I played baseball as a youth and have been a baseball fan all my life. Now that I am retired I watch Cardinal baseball games for relaxation. My wife frequently indulges me and watches with me. She knows a lot of the terms but unfamiliar ones come up periodically.
A person uninitiated to baseball may think that baseball people use a foreign language or at least use words with strange meanings. These definitions can help one understand the meaning of these baseball terms.
Pitchers and Pitches:
Ace—the best starting pitcher on a team.
Ball—a pitch thrown outside the strike zone.
Breaking ball—a pitch that does not go in a straight line but jumps, drops or moves to the left or right.
Backdoor slider—a pitch that appears to be out of the strike zone, but then breaks back over the plate.
Beanball—a pitch thrown at the batter’s head.
Brushback pitch—a pitch that nearly hits the batter.
Cheese or Good cheese—a good fastball.
Chin music—a pitch high and inside on the batter.
Closer—a team’s relief pitcher who closes the game when the team is leading by three runs or less.
Complete game—a pitcher is credited with a complete game when he pitches the entire game.
Curve—a pitch that moves down, across, or down and across, depending on the rotation of the ball.
Cutter—a cut fastball with a late break.
Fastball—a pitch thrown as hard as possible.
Fireman—a team’s closer or late inning relief pitcher.
Forkball—a pitch thrown with the ball placed between the first two fingers, usually results in a sinking movement.
Gopher ball—a pitch hit for a home run.
Heat or Heater—a good fastball.
High and tight—a pitch that is up in the strike zone and inside on the hitter.
Hold—a relief pitcher is awarded a hold who comes into a game in a save situation, records at least one out, and exits the game without allowing his team to give up the lead at any point.
Knuckleball—a pitch that is grasped with the fingernails or knuckles and thrown without a spin. It moves in an unpredictable manner.
Left-handed specialist—a left handed relief pitcher who is brought in to pitch to a left handed batter.
Meatball—a pitch that is easy to hit, usually in the center of the strike zone.
No hitter—when a pitcher pitches a complete game without allowing the opposing team reach first base with a safe base hit.
Painting the black—a pitch thrown over the edge of the plate.
Perfect game—a game in which the pitcher does not allow any batter of the
opposing team to reach base.
Picasso—a control pitcher who can paint the black (hit the edges of the plate).
Pitching rotation—the order in which starting pitchers pitch, usually with three or four days rest.
Pitchout—a pitch that is thrown wide of the strike zone in order for the catcher to be better able to throw a runner trying to steal a base.
Relief pitcher—a pitcher brought into the game to replace the starting pitcher or another relief pitcher who is not effective in getting batters out.
Right down Broadway—a pitch delivered in the center of the strike zone.
Save—a relief pitcher is credited with a save when he enters the game with his team leading by three runs or less and preserves the victory or if he pitches at
least three innings without allowing the opposing team to tie the score or win the game.
Set-up man—a relief pitcher who comes into the game in the 7th or 8th inning.
Sinker—a fast pitch that breaks downward.
Southpaw—a left handed pitcher.
Spitball—an illegal pitch with a foreign substance (saliva or grease) placed on the ball to cause the ball to make a greater break.
Starter—the pitcher who starts the game and continues until the game is over or he is replaced by a relief pitcher.
Strike—a pitch thrown in the strike zone. The first two foul balls not caught count as the first and second strike.
Uncle Charlie—a curve ball.
Whitewash—when a team is shutout, kept from scoring any runs.
Wild pitch—a pitch so far from the strike zone that the catcher cannot catch or block it allowing a runner to advance to the next base.
Yakker—a curve ball.
Base Hits, Batters, and Runners:
Baltimore chop—a batted ball that hits the ground in front of the infielder and
bounces over the infielder’s head.
Base hit (hit)—The batter hits the ball in fair territory and reaches first base safely without being thrown out or without the aid of an error or a fielder’s choice.
Base on balls—a walk. The batter is awarded first base because he has four balls.
Batter—an offensive player who stands next to home plate and tries to hit the
pitch thrown by the pitcher.
Bunt—a short hit in which the batter does not swing but allows the pitch to hit
the bat. Used to advance a runner to the next base or as an attempt to get
Caught looking—the batter is called out on strikes without swinging at the third strike.
Caught napping—a runner who is not alert is tagged out because he is off the base.
Checked swing—the batter does not complete his swing. If the swing goes more
than halfway the umpire will rule it a strike.
Choke-up—gripping the bat up from the knob at the end of the bat.
Clean-up hitter—the fourth batter in the batting order.
Count—the number of balls and strikes on the hitter.
Cycle—a player hits for the cycle when he hits a single, double, triple, and a
home run in one game.
Designated hitter—a position in the American League. A player who bats in the
pitcher’s position in the batting line-up but does not have a fielding position.
Dinger—a home run.
Double—a base hit enabling the batter to reach second base safely.
Fly ball—a ball batted high in the air into the outfield or over the fence.
Foul ball—a ball that lands either to the left of third base or to the right of
Gapper—a ball hit between outfielders.
Going deep–hitting a home run
Going yard–hitting a home run.
Golden sombrero—when a batter strikes out four times in a game he is said to
wear the golden sombrero.
Gopher—a home run.
Grand slam—a home run hit with three men on base.
Green light—the batter is allowed by the coaches to swing at the next pitch after having a 3 and 0 count or the runner is given permission to attempt a steal.
Grounder—a ball that hits the ground before reaching a fielder.
Ground rule double—a base hit that bounces into the stands. The batter is awarded a double. Any runners on base can advance only two bases.
Hit and run—the batter must swing at the pitch because the runner is trying to steal the base.
