Baseball Idioms

Baseball was the most popular sport in the United States, now overtaken by American Football and car racing (NASCAR).  Some still call it the national sport.

“Major League” baseball teams have the best professional players and more “fans” or people who watch the games. A baseball team has nine players: the pitcher, the catcher, first, second and third basemen, the shortstop, the left, center and right fielders. Baseball is played on four bases, first, second, third and home, on a diamond shaped field. The pitcher, the catcher, the basemen and the shortstop play in the infield. The fielders play in the “outfield” or the area around the infield. The pitcher throws (pitches) a ball to a “batter” on the opposing team, who tries to hit the ball with a “bat” and run around the bases.

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The batter gets a “hit” unless 1) the ball is caught before it hits the ground; 2) he is “tagged” with the ball when he is not on a base or 3) the ball is thrown and caught at first base, and in some circumstances at other bases, before he gets there. The batter is allowed three “strikes” and then he “strikes out.”  A strike is any ball which crosses the plate between the top of the batter’s shoulders and his knees and is not hit by the batter. A “ball” is any pitched ball which is outside this strike zone and is not swung at by the batter. The batter is allowed to “walk” to first base if the pitcher throws four “balls.” Players make an “error” if they make a mistake on a “play” that should have resulted in an out.

Each team bats until it makes three outs. An “inning” has been played when both teams have made three outs. A game is nine innings unless the score is “tied” at the end of nine innings. Then the game is played extra innings until one team has more “runs” at the end of the extra innings. A run is scored when a player runs around all the bases and touches the last or “home” plate or base. The team with the most “runs” wins.

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IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
The game was postponed because of rain. (The game could be postponed for any reason, but the term is "rain check".) The rain check itself is the ticket that can be exchanged for a ticket at a later date.
Sentence 1
The Phillies' game was postponed because of rain, and the spectators were given another ticket for a future game.
Meaning 2
a postponement with a promise of a future meeting
Sentence 2
"Something has come up, and I can't make our luncheon meeting. How about a raincheck? "
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A new game has started.
Sentence 1
Let's beat them this time. It's another ball game.
Meaning 2
The old idea, event or business deal is over. One has a better chance of winning or achieving a goal this time.
Sentence 2
Now that we have a new manager, it's another ball game.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
place where baseball is played
Sentence 1
Let's go to the ball park on Saturday and see the Mets play.
Meaning 2
a general, rather than precise figure; a "ballpark" implies a rather large area.
Sentence 2
I need a ball park figure on what the contract will cost.

Derivation

The term ball park is derived from the time when baseball was played before a few people in parks rather than stadiums.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
There are men on all bases except home base.
Sentence 1
The bases are loaded and their best hitter is up to bat.
Meaning 2
to have an advantage
Sentence 2
Our bases are loaded. We should win the contract. We have more money and expertise than they do.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
same as "to be in the major leagues"
Sentence 1
Jackie Robinson was the first black player to be in the big leagues.
Meaning 2
to be a big shot, to be a major player, to be well-known
Sentence 2
You're in the big leagues now.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to make an error, to drop a ball in sports
Sentence 1
Willie Mays, who played for the San Francisco Giants, rarely dropped a ball.
Meaning 2
to blunder, to fail in some way
Sentence 2
We sure dropped the ball that time. We forgot to update our information.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
Balls can be thrown as fast as ninety to a hundred miles an hour.
Sentence 1
The pitcher threw a fast ball and struck out the batter.
Meaning 2
to not understand a statement or fact; to lose an opportunity because an opponent or competitor is quicker.
Sentence 2
I'm sorry I didn't get the contract. Their team threw a fast ball. They talked to the other company first.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
a foul ball is a ball hit by the batter outside the baseball line of play
Sentence 1
The first ball hit by the batter was a foul ball and declared a strike by the umpire. Fouls count as strikes except for the third foul.
Meaning 2
a foul ball is generally ineffective; it is out of the field of play and is not relevant to the mission.
Sentence 2
He hit a foul ball. His comment was not effective; it did not accomplish anything!
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A player is out if he doesn't hit the ball hard enough to get to first base and is tagged out. If he gets to first base, he may score a run.
Sentence 1
The batter hit a line drive and got to first base.
Meaning 2
to advance something, to do well enough to get a good start on something
Sentence 2
I wish I could get to first base with my boss.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
in baseball a batter can "pinch hit" or substitute for another batter
Sentence 1
Send in the first baseman to bat for the pitcher.
Meaning 2
to substitute for someone; to support someone
Sentence 2
Will you go to bat for Jane? She's trying to get a promotion.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
1) a home run in baseball with the bases loaded (on all bases); 4 runs scored. 2) in tennis: the player wins all four tennis opens: the French, Wimbledon, Australian and the U.S. 3) in the card game, bridge, when a player takes all 13 tricks.
Sentence 1
Rafael Nadal won 14 and lost 6 grand slam tournaments.
Meaning 2
A super win
Sentence 2
The Republicans scored a home run in the 1952 election when Eisenhower ran for President. The Republicans won both the Senate and the House.

