Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Frozen Ropes' Origin Something of a Cold Case

Who came up with the term "frozen rope," as in, Adrian Gonzalez smacked a frozen rope off the Monster, but only ended up with a single?

It doesn't appear to have been former Yankees broadcaster Dom Valentino.

Crippled and wracked by disease, Valentino was profiled in a sad NY Times article last week. He's cared for by his son, David, who tries to keep Valentino's spirits up with details from his dad's broadcasting past.

Writes Barry Bearak:

"You had your own signature phrases, didn’t you, Dad?” David asked his father. “Frozen rope, wasn’t that yours, dad?” But the announcer shook his head no. “What about, Going, going, gone,?” But that wasn’t original to Valentino, either.

Wikipedia's Glossary of Baseball defines frozen rope as: A hard-hit line drive. Also a strong throw from the outfield.

UrbanDictionary says: an absolute monster of a linedrive completely cutting through the air

Frozen Ropes is also a chain of baseball and softball camps; there's even a "Frozen Ropes Tigers" rep-level teen baseball franchise.

So if it wasn't Valentino, who came up with frozen ropes?

The authoritative Dickson Baseball Dictionary credits Baseball Digest with defining the term as far back as 1963, with Leonard Schecter writing, "You can almost see the icicles dripping of it."

Dickson also notes an interesting use of the term in espionage circles. A frozen rope in that world is shorthand for "a very important signal intercept," and was used in Clear and Present Danger in 1989.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Term 'Walks On' to Baseball Tonight Set

Even the casual baseball fan knows what a walk off home run is.

But howzabout this for a new baseball phrase--the walk on home run.

I caught the phrase on Baseball Tonight Saturday night. I think it was Doug Glanville who said it, riffing with Aaron Boone. My memory is a bit hazy, as I'd just walked in from our annual summer block party, and I'd been foolish enough to try the guy across the street's key lime pie extract cocktail mix.

Do I look authorly enough?

"You always hear about the walk off home run," said I-think-it-was-Glanville. "What about the road team starting off the game, BAM!, walking on with a home run."

Certainly Rickey Henderson comes to mind when one thinks of walk on home run kings.

"That may have some legs," said Boone, who owns one of the Top 10 walk off home runs in Major League history. (2003...Boston-Yanks...Wakefield...but you knew that.)

Glanville is a word guy. He went to Penn. He wrote a book. He writes about baseball, and life, for the NY Times as well.

It was a weird edit...a commercial for the movie Contagion, then that little outtake-y banter between I-think-it's-Glanville and Boone, then another ad for Claritin, then another ESPN program.

Contagion is about a lethal airborne virus. We shall see if I-think-it's-Glanville's phrase goes similarly widespread.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mets 'Slot' Studs of Future

It's a little hard to imagine, but the Metsies were the recipients of some positive publicity this week, the NY Times commending the kings of Queens for spending big on their future.

On August 15, the Mets signed top pick Brandon Nimmo for $1.656 million, and 15th rounder Phillip Evans for $650,000--the latter in particular a larcenous sum for a lower round guy.

The Mets "went over slot" by doing so.

Huh? you may say.

Clarifies Andrew Keh of the Times:

The practice of bypassing Major League Baseball’s guidelines — commonly known as “going over slot” — is neither new nor uncommon for other clubs.

In layman's terms, the Mets spent more than the league recommends, which teams who prefer winning to losing tend to do.

"The slot" is of course a hockey term for a key offensive position within shooting distance of the goal.

It's also the name given to a body of water running through the Solomon Islands, a little south of Papua New Guinea.

It was also the name of a column I wrote for the defunct New York Sports Express several years ago, in which I found offbeat sports stories (women's fastpitch baseball, bowling leagues, gay hockey tournaments) around New York City.
"Slot" appears to be a somewhat familiar term to those who cover baseball for a living; Jon Heyman of saw fit to use it in verb form without any sort of explanation for readers:

"[Selig] is more determined than ever to get slotting," one person who knows Selig well said.


Selig's hope that the union would accept binding slots rests partly on a belief that current players aren't concerned about incoming amateur players.

