Whenceforth I received the news that the great Bone Head from Mud City was applying saliva to the ball before releasing it to the batter, I was right steamed. Myself, returning straight from a season that saw me ace thirty-one victories for my club, well yes-sir, I feign ignorance as to why a gentleman pitching for a club coming off a sixty-eight-win year might think he himself would be the right solid chap to fix what is otherwise a boondoggle of a task. Ed Walsh…that tippler? Onethinks he should return to the mines and leave this great game for those of us who can sleep well each eve’.
Listenup pal, I ain’t breakin no rules and another thing is ya never seen me do it, ya hear? I apologize to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, I truly do. It must trouble him greatly to be only one face on a winning team that will be forgotten by history as one simple chump in the crowd. I play for the books, and if I could tell ya anything bud I’d tell ya not to take any wooden nickels, unless you really think you’re the next Rube Waddell…well, perhaps in constitution only…
My good sir, let me first reach out to you in gentlemanly spirit to commend you on your accomplishments as a member of Chicago’s true working-class base ball club. I did not mean to diminish your abilities in the aggregate, rather, to illustrate the manner by which our great game only selectively decides to enforce the rules by which we are all–per the word of the boss–meant to follow. Nevertheless, I have it on good authority that you, Mr. Edward Augustine Walsh, indeed throw a spitball, which not only confuses batters but gives you a competitive advantage which both buttresses your good standing on your local club and tosses a bone to those degenerate bookies who seek to defame our great game by pulling it into the dim-lit alleys filled with liquor and sin. At this stage, I only ask you to recognize what my ability might be were I to apply my own saliva to my pitches–perhaps I, too, could reach the forty-win-mark you so “purely” achieved through your own volition.
I dare you losers to bean me. Dare you.
A good friend told me that spaces such as this one should be about finding joy. I agree with that, but I have also arrived at an odd, previously unexplored portion of my own life where I am unsure as to how that search for the joyous involves baseball.
In childhood I played the game. Or watched it. Or listened to it. Or thought about it. With a simplicity only childhood affords, I consumed practically nothing but baseball, whiling away time between Little League games in the front yard, recreating my favorite moments.
For many years, I found it in reading, writing, and eventually managing a website about, of all things, the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are not a particularly enjoyable thing, at least if we chain our enjoyment to them being good, smart, or successful. But I’ve never found that to matter too much. They are “my team” in that classic, intentionally self-simplifying and perhaps self-preserving way, and I am and will always be very grateful for them.
Recently though, I have found baseball, and the Mariners by extension, an increasing afterthought. For the first time in years, our house has no cable television. The daily responsibilities of adulthood and parenthood forever pushing the game further from the center of my Spring and Summer, to the very outer orbits of it. These days baseball feels like an indulgence I cannot afford. My days as a stat-obsessed, hand-on Moneyball, disciple of data feel well past me now. It’s all I can do to note that Mitch Haniger hit another home run, something he does seemingly every day.
C.S. Lewis, practically the last author I still enjoy from half a lifetime immersing in (and then gradually shedding) Evangelicalism, described joy as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” It’s possible my years so immersed in the game have satisfied that desire. Perhaps this is where the flow of baseball’s joy to me slowly wanes, until the last trickles of it stop forever. Or maybe I’ve simply settled for the game’s lesser joys too long, and need to get to the ballpark. Maybe I need to quit worrying about page views, retweets, and whatever opportunities my work in the game has or has not afforded me. Maybe I need to go sit down, disappear, and watch other people play a baseball game. Maybe then, the joy will return.
If you type “baseball player hit in the” into Google, “nuts” is the first suggested search result, followed by “face,” “jaw,” and “head,” because human nature is at first puerile, then ghoulish. It is a phenomenon well-known enough that there are “nutshot compilation” videos on YouTube, if you prefer the puerile and the ghoulish handily located in one place. Because baseball is a game in which small projectiles travel at high velocities dangerously close to the collection of sun-softened Hubba Bubba known as the human body, it is not uncommon for one of these projectiles to go rogue and find the tenderest, if not most lethal, spot of all on the adult male. Writers and fans and people with eyeballs are then forced to give their accounts of this moment, frame by agonizing frame, because as the Simpsons showed us, nothing is higher art than a man getting smacked right in the huckleberries.
The most recent iteration of this trope was last week, when Detroit’s Leonys Martín fouled a ball directly into his jujubes and collapsed to the ground in pain (he would hit a home run two pitches later, hopefully not setting up the world’s most uncomfortable superstition). Normally when a player collapses to the ground in pain, the rules of good citizenship dictate one does not laugh, even if the thing that happened was a player taking a shot right in the ole corn muffins, universally recognized as one of the world’s funniest occurrences. However, the rule concerning nutshots has some footnotes. There is a certain respectful silence that must be observed until the expression of sheer agony has mostly disappeared from the player’s visage. An “oooooh” tinted with a hint of the laughter that will come later may be acceptable, along with references to the area that has sustained said injury so heavily cloaked in code and obfuscation they wouldn’t seem out of place in a Regency drawing-room after Lady Heatherspoon turns up wearing too much Florida water. Only after the player has returned to the full and upright position–his expression grim and brave and set against the backdrop of a handful of fans applauding both his mettle and in sheer relief that it wasn’t them–only then may the jokes begin to trickle forth. Desk writers and broadcasters and gif-makers alike turn to their preferred medium, knowing they have been given a treasured gift.
And yet the way the incident is described varies greatly outlet to outlet, from the measured to the clinical to the lurid, and how what’s happened is described reveals much more than what has actually happened. Below, what the preferred nomenclature suggests about its respective outlet:
“Hit in the nuts”
The most popular option, as evidenced by Google’s auto-fill. Safely non-anatomical and family-friendly, but still a little naughty. The Pixar movie of descriptions.
“Hit in the groin”
Clinical, factual, purposefully dry. This outlet prides itself on journalistic integrity, and challenges you to do better, be better. This story will appear above sponsored content with titles like “Meghan Markle’s one weird trick for eating the Royal Family.”
“Hit in the balls”
The hardboiled option, for outlets that aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. Variant: “hit in the dick and balls” – for outlets that want to prove they’re not only not afraid to tell it like it is, but they’re wearing this spiked collar to church, and who’s going to stop them, because it sure isn’t you.
“Hit in the beans”
The Wes Anderson movie of descriptions.
“Hit in the jewels”
Mostly seen by outlets that still use John Hughes movies as cultural touchpoints. Variant: “hit in the family jewels,” for outlets east of the Mississippi.
“No fly zone,” “sensitive area,” “uncomfortable place,” “nether regions,” etc.
For outlets that stash airplane bottles of Glenlivet under the guest bathroom sink for family functions and refer to your cousin Jeremy’s boyfriend as his “roommate.”
How one refers to the male reproductive organs is a matter of personal choice, but in one way we are all alike: in the knowledge that one day, the pain we laugh at will, somehow, be our own.
Thank you for reading
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