’re brainstorming ideas.

Back on February 9, 2011 Rich Siegel wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for the Huffington Post entitled, “Someone Will Be With You Shortly.” He discussed his thoughts on the Middle East extremists and at one point he wrote:

Perhaps we’ve been going at it all wrong. What if, and I’m just spitballing here, instead of trying to prevent attacks on civilians we offered our Muslim brothers our least-liked people to satisfy their blood lust.

That’s right, I’m suggesting human sacrifice.

It served the Aztecs well. Ancient Phoenicians and Carthaginians practiced the ritual. Even the Chinese offered up humans to their river gods.

It appears that the expression is one that’s been quite popular, especially in the realm of politics. Ed Morrissey posted an article to HotAir.com on June 16, 2010 that criticized President Barack Obama’s speech addressing the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig incident 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Ed Morrissey’s comments were based, in part, on the political commentary on the subject by Andrew Malcolm as published in the Los Angeles Times on June 15, 2010.

For a man who has repeatedly claimed to be “fully engaged since Day 1,” and who repeated that claim last night, Obama gave every impression of still being in the spitballing stage of crisis management.

Obama didn’t even offer an original thought for spitballing.  In his short presidency, Obama has had two responses to any issue: appoint a czar or create a commission.

And the year before that, Patrick Sauer wrote an article published by the Huffington Post entitled, “Tim Geithner: Take My Toxic Assets, Please” where he discussed the banking conundrum of the times. There were more than a few idioms in the article, and interestingly enough, spitballing was one of them.

Angry folks are practically calling for a public guillotining of a Wall St. fat cat or two. Ironically, and I’m just spitballing here, that bloody spectacle would do boffo business on pay-per-view and easily cover the next TARP giveaway … So c’mon down hedge fund managers and financial CEOs, you’ve won The Lottery, Shirley Jackson style!

The Youngstown Vindicator edition of February 23, 1981 published an article by journalist, Dick West, that talked about how the freedom fighters of George Washington’s day would be called terrorists by 1980s standards. Humorous in its delivery, the point was clearly made. The article read in part:

And since there was no television in Washington’s time, the Tass commentary adds up to mere spitballing.

Nevertheless, if you close your eyes real tight, you can visualize how such events as the Boston Tea Party might have been reported on the nightly news with Walter Anchorman.

On December 1, 1949 the Milwaukee Sentinel published an article by George E. Sokolsky entitled, “Truman Policy: Peace At A Big Price.” The article addressed what the journalist felt was the result of Soviet Russia’s conquest of China and the policy of the Chinese Communists at the time. He stated:

The arrest of Angus Ward and William N. Stokes, our consular officers in Mukden, is now obviously due to a desire to make the U.S. “lose face” throughout Asia by failing to protect its representatives. It is good propaganda for the Russians, who would kill anyone who threw a spitball at Joe Stalin’s picture.

And so with this article, readers can see that politics and baseball’s spitball began to be associated with each other thanks to journalists such as George E. Sokolsky.

Years earlier, the Meridien Daily Journal published an article in their March 13, 1915 edition entitled, “On The Matter Of Spitballing.” Even back in 1915, according to the article by Frank G. Menke, spitball pitching wasn’t a common practice in the big league any more. Of interest, however, is the description of what a spitball pitch. The definition read:

The use of the spitball makes for great twirlers. History shows that mediocre pitchers who mastered the spitball quickly jumped into first rank in their particular department of the game. But history also shows that the spitball shortens a pitcher’s career.

One would think that spitballing in any other career would also have a similar effect, and so it does.

The good news about the expression spitballing is that not only does it already have a past, it already has a future. In the Star Trek novel, “Typhon Pact #2: Seize The Fire” by Michael A. Martin, published by Simon & Schuster, the following is found:

“Maybe his shipmates thought he was dead,” Riker said, spitballing, though without much conviction.

And so Idiomation pegs the longevity of the expression spitballing (in terms of throwing out ideas) to the 24th century thanks to Commander Riker, with a history that dates back to sometime in the mid to late 1940s (with a nod to the definition at the turn of the 20th century).

Posted in Baseball, Idioms from the 20th Century, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Southpaw

Posted by Admin on April 19, 2010

Southpaw came into vogue in 1885 thanks to Finley Peter Dunne aka Mr. Dooley, a famed Chicago sports journalist and humorist … and it had everything to do with the great all American pass time, baseball.

All major league baseball diamonds are laid out so the afternoon sun is to the batter’s back so he can see the ball coming at him from the pitcher’s mound.  This means that the batter faces east.

Of course, since the batter is facing east, the pitcher must be facing west.  Since science claims that 85% of people are right-handed, these leaves 15% of the population to be left-handed.  And when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound, his throwing arm is, of course, facing south.

Since a left-handed pitcher pitches with his ‘south paw’ those who routinely use their left hand to write were soon referred to as ‘southpaws.’

While that incident certainly helped to popularize the word, the term south paw referring to a person’s left hand is attested as far back as 1848 in the slang of pugilism.  A boxer who leads with the right hand and stands with the right foot forward, using the left hand for the most powerful blows was known as a southpaw almost 40 years before Finley Peter Dunne aka Mr. Dooley used the term.

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