Last week I wrote an article (which you can view HERE) where I mentioned the baseball saying, “The game ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” After I wrote that it got me thinking; who is this fat lady? What is she singing about? And why does anyone care? So I did a little research: I went to the library, checked out a few books, set up interviews with some primary sources...HAHA just kidding. I typed in my question and had the answer faster than you can say “What’s a library?” Equipped with the answer, I thought about all of the other sayings we hear regularly but may not be aware of the origins. So I thought we should play a game and have some fun. Below are several common baseball sayings and for each saying I provide three possible origin stories for the sayings. One is true and two are made up. Answers are below. If you get them all right, let me know and I’ll be sure to send you a can of corn.
1. “The game ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”
a. In the 1850’s when professional baseball began, after the games, women would sell doughnuts to the fans and players on their way out of the park. As the doughnut competition grew, the women would begin singing to attract customers to their booths. By the nature of baking and selling doughnuts all day, these women were large, hence the “fat lady” part. The teams explicitly forbade the selling of these doughnuts inside the stadium and during games so everyone knew that the game was definitely over when “the fat lady sings.”
b. The term actually originates in England in the 18th century. The saying was used by the English poor as a way of making fun of the rich. After a night of eating and drinking, wealthy English women would walk down the street with their husbands singing and dancing from the joy of their night (and surely from the alcohol as well). In those days, “fat lady” was often a reference to wealthy women who had plenty of food and leisure time. The lower class of England would spend long days laboring often into the night and, referencing their work days would say, “it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”
c. The saying references the almost always overweight sopranos of the opera. At the end of many famous operas, most notably Der Ring des Nibelungen and Gotterddammerung, very large women with a sword and shield would sing a song for nearly 20 minutes that would always lead into the finale of the whole piece. So the audience knew, when the fat lady sings, the show is almost over.
2. “Can of corn.” Anyone who played Triple Play Baseball 1999 should know this for sure. But for those who lived worse childhoods, see your options below.
a. In the 19th century, grocery stores kept their canned goods on the top shelf too high for people to reach. Grocers would then knock the canned goods off the shelf with a broom handle and easily catch them in their apron and hand them to the customers. Corn was one of the most popular canned vegetable at the time and thus the saying was born.
b. The term originated in 1897 from the baseball player Joe “Corn” Baker. Baker was ruthlessly made fun of by his teammates for eating so much damn corn. In one September extra inning game, he popped out in the infield in all of his five at bats. His teammates ragged on him and said, “you’re making it easier than eating a can of corn.”
c. The term originated during the civil war, just before baseball took off. Union general Leonard P. Pinson was gathering his troops in preparation of the upcoming battle. The unit was short on weapons but heavy on cans of corn. The soldiers joked before going into battle that if need be they could always throw cans of corn at the enemy. After their victory, they jokingly threw cans of corn at each other noting how useless they would have been in battle but how much fun they were to throw and catch.
3. “Golden Sombrero.” I hear Adam Dunn has so many golden sombreros he’s going to start a Mariachi band.
a. In the late 1960’s when Mexican baseball players first began playing baseball in the U.S., Carlos Gonzalez, a centerfielder for the Red Sox jokingly showed up for the game wearing a sombrero. He would go on to strike out four times that game and the term Golden Sombrero stuck.
b. In 1973, Reds manager Clint Borrus wanted to embarrass his players when they did something particularly egregious, like making an error on a routine play or striking out four times in a game. For a while he allowed players to pour the excess spit from chewing tobacco on the embarrassed player but as one can imagine that got out of hand quickly and everybody hated Borrus for it. To save face, Borrus sought a much more fun tradition and got one of those giant fancy hats you would see women wear in the 1960’s and the player who struck out four times would have to wear the hat until the next game. A few years later, players agreed a funnier tradition would be to make them wear sombreros.
c. The term stems from the hockey saying, “hat trick.” A hat trick occurs when a hockey player scores three goals in a single game. The idea was if you strike out three times that’s a hat trick. But if you strike out four times, what’s bigger than a hat? A sombrero. The term was coined by San Diego Padres player Carmelo Martinez in 1980.
Answers. c. a. c.
My next article will be making fun of the people who got these wrong by taking jabs and throwing some chewing tobacco spit on them.
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