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.

Tony Clark: among players, the universal DH “is gaining momentum”

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark met the press late this morning and covered a wide array of topics.

One of them: free agency, which he referred to as being “under attack” based on the slow market for free agents last offseason.

“What the players saw last offseason was that their free-agent rights were under attack on what has been the bedrock of our system,” Clark said. He added that they “have some very difficult decisions to make.” Presumably in the form of grievances and, down the road, a negotiating strategy that seeks to claw back some of the many concessions the union has given owners in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. CBAs, it’s worth noting, that Clark negotiated. We’ve covered that territory in detail in the past.

Of more immediate interest was Clark’s comment that the idea of a universal designated hitter is, among players, “gaining momentum.” Clark says “players are talking about it more than they have in the past.” We’ve talked a lot about that as well.

Given that hating or loving the DH is the closest thing baseball has to a religion, no one’s mind is going to be changed by any of this, but I think, practically speaking, it’s inevitable that the National League will have the DH and I think it happens relatively soon. Perhaps in the next five years. The opposition to it at this point is solely subjective and based on tradition. People like pitchers batting and they like double switches and they like the leagues being different because they, well, like it. If the system were being set up today, however, they’d never have it this way and I think even the DH-haters know that well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dislike a universal DH, but it does mean that you can’t expect the people who run the game to cater to that preference when it makes little sense for them to do it for their own purposes.

Anyway: enjoy convincing each other in the comments about how the side of that argument you dislike is wrong.