More so than any other sport, baseball takes its time to get to the action.  That’s not a criticism.  It’s part of what makes it great.  No other game allows you to hold a conversation with someone else during play, to talk over what’s happening as it unfolds, and build up the anticipation for the next bit of action through words.

While this certainly lends a social element to the sport for spectators, it also allows for the development a common language, which too often becomes overused by baseball commentators and reduced to clichés.  We all have our favourites, likely ingrained into us by our regional broadcast crew, but at some point, before it lost its original meaning, those clichés were likely clever turns of phrase.

As Salvador Dali famously said, “The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”

Here’s a definitive list of the language of idiots of which every baseball fan is all too aware.

Pitchers:

  • Throw gems.
  • Throw heat.
  • Throw high cheese.
  • Throw cheddar.
  • Throw fastballs that work for them.
  • Throw payoff pitches.
  • Throw it in batters’ wheelhouses.
  • Throw chin music.
  • Throw back door breaking balls.
  • Get batters to eat out of their hand.
  • Get out of jams.
  • Get shelled.
  • Get roughed up.
  • Get involved in duels.
  • Get relegated to the bullpen.
  • Can be gotten to (primarily early, but sometimes early and often).
  • Can be one strike away.
  • Can go the distance.
  • Can help their own cause.
  • Can get the best of a batter.
  • Are filthy.
  • Are nasty.
  • Overpower hitters.
  • Establish strike zones.
  • Have good mechanics.
  • Take something off pitches.
  • Uncork wild pitches.
  • Pitch to the score.
  • Just win games.
  • Eat innings.
  • Hold runners.

Batters:

  • Swing for the fences.
  • Swing and miss.
  • Hit balls that could be trouble.
  • Hit playable balls.
  • Hit the ball squarely.
  • Hit balls that take bad hops.
  • Hit towering line drives.
  • Hit frozen ropes.
  • Hit chili dippers.
  • Hit Texas Leaguers.
  • Hit fly ball outs that would be home runs in any other ballpark.
  • Hit solo shots.
  • Hit rockets.
  • Hit in the clutch.
  • Hit worm burners.
  • Fist the ball.
  • Have x amount of home runs on the year.
  • Have a good eye.
  • Can’t steal first base.
  • Can be a tough out.
  • Can be a contact hitter.
  • Can tie it up or take the lead with one swing of their bats.
  • Can get the best of a pitcher.
  • Can be real spark plugs (primarily ones of Anglo Saxon heritage).
  • Manufacture runs.
  • Produce runs.
  • Explode out of the batter’s box.
  • Tattoo pitches.
  • Chase bad pitches.
  • Take good cuts.
  • Take pitchers deep.
  • Collect seeing eye hits.
  • Wait for their pitch.
  • See the ball well.
  • Really get a hold of it.
  • Get all over pitches.
  • Often exhibit good pieces of hitting.
  • Mash taters.

Runners:

  • Get caught napping.
  • Get good jumps.
  • Get on their horse.
  • Score insurance runs.
  • Can be ninety feet away from scoring.
  • Can be ducks on the pond.

Fielders:

  • Toss it around the horn.
  • Catch cans of corn.
  • Make twin killings.
  • Make shoestring catches.
  • Have a real hose.
  • Have soft hands.

For information on the origins of some of these and other ridiculous sports clichés, check out Wikipedia’s Glossary of Baseball, as well as a past 10 Spot from Sports Illustrated’s Peter McEntegart.

Let me know the ones I’ve missed in the comments below, and I’ll add them to the list.

Comments (25)

  1. Pitchers “just win games” and “eat innings”

    Hitters are “real sparkplugs”

  2. I love your intro, and try to explain this to friends who laugh at me and say baseball is boring.

    I say that baseball is not boring, but quite the opposite. Baseball is a game of anticipation, exciting moments rarely come out of nowhere, but are built up gradually as runners get on base, or the count deepens, or both! And you know exactly when the deciding moment is coming – as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.

    Oh – I love how fielders make “shoestring” catches.

