Baseball or Base Ball

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Mon Aug 20 04:24:49 UTC 2012

>  Sports Illustrated has long since documented the strange dearth of black Americans

Or to be more precise, "the strange and recent dearth," since the number of African American MLB players has dropped dramatically over the decades.

> "The African-American population in baseball this season has plummeted to 8.05%, less than half the 17.25% in 1959 when the Boston Red Sox became the last team to integrate their roster, 12 years after Robinson broke baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It's a dramatic decline from 1975, when 27% of rosters were African-American. In 1995, the percentage was 19%." "Number of African-American baseball players dips again," USA Today, 4/16/12

It doesn't feel like any of the standard explanations (USA TODAY mentions "A dearth of collegiate scholarships, increasing cost of funding teams in inner cities and, some say, a lack of opportunities in major league front offices") are adequate to explain such a precipitous drop, though I've also heard it suggested that it has to do with the rise of the NBA in sports consciousness. But in any event, that might account for part of the shift in usage of "ball" that you mention.


> From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Date: August 19, 2012 3:28:21 PM PDT
> Subject: Re: Baseball or Base Ball
> On Sat, Aug 18, 2012 at 2:24 PM, Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at> wrote:
>> Notwithstanding the solidity of the usual spelling, "ball" alone nearly always designates 'baseball'; it's the defalult.  The terms "ball player," "playing ball," "ball field," "ball park," and the like are improbable in connection with football, basketball, volleyball, handball (either one), tetherball, or dodgeball.  In America, at least--where baseball is the great pastime.
> Not in Black America. Sports Illustrated has long since documented the
> strange dearth of black Americans, as opposed to various flavors of
> black Latin-Americans - if yawl gnome sane - in baseball. Amongst the
> colored, _ball_ is usually football and, sometimes, basketball.
> Indeed, in today's NYT Mag,
> ".. he has played almost no _[foot] ball_ …"
> said of the Haitian-American former high-school [basket]baller, Jason
> Pierre-Paul, now an NFL [foot]baller.
> However, that's a relatively-new change, since, sadly, I'm more than
> old enough to recall easily the days, before and after Jackie
> Robinson, when ("Let's play some) _ball_!," _the game_, etc. in
> BE-speak were also references only to baseball. My grandfather's
> gnarled fingers as a consequence of his having worn the "tools of
> ignorance" in his youth far outweighed the knot on my father's
> shoulder from a poorly-reset bone broken during his days as a two-way
> lineman.
> --
> -Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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