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southpaw:  a minor correction for the big list
Posted: 04 July 2012 05:26 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The Big List says that the first baseball use of “southpaw” is from 1885.  Actually, there are numerous examples before that.  The earliest known is from the New York Atlas of September 12, 1858:  “Hallock, a ‘south paw,’ let fly a good ball into the right field.” Note that this is a reference to a batter, not a pitcher.  Presumably his being left handed is relevant because he pulled the ball into right.  Nowadays “southpaw” is usually applied only to pitchers, but early on it was applied to any left handed player. 

The 1885 cite on the Big List is given in Dickson Baseball Dictionary as the earliest use meaning the left hand, as compared with a left handed person.  This is may be true in the baseball context, but is certainly not true in general.  The New York Herald of June 27, 1860 has a report of a prize fight.  In the ninth round, “after some sparring, he planted his ‘south paw’ under Mike’s chin, laying him out flat as a pancake.”

Richard Hershberger

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Posted: 04 July 2012 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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An update on the baseball use of the “left hand” sense.  The New York Herald of August 7, 1868 refers to one Yates, “whose ‘south-paw’ was so sure and fatal on first base.” I take this to refer to his reliability at catching balls thrown to him.

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Posted: 04 July 2012 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Richard Hershberger - 04 July 2012 06:55 AM

An update on the baseball use of the “left hand” sense.  The New York Herald of August 7, 1868 refers to one Yates, “whose ‘south-paw’ was so sure and fatal on first base.” I take this to refer to his reliability at catching balls thrown to him.

I wonder.  Time was a left hander was preferred at first base, if only to make it more easy to apply the tag on a runner picked off base.

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Posted: 04 July 2012 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That was my interpretation as well.

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Posted: 04 July 2012 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Time was a left hander was preferred at first base, if only to make it more easy to apply the tag on a runner picked off base.

Has the time ended? I thought most first basemen were still left-handed. Although I always thought the main reason was so they didn’t have to turn to throw to second or third. But “‘south-paw’ was so sure and fatal on first base” is indeed probably a reference to tagging a leading runner out.

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Posted: 04 July 2012 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I don’t remember the last time I saw a left-handed first baseman.  There’s probably lots of them but not in my experience.  Then the only baseball I usually see is local minor league teams.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 12:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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OED has an 1813 source for “south paw”, from something called (The?) Tickler. 

“1813 Tickler 30 June 1/4 ‘Luk here mon, and convince yourself,’ said he, holding up the Tickler, in the right paw, between the ceiling and the floor, and with the south paw pointing to the ‘bow, vow, vow.’”

I’m struggling with this.  I’m finding it hard to reconstruct a possible context for this quote.  Is perhaps the speaker (possibly a Scottish gentleman) trying to prove a point by appealing to a magazine article as evidence, flourishing it in his right hand while the other points dramatically downwards to a dog, which for reasons not given is the object of discussion?  Or, since slang and unconventional English are in evidence, does ‘bow, vow, vow’ mean something else entirely?  The floor, perhaps, or the carpet: maybe an unconscious opponent.

There’s a magazine called The Tickler in google books, but it seems to have started in 1818.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I just went through a list of first basemen who are at the top of various 2012 fantasy rosters, and most of them (about 2/3 in my limited survey) are righties, although there are more left-handers at that position than the normal 10% in the population.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Faldage - 04 July 2012 05:21 PM

I don’t remember the last time I saw a left-handed first baseman.  There’s probably lots of them but not in my experience.  Then the only baseball I usually see is local minor league teams.

You may be on to something.  A NY Times article from 2009 discusses the trend away from lefty first basemen, especially in the American League and other leagues where big, slow lefties can be used as DH (designated hitter).

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Posted: 05 July 2012 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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That’s a good article. I was thinking that perhaps the switch was the result of Billy Bean-style stats-oriented managing, but the trend away from lefties at 1B is much older. It’s interesting to see that there is indeed a significant defensive penalty associated with a right-hander at 1B (in general, of course; there have been some superb defensive righties at the position), and that overall it is due to the increased emphasis on offense.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 04:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’ve updated the southpaw entry on the Big List. The error may have simply been due to the fact that it was written before the current edition of Dickson appeared, but I no longer have the old edition to check what that says. Of course, I could have just been sloppy.

