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

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 4 13:54:56 UTC 2010

The phrase "cheap home runs" was in use by 1896, and there are
multiple instances before 1927. Here is one:

Cite: 1896 January 19, Galveston Daily News, Jim Nolan's Gossip, Page
4, Galveston, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)

A long line of bleachers down from center to right will accommodate
the field crowd. The enlarged size of the grounds will enable the
outfielders to cover more ground and take in fly balls that went for
cheap home runs before. Batsmen will have to earn their triples and
home runs hereafter.

A profile of John Robert Mize appeared in the New York Times in 1948.
This is many years after the introduction of the term "Chinese homer"
as shown by Jon's great 1927 citation. However, this cite might
provide some insight into the perception of a sportswriter in 1948.
The passage below seems to imply that "cheap" and "Chinese" are
interchangeable when applied to homers.

Cite: 1948 February 1, New York Times, "Sports of the Times: Of Mize
and Men" by Arthur Daley, Page S2, New York, New York. (ProQuest)

He just takes his healthy cut and overpowers the ball. Few of Mize
homers are of the "cheap" or "Chinese" variety which are indigenous to
the Polo Grounds. His are very solidly whacked, circuit shots in any
ball park.

In 1951 uncertainty is expressed about the origin of the phrase.

Cite: 1951 October 10, Ironwood Daily Globe, Sidelights On Series by
Will Grimsley, Page 15, Ironwood, Michigan. (NewspaperArchive)

The Chinese home run is now a popular part of the baseball language,
but nobody seems to know how the the (repeated the sic) expression
originated. One expert said a Chinese home run is "one long hop." but
others declare its (sic) a cheap or phony blow hit into into the wrong
field or off the end of the bat—cheap like Chinese currency.

An origin legend that credits cartoonist Thomas Aloysius (Tad) Dorgan
appeared in the New York Times in 1954. This may be the source for the
story that Larry mentioned in Dickson's "New Baseball Dictionary".
Below I excerpt a biographical comment about Tad:

Cite: 1954 October 1, New York Times, "'Chinese Homer': How It All
Began: Cartoonist Tad Credited as Coiner of Term" by Joseph M.
Sheehan, Page 29, New York, New York. (ProQuest)

In fairness to Dorgan, a benign and gentle satirist, it should be
stressed that in introducing the "Chinese homer" phrase he had no
thought of disparaging the Chinese people. As a matter of fact, Tad, a
native San Franciscan, had two adopted sons of Chinese ancestry.

On Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 7:30 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series win...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> While a "Chinese homer" may be "cheap" in one sense, the Chinese, in my
> experience, were not stereotyped, as being nearly as "cheap" as the Scotch.
> So even if you wanted to make the jump from "easy or unfair" to "cheap"
> (unlikely in my view) you'd be more likely to call it a "Scotch home run."
> Or if simple cheapness were involved, a "Japanese home run," "Made in Japan"
> being a byword for "of poor quality" in those days.
> The popular American stereotype of the Chinese in the early 20th C. was not
> that they were "cheap," but that they were inscrutable, violent, probably
> unassimilable, often sinister, users and purveyors of opium, eaters of dogs,
> cats, and rats, atheistic, extremely prolific, and occasionally possessed of
> odd but profound wisdom unattainable by anybody else.  (Thus Earl D.
> Biggers' Charlie Chan, inspired by a real detective, was a giant step
> forward in ethnic understanding.)
> So in spite of other applicatrions of "Chinese," in this particul;ar case I
> wasn't kidding when I suggested something like "Wun Hi Fly," esp. since
> there already existed a "Chinese landing" with "Wun Wing Lo."
> Even Lieut. Lowe of William Faulkner's _Soldier's Pay_ (1925) was nicknamed
> "One Wing." Get it?
> JL
> On Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 11:56 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>> Subject:      Re: And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series
>> win...
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> At 8:57 PM -0600 11/3/10, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> >Am I the only one to recognize racist stereotypes? One image of the
>> >Chinese has been being industrious to a fault--I suppose, this is a
>> >positive stereotype. Another has been that of frugality--again, to a
>> >fault, to the point of being cheap. This is the one that's being played
>> >up here--a frugal choice in home runs, cutting corners to get one. Yet
>> >another stereotype, perhaps more popular with East Europeans than with
>> >Americans, is particular deviousness (and subtlety) in revenge--giving
>> >rise to an idiomatic Russian expression for Chinese revenge (one that
>> >you could not possibly expect). But I would bet the house on the
>> >frugality/cheapness meme in this case.
>> >
>> >     VS-)
>> The consensus in the stories I remember about the meaning of the
>> phrase and what I can find on the web is that cheapness may be
>> involved, but not in the positive sense of frugality.  (There's also
>> the negative association with other things Chinese that were
>> prevalent in the early 20th c., as HDAS makes clear, some of which
>> (e.g. Chinese fire drill) we've discussed in earlier threads.)
>> The two stories that appear the most in motivating the Chinese home
>> run are (i) a reference to cheap Chinese labor building the railroads
>> etc., i.e. you don't have to "pay" much (effort) to obtain a 260-foot
>> home run and (ii) a reference to general inferiority.  Jon's entry
>> under "Chinese", adj. 2 has the following:
>> 'Baseball (of a safe hit): gained with little skill; lucky. esp. in
>> phr. Chinese home run--usu. considered offensive.'
>> One of the early hits is from that classic "The Kid from
>> Tomkinsville" (1939-40): 'A man could get a "Chinese home run" by
>> merely hitting 257 feet over the right field fence.'
>> Maybe Dusty Rhodes read that passage as a kid.
>> LH
>> >
>> >On 11/3/2010 2:47 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> >>... 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. ...
>> >
>> >------------------------------------------------------------
>> >The American Dialect Society -
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
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