With baseball being America’s “national pastime,” it’s no surprise its lingo has become so ingrained in our language. For more than a century, it has been commonplace for both sports lovers and the sports adverse to rattle off baseball slang without even thinking of its origin.
You go to buy a car and the salesman asks for a ballpark figure of what you want to spend.
You get a promotion and a coworker congratulates you with, “Now you’ve hit the major leagues.”
You complain to a friend about a squabble with your girlfriend and say, “She really threw me a curveball.”
You review your packing list for an upcoming trip to make sure you have covered all your bases.
We know intrinsically what these terms mean because, like it or not, we’ve grown up in a baseball culture. But think about an English language learner in her first months in America. How would she respond when she hears batting a thousand, right off the bat, or even whole new ball game?
Slang, in general, is right in my wheelhouse—which literally means “a batter’s power zone,” but colloquially means “an area of interest.” But baseball lingo is especially so, since I happen to be a fan. (Go Twins!)
Regardless of your level of sport adoration, I’ve compiled a list of colorful baseball lingo you might not have heard before. So get out your homer hankies! (Note to partners of sports fans: If you pepper a few of these gems into your sweet nothings with your boyfriend/girlfriend tonight, you might just hit a home run.)
Baltimore chop: A ground ball that hits in front of or off of home plate then takes a big hop over the infielder’s head.
Bang-bang play: When the runner reaches the base a split-second before the ball arrives or vice versa.
Banjo hitter: A batter with no power.
Bazooka: A strong throwing arm.
Bronx cheer: When the crowd boos.
Chin music: A pitch thrown high and inside.
Dinger: A home run.
Farm team: A minor league team.
Get good wood: To hit a ball hard.
Goose egg: A zero on the scoreboard.
Heater: A high-quality fastball.
Hot corner: Third base.
In the hole: The batter after the on-deck hitter.
Lollipop: A soft, straight pitch with a lot of arc.
Magic words: Specific words a player or coach says to an umpire that almost certainly leads to ejection from the game.
Meatball: A pitch that’s easy to catch.
Moon shot: A ball that’s hit very long and high that results in a home run.
On the screws: When a batter hits a ball hard.
Rhubarb: A scuffle on the field.
Ribbie: An RBI.
Sweet spot: The area of the bat just a few inches from the barrel.
Table setter: A batter whose job is to get on base so other hitters can drive him in for an RBI. (Usually the first or second batter)
Tea party: A conference on the pitcher’s mound with the pitcher, catcher, and manager.
Texas leaguer: A struck ball that drops between an infielder and outfielder.
Uncle Charlie: A curve ball.
Yardjob: A home run.