Dictionary of Old-Time Baseball Slang
Here is a list of some baseball lingo and terms from back in the days where players would ride "gully jumpers" (railroad trains) to away games. If they were out of luck, they would have to pull a "Sullivan" (sitting up all night and trying to rest when the train did not have sleeper cars available).
Many of these terms are still in use and others are lost to history. It's fun to introduce some of these words and phrases to young ball players. When I was a Little League coach I taught them that an easy pop fly was called a "can of corn." They loved the expression: "Can of corn! I've got it! I've got it!"
The cool thing about Playmaker Journal is that the action of the game can be described in your own words. So here is a list of some old baseball slang that can some color to your games notes.
--Made a circus catch in left field for 2nd out!
--Made a boner at 3rd.
--K. All fishing trips.
--Pulled the string for 3rd strike.
--Hit a fat one for a grass cutter to LF for bingle.
Dictionary of Old-Time Baseball Slang
A la carte: Playing the ball with one hand.
Alibi Ike: Player that makes excuses for bad plays.
Angels: Fleecy clouds in a high sky; outfielder’s dream.
Annie Oakley: Base on balls; also, free admission to a game.
Apple comes up: Fails in a pinch (swallows his Adam’s apple).
April Cobb: Spring whirlwind.
Arlie Latham: Ball hit to infielder o nice, easy hop.
Around the horn: Side-arm curve to batter when count is 3 and 2.
Ash heap: Rough infield.
Automatic strike: Pitch when the count is 3-0.
Awkward squad: Clumsy players.
Backstop or receiver: Catcher.
Balloon: Ball which looks big to batter.
Baltimore chop: Bounder that hits the plate and bounces high into the air.
Banjo hitter: Batter who can’t hit a long ball.
Barber: Player who does a lot of kidding.
Bargain bill: Double-header; two for the price of one.
Barker: Coach at first base.
Base on stones: Batter gets on, when potential ground-out hits pebble.
Batesy: Veteran player who has seen his best days.
Bean ball: Ball thrown close to batter’s head to intimidate him.
Bearing down: Giving last ounce of energy.
Beauty: Letting a perfect strike go by.
Belly-whopper: Headlong slide into a base.
Benched: Player removed from lineup by his manager.
Big Bertha: Club’s cleanup hitter.
Big Bill: Big hop, as man fields ball.
Big Tent: Major Leagues
Big Time: Major Leagues
Bill Klem: Person who is never wrong.
Bingle: Base hit.
Black Betsy: Pet name for a big, dark-colored bat.
Bleeder: Scratchy single.
Blind Tom: Umpire.
Bloomer: One who looks good in training, then is a bust.
Blooper: Fluke hit over the infield.
Blow: Base hit.
Blue dart: Line drive.
Bonehead: Dumb player.
Boner: Dumb play.
Boneyard: Last resting place of washed-up pitchers.
Boot or kick: Error.
Borough Hall: Side-arm pitch in Brooklyn.
Box: Pitcher’s mound.
Boxcar town: Extra small town, usually for an exhibition game.
Broadway: Flashy dresser, loud talker.
Bucket hitter: Batter who steps back from a pitched ball.
Bug: Baseball enthusiast.
Bullpen: Place where pitchers warm up.
Busher: Raw recruit.
Butter cup hitter: No power behind drives.
Butterfingers: Player who errs on easy chance.
Butterfly: Knuckle ball.
Cagey: Foxy player.
Can of corn: High, lazy fly ball.
Change of pace: The pitcher using a fast delivery and then a slow one, object being to fool the batter
Change-up: change of pace, slow ball.
Charley horse: pulled muscle.
Chicagoed: Old term for shutout.
Chokes in the clutch: Not so good in pinch.
Cigar box: Small field.
Circuit drive: Home run.
Circus catch: Sensational or outstanding catch.
Cleanup batter: Fourth batter in lineup.
Clothesline: Low line drive.
Clubhouse lawyer: Player who airs Bolshevik views in clubhouse.
Cockeye: Left-handed pitcher.
Coffee and cake: Low pay.
Collisions: Scornful term for college players.
Contractor’s backyard: bumpy and uneven field.
Count the stitches: Looking at slow ball float to plate.
County Fair: Show-off. Grandstand player.
Cousin: Pitcher easy to hit.