Derivation

The original meaning may have come from baseball.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to reach base, without being called "out," after hitting a ball
Sentence 1
Joe DiMaggio had the longest hitting streak in baseball history, fifty-six consecutive hits, a total of 91 hits, in 1941.
Meaning 2
to do well, to be recognized for something by the public
Sentence 2
You have a hit with your new spring clothing line. Madonna has had many hit songs.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to throw a ball especially well, with a twist, curve, great speed
Sentence 1
The pitcher has something on the ball and struck out the batter.
Meaning 2
capable and skilled
Sentence 2
We should hire her. She has a lot on the ball.

Derivation

In baseball, the pitcher plays a more important role than in the English rounders from which baseball developed (The first baseball game was played in l847). By spinning the ball, usually by using saliva or spit, American pitchers could strike out batters easily. He was then said to "have something on the ball." The expression was soon used to mean anyone who is effective or skilled at what he does. In 1920 the "spitball" rule began. This stated that any pitcher putting any "foreign substance" on the ball would be suspended from playing.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
He is next in the lineup to bat.
Sentence 1
There are two on (base) and Babe Ruth is up.
Meaning 2
He or she is next.
Sentence 2
You're up. They want you to speak next.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A ball hit hard up the middle might score a hit, the batter reaching base safely. It also might help help a runner on 3rd score a run.
Sentence 1
Derek Jeter hit a ball hard up the middle.
Meaning 2
being aggressive rather than "cute or clever"
Sentence 2
“This wasn’t the time for compromise. With Trump and Cruz fighting for the nomination, Democrats and Obama should drive the ball hard up the middle and quit trying to be cute and clever.“ Principia in St. Louis
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to hit the ball so hard that the batter can circle the bases and score a run
Sentence 1
Barry Bonds hit 70 home runs in 2001.
Meaning 2
to do something well to be a winner
Sentence 2
You scored a home run with that presentation. I think we'll get the contract.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
the ball has been hit in the ballpark
Sentence 1
The batter has a triple; it is still in the ball park. He hit it out of the park yesterday. He had a home run.
Meaning 2
"In the ballpark" is a common idiom used in business or politics, usually in negotiations. If a number is in the ball park, it could be considered worth negotiating. It is not a final agreement. If it is "out of the park, " it probably is not worth agonizing over to achieve a settlement.
Sentence 2
One million dollars is worth talking about. It is in the ballpark.

