The Language of Baseball


I begin this post with a glorious clip of Earl Weaver (language NWS):

Amazing isn’t it? You’d have thought that ol’ Earl had brought the levels of profanity in baseball to new heights, but it turns out his antics were a bit old hat by the time he was managing the O’s. Dropping F-Bombs and insinuations of homosexuality in professional sports predate Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, and are actually over a century old as recently uncovered historical documents can attest.

Baseball ProfanityThe image to the left is an excerpt from “Special Instructions to Players” distributed to National League players in 1898. The whole document, whose original will be auctioned off next spring, can be found here along with background information at the Robert Edward Auctions website. With Nerds On Sports recently earning enough money to hold itself a pizza party (plus coupons, minus booze and soda), I am confident that we will be in the running to acquire such a historically important document.

The first striking thing about the document is the pains it takes to carefully detail the specific profanities in question, as if “cock-sucking son of a bitch” and “cock-sucker” are different enough that the intended audience (the players) might think that one is ok but the other is not. Is “cock bitch” acceptable? What if I use it as a term of endearment for one of my teammates?

The second is the complexity of construction put into these swears. Not just Earl’s, “your job is just to fuck us” but “a dog must’ve fucked your mother when she made you!” Major points for creativity, especially given that they didn’t have Tarantino movies to ripoff of back then. It makes me curious about the etymology of various swears, and makes me wonder if the one I used the last time I was on 93 was, in fact, truly original.

The third thing is the utter shock with which the REA treats the document, describing the language as “blue” and “bluer” and the concerns they mention with offering the document up for sale. It leads one to imagine the auctioneer turning bright red with embarrassment, stammering that he probably could auction the document off, but what if there were old women and people with weak constitutions in the audience? Fortunately, the enthusiasm of prospective buyers has convinced them to go along with it.

Finally, the suggested penalty mentioned in the document – “the removal of the offender for a day or for all time” would have drastically changed the face of baseball. Earl Weaver might have been ejected from the game, but he did so in style, knowing full well he would be back the next game.