Jewish World Review Dec. 8, 2010 / 1 Teves, 5771
Murderers' Row, Or: Exit Laughing
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | What was the greatest baseball team in history?
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
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
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
Batting second in this line-up was the all too imitable
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
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
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
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.
© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.