Thearon W. Henderson
In which your intrepid reporter recommends introducing a whole bunch of new terms to baseball's colorful lexicon.
A long time ago, I ran across the term "John Anderson" when researching the career of an early-20th-century outfielder named (yes) John Anderson. Anderson, so the story went, once tried to steal second base when the bases were loaded. Which didn't work out so well. And for some years, on those rare occasions when a runner tried to steal an occupied base, it was called a John Anderson, or a "John Anderson play".
I tried to track down the specific details of this glorious event, but never could. Some years later, another, better researcher did find the play, and so I just now went to look it up in The Dickson Baseball Dictionary. Here's the entry:
John Anderson play The particular boner committed when a runner attempts to steal an occupied base. The term is named for the outfielder/first baseman who, while playing for the St. Louis Browns against the New York Highlanders on Sept. 24, 1903, supposedly tried to steal second base with the bases loaded, and was thrown out. However, press accounts (e.g. New York Sun, Sept. 25; Peter Morris) indicate that Anderson, having taken an aggressive lead, was picked off by the catcher throwing the ball to first base. In the end, Anderson's nonattempted steal became his most famous play.
Ah, legends. Anyway, it made for a good story.
Anyway, I was thinking, "Hey, you know what we're missing? More things like "John Anderson". Which got me to thinking about other baseball terms that aren't, but should be. Honestly, I couldn't think of a single other baseball happening that's named for a player, and so I decided to come up with some of my own.
But there are, or have been, many others! On the very same page of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, in fact just two entries above, is this gem:
Joe Orsulak An unorthodox or "God-awful looking" swing, one where the batter is fooled by the pitch and "lunges, spins and nearly falls down" in the manner of Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Joe Orsulak (Bob Hertzel, Baseball Digest, Jan. 1987). The term was coined by Pirates outfielder R.J. Reynolds in 1986.
Ever heard that one? Me neither. It's hard to make these things stick. I also found "Baker" as slang for home run (named after Frank "Home Run" Baker). Here's another good one:
pull a Brenegan 1. To get hit hard in the hand by the ball. 2. To embarrass oneself in a debut. ETYMOLOGY. From Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Olaf Selmer "Sam" Brenegan, who played in his one and only game on Apr. 24, 1914, with no official at-bats. In the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, Brenegan allowed a runner on first base to advance to third base when he loafed after a wild pitch. In the seventh inning, he allowed a runner on first base to advance to third base on passed ball that split his finger and was slowly pursued as he groaned in pain. For reasons unclear, Brenegan, whose time in the majors was counted in minutes, was remembered via this phrase for years to come. Not to be confused with brannigan.
This makes me wonder if, instead of coming up with new name-based baseball terminology, I should scour Dickson's book for more examples, and try to revive the old terms.
That seems like a lot of work, though. Enjoyable work, no question. But a project, perhaps, for another day. For the moment, I will instead make a plea to you, the Dear Reader, to revive the practice of using terms like pull a Brenegan, but with (mostly) modern players.
Just a few possibilities, off the top of my pointy head ...
Smith, the Mammoths' shortstop, Moby'd a throw to first base just in time to get the speedy Jones. When you Moby a throw, you're intentionally bouncing it to the first baseman. The supposed inventor of this tactic was David Ismael Concepcion, the Big Red Machine's Gold Glove shortstop in the 1970s.
Pablo Sandoval Yogi'd a double into the left-field corner. Sandoval hit a pitch well outside the strike zone for a double. Of course this honors Yogi Berra, for many years the game's most famous "bad-ball hitter". Then again, today's best-known bad-ball hitter is Sandoval himself. So if we're trying to get the youth vote, maybe we should just go ahead and use the term Panda'd ...
We need a term for when an outfielder leaps to snag a would-be home run. Kenny Lofton used to do this quite a lot, but I've got something else planned for him. Which leaves young Mike Trout, who stole four home runs this year. But what can we do with Mike Trout? He does have a neat-o nickname -- the Millville Meteor! -- but I'm not sure that helps us. I checked all the difference species of trout; no luck there, either.
So in the absence of a better idea, how's about an obscure literary reference? When I was in high school, I studied an obscure little novel (of sorts) called Trout Fishing in America. The author? Richard Brautigan. So I propose that stealing a home run be described as pulling a Brautigan.*
* Hey, a guy can dream a little, can't he?
Okay, I said I had something planned for Kenny Lofton. Well, every time a player slides into first base needlessly -- and at least 95 percent of the time, it's needless -- you can count on one of the broadcasters to mention that the player was risking an injury. And perhaps the best-known instance came in the fifth game of a 1999 American League Division Series between the Red Sox and the Indians.
That contest is best-known for Pedro Martinez's six brilliant innings of relief pitching. And in the bottom of the fourth, Lofton slapped a grounder to Red Sox first baseman Mike Stanley, who tossed the ball to the covering Martínez just in time to retire Lofton ... who went into the bag in a full-out slide, and suffered a serious shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game. Lofton did come back the next year and put together a perfectly normal Kenny Lofton season, so the injury had no obvious long-term impact. Except people remember it. Which is why I think pulled a Lofton should go on our list.
Other possibilities: pulling a Hamilton (throwing the bat), pulling a Jeter (leaping throw to first base from the shortstop hole), Koo'd (strikeout via 12-to-6 curveball, á lá Sandy Koufax, and yes they used to call him "Koo"), and Mo'd (sawing off a hitter's bat with an inside, riding fastball). We could also refer to a home run as a Bambino, to a stolen base as a Rickey, and to a bunt hit as a Scooter (after Phil Rizzuto).
This just scratches the surface, I'm sure. Please vote for your favorite, and we'll do our best to make that actually happen. And drop your favorite invention into the comments; enough of them, and I'll write a follow-up next week.
Which of these most deserves a place in the Baseball Lexicon?
"Brautigan" - stolen home run (15 votes)
"Lofton" - injuring self when sliding into first base (51 votes)
"Yogi" - base hit off a pitch out of the strike zone (79 votes)
"Scooter" - bunt hit (19 votes)
"Mo" - shattered bat by riding inside fastball (46 votes)
210 total votes