baseball terminology messages from 19cBB discussion list

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Tue Oct 15 17:08:30 UTC 2002

    I'm on the discussion-group list for 19th century baseball and
recently received various messages about baseball terminology, a
topic which overlaps with ads-l interests.

    I'll be happy to forward baseball-terminology messages to ads-l
and send any ads-l input on their content back to the 19cBB list.
Here now are two messages which arrived today.

Gerald Cohen

[item #1]:

>At 9:46 AM -0400 10/15/02, Shieber, Tom wrote:
>To: "'19cBB at'" <19cBB at>
>From: "Shieber, Tom" <tshieber at>
>Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2002 09:46:51 -0400
>Subject: RE: [19cBB] Terminology
>Reply-To: 19cBB at
>Folks -
>       For what it's worth, I have read many hundreds of game accounts from
>the 1850s and early 1860s and have yet to see the word "dead" as a synonym
>for "out" in any account of a baseball game. (By baseball, I am here
>referring to the New York Game). Of course, this doesn't mean that it never
>was used, but if it was it was extremely rare.
>       - Tom Shieber

[item #2]:

>At 12:28 PM -0400 10/15/02, Greg Rhodes wrote:
>To: 19cBB at
>From: Greg Rhodes <roadwest at>
>Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2002 12:28:53 -0400
>Subject: [19cBB] Re: Vintage terminology
>The thread on terminology is of great interest to those of us in the
>Vintage ball experience. I strongly believe we ought to be a
>research-grounded enterprise.  That is, the customs of play, the terms
>we use, the equipment we use, should all be derived from research.  That
>would mean club rules and scorebooks from the period, newspaper
>accounts, box scores, and most importantly of all, the baseball guides
>(which include the rules). Recollections of players and officials
>published years later are also useful.
>We should be able to justify the terminology we use in vintage ball by
>referring back to examples of their use from the period. We should not
>be using terms that we think were in use, or we know were in use before
>or after the period, but we have scant or no evidence of their use from
>the era we are recreating.
>As Tom Shieber points out in his most recent post, the word "dead" for
>outs is missing from the newspaper accounts of the 1850s and early
>1860s. Yet this is a term I have often heard --and used myself.  Paul
>Hunkele recently noted on this list:
>"Dead" is apparently an early slang for "out", which appears to
>be a holdover from "soaking"; the pre 1845(?) rule allowing runners to be
>'killed' by a thrown ball.  During the years of carnage of the American
>Civil War, calling runners "dead" or "hands dead"  was replaced with "lost"
>or "hands lost" (as apparently they had their fill of death), and later
>"hands out".
>What are the sources on "dead" being used in baseball prior to the Civil
>War? And for those teams recreating the Red Stocking era of the late
>1860s (fly game), is there any evidence "dead" was in common use then?
>Paul, would you feel that you are seeing a correct interpretation of the
>era if players used the term "dead" in an 1860 recreation? How about an
>1869 presentation?  Also interesting that you note that "safe" is not
>used in the early 1860s. What about in the guides?  I will have to check
>that. Does anyone know when "safe" came into common usuage? According to
>  Dickson's Baseball Dictionary, the first recorded use of "safe" was in
>1862. But that doesn't mean it immediately became widely used.
>Here are four other terms that have been mentioned lately and that are
>widespread in the vintage movement (there are many other terms in use,
>but let's start with these):
>Behind for catcher
>Hurler for pitcher
>Crank for fans
>Striker for batter
>Striker appears in the rules throughout the 1860s and is certainly
>justified.  I have never seen crank used in the 1860s and for good
>reason; it was not used until the 1880s according to Dickson's Baseball
>Dictionary.  Hurler, according to the Baseball Dictionary , was not used
>until 1908.  (That the vintage movement continues to use these
>terms--crank and hurler--for 1860 games is embarrassing. For clubs
>representing museums or historic sites to use these terms is an insult
>to the professional standards of those institutions.  It is the
>equivalent of going to a Civil War reenactment and having soldiers
>referred to as "doughboys." We would laugh at such a presentation, and
>those who know better are appalled at us for continuing to foist these
>terms on an unknowing audience.)
>As for behind, it is certainly  not widely used in the newspapers and I
>have never seen it in a 1860s box score. I read with some interest that
>Paul H. did see it in an 1867 account:
>I have seen "behind" used in reference to the catcher's position in an 1867
>match summary.  "Behind" was used in '67 to refer to the catcher's position
>in the same manner "in the field" referred to an out-fielder.
>And Gordon Hylton also wrote about the "behind":
>I think some of these terms remained in use in parts of the country long
>after they pass out of the official baseball parlance.  In my childhood
>in southwestern Virginia--I was born in 1952--I remember older
>people--probably born in the 1910's--regularly referring to the catcher
>as the "hind catcher" which I assume is a modification of the much
>earlier "behind."
>Are occasional references to "behind" in the newspapers from the 1860s,
>or recollections and regional use such as Mr. Hylton notes strong enough
>justification for using the term "behind?"  I would argue they are not.
>  I would like to see much more widespread use of a term in sources of
>the period before the vintage movement adopts it as widely as we have
>this term.  I would argue that we are on much stronger ground by using
>the term "behind" sparingly and using "catcher" much more often. I am in
>the process of going through the guides I have from the 1860s (Beadles
>guides from the 1860s, and the DeWitt's Guide from 1869) to see how
>often they use the term "behind".
>In fact, I think we could solve a lot of problems by agreeing to use the
>guides as our primary reference source for all that we do in vintage
>ball. If teams want to deviate or offer an alternative interpretation,
>then the onus is on them to do the research and support their position.
>Greg Rhodes

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