Third Edition
The Revised, Expanded, and Now Definitive Work on the Language of Baseball
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“A must-have for everyone who seeks to understand the spirit of America and, most especially, our politics: you’ll learn why an easy question is a ‘softball,’ a tricky one, a ‘curve ball,’ and why sometimes we may have to ‘play hardball.’ We want leaders who ‘can step up to the plate,’ free of ‘screwball’ ideas from ‘out of left field.’ You will learn from this book and you will treasure this book, just as I have. It is an invaluable American thesaurus.” —Mark Shields

In 1989, the man now described as the Webster of Baseball published what he thought was a definitive work: The Dickson Baseball Dictionary. Hailed on publication as “a staggering piece of scholarship” (Wall Street Journal) and “absorbing and enlightening reading” (Sports Illustrated), the dictionary won loyal admirers among baseball writers, players, managers, announcers, and fans of the game. Over the last 20 years, with the help of over 350 baseball and lexical experts, Dickson has completely revised, expanded, and improved his masterpiece – it is now the most important work on the language of baseball available in print and an invaluable guide to the lexicon of the game.

Updated to reflect the ever-changing nature of ballpark speech and the increased interest in baseball scholarship, THE DICKSON BASEBALL DICTIONARY: The Revised, Expanded, and Now Definitive Work on the Language of Baseball; Third Edition (W.W. Norton & Company, March 2, 2009; $49.95 cloth), has been totally reworked and more than doubled in size from the original to include more than 10,000 definitions, and more than 250 photos—many rare and previously unpublished. It features a wealth of new words and phrases from around the world of baseball including those introduced by Latin-American players, fantasy baseball expressions, and those of the SABR/Moneyball era. Arranged alphabetically with definitions, examples, cross-references, and historical word and phrase origins, THE DICKSON BASEBALL DICTIONARY is the most authoritative and comprehensive guide to baseball terminology ever complied.

In his masterful preface, Dickson explains that a movement began in the early part of the 20th century to suppress baseball slang. The idea was to preserve the linguistic purity of the English language while diminishing the sports-page baseball-ese by writers seeking ever more inventive and colorful ways to describe the game. “If baseball is a game of slang, it is also a game of heaped on modifiers,” Dickson writes. “The baseball prose of the daily press and later broadcasters was a part of the entertainment.” Thankfully, the writers and fans prevailed and today, as witnessed in this extraordinary gathering of lexical gems, the language of baseball is flourishing like never before.

In THE DICKSON BASEBALL DICTIONARY readers will discover the fascinating origins and development of some of our most treasured baseball terms. Many of today’s most common words are more complex and varied than anyone would imagine. For example, there are more than 15 baseball meanings for hook, 13 for slot, and 11 each for break, jump, and cut. A regular “fastball” is now a “four-seam fastball,” a “two-seam fastball,” or a “cut fastball.” And when it comes to word histories (etymologies), Dickson reveals the first usage and origin of major terms—or origins for special cases like “fungo,” which has five plausible explanations.

Ranging from the minutiae of baseball’s complex plays, statistics, and strategies to words both strange and downright humorous, the terms and phrases in THE DICKSON BASEBALL DICTIONARY cover every aspect of America’s Pastime on and off the field and offer an unparalleled guide to the words that have defined the game throughout its storied history. The definitions in the book include the history of the terms, their origins and the date they first come into play. In many cases, Dickson traces terms back to unlikely origins—from nautical terminology, horseracing, the railroads, agriculture, and politics.

A stunning new contribution to baseball history and American letters THE DICKSON BASEBALL DICTIONARY is an essential guide to America’s pastime, its language and its rich culture.


Paul Dickson is the author of many bestselling books, including Baseball’s Greatest Quotations, The Hidden Language of Baseball, and The Joy of Keeping Score. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland.




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