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

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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.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.