Baseball Shibboleths

Jonah Goldberg over at the National Review has an essay explaining how a shibboleth is anything by which we determine if someone is one of us and not one of the dreaded other. It can be a particular pronunciation common to only one ethnic dialect, an idiosyncratic burial practice, a commonly known cultural fact.

Baseball knowledge used to be part of the American shibboleth. Anyone who didn’t know who won the last world series must be a commie. German spies were identified by  virtue of such pathetic cultural ignorance’s. The Japanese pilots entering their attack dives at Pearl Harbor yelled into their radios at a frequency they knew the Americans would be listening to “to hell with Rabe Ruth!”.

Although baseball is no longer the predominant American sport, iconic numbers remain a part of the baseball shibboleth, if no longer the American one. I think I already told you guys that I once won tickets to a Tigers game by being able to report to a radio show call in contest that Willie Horton hit 273 / 29 HR / 104 RBI in his rookie year  and that 4:06 AM or PM is Ted Williams time to me (and if it isn’t to you please try to cover your mouth when you cough).

But alas, like so many of our unifying awareness’s their prominence seems to be fading away. 300 win club? No matter how good, no pitcher starting out today has a plausible chance of getting there. Will anyone hit 400 again? Who cares if he doesn’t have a good OPS. How much do you care about the 500 homer club now that Sammy Sosa is a member?

Albert Puljois should become the third player in MLB history to reach 2000 RBI this year. Number don’t lie don’t but sometimes they fib. RBIs didn’t become an official MLB stat until 1921, which leaves out a good number of the RBIs that Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, whose official career totals are both just under 2000, must have racked up prior to 1921.

And of course RBIs have been greatly devalued as a performance metric, along with many of the other priestly signs like batting average, pitcher wins, runs scored etc. The Batting Average Champion, the Triple Crown Winner, The Winningest Pitcher, whom we were all required to know of to not be shoved off the edge of the bench, are still allowed in the Temple, but no longer reside next to the altar.

He also has a chance to catch up to Willie Mays in career home runs before he’s done. Do you remember that year or two before Aaron completed his climb up the ladder that the all time kings of home runs were 1. Babe Ruth – 714 /  2. Willie Mays – 660? During my childhood (maybe still ongoing) if you didn’t recognize the mystical power of 714 you were of a different tribe.

You were also identifiable as being from an alien land if you didn’t know what “The Catch” was, which gives me an excuse to break this up with a cool vid.

And if you don’t know what “The Catch II” is you might be a coastal mutant.

Okay I still don’t know what my point is. Maybe you can help me out.

I need to wind up by correcting an omission to the Snow Blower Angels post. I made the point in the intro blurb that puppies poop a lot. As I noticed that it was getting more views than my stuff usually gets it occurred to me that many were expecting to find therein a pooping puppy vid. Allow me to belatedly provide one.


14 thoughts on “Baseball Shibboleths

  1. But seriously folks….

    “Shibboleth,” by Michael Donaghy (1954-2004)

    One didn’t know the name of Tarzan’s monkey
    Another couldn’t strip the cellophane
    From a GI’s packet of cigarettes.
    By such minutiae were the infiltrators detected
    By the second week of battle
    We’d become obsessed with trivia.
    At a sentry point, at midnight, in the rain,
    An ignorance of baseball could be lethal.

    The morning of the first snowfall, I was shaving,
    Staring into a mirror nailed to a tree,
    Intoning the Christian names of the Andrews Sisters.
    ‘Maxine, Laverne, Patty.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “We are marching, marching to Shibboleth
      With the Eagle and the Sword
      Raising Zion till we’re deaf
      Till we meet our last reward….”

      Firesign Theatre

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Zion, oh happy Zion, your bison now are dust
        As your cornflakes rise
        Through the rust red skies
        Then our blood requires us muuuhhhhst goooooo….


        1. Choir: Zion! Oh righteous Zion!
          There is no one to blame!
          For the homespun pies
          ‘Neath the cracking skies
          Shall release the fulsome rain!
          Tenor: Shall release!
          Men: Shall release!
          Soprano: Shall release!
          Women: Shall release!
          Choir: Shall release the vinyl rein!


  2. There’s a story on Yahoo Sports about minor league teams creating “Latin alter egos” like Lowriders and Margaritas. Yes, as the most pale man of Irish extraction in Southern California i’d be proud to place that Lowrider cap atop my head. I can’t imagine any of the Latinos at work being offended.

    The best of these, however, must be the Erie Piñatas. Maybe it’s just me, but rooting for a team named after an inanimate object designed to be utterly dismembered to extract the sweet innards fails to inspire.


    1. Yeah, that must have been some conversation:

      “Hey guys, I have a GREAT idea! Let’s name our team after something that everyone beats the crap out of.”

      Things that make you go “Hmmmm!”


    2. Before she made fricasse, my Bubba would hang a chicken from the kitchen fan, place a big sheet of waxed paper underneath it, and spin the fan, whacking the chicken each time it went by until its sweet innards fell out.
      She really knew how to make fricasse.


  3. “a shibboleth is anything by which we determine if someone is one of us and not one of the dreaded other.”

    So, like the Minnesota nod?


    Liked by 2 people

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