Home run—a ball hit out of the playing field in fair territory or a hit that stays in the playing field but the runner is able to circle the bases and touch home
plate safely. A home run scores the batter and any runners on base.
Left on base—a runner is said to have been left on base when the third out is made without the runner scoring.
Line drive—a ball hit in the air with a low trajectory.
Mendoza line—a batting average of about .200. Named after a player named
On deck—refers to the next batter in the line-up who stands in a designated area.
Pinch hitter—a batter who substitutes for a hitter in the line-up in the game.
Pinch runner—a player is bought into the game to run for a player who is then
taken out of the game.
Pull the ball—a batter is said to pull the ball when he hits to the same side as he bats.
Pull the trigger—a batter can’t pull the trigger when he is unable to swing even though the pitch was a good one to hit.
Rope—a hard line drive.
Run—a score is registered when a runner safely crosses home plate.
Run down—a runner is tagged out between bases.
Run batted in (RBI)—the number of runs that one’s team has scored because of his base hits, walks, sacrifice flies, or fielder’s choice.
Runner—an offensive player advancing toward, standing on, or returning to any base.
Sacrifice bunt—a bunt intending to advance the runner while willing to make an out.
Sacrifice fly—the batter hits a fly ball that scores the runner from third and results in the batter being out.
Safe—the runner has advanced safely to a base when he arrives at the base before being tagged out or before the fielder touches the base.
Seeing-eye single—a base hit that gets into the outfield just beyond the reach of the infielder.
Scoring position—a runner on second or third base.
Spoiled a pitch—the batter fouls off a good pitch to hit.
Steal—a runner attempts to run to the next base without the batter hitting the ball or receiving a base on balls.
Stolen base—a successful steal.
Strike—When the batter swings and misses a pitch or if the pitch is goes through the strike zone and the batter does not swing. The first two foul balls not caught count as strikes.
Strike out—the batter makes an out when he records three strikes.
Strike zone—the area above the home plate from the batter’s knees to below his mid-chest.
Safety squeeze—the runner on third does not commit to advancing to home plate until the batter successfully bunts the ball.
Suicide squeeze—the runner on third base advances for home plat as the pitcher pitches the ball. The batter attempts to bunt the ball allowing the runner to score.
Switch-hitter—a batter who can hit from either the left or right of the plate.
Tag up—after a fly ball the runner must touch his base before advancing to
the next base.
Texas leaguer—a soft or bloop hit that drops between the infielder and the
Triple—a base hit that allows the runner to advance to third base.
Walk—when a batter is given four balls they are given a free pass to first base.
Walk-off hit—a hit by a player of the home team in the bottom of the last inning that scores the winning run.
Wheelhouse—the area of the strike zone where the batter best hits pitches.
Other Baseball Terms:
Alley—the area between outfielders.
Around the horn—a double play that goes from third to second to first.
Assist—a player is credited with an assist when he throws a base runner out
at a base.
Backstop—the wall or fence behind home plate.
Balk—an illegal movement by a pitcher when he begins his windup but does not throw the ball to the plate. Called by the umpire. A runner on base advances to the next base or if the bases are empty the player at bat is awarded a ball.
Base coach—a coach standing near first or third base giving instructions to batters and runners.
Base line—a chalk line extending to the outfield over first and third bases. Inside the
base lines is fair territory and outside these lines is foul territory.
Bases empty—no runners are on base.
Bases full—runners are standing at the three bases.
Basket catch—a fielder catches a ball holding his glove near his belt.
Batter’s box—a rectangular area marked by chalk lines on the right or left of
home plate within which a batter must stand while batting.
Batting order—a list of batters in the order which they bat.
Box score—a summary of the game’s progress with boxes showing runs, hits, and errors.
Bronx cheer—when the crowd boos.
Bullpen—an area where relief pitchers warm up.
Called game—a game suspended or ended by the umpires due to bad weather or other cause.
Can of corn—an easy catch by a fielder.
Cellar—being in last place.
Crooked number–a team puts up a crooked number on the scoreboard when they score more than one run in an inning.
Diamond—the area of the infield. Ninty feet square with bases at the four corners.
Donut—circular weight slid over the bat used as the batter prepares to bat.
Doubleheader—two games played back to back.
Dugout—area on each side of the infield with seating for players and coaches.
Earned run—a run scored due to a hit, walk, steal without the assistance of a
Error—a mistake by a defensive player that benefits the offensive team.
Fielder’s choice—a fielder can choose which base to throw to in securing an out.
Fungo—a ball hit to a fielder when he is warming up.
Gap—the area between outfielders.
Goose egg—a zero on the scoreboard.
Hill—the pitcher’s mound.
Hot corner—third base.
In the hole—the batter after the on deck batter.
Leather—a defensive player is said to flash leather when he makes a good play.
Passed ball—the catcher fails to catch the pitch allowing a base runner to advance.
Pepper—pre-game warmup in which a batter hits ground balls to fielders standing about twenty feet away.
Pick—when a fielder catches a ball that in on the ground.
Pick off—attempt by the pitcher or catcher to get a runner out by throwing to the base catching the runner off the base.
Pow wow—a meeting on the playing field of players and a coach.
Rhubarb—an argument with the umpires or fight between players.
Rubber—the plate on pitcher’s mound. The pitcher must have one foot connected to this plate as he pitches. It is location 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate.
Shoestring catch—a catch by an outfielder made just before the ball hits the ground.
Sweet spot—the large part of the bat a few inches from the end.
Tools of ignorance—the catcher’s equipment—shinguards, helmet, chest protector, mask, and glove.
Twin killing—a double play.
Utility player—a player who can fill in at several positions.
Wheels—a player’s legs.