Defending Springsteen’s use of “speedball” in “Glory Days”


In the comments to the Springsteen post earlier, there were several of you who took issue with Springsteen’s use of the word “speedball” in the lyrics to “Glory Days.”  As in “he could throw that speedball by you, make you look like a fool,” for those unfamiliar.

This bothered me for many years, and I’m sure I’ve complained about it at HBT or my other blogs at some point in the past. I mean, really, who says “speedball?”

But we must stop our complaints now, as “speedball” is legit baseball terminology.  Or at least it’s not unprecedented baseball terminology.

For my birthday last week, my parents bought me Paul Dickson’s wonderful Baseball Dictionary.  In it you can find definitions and origins to just about every baseball term you’ve ever heard and thousands that you haven’t.  And lo and behold, on page 809, we have the following two entries:

speedball  A fastball. 1st use: 1918.  “[Jim Vaughn’s] buzzer, the speedball, is a mighty breeze and is difficult to hit” (Boston Herald and Journal, Sept. 6; Peter Morris)

speedballer  A fastball pitcher, “Joe Ginsberg … caught such speedballers as Virgil Trucks and Dizzy Trout with the Tigers” (The Sporting News, March 30, 1955)

There you have it.  “Speedball” is not used often, but it has been used.  If it’s good enough for the Boston Herald and  The Sporting News — at least back when those publications really had their speedballs working — and if it’s good enough for Bruce Springsteen, it’s good enough for us.

Shawn Tolleson becomes a free agent

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The Rangers outrighted reliever Shawn Tolleson off the 40-man roster on Wednesday. Rather than accept the assignment to Triple-A Round Rock, Tolleson has opted to become a free agent, Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake reports.

Tolleson, 28, emerged as a closer for the Rangers in 2015, but his follow-up campaign this year was dreadful. He finished with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He eventually went on the 60-day disabled list with a back injury.

Despite the nightmarish season, it’s easy to see a team deciding to take a flier on Tolleson for the 2017 season.

Indians strongly considering starting Carlos Santana in left field sans DH

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Carlos Santana #41 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the third inning against Marco Estrada #25 of the Toronto Blue Jays during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians slugger Carlos Santana hasn’t played in the outfield in a major league game since 2012, but the Indians are strongly considering starting him in left field for Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field on Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. As the game is hosted in a National League park, there is no DH rule in effect, so the Indians might otherwise have to keep Santana on the bench.

Santana is hitless in six at-bats in the World Series thus far, but he has drawn two walks. He has overall not had a great postseason, carrying an aggregate .564 OPS in 40 plate appearances since the beginning of the playoffs. Still, during the regular season, he had an .865 OPS so he can certainly be a threat on offense at any given moment.