Derivation

The ballpark is probably derived from a baseball park.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
throwing the ball or another object such as a horseshoe
Sentence 1
He is in there pitching the ball to the batter.
Meaning 2
trying hard to do one's best
Sentence 2
Jane is always in there pitching for our legal team.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
There are 9 innings in an American baseball game. A game will go into overtime when there is a tie, for instance 2 to 2.
Sentence 1
The Yankees won the ball game in the 9th inning, 5 to 2 runs.
Meaning 2
Part of a ballgame, whether baseball or in business or pleasure.
Sentence 2
"It is now the President's inning, and he has the masses of people behind him." (From "The Bully Pulpit," a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin about President Theodore Roosevelt.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
Baseball has nine innings unless the game is tied; then they go overtime. If a team is behind in the bottom of the ninth, it is their last chance to win the game.
Sentence 1
The home team was behind 3 to 2 in the bottom of the ninth. It was the team's last chance to win.
Meaning 2
It's the last chance to win.
Sentence 2
A business is trying to win a contract. Their opponents are ahead of them. They have one more chance to win the contract. It's the bottom of the ninth.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to continue to throw the ball
Sentence 1
He kept pitching the ball even though he was injured.
Meaning 2
to continue to work on something
Sentence 2
Keep pitching. The boss will recognize your good work.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to hit a ball out of the baseball park
Sentence 1
Babe Ruth knocked the ball out of Yankee Stadium.
Meaning 2
to have a great idea, to do something extremely well.
Sentence 2
The President knocked one out of the ballpark at the NATO meeting.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
From baseball: There are 9 innings in a game, unless the game is tied, when it goes into overtime until the tie is broken.
Sentence 1
It's the last inning and the Phillies are up to bat against the Braves. The game is tied 3 to 3. It may go into overtime unless the Phillies or the Braves get a run in the 9th.
Meaning 2
"The game" of an election, is almost over; the last inning of an election could be the last few weeks before voters vote.
Sentence 2
Let's get this act together. It's the last inning: we are down 3% and need to win those 5 Senators to take control.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
In baseball their are four bases, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Fourth base is home; if a runner gets to 4th base he scores a run. If the runner is left on third base at the end of an inning, there is no score.
Sentence 1
The batter scored a double and then stole third, but when the inning was over, he was still on third, so no run was scored for his team.
Meaning 2
To try, but not score.
Sentence 2
The young boy asked his date to the prom. He really liked her and had dated her for awhile, but the captain of the football team asked her to the prom, so the boy didn't score with her.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
Major league baseball or football teams are the best teams.
Sentence 1
The New York Yankees is a major league baseball team.
Meaning 2
The most important person or business.
Sentence 2
The president of the Ford Motor Corporation is a major league player.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
made a hit in baseball or in another ball sport
Sentence 1
Hank Aaron got three hits in the world series. He ranks third in runs and hits. He was a great hitter.
Meaning 2
to do well
Sentence 2
He made a hit with his girlfriend when he took her out to dinner.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to throw, toss or hurl an object
Sentence 1
The President of the U.S. introduced Gorbachov to the game of horseshoe pitching and asked him to make a pitch.
Meaning 2
to offer something, to support someone or something
Sentence 2
The actor will make a pitch for the new product on TV.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
a baseball player or team that is good, but not the best
Sentence 1
Dom DiMaggio played for the San Francisco Seals, a minor league team, before he went to the Boston Red Sox.
Meaning 2
a person, business or other entity that is not the most important
Sentence 2
The Blue Corporation is a minor league business. Go to the boss; Jerry is a minor league player.

Derivation

A minor league baseball team plays in small towns and cities. Minor leagues train baseball players for the major leagues.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
a change in circumstances in the ball game, ie the game is tied after one team was ahead.
Sentence 1
The Dodgers scored four runs and it was a new ball game
Meaning 2
a new set of circumstances
Sentence 2
Now that we have the financing, it's a new ball game.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
the runner or player has taken a position away from the base he has touched previously in the game
Sentence 1
The runner was thrown out, because he was off base.
Meaning 2
a person or project is not where it should be
Sentence 2
She is off base when she talks about religion during working hours.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to be safe from being tagged out by having a foot on base
Sentence 1
The bases are loaded; three runners are on base.
Meaning 2
One is doing the job correctly and according to what is expected.
Sentence 2
He's doing a good job with that case. He's on base in his approach to the jury.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
To follow the previous batter, to be next.
Sentence 1
Mike Trout is on deck as the next batter for the Los Angeles Angels.
Meaning 2
To succeed your predecessor (the person before you).
Sentence 2
Samantha is on deck to follow George in the negotiations.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to be out in the left field of the baseball park
Sentence 1
Hank Aaron was a outfielder. He played out in left field.
Meaning 2
to be away from the action, from what's happening
Sentence 2
He's out in left field. He won't be used on this mediation team.

