Monday, October 25, 2010

'Crooked' Rangers Have Yanks' 'Number'

Late in the fateful Rangers-Yankees game (Did the Rangers really beat the Yanks? I'm still processing this.), announcer Ron Darling spoke about the Texans' ability to put a "crooked number" on the board in a hurry--turning a hint of a rally into a full-blown smack attack that involved posting a 2, 3, 4 or more up on the scoreboard.

A crooked number.

An hour later, a somber Joe Girardi used the same phrase in his post-game post-mortem, saying how the Rangers' many innovative ways to advance on the basepaths led to some critical "crooked numbers" on the board for the boys from the Lone Star State.

(Another interesting description from a pinstriper in the post-mortem: Reggie Jackson telling the NY Times' George Vecsey the Yankees were "woodshedded", as in, taken back behind the woodshed and, you know, something violent, in the series.)

Wikipedia's Glossary of Baseball offers this for crooked number:
A number other than a zero or a one, referring to the appearance of the actual number. A team which is able to score two or more runs in an inning is said to "hang a crooked number" on the scoreboard or on the pitcher.

Crooked Number is also a Missouri band with a taste for Wilco's rootsy rhythms
I'm not sure how the phrase was originated; a true lexicon reporter like Ben Zimmer would probably do the legwork to find out, but I'm just too lazy. 
One online pundit notes that it dates at least back to the Buzz Bissinger book on Tony LaRussa, "Three Nights in August. "
Crooked number might have spawned from "crooked letter," which is street slang for the letter S. Surely you remember an old episode of Alice, when her son Tommy had a spelling test and someone (Alice? Mel? Dingbat Vera?) got him to remember the proper spelling of Mississippi by saying, "M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I." 
More recently, that old ditty was tweaked into something off-color by the Florida rapper Case.
Next up for the Yankees--seeing how much Derek Jeter wants for a crooked number contract.

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