"hot dog" baseball player, 1954

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sat May 29 19:41:26 UTC 2004

>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society on behalf of James A. Landau
>Sent: Thu 5/20/2004 7:36 AM
>Subject: Re: Wondering about "hot dog" = show off.
>A man named Dick Friendlich, back in the 1950's and maybe earlier,
>wrote a series of sports novels.  (Not quite John R. Tunis, but
>better than the numerous potboilers found in that genre.)  If I
>remember correctly, "hot dog" meaning "show-off" was a term he liked
>to use, so he might provide an antedating to
>your 1959 citation.



My thanks to Jim Landau for drawing Dick Friendlich's books to my attention.
Friendlich's _Baron of the Bullpen_, 1954, sounded promising, and
sure enough, on page 19 is an example of baseball "hot dog".  In the
following scene the fictitious major league team, the Generals, is
holding spring-training in California; the veteran team is playing
the San Francisco Seals (this team really did exist) and the
Yannigans (second-string team) is playing a college team (fictitious
Stannard, presumably a play on 'Stanford'.) Grumpy veteran Hack
Francis, twenty-five pounds overweight, was assigned to the
Yannigans. The term 'hot dog' comes at the very end of the excerpt

        [p. 18]: "...Jim [Baron] steadied himself, digging his
toeplate into the loose dirt around the mound.  Tony [the catcher]
was correct in asking for a waste pitch, a bad one the batter might
reach for.  That was good percentage with a two-and-nothing count.
But Jim suddenly craved the personal satisfaction of striking out
Hack Francis on three straight pitches, if he could.  His arm was as
limber as a whip and he felt that his control was perfect.
        'He pitched--a blazing fast ball on the inside corner,
shoulder high.  Francis stepped in and forward and was suddenly
forced to jerk back from the plate to avoid being hit.  But the
umpire had seen the pitch correctly.
        "Stra-a-ake three," he bellowed, whipping off his  [p. 19]
mask..  The Generals slugger dropped his bat and glared at him
angrily for a second, then turned and shot a menacing look at Jim's
direction.  Jim did not see it, for he was walking toward the
Stannard dugout flushed with a sense of triumph, with the whooping
cheers of his teammates sounding in his ears.
        'Francis, with an expression of disgust and wrath on his
broad features, jogged slowly down the foul line toward right field.
Buddy Streeter [Generals pitching coach] flagged him down near first
        "What'd he throw you?" he asked noncommittally.
        "Nothing," Francis snarled. "Straight as a string, except the
fresh punk threw the last one at my head.  I shoulda flung the bat at
him for that--the college hot dog!"'

                                * * *

        This is the earliest example I have thus far for baseball 'hot dog.'
Its exact meaning isn't clear, although the term is certainly derogatory.
The previous earliest one is 1959. The 1954 term may have been
imported to baseball from boxing, where it referred to really
bad/second-rate fighters
(so bad that fans would leave for hot dogs and other refreshments).
Friendlich would likely have been familiar with the boxing term 'hot
dog,' since his work as a reporter foro the San Francisco Chronicle
included covering professional

       Jim Landau also drew my attention in a private message to
Friendlich's book _Relief Pitcher_, which I have ordered by
interlibrary loan. Its date is 1964 but it will still be interesting
to see what 'hot dog' material may turn up.

Gerald Cohen

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