one o' cat (1903, 1906); one-eyed cat (1914)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Dec 1 08:37:04 UTC 2004

"One old cat", an early form of baseball with only one base, also went by
the names "one o' cat" and "one-eyed cat".  OED3 has a first cite of 1937
for "one-eyed cat" and nothing yet for "one o' cat".

    New York Times, Sep. 6, 1903. p. 1
    Funk took the rifle and sat in a hammock watching his companions
    play "one o' cat."

    Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine), March 19, 1906, p. 4
    He actually kicked the football around three times, delivered a
    few base ball up to Frank Bowerman and Sammy Strang and wound up
    his day's work with a game of one o' cat.

    Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily Times, May 9, 1914, p. 1
    The solemn Sabbath air was wrecked by strident cries from "de
    gang," engaged in a game of one-eyed cat. Finally the good lady
    of the house ventured a protest and suggestion.
    "Boys," she said, "don't you know that it is Sunday and you
    mustn't play ball in the front-yard? Go in the back-yard and
    play, if you must."
    "Hey, youse!" yelled the leader to his followers. "Come on in
    the back-yard. It ain't Sunday there."
    --New York Evening Post

I'd guess that 19th-century citations can be found for both of these
variants ("one old cat" has a first cite of 1856).

--Ben Zimmer

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