And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series win...

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 3 20:47:50 UTC 2010

The last time the Giants won the Series it was 1954, when they were
playing in the Polo Grounds a few blocks from where I lived in upper
Manhattan.  Notwithstanding this proximity, I was--as a rabid fan of
the  Brooklyn Dodgers--not pleased with the Giants' success and was
rooting in vain for the Cleveland Indians in that Series.  The
turning point of that Series may well have been the game-saving catch
in Game 1 of the deep drive by the Indians' Vic Wertz by Willie Mays,
possibly the most celebrated defensive play in the history of
baseball.  But what I remember equally well is the game-winning
pinch-hit home run hit by Dusty Rhodes in the 10th inning of the game
Game 1 following the famous catch (a.k.a. "The Catch")

Curiously to me, the only listing for "Chinese home run" in
Urbandictionary is the following, which I'm totally unfamiliar with:

When a batter fouls a ball back behind the screen or net into the stands.
"Johnson remains at the plate after hitting a Chinese Home Run on a 2-2 count."

Other web entries do provide the relevant sense, and indeed Dickson's
"New Baseball Dictionary" (p. 114) not only includes this sense but
indexes this very same epochal event as the first use of the phrase,
although I seem to recall (dimly, since I was 9 years old at the
time) that the announcers seemed to presuppose watchers would be
familiar with the term.  The reference seems either exclusive to or
largely limited to use to describe home runs to the very short
right-field corner, and to signal the "cheapness" of the home run,
which Dickson notes was also described, probably by Cleveland fans,
as "a 260-foot pop fly.  So what I was wondering if the etymology is
just from the stereotype assumption of Chinese cheap labor > (Chinese
= cheap) > (cheap home run = Chinese home run) or if there's some
other motivation.  It's also interesting that the first use, both in
Dickson and some other sites, is attributed to our friend T. A.
("TAD") Dorgan, who is of course on some of these sites still
identified as the originator of "hot dog".  I'm wondering whether the
attribution is more reliable in the case of "Chinese home run/homer"
than in the case of the dubious dachshund.


(P.S.  While the term is predictably no longer in use, the Dickson
entry reminds me that the Chinese home run was successfully
transported from the Polo Grounds to the L. A. Coliseum, where the
Dodgers played in the late 1950s before their own Chavez Ravine
ballpark was built; the Coliseum was, and is, a football stadium
whose temporary conversion to baseball made cheap home runs possible,
only to left rather than right field.  Wally Moon, a journeyman
left-handed-hitting outfielder then playing for the Dodgers, made a
living by poking balls into those nearby stands (the opposite field
for him) that became known as "Moon Shots"--one of those lexical
items that was useful for a while, and then predictably died.  The
same is evidently true of "Chinese home run", but for a different

At 6:53 AM -0700 11/3/10, geoffrey nunberg wrote:
>"He [Renteria] told Andres [Torres] he was going to hit one and he
>did it," outfielder Aaron Rowand said. "He Babe Ruth-ed it, I guess."

The American Dialect Society -

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