Bugs Bunny change-up

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sat Oct 15 19:15:04 UTC 2005

>From Sunday's "On Language" column on baseball lingo...

Then there is my favorite, the Bugs Bunny change-up. This is a specialty
of the Minnesota Twins' Johan Santana, last year's American League Cy
Young winner. Tom Jones of The St. Petersburg Times described Santana's
oddly named change-up thus: "It looks like a fastball, but because of the
grip (the ball is held firmly in the hand against the palm), it comes in
anywhere from 10 to 20 m.p.h. slower. But everything has to look the same
as a fastball: the angle of the arm, the speed of the arm motion, the
release point."
Why name the pitch after Bugs Bunny? Because, to take a fanciful leap, in
the tale of the tortoise and the hare, the rabbit starts out fast and
then, exhausted, falls behind the steadily plodding turtle. That fable of
Aesop's was surely current in England back when stoolball became baseball.

Surely the "Bugs Bunny change-up" is so-called because of the scene in the
classic "Baseball Bugs" (1946) where Bugs is able to ring up multiple
strikes on the same ultraslow pitch? ("One-two-three-strikes-yer-out!")

--Ben Zimmer

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