Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! Part IV
The words and phrases
are spoken and written day after day, year after year -
generally without any wonderment as to how they became part
of the language. All have a history, a story.
For those of you who liked Parts I thru VI and wanted more,
here is more.
"The Called Shot" A heavier, slower and older Babe Ruth had
much more to prove in 1932. And prove he did! Batting .341,
driving in 137 runs, slugging 41 homers, the Sultan of Swat
pushed the New York Yankees to another pennant. The Cubs of
Chicago were the opposition in the World Series.
There was bad recent
history between the two teams. Joe McCarthy had been let go
as Chicago manager in 1930. He wanted payback. Ruth's old
buddy, Mark Koenig, now a Cub, had helped his new team win
the pennant. His Chicago teammates voted Ruth's old buddy
only a half World Series share. The Babe was not happy about
On October l in
Chicago during batting practice Ruth shouted: "Hey, you damn
bum Cubs, you won't be seeing Yankee Stadium again. This is
going to be all over Sunday." The Babe was referring to the
fact that the Yanks had won the first two games in New
York. The game got underway before 49, 986.
Lemons from the stands and curses from the Cubs were heaped
upon the Yankees. Chicago fans showered Ruth with fruits and
vegetables and other projectiles when he was on defense in
the outfield. The Babe smiled, doffed his cap, felt the
When he came to bat in
the fifth inning, Ruth had already slugged a three run homer
into the bleachers in right centerfield. He had more in
store. Right-hander Charlie Root got a strike on Ruth, who
as accounts go, raised up one big finger and yelled "strike
Another fast ball
strike. Ruth, as the story continues, raised two fingers and
bellowed "strike two!"
Then as the story has been handed down, the 38-year-old
Yankee legend stepped out of the batter's box and pointed.
Some said he pointed at Root; others said the pointed at the
Chicago bench, others said at the centerfield bleachers.
"To tell the truth,"
Joe McCarthy said, "I didn't see him point anywhere at all.
But maybe I turned my head for a moment."
"The Babe pointed out
to right field," said George Pipgras who pitched and won
that game, "and that's where he hit the ball."
The count was 2-2 when
Babe swung from his heels. Johnny Moore, the Chicago
centerfielder started back, then stopped. The ball
disappeared into the right field bleachers, 436 feet from
home plate, the l5th and last World Series home run for Babe
Ruth, the longest home run ever hit to that point in time in
"As I hit the ball," Ruth would say later, "every muscle in
my system, every sense I had, told me that I had never hit a
better one, that as long as I lived nothing would ever feel
as good as this one."
Chicago fans cheered and applauded the Babe as he rounded
the bases yelling out a different curse for each Cub
When the "Sultan of
Swat" reached third base, he paused. Then he bowed toward
the Chicago dugout. Then he came across home plate.
Through the years the
debate has continued. Did he or did he not call the home
Babe Ruth explained:
"I didn't exactly point to any spot like the flagpole. I
just sorta waved at the whole fence, but that was foolish
enough. All I wanted to do was give the thing a ride...outta
the park...anywhere. "Every time I went to the bat the Cubs
on the bench would yell ' Oogly googly. 'It's all part of
the game, but this particular inning when I went to bat
there was a whole chorus of Oogly goalies. The first pitch
was a pretty good strike, and I didn't kick. But the second
was outside and turned around to beef about it. As I said,
Gabby Hartnett said 'Oogly googly.' That kinda burned me and
I said 'All right, you bums, I'm gonna knock this one a
mile.' I guess I pointed, too."
CALLED STRIKE A strike
that a batter does not swing at but which is announced as a
strike by the umpire.
can of corn An lazy fly ball.
Candy" In 1939,
William Arthur Cummings was elected to the Hall of Fame,
for his alleged invention of the curve ball more than his
talent. His nickname came from fans as a sign of
"Cannon" Jimmy Wynn, for his power at bat.
"CAN'T ANYBODY HERE
PLAY THIS GAME?" In 1960 Casey Stengel managed the New York
Yankees to a first-place finish, on the strength of a .630
percentage compiled by winning 97 games and losing 57. By
1962 he was the manager of the New York Mets, a team that
finished tenth in a ten-team league. They finished 60 games
out of first place, losing more games ( 120) than any other
team in the 20th century. Richie Ashburn, who batted .306
for the Mets that season and then retired, remembers those
days: "It was the only time I went to a ball park in the
major leagues and nobody expected you to win."
A bumbling collection
of castoffs, not-quite-ready for prime-time major league
ball players, paycheck collectors, and callow youth, the
Mets underwhelmed the opposition. They had Jay Hook, who
could talk for hours about why a curve ball curved (he had a
Masters degree in engineering) but couldn't throw one
consistently. They had "Choo-Choo" Coleman, an excellent
low-ball catcher, but the team had very few low-ball
pitchers. They had "Marvelous Marv" Throneberry, a Mickey
Mantle look-a-like in the batter's box--and that's where the
resemblance ended. Stengel had been spoiled with the likes
of Mantle, Maris, Ford, Berra, etc. Day after day he would
watch the Mets and be amazed at how they could find newer
and more original ways to beat themselves. In
desperation--some declare it was on the day he witnessed
pitcher A1 Jackson go 15 innings yielding but three hits,
only to lose the game on two errors committed by Marvelous
Marv--Casey bellowed out his plaintive query, "Can't anybody
here play this game?"
Constantine Anson, a shortening of his managerial title. He
was also known as "Big Swede"for his size and Nordic
Manager Sparky Anderson never hesitated to use his
Plowboy'' Spud Chandler was raised on a farm in
Carnesville, Georgia, hence the nickname. Spurgeon "Spud"
Chandler was better known during his collegiate days at the
University of Georgia as a football player who also played
baseball. Chandler's had a career mark of 109-43 with the
Yankees from 1937-47. He was a part of seven World Series
"CASEY AT THE BAT" The
title of the Ernest Thayer poem, written in 1888, about the
legendary hero of the Mudville baseball team. The final
stanzas are especially famous:
The sneer is gone from
Casey's lip; his teeth are clenched with hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
But there is no joy in Mudville--mighty Casey has struck
"CAT-a-lyst" name given to Mickey Rivers by Howard Cosell
for his ability to trigger Yankee team offense.
(to be continued)