Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Batter Chatter Introduces Two For Tuesday

We've dusted off that cheesy FM radio staple "Two For Tuesday" to bring you, dear readers, a pair of like-minded baseball lingo oddities today: "gardeners" and "rake."

An old-time "base ball" game was held recently in honor of the famous poem "Casey at the Bat," which of course features the Mudville Nine. Massachusetts' own Mudville Base Ball Club took the field in Stockton, Calif. last weekend against the local Amador County Crushers; both teams claim to represent fictional Mudville. The game featured old-time baseball rules, such as a ball caught on one bounce being an out, and under-handed pitching.

The New York Times reported that "outdated" terminology dominated the day: Outfielders were known as gardeners, batters as strikers, pitchers as hurlers, and runs as tallies.

"Gardeners." How quaint! They're patrolling the wide expanse of greensward, so they are gardeners. Brilliant.

And it's fitting that Yankees speedster Brett Gardner is, of course, an outfielder, or gardener. (Marlin Lee Gardner is, alas, a relief pitcher, while Ranger Tyler Teagarden is a catcher.)

So what's the most essential piece of equipment for a gardener? If we're talking about an outfielder, it's his glove, of course. If we're talking about real gardeners, it would have to be the rake.

Rake is a modern baseball term, a verb denoting a studly hitting record.

Wikipedia's "Glossary of Baseball" defines "rake" thusly:

To really hit the ball hard, all over the park. When you're raking, you're hitting very well. "Mike Gosling allowed one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings and Louisville raked Pawtucket pitching for 14 hits as the Bats defeated the Red Sox, 7-1, in an International League game Wednesday.

"Rake" of course also means a cheeky guy; Webster's offers "a dissolute person: LIBERTINE" as its fifth definition for rake--short for "rakehell."

I first heard "rake" in the baseball sense about a decade ago, in a fantasy baseball league with a bunch of whiny Californians. One of the guys said some fin de siecle slugger--maybe it was Lance Berkmann pre-Yankees--could "flat-out rake." I wondered if the term had come from California; it sounds vaguely surfer-ish.

If one Googles "rake" and "baseball", one sees thousands of offers to buy a rake for smoothing out the home plate area. (Amazon has a 36 inch baserunner rake with telescophic handle for a cool $120.)

Braves catcher Brian McCann got a sweet crystal bat for winning MVP at the all-star game last month. Perhaps a crystal rake might've been more appropriate.

Blue Jays catcher John Buck said of McCann to the AP:

Catchers know. He can bang. He can flat-out rake, and the reason he doesn't get noticed very much is because he's that good of a catcher."

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