Crab: Player who is always finding fault.
Crank: baseball enthusiast.
Cripple or pay ball: Ball pitched when the count is 3-0, 2-0 or 3-1.
Crooked arm: One of many derogatory terms for a left-handed pitcher.
Cunnythumb: Player who is awkward, all hands, in fielding ball.
Cup of coffee: Brief trial in the big leagues.
Cushion, pillow, station or sack: Base.
Cuspidor curver: Spitball pitcher.
Daily win: Club meeting before each game.
Daisy Scorcher: Low line drive to outfield; a safe hit.
Daniel Webster: Player who looks wise; good arguer.
Deal from the bottom: To pitch underhand.
Derricked: Taking out a pitcher.
Dick Smith: Player who keeps to himself and never treats.
Died: Player put out in play.
Dilly: Silly player.
Dish, pan or saucer: Home plate.
Downer: Pitched ball that drops close to the batter’s ankles.
Down the alley: In the groove for perfect strike.
Down the river: trading or selling player to second-division club.
Down town: Hit for the circuit.
Dreamer: Asleep on playing field.
Ducks on the pond: Bases full.
Dump one: Bunt one.
Duster: Bean-ball to drive batter away from plate.
Dypsydo: Slow, tantalizing curve.
Eagle claw: Glove.
Eagle eye: Player with sharp eye for judging pitched balls.
Ear bender: Hotel stranger who talks to players.
Early shower: Player put out of game by umpire.
Fancy Dan: Player who makes every play look difficult.
Fanned: Struck out.
Far corner or hot corner: Third base.
Fat one: Right down the middle; pitch easy to hit.
Find the handle: Advice to infielder making a glaring error.
Fireman: Player who takes a shower and dresses quickly; also good relief pitcher.
Fire-plug: Short, stocky player.
Fireworks: Batting rally.
First and fifteenth player: One who thinks only of paydays.
Fish cakes: Low pay.
Fishing trip: Taking a swing at a bad ball.
Flea box: very small park.
Fog it through: dizzy Dean’s way of pouring his fast ball by the hitter.
Foot in the bucket: Pulling away at plate as batter swings at pitched ball.
Four for 0: Went hitless in four trips to the plate.
Four-master: Home run.
Four-ply bow: Home run. (Three-ply for triple, two-ply for double).
Free ticket: Base on balls.
Free transportation: Base on balls.
Front runner: Player who performs well only when the team is winning.
Froze one: Caught fly or stopped a grounder.
Fungo stick: Bat used for hitting flies in practice.
Get the gate: Banished from field by umpire.
Get two: Ball player’s cry on try for double play.
Gillette: Ball thrown at player’s head—scraping his whiskers.
Glass arm: Weak wing.
Glove and a prayer: What “nothing ball” pitcher is said to possess.
Go for the downs: Usual yell to a player, instructing him to try for a long hit.
Goal tender: Eagle-eyed batter who swings only at good pitches.
Gonfalon: League pennant.
Gopher ball: Pitches that “go for” two bases or three bases or home run.
Got big one left: Batter with two strikes on him.
Grandstand manager: Fan who second guesses the pilot.
Grandstand player: One who makes easy plays look difficult.
Grapefruit league: Spring training games.
Grass cutter: Ground hit which rolls with great speed and close to the turf.
Groove: Height at which batter can meet ball to his best ability.
Gully jumper: Railroad train.
Handcuffed: Hard hit going through infielder’s hands.
He took a drink: Heading for water cooler after striking out.
He’s hot: Player hitting, pitching or fielding at best.
Herky Jerky: Pitcher with unusually jerky delivery.
High hard one: Fast ball above the waist.
High pockets: Player who has extra-long legs.
Hill or slab: Pitching mound.
Hind snatcher: Catcher.
Hipper-dipper: Snaky curve ball.
Hit an air pocket: Alibi of a fielder who muffed fly ball.
Hit in pinch: Base hit at right moment.
Hit the dirt: Slide.
Hitchy-koo: Fidgety batter.
Hogan’s brickyard: Rough diamond.
Hole in bat: Missed swing.
Homer: Umpire accused of favoring home team.
Hook: Curve ball; also, a way of sliding into the bag.
Horse and buggy league: League that travels by bus.
Horse collar: Going hitless for the day.
