Monday, April 2, 2007

Happy Opening Day

Here's hoping the grand ol' game won't expire at the cash register
In other words...
Do you know any old-school baseball lingo you could share with us? Because the game's language is going the way of the dodo bird.
No one toes the humpback any more.
No one expires at the cash register.
Or hurls the stitched orb plateward.
This bothers me.
Major league baseball's season begins in earnest today. It would be nice if fans were asking things like, "Who'll climb the hill for the Redlegs of the senior circuit today?," or "Can the American League slab corps stymie the stalwart National stickmen again in this summer's All Star clash?"
But few ask. The reason is both subtle and at the same time as evident as Phil Mickelson's large breasts.
Baseball lingo is dying. And so is the bench jockey.
This is a bad thing.
Since the structure of the game we grew up on continues to disappear, is it too much to ask that we at least keep alive the lingo and the bench banter?
I think not. Trust me when I say that good times await those who'll embrace both.
First, a word about lingo. I'm recruiting all of you who are willing to help keep this alive. A lesson won't take long.
Take the baseball. It's the sphere, the stitched orb, Miss White, the pill, the seed.
Home plate is the five-sided, the dish, the cash register.
The pitcher's mound is the hill, the island, the humpback, or simply the bump, and on it is the rubber, or the slab.
Let's say in the sixth inning, the visiting pitcher - a lefty we'll call Lambrowski - threw a pitch that was hit hard to the first baseman, who threw to the catcher, who tagged out a runner trying to score from third.
Instead of saying that, you could say this:
Toeing the alien humpback in the sixth canto, wrong-hander Lambrowski propelled the orb toward the five-sided with intent. A pea was hit to the initial sacker, who leathered it and threw dishward, where the unlucky hometown diamond man attempting to plate a tally from the hot corner expired at the cash register.
Pandemonium ensued.
Isn't that more fun? Stupid, sure. But fun.
The bench jockey, now almost as extinct as the rotary telephone, is a person with a lingo all his own. Simply, while in his dugout, a bench jockey rags opposing players. Or umpires. Or anyone within earshot, including his own teammates if it's funny.
A bench jockey who takes exception to the face-masked home plate umpire's calls might say this: "Why not try looking around those bars instead of through them?" Or, if he wishes to imply the ump is guessing on ball-strike calls, he might say this: "Is that a quarter or a half-dollar you're flipping?"
A defensive player who's not very good is said to be shaky out there. If he continues to bobble Miss White, the jockey will tell him to "mix in a catch now and then," as he might tell a pitcher having trouble finding the plate to "mix in a strike."
A catcher guilty of one passed ball after another might be asked this: "Are those the same hands you eat with?"
The good jockey can use the standards in such a way and tone that they never get old. And the best can make up perfect digs on the spot.
A former Centenary diamond man told me of a game years ago against Southern Arkansas. The Muleriders' pitcher was rather large, girth-wise. Plenty big in the middle.
Finally, a Gent bench jockey yelled toward him, "Hey, is that your belt ... or the equator?"
Old-school poetry.