If Batter Chatter condoned branded integration in any way, or thought we could make a nickel of it, we'd probably throw in a plug for Foxwoods having the "loosest slots," as their billboard boasts, right around here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Terry Francona Has Not Come to Eat Sabathia, Or to Beat Him

This was kind of interesting. Terry Francona was addressing the media recently, and trying to explain the Red Sox' uncanny success against C.C. Sabathia, who of course beats up every other team he faces.
Francona, who does the whole befuddled thing pretty well, was fairly befuddled to explain.

Reported the NY Times:

“Believe me, it’s not like we see him and say, ‘We’re going to punch up on this guy.’ But we did have good at-bats.”

Punching up on Sabathia, or, as Francona put it, not punching up on him. It's a good little sound bite.

Yet the Associated Press scribe, surely sitting in the same Dunkin Donuts-signage adorned Fenway press conference, heard it a little differently.

"Believe me, it's not like we go, 'We're going to lunch up on him.'"

Lunch up. I daresay it's an even better sound bite than punch up. You probably never heard lunch as a verb before, for starters, and it brings up the mental image of the likes of Youk, Ellsbury, Pedroia and Papi, napkins around necks, rubbing their hands as Sabathia is brought to the table. (J.D. Drew sadly had to miss the meal due to a strained pharynx.)

So was Francona saying his ballclub does not throw haymakers at the husky lefty, or it does not see him as a steak for 25?

The Providence Journal beat guy heard lunch.

Four years ago, had Francona saying about minor leaguer Jeff Bailey:

"He's the type of hitter that, in my view, can hit Major League pitching. He's lunching up on some average Triple-A pitching."

I will revisit this topic after, well, lunch.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Morgan Makeover is Mostly 'Mental

Nyjer Morgan, suspended last year for starting fights with everyone but the ball girl and the guy in the Abe Lincoln costume at Nationals Park, is successfully rehabbing his image in Milwaukee thanks in part to an alter-ego called Tony Plush, reports the NY Times.

Nicknamed T-Plush, Morgan's seemingly better half is "a fun-loving personality who creates words and nicknames," according to the Times. When he was a kid, little Nyjer and some pals invented swaggering pseudonyms for themselves. Since Bono Vox, The Edge and Johnny Rotten were taken, they settled upon Frankie Sleaze, James Dot Dean and Tony Plush., T-Plush...has created a baseball term as well. Writes Pat Borzi:

Morgan calls the fundamentals of his game, like bunting and moving up runners, Plushdamentals. Morgan’s teammates often salute T-Plush by forming a timeout signal with their hands.

“It’s a legend, man,” Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. “The guy’s brilliant.”

It's the second variation of "fundamentals" covered in these cyber-pages; Mets announcer Keith Hernandez often talks about "fundies"--or, as is increasingly the case out in Flushing, the lack thereof.
Full disclosure: Morgan had a short and unmemorable run on my Loisaida Luckless Pedestrians fantasy team last year.

This year, he's hitting .320.

T-Plush's surreal post-game appearances have become something of a YouTube sensation, and he's a Twitter star as well.

As Plush tweeted yesterday, "Throw up yo T, Nation!!! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh".

It being Milwaukee and all, the Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh may or may not be an homage to Fonzie's Aaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!

These days are all happy and free for the schizophrenic centerfielder.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Is it a Coincidence That Officer Hightower Died the Other Day?

With a tip of the Stetson to Bryce Harper, Batter Chatter is sticking with the tower theme in its Special Saturday Edition, after the YES men calling the Yankee game last night identified light tower power  as a key to the Yankees-Red Sox series opener.
"Both these teams can hit some home runs," said Ken Singleton, making his second appearance in Batter Chatter in the past week. "The Yankees are first and the Red Sox are second. There are some power offenses here."
In case light tower power wasn't self-explanatory, Singleton broke down LTP for viewers. "Sometimes the veteran scouts say a player has light tower power," he said. "Capable of hitting a home run over a light tower."
(Editor's Note: Should you be in, around, or traveling toward Telluride this weekend, venerable horn outfit Tower of Power is playing the Telluride Jazz Celebration.)
Surprisingly, the game was a little light in the light tower power department. The Yanks prevailed 3-2, with Big Papi clouting the encounter's lone home run--a moonshot to right that traveled 408 feet but, sadly, did not clear a light tower.
One of the benefits of having light tower power? The right to do a little home run pimping, as Jonathan Mahler puts it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'Buzz'-Worthy Bryce Harper 'Lightyears' Ahead of Competition

Teen slugger Bryce Harper has a bright future in the Major Leagues--and in the hallowed annals of Batter Chatter. Tom Verducci profiles Harper in the Aug. 1 Sports Illustrated, and Harper shows a welcome willingness to sling the baseball lingo around.