Horseshoes: Lucky stop or catch.
Hot corner: Third base.
Houdini: Trick pitcher.
House dick: Player who spend his time in the hotel lobby.
Hurler, twirler and moundsman: Synonyms for pitcher.
Ice it: Put game in the bag.
Initial sack: First base.
In the hole: Player waiting in dugout for his turn at plate, also when batter is behind on strike count.
Iron man: Workhorse pitcher; durable player
Ivory: High-priced rookie
Jake or Jaker: Player always out of lineup because of imaginary injuries.
Jerk: What an umpire thinks of a chronic kicker.
Jesse James: Any umpire.
Jockey: Player who rides opposition.
Joe College: College spirit or college try.
John Anderson: Stealing a base with runner already occupying bag.
Just a breeze: When team is winning easily.
Keystone sack: Second base.
Lallapalooza: Honey—a good one.
Lamps: Batter’s eyes.
Lay it down: Sacrifice.
Leadoff man: First batter in the lineup.
Leather players: Good fielders who can’t hit.
Leg hitter: Fast man who beats out infield hits.
Line drive to catcher: Missing third strike.
Loner: Same as Dick Smith.
Long distance orator: guy who argues from a safe range rather than fight.
Long strike: Long foul.
Looks ‘em over: batter taking time to pick a good ball to hit.
Loosen him up: Throw a bean ball.
Mackerel or No. 2: Curve ball.
Mae Wests: Bunting sticks—refers to plump legs.
Meal ticket: Club’s winningest pitcher.
Mexican stand-off: Tie, no result.
Middle sack: Second base.
Money man: One who is best in pinches.
Monkey suit: Baseball uniform.
Morning glory: Spring hitter.
Morning Journal: Bat with poor wood.
Moxie: Courage, guts.
Mr. Guess: Mister Umpire.
Napping or caught napping: Picked off base.
Nightcap: Second game of twin bill.
Nub: Sore finger.
Nubber: Lucky hit through infield.
Nuthin’ ball: Slow ball.
Ole rubber belly: Veteran player with bulging waistline.
On deck: batter waiting for his turn in the batter’s box.
One-arm man: One-handed player.
One-cushion shot: Line drive bouncing off the wall.
One for the book: Odd or freaky play.
Onion or pill: Baseball.
Orchard: Ball park.
Outer garden: Outfield.
Pancake: Old, worn baseball glove.
Paper mâché: Player who is easily injured.
Pass: Base on balls.
Pastureman or gardener: Outfielder.
Pea: Ball thrown so fast by pitcher that it looks pea-size to batter.
Pebble picker: Infielder who alibis by picking up imaginary pebbles and pretending the ball it the obstruction, causing the bad hop.
Pellet: The ball.
Pepper game: Pre-game bunting and fielding practice.
Percentage Patsy: One who plays for individual average.
Pest: Fan who is always around wanting something.
Pickpocket: Signal stealer.
Piece of iron: Bat with extra good wood in it.
Pilfering: Stealing a base.
Pinch-hitter: Substitute batsman.
Pink slip: Release from the club.
Pitches with his arteries: applied to a vet who uses head, control and heart.
Plater or rubber: Home plate.
Plow-jockey: Farm boy.
Pool table: Smooth infield.
Pour the pine: Hit the ball hard.
Powder the ball: Bang a long one.
Powerhouse: Distance hitter.
Prayer ball: Pitcher with nothing on ball.
Pretty: Player easily injured.
Pulling the string: When pitcher throws change up.
Punch the bag: Gossip, chew the fat.
Put him down: Advance runner from first to second on sacrifice hit.
Putty arm: Bad arm.
Rabbit ears: Player who tries to hear everything said about him.
Rally: When team behind ties score or forges ahead with splurge of runs.
Rhubarb: Mix-up; confused situation.
Rifle or shotgun: Very powerful arm.
Robber: Any umpire.
Rock: Bonehead play.
Round heel: Poor player.
Round house: Sweeping curve.
Rubber arm: Pitcher who can work often.
Rubber bat: Bat used by one who gets a lot of fluke hits.
Rubinoff: Star always in need of a haircut.
Sailer: Fast ball that takes off.
Satchelfoot: Player with large feet.
Saw the barrels: Passing a barrel wagon, taken as an omen of good luck
Scatter arm: Limber-arm pitcher with speed but little control.
