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!