Thursday, September 30, 2010

Enjoying a Little 'Yard' Work

A decade ago, Mike Piazza divulged that his true wish in life was to create a baseball cliche that would live on well after his hitting records did. Hitting 427 homers in the major leagues is tough, but creating a baseball expression that lasts in perpetuity may be even tougher.

You need a clever phrase, for starters, and a gigantic media platform from which to send your new phrase into millions of pairs of eyes and ears.

Batter Chatter, unfortunately, is not that media platform. (Yet?)

ESPN, on the other hand, is.

Take "going yard," for instance, which everyone who knows a walk from a balk knows means hitting a home run.

That came from SportsCenter...I mean, it had to, right? I can't seem to find proof online, but I think it's got to have come from SportsCenter, same as "cooler than the other side of the pillow" and "Boo-Ya!" and other trademark catchphrases.

Wikipedia's Glossary of Baseball says the phrase has roots in Baltimore, where the park is of course called Camden Yards, and plenty of balls have "gone yard" since the park opened in 1993.

Writes the Glossary:
To "go yard" is to hit a home run, i.e., to hit the ball the length of the baseball field or "ball yard".
A discussion on on, of all things, the movie Inglourious Basterds, centers around a  character exclaiming "Teddy Ballgame goes yard!" while beating a Nazi with a baseball bat.

One excerpt reads:

In 2005, William Safire [former writer of the "On Language" column in the NYT] said he couldn't find the origin. The speculation is Camden or the fact that playing fields were often called "ball yards." Someone found a reference to Comiskey being called "The Yard."

The post also notes that Dickson Baseball Dictionary author Paul Dickson says a home run was occasionally called a "yardbird"--which may have helped spark "going yard."

All I know is, "going yard" is a widely used--and perhaps overused--baseball expression. Not only does every local TV sports guy in America use, it, but "Going Yard" is the name of a baseball blog, a baseball camp, and even a real estate firm in Kissimmee, Florida ("We hit it out of the park everytime!"), among many, many other outfits.

So much a part of the modern baseball vernacular is going yard that SI ESPN writer extraordinaire Rick Reilly introduced a variation of it in June, noting that Jamie Moyer had tied former Phillie Robin Roberts for allowing the most home runs in MLB history.

Wrote RR:

The Phillies now have the two greatest yard salesmen in MLB history -- Moyer and Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

Alas, I don't think that one really caught on.

I'll check in with Dickson and with ESPN and see if anyone can confirm the origin of "going yard." If anyone out there has any insights, it would be cooler than the other side of the pillow if you could share them.

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