The author: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler
The vital stats: August publications, 206 pages, $14.95
The pitch: If it takes a kid who, since 2004, has called games for the Montgomery Biscuits, Windy City Thunderbolts and Lansing Lugnuts to teach us a thing or two about the language of baseball, we’re open to the experience.
Goldberg-Strassler writes that his inexpensive paperback (even less expensive and expansive in Nook form) is dedicated to the “media linguist whose job relies on baseball jargon” as well as the “radio listener, blog reader, talk-show caller, minor-league diehard, Strat-O-Matic connoisseur, seventh-inning stretcher . . . ”
The sentence goes on a bit, but we get the drift.
To date, we’d got our fill of phraseology from anything written by Paul Dickson — more specifically, his first three editions of the “Dickson Baseball Dictionary,” which he and co-author Skip McAfee have updated every 10 years since 1989 (the second edition, for that matter, included a thesaurus).
Goldberg-Strassler admits he’s used those three books as research among his 34 bibliography references, and even got the blessing of Dickson and McAfee to do this. But because of endorsements for this book by such broadcasters as Dan Shulman and Kenny Albert, and Goldberg-Strassler admitting in the introduction that as an aspiring broadcaster himself he “soon learned how easy it was to slip into unimaginative ruts,” we decided to see if this book could be game-ready when we headed to the paragraph battlefield to do some baseball-related writing one day.
The exercise was rather futile. We, in fact, felt like the proverbial lugnut. Score it for us as a strike out. Or, as the book might suggest, it’s the Casey act, dipsy-doodle, fandango, line drive to the catcher, the Navy Yard home run, punched out and whiffed. Even in Spanish, we took the ponche.
It seems this could be more profoundly used by an up-and-coming ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor to digest and then purge from his brain if his true desire is to stay original to his craft. It’s something an intern for a wire service might want to absorb, then make sure he never fell back on when he (or she) was pounding out a deadline story.
In other words, it’s a kind of a cool idea, but the end game is that this is more an orange cone that should be set up on any keyboard, or broadcasters’ table, before he goes to work.
There’s something to learn from pouring over each entry for something fresh and clever, and then realizing that it’s not so much exhuming another the term for a curve ball (please, don’t say “Uncle Charlie” or “Aunt Mae”), but in the way it’s said by a broadcaster in the context of the game that conveys most clearly and concisely to the listener what just happened.
These are the kinds of words, as it turns out, that can trip up the consumer when something much more simple and common is the better way to go.
It does show some research into how colorful the language of baseball was once upon a time, when Red Barber was in a catbird seat or Dizzy Dean was mangling grammar on the TV set. The bottom line here is this book can’t even help someone like Angels broadcaster Victor Rojas, who refuses to use the word “no-hitter” when an Angels pitcher is in fact throwing one.
As we see on page 139 of this thesaurus:
n. no-no; Spanish: juego sin hit
That leaves us with nada.
It reminds us of the joke: What’s your favorite dinosaur? For a writer, it’s a thesaurus.