Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Bad Piece of Announcing

I was watching a little Red Sox with one of the brothers-in-law up in Cape Cod recently. The Sawx were just starting to bust out of their slump against the Jays.
Carl Crawford got one of his infrequent hits, stroking a fastball the other way, a line drive off the Monster.
"That's a good piece of hitting!" the brother-in-law exclaimed, like all of Massachusetts, hoping the $20 Million Man would finally get untracked.
A little while later, the Sox $22 Million Man, Adrian Gonzalez, followed suit. Gonzo too grabbed an outside pitch and went with it, slotting it to left for a single.
"Good piece of hitting!" said the brother-in-law.
Good piece of hitting. This would be hard to confirm (so sadly, I will not try), but I will bet my stash of baseball cards that good piece of hitting, like frozen rope and that ball was a seed!, came from Tim McCarver.

T-Mac is looking for a 'piece.'
I remember T-Mac saying "good piece of hitting" back when he was the Metsies' announcer in the '80s. (Man, we had it good!). Typically, it came when a guy went the other way with a pitch--a pitcher's pitch. And it had to be a line drive. It helped if there were two strikes on the batter. And I think it may have helped if the batter was lefty.
It took a few years, perhaps a decade--and surely McCarver's move to a national stage helped. But "good piece of hitting" turned into a cliche.
Here's a minor league Elvis Andrus slapping a pitch the opposite way on YouTube.
Good piece of hitting by 20 year old Ranger top prospect Elvis Andrus off San Antonio's Jon Ellis to plate two and win game, writes the poster.
It's at the schoolboy level too. Here's one account of a Region 1-AAAA (no idea what that means) contest between Thomas County Central and Northside-Columbus down in Georgia.

“A lot of it, they just did a good piece of hitting,” Coach Chad Parkerson said. “They hit some balls hard the other way. We probably got too much of the strike zone.”
In fact, "good piece of hitting" calls up 25,000-plus links on Google. Unlike many baseball cliches, I don't see a punk rock band named Good Piece of Hitting.
But I do see a clever essay on the phrase from Tim Marchman, then of the New York Sun. Marchman writes in "Baseball's Worst Cliche":
A good piece of hitting cannot be a home run or a solidly hit double down the line. It cannot be a bouncer, bleeder, trickler, or any other sort of hit that has eyes or relies on the misadventures of the defense. It must be hit well, but not too well, and preferably it should go the opposite field.

It isn’t just the character of the hit itself that defines a good piece of hitting, though, as the game situation plays its role as well. No hitting done by someone whose team is up by 10 runs will ever be said to be a good piece; the game should ideally be tight in order for the piece of hitting to be good. On the other hand, it’s possible to imagine a piece hit by someone whose team is down by 10 runs being hit well, although probably only if there are no outs and he’s at the front end of a rally. “That was a good piece of hitting,” the announcer will say, while we watch the player taking off his gloves at first, clapping his hands, and exhorting his teammates to keep on with the charge.

Frankly, I'm a little sad to see Tim Marchman has beat me to "good piece of hitting" by, oh, four years.
I'm an editor by trade, so I'm constantly on the lookout for easier, shorter ways to say something in print. And if you put "good piece of hitting" under the editor's microscope (for the record, we don't actually employ such contraptions), you see that "piece of" is completely superfluous. I mean, a "good piece of hitting" is one and the same as "good hitting," yes? What makes it a "piece"? A good display of hitting, or a good exhibition of hitting, perhaps. But not a piece.
Then again, no one ever accused McCarver of being succinct.

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