Strike Three, Yer Out
Someone once said, “Baseball is the key to life—if we just understood baseball better, all other questions would be answered by the baseball gods.” If baseball really is the key, then numbers and the word “out” make up the metal of that key. I can’t imagine baseball without numbers. Numbers not only tell the story of a game, they also reflect the results. Numbers even allow us to measure greatness and mediocrity. They are used to substantiate a Hall-of-Fame induction or determine which player has picked the wrong career. Numbers signify reward, as in payment, and are even used to support the game within the game, by the umpire’s count on a batter. Numbers are also used to measure one team against another, both today and yesterday. Numbers are even found on the back and fronts of some player’s jerseys, to identify them from other players. There was a time when no numbers or only numbers with no names were worn on the uniform. Your seats at the ballpark are numbered and match the numbers on your ticket stub. Your food and drinks come with a perceived numbered value, as do programs and parking. The bases are numbered, and outfield fences are labeled with numbers used to measure distance. Players’ positions are given numbers to transcribe the game onto scorecards. Scorecards are used to store these numbers, and box scores reflect this process. Baseball stories are told using numbers, as TV and radio announcers relay the numbers of the game to the fans. As you can see, baseball and numbers could be one and the same. Without one, there is no other. It’s impossible to even talk baseball without using numbers.
Now for the other part of that key; the word “out” is used far more than its opposite, “safe,” in baseball. How difficult would it be to describe the game if the word “out” had never been invented? The word “out” can be used as an adverb, adjective, or even a noun, in the game of baseball. Let’s start with the umpires. “Yer out,” is probably the most often heard phrase in the game. “He’s out,” “It’s an out,” or “He’s called out” are all forms of the umpire’s jargon.
“For its one, two, three strikes, you’re out,” is the most important line in the song, “Take Me out to the Ballgame.” There’s that word “out” again. Players are punched out, put out, thrown out, or struck out, at every turn. Fly-outs, popped out or lined out are used to describe the results of hitters. “Fouled out,” “out of play” and “out of bounds” can also be used by announcers to describe the game. The biggest explosion of the usage of the word “out” has paralleled the frequency of home runs hit. “Its outa’ here,” “He hit it out of the park” or “This one’s hit out of sight” are all used to describe the long ball. Players sit in a dugout when they are not in the outfield. A good pitcher will have an out pitch and will occasionally pitch out, to stop the running game. Managers are sometimes thrown out of a game by the umpires, and pitchers are sometimes yanked out of a game by managers. Three outs signify the inning is over, and twenty-seven outs per side ends the game. Pitches are sometimes thrown outside the strike zone for balls, while umps throw baseballs out of play when damaged. Rain-outs are part of the game except in a dome stadium, and the most exciting play may be the tag out at home plate. Fans will cry out when a call goes against their team. Outbursts from players sometimes occur in the heat of the battle, when a player is hit by a pitch. Managers try their best to outsmart or outmaneuver their opponent, to tip the outcome of the game in their favor. Some teams are simply outclassed in the field of play, while others appear to be outplayed.
If you’re counting, how many times did I just use some form of the word “out” in this article. It appears that the word “out” could be just as important to baseball as the use of numbers. Maybe the key to life really does lie in the understanding of numbers and the use of the word “out” in baseball. All I know is that when it’s over for me, I never want to hear, “Strike three, you’re out” from the “Big Guy” upstairs. There go those numbers and that word “out” again.
Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.