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.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”