"busy cup of tea" (1913 baseball)

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Mon Jun 18 12:09:40 UTC 2001

     Might anyone be able to explain why a person would be described
as "the busy cup of tea" or "a busy little cup of tea"? In the first
quote below we find: "For nearly two weeks Thorpe has been the busy
cup of tea, working out with the Giants' young recruits,..." And in
the second quote (at very end) we find "Pat is a busy little cup of

    The quotes are from the 1913 baseball columns of the newspaper
_San Francisco Bulletin_. The meaning of "busy cup of tea" here is
clearly "very active, eager-beaver type of player; player who shows
real spunk." But I have no idea why a cup of tea would be described
as "busy" or why "busy cup of tea" would be used to describe a person.

    Here are the two quotes:

Feb. 28, 1913, p.17/6-7; 'Jim Thorpe is Setting No Worlds on Fire in
Camp': 'Marlin Springs, Tex., Feb. 28.--...For nearly two weeks
Thorpe has been the busy cup of tea, working out with the Giants'
young recruits, and while he has been most active on the field he has
shown nothing approaching genius.  McGraw, who has watched him like a
hawk does a chick, put him on first base, which Jim expressed a
desire to play.  Thorpe's work has been just so-so.  That's all.  If
energy and grit will get a player anywhere, Thorpe may become a star
some fine day, but that day is not near at hand.'
March 12, 1913, p.19/1-2; 'Del Howard May Manage...From...Bench':
     'Howard is one manager who does not believe in the efficacy of a
left-handed pitcher.  He claims they are too erratic as a rule....
     'Patrick Harkins and Massow are the only left-handed pitchers in
camp. The latter is not figured at all.   Harkins was in this same
class until Sunday, when he set the doubting Thomases at rest as to
his ability.  Pat showed up in fine fettle, exhibiting good control
and nice speed.  What made a hit with Howard more than anything else
was Harkins showed quick thinking under fire.   He showed that his
mind was on his work.
     'Pat is a conscientious worker.  He wants to make good and states
that he will do so even at the loss of an arm.  Pat is a busy little
cup of tea.'

---Gerald Cohen

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