  3. Fielders: Have a real hose

  4. A hard hit into the dirt is a real “wormburner.”

  5. How about the cliches of pundits?

    Players:

    Have real upside
    Are tremendous
    Grind it out
    Demonstrate value

  6. You baseball writers sure love using the word “caveat”. Not sure what that’s all about.

  7. Amen to your intro Parkes and your comments spitballer. I can sum up the sentiment by what Red Barber used to say: “Baseball is only dull to dull minds”. So simple yet so true.

  8. Fielders:
    –> Have it around the horn.
    –> A one-hopper that eats you up.
    –> Hard-charge a grounder.

  9. I think Tom Cheek used to refer to a weak fly ball as a “dying quail”.

  10. that throw was a Frozen Rope.

  11. Hitter:
    - hit a worm-burner
    - swung from his ass
    - ripped a tit
    - slapped it the other way
    - “uncoiled” on that one (JoBau)
    - fought off that one (Jeter)

  12. Awesome handle. Remember Thomas’ first season in Toronto? All we heard about was the rebar he used to swing in the on deck circle.

    Good job, everybody.

  13. Would batters really have soft hands? That’s more a fielding one, I’d think.

  14. Haha, yeah good fielders have soft hands and maintain a good grip on the ball, and good hitters have strong hands with loose grip on the bat to hit the ball hard. All very confusing.

  15. I am guilty of using almost every single one of these cliches.

  16. Seeing-eye single
    Lazy fly-ball
    Looper
    Flare
    Hitter’s/pitcher’s count
    Ungodly breaking-ball
    Gopher-ball (hanging knuckle-ball)
    Jam-sandwich hit
    Fallen-soldier (broken bat that gets a hit)

  17. Fielders “help their pitcher out” and “stay with it”

    Hitters “put good wood on the ball” (my favourite, and yes I still use it a lot in various circumstances, in part because it is cliche)

    Pitchers not only “groove” pitches, but also “serve them up”. The latter could be cheese, but other food forms get used as well.

  18. Because nobody in baseball broadcasting can end a sentence with a preposition like a normal human, players have tools with which they work.

  19. Jeez, how could we forget about “dirt-baggers” and that eternally fascinating and completely Rance-id difference between “control” and “command.” I’m guessing “pitch to contact” is in line for cliche induction pretty soon.

    And for control pitchers (or is it command), they “paint the corners” or throw it “on the paint.” And the overhand curveball has always “dropped off the table” hasn’t it?

    And how about those high-socks “intangibles”? Cowboy Up!

  20. he “lays down” a bunt
    he “caught him looking”
    he “couldn’t get his bat off his shoulder”
    the infield is “drawn in”
    an “emergency hack” or “emergency swing”
    “double-play depth”
    “gun him down”
    “pitch around” a batter
    he “blew it right past him”
    “caught him way out ahead of it”

  21. How about ‘hit an ‘atom ball’ the fielder ‘gator-armed it’, rigth after he ‘lost it in the sun’?

    The game is so strangely colourful, it’s just lovely.

  22. Don’t forget:

    Hitters:
    Hitters that use the whole field
    Hitters can spoil good pitches
    Broken-bat hits – their bat dies a hero (Building on Nicholas’ post)
    Hit seeing-eye singles

    Pitchers:
    Pitchers throwing it on the black
    Pitchers really work the corners

    Runners:
    Can get caught leaning

    Fielders:
    Saved a run

  23. Gary Cohen the Mets broadcaster used this term for a short bloop hit to the opposite field:
    ” a duck snort”

  24. Fielder

    Put it in your pocket

  25. most of these are not ‘cliches’ … a cliche is something that is supposed to be wise but instead is old and worn out from overuse … saying ‘throw heat’ is simply telling your pitcher to throw heat … it’s not a cliche … ‘toss it around the horn’ is throwing the ball around the infield after an out … it’s simply a description of what’s going on …

    a cliche is ‘the game is played between the lines’ … or something along that type of thing … you simply listed for the most part a bunch of baseball terms that might in some cases might have some color to their language but are simply baseball terms and are not cliches

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