Screwball: Term often applied to a lefty, to a player that does od things, also a curve.
Screwjack: Player who is notoriously lucky.
Second guesser: One who is continuously criticizing moves of players and manager.
Seven-inning pitcher: Hurler who can’t go route.
Seventh-inning stretch: Between halves of seventh inning when fans get up and stretch.
Shadow: Manager’s chief aide.
Shadow batting: Business of standing at plate on sidelines, without swinging, as pitcher warms up.
Shine ball: Doctored ball, usually with talcum powder.
Shoestring catch: Fielder nabbing a liner off shoe tops.
Shortfield: Territory around shortstop.
Shotgun: Strong throwing arm.
Show boat: Grandstand player.
Shrieker sex: Female fans.
Shut out: Team fails to score during entire game.
Sinker: Ball hit on a line that drops rapidly after passing infield; also a pitched ball with a quick drop.
Skin-diamond: Bald field (no grass).
Skull session: Club meeting before games.
Slugger: Heavy hitter.
Slump: Sudden team losing streak or loss of batting eye by player.
Smoke: Speed displayed by pitcher.
Snake or hook: Curve ball.
Souper: Pitcher’s arm.
Spangles: Uniform of team.
Speed merchant: Fast runner or fast-ball pitcher.
Spellbinder: Glib-tongued player.
Stanza, canto or frame: Inning.
Stepping on his toes: Pitcher that can’t field bunts.
Stick it in his ears: Dust him off, knock him down.
Sticks: Any of the smaller circuits.
Strawberry: Bruise from sliding.
Stringbean: Tall, thin player.
Strolled: Base on hits.
Submarine: Underhanded delivery.
Subway slinger: underhand pitcher.
Sullivan: Sitting up all night—no sleepers on train.
Sunday pitch: Best pitch, ace in the hole.
Sun field: Field where the sun shines the most.
Sweetheart: Star player that rises to the occasion.
Swiped a hassock: Stole a base.
Take the blood off it: Advice to batter that got a lucky hit.
Take the button off his cap: Dust the batter.
Take two: Instructions to take two bases instead of one on a hit.
Tally: Runs scored.
Tee off: Hit a hard one.
Telegraph a curve: Mannerism of pitcher betraying fact he is about to throw a curve.
Ten o’ clock hitter: One who hits well in morning practice.
Texas Leaguer: Looping hit that drops safely between infield and outfield. Also called a Sheeny Mike, banjo hit, humpback liner, plunker, looper, special, pooper, sinker, stinker and smell hit.
The book: Baseball’s rule book.
The gate: Total attendance.
Thumbed out: Banished from the field by the umpire.
Time called: Play suspended by order of plate umpire.
Tissue-paper Tom: Athlete easily hurt.
Toehold: Stance at the plate when a batter digs into the swing.
Tools of ignorance: Catcher’s paraphernalia.
Traffic cop or flagman: Third base coach.
Tree full of owls: Smart fellow who says very little and looks wise.
Truck horse: Extra slow man.
Turn to the right: Out at first base.
Two League: One which plays many double headers.
Two o’ clock hitter: One who hits line drives in batting practice but pops up in game.
Ukulele hitter: Batter who can’t hit far.
Unbutton your shirt: Take a good swing.
Uncle Charlie’s got him: Can’t hit a curve ball.
Undress somebody: Hard drive, same as unbuttoning your shirt.
Union hours: Nine-inning game.
Up to the neck: Failure to come through in a pinch.
Waste one: To throw wide to the catcher with the idea that the base runner on first will try to steal second.
Wave a howdy-do: Let hard-hit ball do by, rather than risk injury attempting to flag it.
Whammy: Jinx, hoodoo.
Whiff: Strike out.
Whitewash: Blank team, a scoreless game.
Willie Keeler: “Hit ‘em where they ain’t,” coined by Keeler.
Wing: Player’s throwing arm.
Wolves: Spectators that constantly ride a player or team.
Wonder-man: Player whose erratic fielding causes others to wonder whether he will catch or miss the ball.
Wood player: Good hitter who can’t field.
Yan or Yannigan: Same as a recruit; member of second team in training camp.
Yankee Doodle hitter: Weak hitter.
Yodeler: Coach at third base.