Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Shortstop

I was at the Mets game last night with my homeboy Wallace and he wondered aloud what was the etymology of the term "shortstop" in baseball. I didn't know, and I was still wondering this morning, so I did some research.

I'm still not sure the answer is all that clear to me, but as best as I understand it it's a term that's left over from when baseball evolved from cricket. All the other positions are self explanatory. The cather catches, the outfielders cover the outer field, and so on. Pitching has become a verb, so the picher is the one who pitches. This evolved from the area in cricket between the wickets being known as the "pitch" and so it's just a small logical leap from being on the pitch to becoming the pitcher.

But shortstop doesn't make any sense. It doesn't really fit, nor does it really explain itself well. In cricket the guys are all over the field and have position names that don't really match any in baseball. The one exception is that in cricket there is a guy called a "long stop" who seems to play behind the batter to catch the equivalent of foul balls, though there is no foul territory in cricket. There is also a spot on the field called the "short" position, which is closer to the batter than the long position. It seems like there could be a position called "short stop" who just plays closer to the batter than the "long stop", but as best as I can tell, the guy who plays that position is called a "slip". Look at this picture, and it might make more sense to you.

Anyhow, I guess there is conceivably a position called "short stop" in cricket, and I assume that's where the term comes from, but the evidence is shaky at best. Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

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