Over the recent Thanksgiving Holiday and the subsequent week, we have had a constant stream of relatives visiting and staying in our home. I don’t mean anything negative by that as we truly enjoy the company and are sorry to see them go, most of the time.
Extra people means extra consumption and extra consumption means more waste and items to dispose of. As a result, we found that between regular collection days, we had accumulated enough to require an extra visit to the City of Sanford Transfer Station. I packed everything up and headed off to do my duty.
While there, I ran into an acquaintance and we discussed, naturally, baseball in general and those amazing Red Sox in particular. On the way home from the Transfer Station, I got to thinking about the way our society has ‘softened’ our language. The place I had just visited was the ‘dump’ for the first fifty years of my life, then began to be called things like the ‘Refuse Recovery Area’ and now is the ‘Transfer Station’. (George Carlin would have had fun with that wouldn’t he?)
We don’t use Kleenex anymore, we use ’tissue’, the people that sell you this tissue are not clerks but ‘sales associates’ and the people in public buildings that dispose of the waste tissue are not janitors but ‘Maintenance Specialists’. I could go on and on, but the point of this article is to recognize the fact that baseball is an island in this sea called the ‘Gentrification of our Language’.
When it seems that every day a word has to be removed from our vocabulary because it might offend somebody or may have offended somebody years ago, the language of baseball has basically remained unchanged for the almost 200 years it has been played.
We still use words and terms like ‘stolen base’ even though that might be offensive to someone whose house was robbed or was the victim of another type theft. As far as I know, no one in, or from, Texas is offended by the fact that a Texas Leaguer is a kind of weak, often lucky, hit, that falls between fielders.
No one has started a movement to change ‘double play’ or worse yet ‘twin killing’ to a ‘multiple out event’ or some other more politically correct term. And, the only person I know who ever objected to the term ‘bunt’ or the act of bunting was the Yankees’ pitcher C. C. Sabathia when he felt it was being unfairly used against him because of his ‘limited mobility’. You couldn’t say he couldn’t move well because he was overweight or, fat because you might offend someone.
Even though the term foul has a negative connotation in everyday life, baseball still uses it to denote the area outside the baselines as ‘foul territory’ or a ball hit in that area as a ‘foul ball’. Even the most sensitive among the language cleaner uppers don’t consider those terms ‘foul language’.
Even though those helicopter little league parents still refuse to recognize that their darling has struck out and still call a strikeout a ‘nice try’ or ‘good job’, the rest of baseball still recognizes that a strike out is not a good outcome but a ‘grand slam’ is as good as it gets.
How about a ‘bean ball’ or ‘high hard one’? Obviously, the word changers would never acknowledge that someone might throw at another person on purpose so it would have to be changed to ‘an inadvertent near miss’.
And how about those nicknames. You couldn’t say ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson, for fear of stigmatizing poor Joe. George ‘Shotgun’ Shuba’s nickname would have been removed as too violent by the same people whose kids play those ‘shoot ’em up’ video games all day.
And poor Jim Grant, the fact that he was called ‘Mudcat’ because he was as ugly as a Mississippi Mudcat, would drive the language changers crazy.
Can you imagine the outrage if brothers, two of the best pitchers in baseball, were called Dizzy and Daffy? There would be Congressional Hearings and threats to shut down the game. Carlton Fisk or Ivan Rodriguez never objected to the nickname ‘Pudge’, but these people could see a whole class of citizens locking themselves in their rooms for weeks if they even heard the term.
Then there was ‘Wee Willy’ Keeler who would be the poster child these days for discrimination against vertically challenged people and Mordecai Brown’s nickname ‘Three Finger’ would be cause for rioting in the streets.
Of course, the term ‘homer’ is close enough to ‘Homey’ to be confused and could cause distress to any number of minorities or majorities depending upon your location and orientation.
They have attacked names like the Indians and the Braves as being offensive to Native Americans, surely the ‘Bronx Bombers’ must offend someone and be changed to ‘Long Hitters’ or some other euphemism.
How about the potential damage to a player’s psyche if he were called a ‘banjo hitter’ or a ‘Punch and Judy’ hitter, terms used regularly to denote a hitter with little power?
So far, despite the rules preventing collisions and the instant replay that eliminates those unseemly arguments with names being called and dirt kicked, baseball has avoided the gentrification movement. Wait until they decide that, in our kinder, gentler society, it’s unfair to make those weaker hitters’ bat at the bottom of the order and start to petition for better treatment for them.
Believe me, they’ll get to it yet and someday in the future a team as bad as this year’s Baltimore Orioles or Kansas City Royals will be awarded a Participation Trophy.