- The Dickson Baseball Dictionary
- by Paul Dickson
Baseball slang is an avalanche of skewed logic. The commonest words take on very precise meanings. "Stuff" refers quite specifically to the totality of a pitcher's arsenal: his array of pitches and the velocity and movement with which he throws them. A pitcher can easily have good stuff but not succeed if his "command"--the ability to locate pitches accurately--is erratic. Terms associated with dirt and filth are highly complimentary. A hitter respectfully calls an excellent pitcher "filthy," a term that evolved out of common adjectives from a decade ago: "nasty" and "dirty." "Dirtbags" and "dirt dogs" are consummate hustlers, guys with perpetually soiled uniforms and caps and batting helmets stained with sweat, tobacco juice and pine tar. Naturally, dirtbags and dirt dogs play "dirtball." A player who is "pretty" is the opposite of a dirtbag, as is a "muffin." Food references are as prevalent as the television announcers who longingly mention the hallowed postgame buffet in the players' clubhouse. The ball itself can be an egg, apricot, apple or stitched potato. "Jelly beans" are rookies and inexperienced kids, the type a veteran might relentlessly call bush for a year before acknowledging him properly. Reaching base for your team's big hitters is "setting the table." "Fat" pitches are hittable ones, almost exclusively delectable treats, my favorite being "ham-and-cheese." And then there's the colorful (although unfortunately out of fashion) term for pep or spirit: "jinegar." Forms of kinship lurk suggestively, with positive connotations only for the hitter. Batters aspire to find their "cousin," the pitcher they manage to hit inexplicably well. In the early 2000s the Yankees' weak-hitting utility infielder Enrique Wilson found an unlikely cousin in the Red Sox's masterful Pedro Martínez, and Pedro's tough luck against the Yankees culminated in his admitting in an infamous interview that the Yanks were his "daddy." It was a rare moment of hearing baseball slang invented in real time.