in his wheelhouse

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 11 06:41:30 UTC 2001

At 1:19 PM -0500 6/11/01, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>     Paul Dickson's  _The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary_  gives 1959
>as the first attestation of baseball "wheelhouse":"'It just seems
>he's not seeing 'em the way he used to...He had a couple that came
>right into the wheelhouse--the kind he used to knock out of
>sight--and he fouled 'em off.' (Bill Rigney on Orlando Cepeda's
>slump, _San Francisco Chronicle_, May 11, 1959; Peter Tamony
>[Collection of Americanisms]."
>      Dickson also gives an 1987 attestation: "[Ken] Dixon put a
>fastball in [Charlie] Moore's wheelhouse...and dared Moore to hit it"
>(_Washington Post_, June 7, 1987)."
>        As for the etymology, Dickson first presents an unconvincing
>derivation suggested by Tamony. Since it's unconvincing, I'll pass
>over it in silence. Dickson then adds correctly: "In nautical terms,
>a wheelhouse is the pilothouse or the place from which a vessel is
>       So we're led back to 1959, the _San Francisco Chronicle_, and
>Bill Rigney, who must have been a sportswriter.

No, Rigney was a manager, and indeed the manager of the Giants in the
late 1950's (in New York and after their relocation in San Francisco)
and later of the expansion Angels.   Before that, he was a middling
middle infielder.  Not a sportswriter.  He was a native of
California, which suggests either that the river-man origin is
questionable or that he picked up the term from others.


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