"go for the downs"

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 27 05:40:44 UTC 2010

Here is an eight example sampling spread across the decades starting
in 1952 of the related expressions: going for the downs, go for the
downs, swinging for the downs, swing for the downs. All examples are
from baseball and all examples are from Google Books. Text is visible
in full view or preview mode except the Dizzy Dean example which is in
snippet view.

1952 August, Baseball Digest, Page 7. (Full view)
The way they play him it's silly for him not to hit to right field.
"Of course," continued "Philibuck," qualifying his directions,
"there's a time and a place for it. When you're going for the downs,
when a run means a ball game, then he has to swing for the fence."

1962 September, Baseball Digest, Page 36. (Full view)
He wonders just what to throw next and where to throw it so that some
160-pound .250 hitter, swinging for "the downs," won't assassinate his
ball game with a home run that would have passed muster with Babe Ruth

1965 July, Baseball Digest, Page 12. (Full view)
Lower batting averages, for one thing, a result in part of more
hitters going for the downs, swinging for the fences.

1969 June, Baseball Digest, Page 16. (Full view)
While I don't like to change my swing, I do at times, according to the
pitcher and the pitch. "For instance, against a sinker-ball pitcher or
a knuckler you just can't be thinking about going for the downs. You
just try to meet the ball as best you can and get a piece of it.

1976 January, Baseball Digest, Page 86. (Full view)
More and more batters began to go down to the knob of the bat with
their grip and to swing for the downs with the effort if not the
success of the Babe

1992, Ol' Diz: a biography of Dizzy Dean by Vince Staten (Snippet view)
One of the most famous was, "He's going for the downs," uttered after
a particularly vicious swing — and usually miss — by a batter. That
same scenario might also bring Diz to comment, "Brother, he had a

2003, The Complete History of the Home Run by Mark Ribowsky, Page 7. (Preview)
As for "HR" on the scorecard, that was not really in the ballpark yet
– and I mean that literally, since the spacious dimensions of the
ballparks (many of which didn't have outfield fences) made "going for
the downs" produce no more than a fly ball that made the crowd go
"ooooh" but were in reality easy pickin's for good outfielders,
bare-handed and all.

2010, 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates: Day by Day: a Special Season, an
Extraordinary World Series by Rick Cushing, Page 344. (Preview)
Clemente had a going-for-the downs swing that he sometimes uncorked,
mostly when the count was 2-0 or 3-0. He'd swing so hard that he'd
seem to come out of his shoes, and he'd spin around like a top before
falling down.


On Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 11:57 PM, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "go for the downs"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I never heard the phrase before. GN shows some usages in the 70s. I
> would be more likely to use "swing for the fences" or "trying to take
> the pitcher downtown" to mean the same thing -- a hard swing. I don't
> know if "downtown" is the source.
> One thought -- for many years, the stadium for the Dodgers' main farm
> team was Delorimier Downs in Montreal. Perhaps there was a
> strategically placed sign?
> DanG
> On Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:47 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
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>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>> Subject:      Re: "go for the downs"
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> At 9:25 PM -0400 8/26/10, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>>Not only is it not in HDAS, I've never heard of it before.
>>>How common can it be?  Did it once refer to actual place near a ballpark
>>>called "The Downs"?
>>>I watched Yankees baseball on WPIX for ten years in the '50s and '60s, and
>>>the Mets on WOR for years after that and never noticed its use.
>> It's familiar to me, especially as "swing(ing) for the downs".
>> (Maybe The Downs are where all the marbles can be found.)  It seems
>> to me it's used mostly as a criticism; a player who ought to be just
>> trying to get on base or hitting a single or a ball into the gap in
>> going for/swinging for the downs is swinging from his heels and
>> likely missing the ball or popping up.
>> LH
>>>On Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:17 PM, George Thompson
>>><george.thompson at nyu.edu>wrote:
>>>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>>>  -----------------------
>>>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>>  Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
>>>>  Subject:      "go for the downs"
>>>>  I recall my father using this expression, to describe a baseball batter who
>>>>  has taken a very vigorous swing: "he was going for the downs with that
>>>>  swing."  I have just heard Al Leiter say it, on a rerun of a Yankees
>>>>  broadcast from earlier this month.
>>>>  My impression is, that it only refers to a vigorous swing that misses the
>>>>  ball, or at least, that fails to produce a home run.  I have never heard it
>>>>  in statements like *He went for the downs in the 5th inning, or *Batters
>>>>  have gone for the downs against him 17 times this season.
>>>>  I don't see it in OED, nor in HDAS.
>>>>  GAT
>>>>  George A. Thompson
>>>>  Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
>>>>  Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
>>>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>>"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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