From NY Times, “On Language:” Baseball Idioms

From “On Language”, NY Times, Jack Rosenthal 9/27/2009, pinch hitting for William Safire, who was sick at the time and recently deceased: “When the baseball season began in April, William Safire reviewed baseball terms that have become part of the language, like ballpark figures, meaning rough estimates, or a political candidate ’s hoping to knock the ball out of the park. Now the imminent end of the regular season occasions further reflection.

Some terms, literally within the ballpark, have been around so long that their sources are shrouded in legend. My favorite is out of left field, which has come to describe an idea that sounds irrelevant, even crazy. Paul Dickson’s Baseball Dictionary cites several explanations, notably that when the Chicago Cubs moved to Wrigley Field, the site of their old park was developed he the University of Illinois, which built a mental hospital in -where else?– left field.”

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