Verducci examines an incident where Harper was caught on video, blowing a kiss to the pitcher in the midst of his home run trot, which only fueled the fire for the haters who say Harper is an arrogant ass. He also looks at another well publicized play where Harper went from first to third on an infield out--with his team up by 8.

The opposing pitcher threw at Harper's head next time up, as the unwritten rules of baseball dictate, and Harper took it in stride.

"If I was pitching, I probably would have done the same thing," says Harper. "A kid going first to third with the score eight-nothing? If I was up on the bump, I would buzz the tower too."

The Bump...Buzz the tower...listen to this kid!

The phrase appears to pre-date Harper's birth by about six years, and reinforces the notion that all male culture comes from Top Gun.


Goose: No. No, Mav, this is not a good idea.

Maverick: Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz a tower.

Urban Dictionary offers up the term too, which is apparently widely enough used that it's got its own text-message shorthand:

Informing someone to call your cell phone at a later time; (ie. Call me later..); if texting, use "btt".

Wikipedia's Glossary of Baseball acknowledges BTT as a baseball term:

To throw a high fastball up-and-in to a hitter, typically with intent to back the hitter off the plate or make a statement. Also see brushback and purpose pitch.

Verducci shows Harper to be cocky, but probably no more of an a-hole that any other 18 year old who's been the best baseball player in his age class his entire life.

Harper has been splitting his time between Hagerstown (MD) and Harrisburg (PA) this year, but may be getting his tower buzzed with the Nationals as soon as next season.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Pus-sy Galore Surrounds Irabu Death

I'm not here to make fun of Hideki Irabu. Suicide is awful in every way, and worse still when you leave children behind.

But an interesting linguistic angle popped up out of the former Yankee hurler's death. Ask any baseball fan which two words come to mind when they hear "Hideki Irabu" and the answer is, inevitably and
unfortunately, "fat toad."

Nearly every Irabu obit mentioned "fat toad," as George Steinbrenner infamously--and inaccurately--was said to have called his pricey eastern import after Irabu failed to cover first on a ground ball during spring training in 1999. Here's's mother ship--using the quote, and here's CNN borrowing the wrong quote from MLB.

Kudos to the NY Times for being perhaps the only major outlet to check its facts and get them right: Steinbrenner, in fact, called Irabu a fat pussy toad, and any publication saying the quote is "fat toad" has quoted Steinbrenner inaccurately. Wikipedia too has "fat pussy toad," to their credit.

Yet even "fat pussy toad" may not be entirely correct. The Times actually had the quote as "fat pus-sy toad," as in, a fat toad that's full of pus. (Sorry, not the most pleasant of images here.)

But here's a theory: the NY Times initially reported The Boss saying "fat pussy toad," and the Yankees did some damage control, because you can't have your owner, this conservative champion of clean cut living, say the word "pussy" in family-read newspapers nationwide. So the Yankees' PR wing went at it, saying that George actually said "pus-sy"--again, filled with pus, instead of the racier "pussy." Could the reporters really argue?

I reiterate that it's just a theory. But it sounds believable, doesn't it?

Back when Steinbrenner used to be his own beat--have a few dozen reporters hanging on to him, hoping he'd say something that would fill the back page of a tabloid paper--one can imagine that 30-40 scribes heard "fat pus-sy toad" firsthand. Could they say for sure whether he said "pus-sy" or "pussy"? Say both of them to yourself, preferably without female coworkers around. The difference is subtle.

Either way, somehow both "pussy" and "pus-sy" got edited out of the phamous phrase, and countless media outlets--perhaps censoring it for the perceived good of their readers (and advertisers)--incorrectly reported the quote. If they published the quote as "fat...toad," that's journalistically sound. If they ran it as "fat toad," like AOL and countless other publications, it's wrong. (Alas, even the NY Times at times got it wrong.)

The New York Daily News even added another wrinkle by moving the hyphen one space to the right to turn Irabu into a "fat puss-y toad." Not sure how they came up with that one.

In a statement, the Yankees said "Every player that wears the Pinstripes is forever a part of the Yankees family."

And sometimes family members call each other mean names.

[image: NY Times]