Today on Throwback Thursday, dear readers, I bring you a gift. A gift from the past. A gift that consists of three exciting syllables. Yes, it is a word. The Word. The Word of The Day, if you will.
Maybe you don’t get as excited over words as I do (I get really excited. This is why we can’t have nice things.) Maybe you aren’t a poet-turned-not-quite-sportswriter as I am. But admit it, words can be fun. Especially in baseball, n’est-ce pas?
Baseball brims with rich jargon, and today folks, I would like to introduce you to an antique and grossly underused gem to polish off and keep fresh and handy on the top shelf of your Baseball-ese Toolbox, which is basically like a promotional item (better than a bobblehead) that you get for free just by listening to the sublime words of Vin Scully.
I want to give you this gift and I want you to use it for good, and use it well. (Note correct uses of good and well.) Ready or not, here goes. Feel free to do some vocal warm-up exercises before you try this one on.
Shillelagh (n./ v.) shi-LAY-lee
Alternate spelling: Shillalah
Definition from Dictionary.com: “A cudgel, traditionally of blackthorn or oak.”
Definition from the Dickson Baseball Dictionary: “The baseball bat as an instrument of power.”
Country of word origin: Ireland.
Tell me more: The shillelagh is an Irish club or cudgel that is made of hardwood and used as a weapon. Potentially minature versions of the knobby stick are carried by aggressive leprechauns. The weapon is named after a village in east-central Ireland of the same name.
American sports culture references: The Boston Celtics logo features an irishman wielding a shillelagh. Additionally, the Jeweled Shillelagh is awarded to the winner of the USC Trojans – Notre Dame Fighting Irish NCAA Football game.
First use in reference to baseball: 1920, The Washington Post. (See text example below.)
Subsequent uses in reference to baseball: 1937, Philadelphia Record. Possibly the last time this magnificent word was used in reference to baseball…?
Note: Can also be used as a verb.
Use it in a sentence, please: “They shillalahed with abandon and bumping him for six hits, including a double and a home run, jumped away with a five-run lead.” -J.V. Fitzgerald, The Washington Post.
Bonus points: Now practice saying shillelagh in your best Irish accent. Double bonus points if you’re in an Irish pub.
This is your mission: bring shillaleghs back into the spotlight of America’s Pastime. Write to your Senator, write to your local color commentator, post flyers in public restrooms at your workplace or college campus or yoga studio. Do what you need to do to spread The Word among all People throughout the Land.
And by the way, you’re welcome. Don’t mention it.
Do you have a favorite baseball tradition? Is there a particular ghost of baseball past you would like to revisit? Ever wonder why they do what they do, and when they started doing it? If you have a suggestion, question, or submission for Throwback Thursday, contact Elise by tweeting @Elise_Myers.