A-Rod? You’ve probably heard of him. Tulo? Who am I kidding. Everyone knows who he is. Miggy? That’s Miguel Cabrera, though not too long ago Miguel Tejada was Miggy, so that’s a bit confusing. A-Gon, Han-Ram, A-Ram, Longo, Tex. What is it with baseball player nicknames these days? They’re so boring. No creativity whatsoever. And this has been a fairly recent trend, as even when I was growing up in the 90’s, we had the Big Unit, the Big Hurt, Pudge, the Killer B’s, Wild Thing and Big Daddy. Now those are legitimate nicknames. Going further back, there was the Splendid Splinter, the Sultan of Swat and the Georgia Peach. Even better. But are you familiar with Jittery Joe Berry? Or Fidgety Phil Collins? Or Hot Potato Luke Hamlin, who pitched from 1933 through 1944 for the Tigers, the Dodgers, the Pirates and finally the A’s? Hamlin had this ritual of juggling the ball in his palm before winding up, hence the witty nickname. I had no idea who this guy was, but I don’t think I’ll forget about “Hot Potato” anytime soon, thanks to a 62-page booklet I recently picked up at a local flea market.
Distributed in 1959 by the PHILLIES CIGARS company, “PHILLIES Presents Baseball Lingo”, in addition to including a section on player nicknames, is an alphabetized glossary of common baseball terms. The only problem is that 54 years later, many of these terms aren’t too common anymore. Cycle, cleanup, bean ball and hot corner have survived, but what about these? Maybe if you’re over the age of 60, these are all engrained in your memory. But my generation? Forget about it. So before they become entirely extinct, here’s a tribute to some of the popular baseball terms of 1959.
Cousin – The name given a pitcher by a certain batter or even a certain team that finds him easy to hit.
Handle hit – Disparaging term for a hit that falls safe even though the batter fails to get solid wood on the ball.
Ladies Day – Day set aside when women are admitted free or on payment of a service charge and tax.
Rabbit ears – Said of players or umpires who are quick to take offense to jockeying.
Stick it in his ear – Shouted from the dugout to unnerve the opposing batter, urging the pitcher to throw at his head.
Foot in the bucket – A batting stance in which the front foot is withdrawn toward the foul line instead of angling toward the pitcher. Often, such a stance is a sign of timidity, the foot being planted that way to give the batter a head start in getting out of the way of a close pitch. But the foot in the bucket stance has been used by a number of outstanding hitters, among them Al Simmons, Roy Campanella and Arky Vaughan.
Strawberry – Splotchy red bruise, usually the result of a slide.
Tools of ignorance – Catcher’s equipment.
Whole ball of wax - Slang for pennant or championship.
And David Ross was donning the tools of ignorance at the moment the Red Sox won the whole ball of wax.