Baseball Semantics
"out of the park" Dept.


Dr. D is not the sort of chap who enjoys wordsmithing as an exercise in fault-finding.  Looking at word choice as a way to add flavor or insight?  Sure!  Give me double potatoes and give it wings.  As a grammar-police way to establish intelligence?  Go on ahead without me.

But this is the rare occasion where, for some reason unknown to me, a phrase kinda gets to me.  And it does James, I guess.  The first item in his public article "A Little Too Long to Be a Tweet," May 31 2017:


             Just a little thing that bothers me.   The Royals have a promotional tie-in in which, if a Royals player hits a grand slam home run out of the park in the sixth inning, somebody wins $10,000 or something. . .I don’t know what it is.    What interests me is those words "out of the park".  

              They don’t mean that it has to leave the Stadium; no one has ever hit a fair ball out of Kaufman Stadium, and, for reasons I won’t get into, it is clear that that isn’t what they mean.  The Royals have been running this promotion since sometime in the 1970s, I think, granting that I have no evidence for the duration of this other than my memory.  The designated fan wins a smaller amount of money when a Royals player hits any home run (out of the park) in the sixth inning.  What struck me the first time I heard that commercial, decades ago, was that it couldn’t possibly pay to buy the air time to say "out of the park", which only prevents the company from having to pay off if someone hits an INSIDE THE PARK grand slam in the sixth inning.   Think about it.   It only takes a second to say "out of the park", but they repeat this phrase I think three times during the commercial—and they have been doing it for forty years!   I would bet that, if they costed it out, whoever is paying for the commercial has spent tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the air time necessary to say the words "out of the park".   

              And what is the value of that?   The odds of somebody hitting a grand slam home run INSIDE THE PARK are negligible.   It just interests me, because, like the Win Rule and Rex Hudler, it is such a clear example of somebody doing something year after year and after year without thinking about what they are doing. 


This is a favorite baseball expression among the announcers and players.  It hits my ear wrong; does it yours?  I don't see a big problem with "out of the park" when Nelson Cruz leaves a magical "fall" of baseball dust snowing down gently on section 361 in left-center.  (Or Mike Zunino now, amirite?) But some fine fella hits the ball into the 3rd row in left field and he'll jubilantly talk about "I get paid to hit runs out of the BALL park," changing park for "ballpark" when even more emphasis is needed.  

True.  It's just a way to underline a sentence.  We all do it, and should do it.  Emphasis is great.  But "out of the park," to me it's so obviously not what the guy is doing ... was there EVER a time, even in 1924 or whatever, when a chain-link fence 330 feet away denoted the border of an owner's property and every home run was an event that intruded on a neighbor's property rights?  I dunno.  Maybe in the deadball era there was a situation where the "park" was almost always where baseball happened, the field of fair play, and everybody stood around confused if a ball was hit out of fair play.  LOL.

So what would you have said if Zuumball's grand slam had gone another fifteen feet?  What would he have been said to have done then?  Taking suggestions for the description of the situation if somebody ever does hit a ball out of the ballpark here.

... sudden thought.  :- )  Is it because the phrase is hackneyed?  And folks delight in it despite.  If in 40 years they say "nothing burger" with ever increasing delight, that'll probably hit my ear wrong too...

... or maybe it's like calling a fastball "cheese."  Wouldn't sound so weird if it was Paxton or Sugar or Pazos.  But if Hisashi exulted in the "cheese" he fanned Marco Scutaro with ...


Dr D


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