(HARVEY FROMMER IS AT WORK ON A BOOK ON THE FIRST SUPER BOWL (1967). ANYONE WITH CONTACTS, STORIES, SUGGESTIONS, PLEASE CONTACT HIM)
Withthe start of a new baseball season almost upon on, baseball lingo is in the air. The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day, year after year - generally without any wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have a history, a story.
A brief sampler follows with more to come . . .
BIG POISON and LITTLE POISON Paul Waner's rookie year with the Pittsburgh Pirates was 1926, when he batted .336 and led the league in triples. In one game he cracked out six hits using six different bats. In 1927 the second Waner arrived, brother Lloyd. For 14 years, the Waners formed a potent brother combination in the Pittsburgh lineup. Paul was 5'8l/2'' and weighed 153 pounds. Lloyd was 5'9" and weighed 150 pounds.
Paul was dubbed Big Poison even though he was smaller than Lloyd, who was called Little Poison. An older brother even then had privileges. But both players were pure poison for National League pitchers. Slashing left-handed line-drive hitters, the Waners collected 5,611 hits between them. Paul's lifetime batting average was .333, and he recorded three batting titles. Lloyd posted a career average of .316. They played a combined total of 38 years in the major leagues.
"BOO" Name for a day in 1979 of Giants shortstop Johnnie LeMaster, who heard the boo-birds in San Fran. He took his field position wearing "Boo" on his back. LeMaster switched back to his regular jersey after one game.
"CHILI" When he was about 12 years old, Charles Davis was given a not too attractive haircut which led to his getting the nickname "Chili Bowl," later shortened to "Chili" as the boy became the man and the baseball player "Chili" Davis.
GIANTS One sultry summer's day in 1885, Jim Mutrie, the saber-mustached manager of the New York Gothams, was enjoying himself watching his team winning an important game. Mutrie screamed out with affection, "My big fellows, my giants." Many of his players were big fellows, and they came to be Giants. For that was how the nickname Giants came to be. And when the New York team left for San Francisco in 1958, Giants, Mutrie's endearing nickname, went along with it.
SPLENDID SPLINTER He was also nicknamed the Thumper, because of the power with which he hit the ball, and the Kid, because of his tempestuous attitude-but his main nickname was perhaps the most appropriate. Ted Williams was one of the most splendid players who ever lived, and he could really "splinter" the ball. The handsome slugger compiled a lifetime batting average of .344 and a slugging percentage of .634.
Williams blasted 521 career home runs, scored nearly 1,800 runs, and drove in over 1,800 runs. So keen was his batting eye that he walked over 2,000 times while striking out only 709 times. In 1941 he batted .406 - the last time any player hit .400 or better. One of the most celebrated moments in the career of the Boston Red Sox slugger took place in the 1946 All-Star Game. Williams came to bat against Rip Sewell and his celebrated "eephus" (blooper) pitch. Williams had already walked in the game and hit a home run. Sewell's pitch came to the plate in a high arc, and Williams actually trotted out to the pitch, bashing it into the right-field bullpen for a home run. "That was the first homer ever hit off the pitch," Sewell said later.
"The ball came to the plate in a twenty-foot arc," recalled Williams. "I didn't know whether I'd be able to get enough power into that kind of a pitch for a home run." There was no kind of pitch Williams couldn't hit for a home run.