30 Baseball Idioms
The sport nostalgically known as “America’s Pastime” (though football now reigns supreme) is the source of many evocative idioms whose meanings now extend beyond the baseball diamond. Here are thirty of those phrases and their meanings when used past the warning track.
1. ballpark figure: a rough estimate
2. bat a thousand: a reference to a continuing series of successes, alluding to a baseball player who gets on base every time at bat
3. box score: a count or summary (from the chart on which a games statistical details are recorded; applicable to various sports but originating in reference to baseball)
4. bush league: a sports organization subordinate to the major leagues (referring to the usually rural locations of such teams; can apply to any sport but originated in reference to baseball)
5. curve ball: something unexpected (from the unpredictable trajectory of that type of baseball pitch)
6. go to bat for: support (from the notion of a batter contributing to his team)
7–8. hit a home run/hit one out of the park: be successful
9. in the ballpark: close; said of an estimate (compared to being within the confines of a stadium)
10–11. it’s a whole new ball game/different ball game: a reference to a changed situation
12. keep (one’s) eyes on the ball: maintain focus (compared to a batter concentrating on a pitch)
13. major league: significant, as in a reference to a company that is one of the leaders in its industry or line of business (from the fact that the major leagues are the pinnacle of achievement in sports)
14. off base: wrong, or on the wrong track (from the notion of a player not being in contact with one of the bases)
15. on deck: next in line (from the location designated for the next batter to await his turn)
16. out in left field: said of a person with an eccentric or unusual idea (from the idea of left field being a distant location)
17. out of (one’s) league: said of one who is trying to succeed in an area in which he or she faces superior competition or is striving to achieve too much (originally from baseball but applicable to many sports)
18. (hit it) out of the park: succeed (comparing a success to a home run)
19. pinch hitter: substitute (from the designation of a player taking another’s place at bat)
20. play ball: cooperate
21. play hardball: act aggressively (from the density of a baseball as compared to a softball)
22. rain check: a promise to make good on an offer (from tickets offered for rescheduled sporting events postponed by rain; originated in baseball but applicable to any outdoor sport or event)
23. softball: an easy, noncontroversial question
24. step up to the plate: take responsibility (compared to a player taking his turn at bat)
25. strike out: fail, especially repeatedly
26. strikes against (one): said of more than one disadvantage or mistake a person has against him or her
27. swing for the fences: perform with great effort or intensity (as compared to a baseball player trying to hit a home run)
28. three strikes and you’re out: a reference to someone being given three chances to succeed (analogous to the three strikes a hitter is allowed before being called out)
29. throw (one) a curve: surprise someone with something unexpected or not expected as presented (as compared to a curveball)
30. touch base: contact (compared to a player landing a foot on a base)
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