Baseball Slang Every Fan Should Know

He hits for the cycle!

When spring is near, we’re close to Opening Day, and with that another season of America’s Pastime (no matter what NFL fans would tell you). Although Opening Day has been postponed this year, we’re still anxious to talk baseball. Let’s look at some quirky baseball terms, and examine their obscure meanings and origins, shall we?

The game dates back a long way (the first pro team started in 1869—the Cincinnati Reds) so there’s a long history here. Do you have any favorite baseball-isms? Announcers seem to have an endless supply! Let us know on Facebook and Twitter (dictionarycom).

gopher ball

Gopher ball is a term used for a home run. Batters love them, but pitchers do not want to lead the league in giving up gopher balls. We also have another version of this term, the gofer ball. Famous pitcher Lefty Gomez is said to have coined this term. When the pitch gets hit a long way, it “goes fer” a home run.

Baltimore chop

We define Baltimore chop as “a batted ball that takes a high bounce upon hitting the ground on, or immediately in front of, home plate, often enabling the batter to reach first base safely.” The term originated with the late 1800s Baltimore Orioles. That time period was the so-called “dead ball era” and runs were hard to come by. The team had their groundskeeper pack the area around home plate extra hard, and the Baltimore chop was born. You can have one of these in any town—it doesn’t have to be Baltimore to work!


Though you may know of ‘tweeners on the basketball court or football field, for the purpose of baseball, a ‘tweener is a hit that drops right between the infielders and outfielders, who are in hot pursuit.

Texas leaguer

A Texas leaguer is another term for a soft, lazy base hit. One theory has the term coming from a minor league player who played in the Texas League. Ollie Pickering was in the TL when he was called up to the major league club, the Cleveland Blues. He had this type of hit in his first seven plate appearances, so his teammates named the hit after him. Texas leaguers are also known as bloopers, flares, dying quails, and one more you’ll see in a second.

Boy, is he in a pickle

When a base runner gets caught in between two bases and is surrounded by infielders running at him to tag him out, he’s in a pickle. William Shakespeare is thought to have used the phrase in a pickle in The Tempest, referencing someone who was drunk. When the term made its way to the States, the meaning shifted to signify that you’re in a little bit of trouble. If the infielder is coming at you with the ball, that is exactly what you’re in.

Of course, we can’t forget about Pickles Dillhoefer, a catcher who played for a trio of teams from 1917–1921. He has no connection to the term pickle; it’s just a great baseball name, like Catfish Hunter or Yogi Berra.

duck snort

A duck snort is also a soft line drive hit to the outfield. Its origin comes from, believe it or not, a duck fart. The concept was that since a duck had all those feathers, when he or she had a case of flatulence, it would be muffled and soft. Announcers on TV and radio shied away from saying “duck fart,” though. White Sox announcer Kenny “Hawk” Harrelson came up with this media-friendly compromise in the 1980s.


If a batter hits a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in the same game, that’s considered hitting for the cycle. This is a very rare accomplishment and will absolutely get you featured in the sports headlines that night.

butcher boy

Butcher boy is a type of batter swing. The batter is squared up as if to bunt, then takes a short, chop-like swing at the ball. It was inspired by legendary manager Casey Stengel, and was apparently coined in reference to the motion a boy would make in a butcher shop when cleaving meat. Stengel was also known for his own peculiar vocabulary, and that would be an entire slideshow on its own!

frozen rope

Frozen rope could easily mean a rope left out overnight in Maine. In this case, it stands for a really hard-hit line drive. It might be caught, or it might not—that doesn’t matter. It represents the velocity of the liner as it rockets through the air.

hang a snowman

This is a really obscure one. If the announcer says “the Mets hung a snowman on the Cubs in the 5th,” that means the Mets scored eight runs. If you draw the number “8” you’ll notice the number is … shaped like a snowman.

high cheese

If the pitcher is throwing some high cheese, that means he’s cranking fastballs high in the batter’s strike zone. He doesn’t want to throw a fastball into a batter’s wheelhouse, the area where the batter is most likely to connect for a home run.

worm burner

While as frozen rope line drive has a little altitude to it, a worm burner has even less. This is a line drive that barely clears the top of the infield grass. A worm would do well to keep his head down if he sees one coming.

the Mendoza Line

In the 1970s and 1980s there was an baseball player named Mario Mendoza, and while he was a good fielder, he had some troubles at the plate. He ended his career with a rather anemic .215 batting average. The Mendoza Line refers to any batter who has an average hovering at the .200 mark. Don’t expect a raise at the end of the year if you finish below this line.

golden sombrero

This means you’ve struck out four times in the game. You probably won’t make it on the post-game show if you’re wearing a golden sombrero, unless it’s in the blooper reels. Count on some extra batting practice tomorrow.

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