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"Pinch hitter" as the name for a substitute batter

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  • RUKen
    replied
    I've searched the archives of Sporting Life and Baseball Magazine. By 1912, the term "pinch hitter" was being used frequently to indicate a substitute batter. Prior to that, most uses of the term refer to a clutch hitter, but there is a 1908 article in Sporting Life (Vol. 52, No. 11, page 9) that refers to Dode Criss of the Browns as a pinch hitter, and clearly indicates his use as a substitute batter by the team.

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  • Captain Cold Nose
    replied
    Originally posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
    I can confirm this. Pitching In A Pinch serves as a guide to what was then contemporary baseball. In his book, Matty describes the slang and going-ons to the reader. On page 54 of my version (published by Forgotten Books):

    "In most Big League ball games, there comes an inning on which hangs victory or defeat. Certain intellectual fans call it the crisis; college professors, interested in the sport, have named it the psychological moment; Big League managers mention it as the "break," and pitchers speak of the "pinch." "

    Thus, as you and the OP deduced, the term eventually extended to any moment that hangs in the balance. A "pinch" hitter was at one time the equivalent to the modern "clutch" hitter, or one who arrived in a situation on which hung victory or defeat, as Matty put it. Because pitchers generally went the whole game, you only substituted for them if you really needed a better bat to get you ahead. The substitute was more likely to arrive in a situation that warranted a RBI in a close game, or the "pinches." Otherwise, you let the pitcher do his thing. Even guys who got shelled lasted a lot longer than we'd expect today because of the limited pitching staff.

    Somewhere along the line, the term must've been gradually minimized to describe anyone approaching the plate in place of another in order to further the game. Instead of "substitute," he became the "pinch hitter" regardless of the situation.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/in+a+pinch

    I wonder if the specific phrase for baseball purposes come from the Civil War, where many, including President Grover Cleveland and the man he defeated for his first term, James Blaine, hired substitutes in their place so as to avoid the fighting themselves.

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  • Tyrus4189Cobb
    replied
    Originally posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
    If Mathewson was using tha phrase In a pinch, it undoubtedly was well set in the common venacular. I've always taken pinch hitter as that, a hitter who is brough up in a pinch, a potentially testy situation that calls for special effort.
    I can confirm this. Pitching In A Pinch serves as a guide to what was then contemporary baseball. In his book, Matty describes the slang and going-ons to the reader. On page 54 of my version (published by Forgotten Books):

    "In most Big League ball games, there comes an inning on which hangs victory or defeat. Certain intellectual fans call it the crisis; college professors, interested in the sport, have named it the psychological moment; Big League managers mention it as the "break," and pitchers speak of the "pinch." "

    Thus, as you and the OP deduced, the term eventually extended to any moment that hangs in the balance. A "pinch" hitter was at one time the equivalent to the modern "clutch" hitter, or one who arrived in a situation on which hung victory or defeat, as Matty put it. Because pitchers generally went the whole game, you only substituted for them if you really needed a better bat to get you ahead. The substitute was more likely to arrive in a situation that warranted a RBI in a close game, or the "pinches." Otherwise, you let the pitcher do his thing. Even guys who got shelled lasted a lot longer than we'd expect today because of the limited pitching staff.

    Somewhere along the line, the term must've been gradually minimized to describe anyone approaching the plate in place of another in order to further the game. Instead of "substitute," he became the "pinch hitter" regardless of the situation.

    Leave a comment:


  • Captain Cold Nose
    replied
    If Mathewson was using tha phrase In a pinch, it undoubtedly was well set in the common venacular. I've always taken pinch hitter as that, a hitter who is brough up in a pinch, a potentially testy situation that calls for special effort.

    Leave a comment:


  • Dude Paskert
    replied
    In case it helps, Christy Mathewson wrote a book called "Pitching In A Pinch"...in which he stressed the need to bear down and use your best stuff when there were runners on (and heavily substantiating the theory that early pitchers did not throw their hardest at all times due to the relative paucity of long hits).

    Leave a comment:


  • RUKen
    started a topic "Pinch hitter" as the name for a substitute batter

    "Pinch hitter" as the name for a substitute batter

    The 1906 Lajoie's Baseball Guide includes a list of baseball slang, including "pinch hit" defines as "Safe drive with men on bases when the score is closely knitted." In other words, what we call a clutch hit today was called a pinch hit in 1906, regardless of whether it was made by a starter or a late-inning substitute batter. When was the term "pinch hitter" first applied to anyone who came to the plate as a substitute for another? Was there a name for substitute batters before they were called "pinch hitters", or were players only identified by their defensive positions?

    For the record, a player who "strikes out when a hit is needed or fumbles a ground ball in a close game" was called a "lobster".

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