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Home » August 2006 Game CommentsAugust 2006 » Befoul


Game 105: August 1, 2006
Indians (46-59), 6
Red Sox (63-42), 3
W: C.C. Sabathia (8-7)
L: Jason Johnson (3-11)

Of all the major sports in the United States, baseball seems to be the least removed from nature. Perhaps because this is because baseball’s nascency coincided with the Second Industrial Revolution, which seized pristine land from leisurely pursuits and rendered it a cog in the machine of progress. The sport requires a luxuriant expanse of green, too indulgent for a society gearing up to feed the beast of commerce.

But here and there, pockets of viridity withstood the onslaught and on those precious parcels players share the acres with other creatures. It continues to this day, specifically last night, as we saw a fledgling take a jaunt about the field. (Did Larry Lucchino check the bird to make sure she at least paid for a tour? Can’t have any freeloaders!)

The connection between baseball and nature permeates into the very language of the game. The pastoral pastime is infused with terms associated with birds.

A “ball hawk,” also called a “hawk” or “flyhawk,” is an exceptionally skillful outfielder who can cover a lot of ground. As in, “Wily Mo Peña is proving to be quite the ball hawk since Trot Nixon’s injury. Did you see his nab of Joe Inglett’s fly ball in the third to end the inning?”

Old-time slang for a catcher’s mask is “bird cage.” We won’t be seeing Jason Varitek don the bird cage for four to six weeks because of his torn meniscus. The Red Sox catcher will be undergoing surgery shortly. Replacement catcher Doug Mirabelli laid a goose egg with no hits in his three at bats.

Many different birds are associated with the rapidly-falling pop fly. There’s “ducksnort,” “swan dive,” and dying quails, seagulls, or swans. David Ortiz departed from the norm and hit something of a dying quail for a double in the third inning. The rookie Inglett needed a bird dog to help him spot fly balls.

The word “rookie” is supposedly a corruption of the word “recruit,” but some sources cite a more fanciful but evocative origin. A rook (Corvus frugilegus) is a bird much like a crow or a raven, but is far more social. Rather than in pairs, rooks live in immense colonies. Indeed, their breeding trees are called “rookeries,” and the word has been extended to the barracks where human military recruits live during their training, before they become full-fledged members of their troop. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that rookie sprang from rookery.

“Ducks on a pond” is another way to say that the bases are loaded, alluding to how the runners bob up and down in anticipation of the batter making contact. Neither team accomplished this last night.

Mike Lowell, feeling impish, may have summoned the trainer with a “quack, quack” in the eighth after fouling a ball off his foot. In days gone by, players used to get medical attention with this call, mocking their trainers’ lack of knowledge in genuine health care.

With the Red Sox loss and the Yankees’ win, Boston lost its position as the sole occupant of the “catbird seat” in the AL East. This phrase, meaning a position of control and mastery, was popularized by Brooklyn Dodgers announcer Red Barber. Catbirds (two species, grey [Dumetella carolinensis] and black [Melanoptila glabrirostris]), relatives to the mocking bird, have a mew-like call and evade predators by dwelling as high as possible.

Baseball terms used in post were gleaned from The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson.


Another one, which I was very surprised Remy didn't use last night, since we saw it for real, is the "crow hop," the little step an infielder will make between picking up the ball and throwing to first.

And what about the "dead fish" pitch?

Or an eagle-eyed outfielder with catlike reflexes getting "on his horse" to catch the horsehide in his cowskin, causing his dogs to bark?

I wish I remembered "crow hop." Good call, Jere.

Another phrase I wasn't able to work in was "eagle claw" for glove, which was a term from the 30s. But what is "causing his dogs to bark"?

Wow, never heard "eagle claw."

Don't people say "my dogs are barkin'" when their feet hurt? Or legs? Or did I just make that up?

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