Rule 5 and Other Baseball Terms

Recently I stopped for a red light on a busy street in Portland.  In front of me an SUV sported a vanity license plate:  RULE 5.  Now there’s a ball fan, I thought, who knows the game and isn’t averse to showing it with pride, if not a dash of conceit.  I followed him a few blocks hoping to catch him and ask him about it, but I lost him at the next light.


But it gave me an idea for a post.  A lot of fans may be familiar with certain baseball terms, but aren’t sure of their meaning.  So here’s a small list of partial definitions garnered from the Dickson Baseball Dictionary (and door stop; the tome is hefty, nearly a thousand pages).


Rule 5 draft:  A draft of unprotected minor-league players, in which major-league clubs select in reverse order of their winning percentages at the close of the preceding championship season, with teams from each league choosing alternately.  A player not on a major-league 40-man roster is eligible to be drafted.  [Certain conditions apply, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll keep this short.  See the dictionary for complete definitions; I highly recommend the Dickson; it’s chock full of interesting facts and etymology.]


Incaviglia Rule:  A rule that a player selected in the first-year player draft cannot be traded within a year of being drafted.  The rule was adopted after Pete Incaviglia was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1985 and refused to sign, forcing the team to trade him.  [Inky was not a great player, but got a rule named after him.]


wand:  A baseball bat.  1ST USE.  1872.  “Trumbull took up the ashen wand” (George G. Small, A Presidential Base-Ball Match, p. 23).


WHIP:  Abbrev. For walks plus hits per innings pitched.


wins above replacement (WAR):  The number of wins a player is responsible for beyond the replacement level at the player’s position.  The measure was devised by Clay Davenport.


can of corn:  an easily caught fly ball; a high, lazy fly ball that allows a defensive player time to stand under the ball and catch it easily.  [The etymology of this term was thought for years “to come from the old time grocery store where the grocer used a pole . . . to tip an item, such as a can of corn, off a high shelf and let it tumble into his hands . . . .”  Other theories have emerged, but the grocer catch seems to hang on as the best.

Well, that’s enough for now.  I may throw in a few more the next time I’m too lazy to come up with a proper post.  Cheers! Pitchers and catchers are reporting!




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