Derivation

"Out in left field" does not have a negative connotation in the literal sense. Some of the U.S.' best ball players have been leftfielders. However, in the derrivative form it does.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to substitute for someone
Sentence 1
We need a run. John, will you pinch hit for the pitcher?
Meaning 2
to substitute for someone
Sentence 2
Mary, will you please pinchhit for John on this account, while he is on vacation?

Derivation

A batter who is not in the lineup for a particular date can pinch hit for another batter.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
a substitute for another batter in the team lineup
Sentence 1
The substitute is used depending on the situation, tactical or other reasons.
Meaning 2
a substitute
Sentence 2
"I need a pinch-hitter for the meeting tomorrow as I have been called for jury duty."
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
a throw or toss
Sentence 1
The pitcher made a fast pitch to the batter.
Meaning 2
a presentation, support
Sentence 2
He made a pitch for the Republican party at last nights' dinner.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to pitch a curve ball to the batter in baseball
Sentence 1
A curve ball moves away from the batter and is difficult to hit.
Meaning 2
to surprise someone unpleasantly
Sentence 2
I am sorry I couldn't answer the question. He threw a curve when he asked me about last years figures.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to throw or toss
Sentence 1
She pitched a fast one to the batter and he struck out.
Meaning 2
to make a presentation
Sentence 2
Pitch the project to the graphic artist to finish.

Derivation

Cricket was a popular sport before baseball developed in the nineteenth century. A thrown ball in cricket is a "pitch" and the cricket playing field is known as the "pitch". It may be that the word "pitch" came into baseball terminology from cricket.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to play a ball game with someone
Sentence 1
Let's play ball.
Meaning 2
to do business with someone, to cooperate
Sentence 2
Let's play ball and start negotiating the contract.

Derivation

Coaches in the 1920's used the term to get their teams to work together and play well.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
as opposed to soft ball, to throw a hard ball
Sentence 1
We play hardball in regular baseball. A softer ball is used in softball.
Meaning 2
to play tough, to play to win
Sentence 2
Let's play hardball on this contract. I want to come in at a lower price.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
An easy out for the opposing team; the batter hits a ball that goes almost straight up in the air and comes down for an easy catch in the infield. A fly ball is to the outfield.
Sentence 1
He swung hard and had a pop-up ending the inning.
Meaning 2
He or she made a great effort, but the result was a pop-up, and the cause was lost.
Sentence 2
Ben had a strategic theory, but it only resulted in a pop-up.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
The batter steps up to the plate and gets ready to hit the ball.
Sentence 1
The batter looked for coaching signals as he stepped up to the plate.
Meaning 2
Anyone in any occupation who gets ready to do something.
Sentence 2
Step up to the plate and start your schoolwork.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
The baseball player has three strikes and is out for that time at bat.
Sentence 1
Strike out the batter.
Meaning 2
to fail at doing something.
Sentence 2
If he doesn't get the appointment, he will strike out. He tried to get the appointment and struck out.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
If the game is rained out, the patron gets a coupon or rain check to go another time.
Sentence 1
The game was canceled because of the rain. They took a rain check for another day.
Meaning 2
to change a date, a time for meeting
Sentence 2
Let's take a rain check for that dinner date. We can come next week.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
The game is over
Sentence 1
That's the ball game. They won eight to seven.
Meaning 2
It is finished
Sentence 2
That's the ball game. They got the contract.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
To touch a base in any sport with bases
Sentence 1
The batter touched base and was safe.
Meaning 2
to talk to someone about something
Sentence 2
I need to touch base with the firm before I make a final agreement.

Derivation

This idiom could also be derived from the military, ie military base, where personnel are stationed.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
See the above two idioms
Sentence 1
The batter has two strikes against him and the bases are loaded.
Meaning 2
To be in a difficult situation in which you are expected to perform
Sentence 2
In February of 1991, Saddam Hassein had two strikes against him and the bases were loaded.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
The batter has only one more strike before he is out
Sentence 1
He hit a home run into left field with two strikes against him.
Meaning 2
to have one more chance
Sentence 2
He had two strikes against him when he interviewed for the job. He had been in prison and had never had a job.

Derivation

The word "strike" probably is derived from the English game cricket. A batter in cricket is a "striker."