[Ads-l] "Stuff"

Yagoda, Ben byagoda at UDEL.EDU
Mon Oct 5 13:24:55 UTC 2015

George, you really are the guy who looks “stuff” up in books!

The thing I especially like about the term is when pitchers are quoted as saying, “I didn’t have that good of stuff.”


> --------------------------
> Date:    Sun, 4 Oct 2015 10:59:00 -0400
> From:    George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject: "Stuff" in baseball
> Can I really be the first to point out to you all that the NY Times this
> morning had an article on the current and historical use of the word
> "stuff" to describe an indescribable excellence in pitching.  Are the other
> Times subscribers among us all slug-a-beds?
> The article is "Baseball Talk, And All That Stuff", by John Branch,  NY
> Times, October 4, 2015, A section, p. 1, cols. 1-2, continued in the Sports
> section, p. 2, cols. 1-5The article quotes a number of current players
> using the word and then floundering at trying to explain what they mean by
> it.
> Branch then turns to a dictionary for help:
> "Merriam-Webster has many definitions of stuff, from tangible materials
> (move your stuff) to ethereal knowledge (know your stuff). Its eighth
> definition — “spin imparted to a thrown or hit ball” — mentions baseball."
> Meanwhile, the OED has a definition very like the one from M-W:
> 9 b  N. Amer. In various sports, the spin or ‘work’ imparted to a ball in
> order to make it vary its course; the type of control which effects this.
> Also fig.
> Its list of quotations begin in 1905:
> 1905   Sporting Life (U.S.) 9 Sept. 1/1   If I tried some of the stuff that
> certain pitchers use and escape bumping, I have an idea that the fielders
> would never stop..hitting.
> 1913   Harper's Weekly 13 Sept. 21/2   Weilman, the giant Brown, is another
> [pitcher] who has the ‘stuff’.
> 1927   Daily Tel. 21 Feb. 13/6   T. A. Workman, their captain, was in
> wonderfully good form against Commander S. W. Beadle, finding an almost
> perfect length for an American service which had plenty of ‘stuff’ on it.
> Beadle could not do anything with it, and was kept on the defensive
> throughout.
> Branch offers an antedating, and then several other very early passages,
> all from the NYTimes:
> In 1896, The New York Times wrote about the bleak prospects of Yale’s team,
> writing of one infielder, “It is thought that he has some genuine baseball
> stuff in him, though it is in an immature state, and will require a great
> deal of coaching to develop.”
> By the turn of the century, the word started applying specifically to
> pitchers. One creative Times reporter in 1908 gave voice to Giants Manager
> John McGraw in an imaginary conversation with pitcher Doc Crandall.
> “They’ll never get to that stuff of yours, and even if they did, we can hit
> anything they can bring out,” McGraw probably did not say.
> In early 1911, in an article written for The Times about the best pitchers
> of the era, Boston Manager Fred Tenney provided a rare definition when
> describing Christy Mathewson. “I consider him the greatest pitcher that
> ever was in the game,” Tenney wrote. “He has more ‘stuff’ than any other.”
> -- 
> George A. Thompson
> The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998..
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> Ge

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