Can't Steal First Base (1941)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Sep 5 02:20:59 UTC 2002

At 3:55 PM -0400 9/4/02, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
>     Some more baseball terms from Paul Dickson's BASEBALL DICTIONARY
>searched in NEW YORK TIMES full text.
>    27 June 1941, NEW YORK TIMES, pg. 23:
>    He stayed around for some seasons but, for all his great
>defensive work, he drifted out because, as everybody knows, you
>can't steal first base on the diamond.

Most of these are still used in the same way the early cites define
or illustrate, but this one is a bit opaque as given here.  There's
no obvious connection between being a good glove man and being unable
to steal first.  I've always heard this expression used for fast
players who could potentially steal a lot of bases but have trouble
getting hits (or walks) and so can't reach first often enough to
steal second (or third).  True, some of those guys are good fielders;
defensive skills partly correlate with speed on the bases.  But as
Rickey Henderson showed, you can be very fast AND get on first base a
lot (by walks and hits) without being either great or awful
defensively.  Lou Brock was quite bad defensively and had the career
stolen base record before Henderson broke it.  Maybe it's just bad
reporting by the Times.

>    31 October 1966, NEW YORK TIMES, pg. 63:
>    The Green Bay quarterback also survived the magazine-cover jinx
>that has often spelled failure for sports figures who have appeared
>on the covers of national magazines.

I'd never have guessed this jinx was around so long.  And clearly it
wasn't Sports Illustrated's fault.  This must be Bart Starr who
survived the jinx.


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