May 13, 2013
David G. Savage:
Church-state, literally? Supreme Court weighing public school graduation in a church
May 10, 2013
Rabbi Berel Wein: Be all that you should be
May 8, 2013
Peter Ford: Why China is welcoming both Israel's Netanyahu and Palestinians' Abbas
Obama administration quietly backs out of appeal over new contraceptive mandate
At Kerry-Putin meeting, US-Russia relations thaw --- a tad
The Kosher Gourmet by Leela Cyd Ross :
Almost too pretty to eat, this colorful salad with Sicilian inspiration will tickle the taste buds and delight your visual sensibility
May 6, 2013
May 3, 2013
Kids, kittens the Same?
With employee perks at struggling Internet pioneer Yahoo! it's hard to tell
Artificial kidney offers hope to patients tethered to a dialysis machine
April 29, 2013
Poland's new Jewish museum celebrates life, doesn't revisit Holocaust
Terrorism in America: Is US missing a chance to learn from failed plots?
Boston Bomber's 'Svengali' Revealed
Tiny satellites + cellphones = cheaper 'eyes in the sky' for NASA
April 26, 2013
Clifford D. May:
Defense in the Age of Jihadist Terrorism
Sharon Palmer, R.D.:
How to feel your best -- with plenty of energy, a healthy weight and optimal mental and physical function -- without driving yourself batty
April 24, 2013
Jewish World Review
Dec. 8, 2010
/ 1 Teves, 5771
Murderers' Row, Or: Exit Laughing
What was the greatest baseball team in history?
The 1927 New York Yankees regularly lead the list of nominees for that distinction. The sluggers at the heart of the Yankee line-up came to be known as Murderers Row: Earle Combs (CF), Bob Meusel (LF), Babe Ruth (RF), Lou Gehrig (1B), and Tony Lazzeri (2B). The names still ring in the annals of the game, or rather resound -- like the crack of a bat.
It isn't just the ball that great players can knock out of the park but the language. For those of us with a taste for malaprops of all sizes and shapes, whether gosh-awful or just off base, baseball may be a richer mine of mangled syntax than politics and Hollywood combined.
The position that seems to produce the richest crop of these howlers may be manager. For the dugout has as many characters as any position on the field. In baseball as in business, management is the place to look for the kind of lingo that sounds as if it's just survived a bad wreck.
That thought came back on reading of the death of George Lee (also and better known as Sparky) Anderson, who led teams in both the National and American leagues to World Series championships. He also deserves inclusion in the triumvirate of baseball managers who could turn the language every which way but loose. They'd mangle a phrase without malice aforethought, so natural were their verbicidal tendencies.
The undoubted leader and undisputed champion of this trio had to be Yogi Berra, whose language remains the gold -- well, brass -- standard of the trade. By now so many Berra-isms have entered the language that they constitute a dialect of their own, and to review them would to risk a sense of deja vu all over again.
It's hard to pick a favorite, but high on the list would be gems like, "Nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded," and "You can observe a lot just by watching." Can't argue with that. Yogi also had his take on the game itself: "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical."
The English language never stood a chance when Yogi took it on, any more than pitchers did when they had to face Combs, Meusel, Ruth, Gehrig and then Lazzeri.
By now it scarcely matters whether Yogi Berra actually perpetrated these literary offenses. (The technical term for them may be Irish Bulls.) Even if he didn't coin all the beauts credited to him, Yogi was bound to be given the credit/blame for them. If only to lend them a spurious authority. The way every witticism of the Roaring Twenties was attributed to Dorothy Parker. Or as Yogi himself once put it, as only Yogi might: "I never said most of the things I said."
Batting second in this line-up was the all too imitable Casey Stengel, whose verbal miscues were as various and colorful as his baseball career. Among his classics: "Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa."
Casey Stengel hit his high point July 8, 1958, when he was called on to offer his expert testimony to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Anti-Trust and Monopoly (the Hon. Estes Kefauver presiding). Mr. Stengel was there to clarify baseball's exemption from the ant-trust laws, and before he was through, he'd clarified the subject beyond all understanding. To cite just one impenetrable example from the official record:
Senator Kefauver: "I was asking you, sir, why it is that baseball wants this bill passed."
Mr. Stengel: "I would say I would not know, but would say the reason why they would want it passed is to keep baseball going as the highest paid ball sport that has gone into baseball and from the baseball angle, I am not going to speak of any other sport. I am not here to argue about other sports, I am in the baseball business. It has been run cleaner than any business that was ever put out in the one hundred years at the present time. I am not speaking about television or I am not speaking about income that comes into the ballparks: You have to take that off. I don't know too much about it. I say the ballplayers have a better advancement at the present time."
There, that cleared everything up. After an interminable hour or two of similar testimony, the distinguished senator from Tennessee turned in frustration to Mickey Mantle, the famous slugger who'd accompanied Casey to the hearing. Maybe the senator was hoping for a translation. There was something akin to desperation in his voice as the learned senator asked: "Mr. Mantle, do you have any observations with reference to the applicability of the antitrust laws to baseball?"
To which the sage Mantle, who knew how to bunt as well as hit, replied: "My views are about the same as Casey's."
Now that was masterful. And concise. There are times in congressional testimony as in design that less is more.
If you'd like to hear an audio of Professor Stengel explaining the anti-trust laws to the mystified honorables on this congressional committee, and you don't want to miss it if you're as big a fan of (a) the malaprop, and (b) baseball as I am, then just click onto http://www.history.com/audio/casey-stengel-on-anti-trust-laws.
You'll find ol' Case's lecture a mix of S.J. Perelman, Groucho Marx and Dr. Doubletalk. The wonder is that the English language survived it, kind of.
Sparky Anderson was no slouch at this linguistic sport, either. When he entered a sentence, there was no telling where or if he'd come out. When he wasn't leading the Cincinnati Reds or Detroit Tigers to their triumphs in the World Series, he maintained a tenuous hold on the language, which would regularly escape from his uncertain grasp. It happened often enough for his wife to suggest that he take grammar lessons. But he demurred. As he recalled on being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, "I told her it ain't gonna help me. Or should I say, 'It ain't gonna help me none'?"
Perhaps it's just as well Sparky never paid overmuch attention to the finer linguistic points. To reform the language of Berra, Stengel and Anderson -- the linguistic version of Tinker to Evers to Chance -- would have been an act of desecration. You might as well cavil at Dizzy Dean's classic description of how Phil Rizzuto slud into second base.
Paul Greenberg Archives
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. David Barham, editorial writer there, contributed to this column. Send your comments by clicking here.
if (strpos(, "printer_friendly") === 0)
© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Frank J. Gaffney
Victor Davis Hanson
A. Barton Hinkle
Judge A. Napolitano
Cokie & Steve Roberts
Debra J. Saunders
J. D. Crowe
Ask Doctor K