The OED has also updated its entry in the meantime, pushing back the use of southpaw, in a non-baseball context, to 1813. But the OED entry, written in 2011, misses an antedating of southpaw to refer to a person, as opposed to the left hand itself, which is in Dickson—the 1858 citation.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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slam - 05 July 2012 12:19 AM

I’m struggling with this.  I’m finding it hard to reconstruct a possible context for this quote.  Is perhaps the speaker (possibly a Scottish gentleman) trying to prove a point by appealing to a magazine article as evidence, flourishing it in his right hand while the other points dramatically downwards to a dog, which for reasons not given is the object of discussion?  Or, since slang and unconventional English are in evidence, does ‘bow, vow, vow’ mean something else entirely?  The floor, perhaps, or the carpet: maybe an unconscious opponent.

I think he is holding up the dog, named “Tickler”, in his right hand and pointing to it with his left.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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slam - 05 July 2012 12:19 AM

OED has an 1813 source for “south paw”, from something called (The?) Tickler. 

“1813 Tickler 30 June 1/4 ‘Luk here mon, and convince yourself,’ said he, holding up the Tickler, in the right paw, between the ceiling and the floor, and with the south paw pointing to the ‘bow, vow, vow.’”

I’m struggling with this.  I’m finding it hard to reconstruct a possible context for this quote.  Is perhaps the speaker (possibly a Scottish gentleman) trying to prove a point by appealing to a magazine article as evidence, flourishing it in his right hand while the other points dramatically downwards to a dog, which for reasons not given is the object of discussion?  Or, since slang and unconventional English are in evidence, does ‘bow, vow, vow’ mean something else entirely?  The floor, perhaps, or the carpet: maybe an unconscious opponent.

There’s a magazine called The Tickler in google books, but it seems to have started in 1818.

The magazine in question appears to be George Helmbold Jr’s The Tickler, a Philadelphia humor magazine published from 1807 to 1813. I can’t access the complete article on JSTOR but the preview page is enough to establish the magazine’s name, author and dates of publication.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I have access to it via the U of T library. The meaning becomes clear in fuller context; it’s in a letter to the editor referencing an earlier Tickler article (probably a 2 June 1813 one with the headline “Bow vow vow!,” a reference to a dog barking). But you don’t need to know that to understand how south paw is being used:

Dear Toby,

Being in a room the other night where HONEST BOB happened to come in contact with a late number of your useful paper, his Irish eye in the general glance over it chanced to rest on “Bow, Vow, Vow,” when the Pat-riot in the fulness of his HONEST heart, exclaimed, “Arrah, by my shoal these Yaunkees are the divile boys at spaking V for W, so much that by the hill o’hoath their very dogs have pecked it up, for instead of barking, Bow, Wow, Wow, as they ought—it’s—(growing impatient)—arrah luk here mon, and convince yourself,” said he, holding up the Tickler, in the right paw, between the ceiling and the floor, and with the south paw pointing to the “bow, vow, vow.”

The 1818 Tickler in Google Books appears to be a different, London-based publication.

[ Edited: 05 July 2012 06:01 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 05 July 2012 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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jtab4994 - 05 July 2012 03:33 AM

Faldage - 04 July 2012 05:21 PM
I don’t remember the last time I saw a left-handed first baseman.  There’s probably lots of them but not in my experience.  Then the only baseball I usually see is local minor league teams.

You may be on to something.  A NY Times article from 2009 discusses the trend away from lefty first basemen, especially in the American League and other leagues where big, slow lefties can be used as DH (designated hitter).

Of course right after posting this I see that the Cubs new first baseman, just up from triple A, is a lefty.  He’s been dong pretty good defensively and offensively.

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Posted: 05 July 2012 10:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dave Wilton - 05 July 2012 05:57 AM

I have access to it via the U of T library. The meaning becomes clear in fuller context; it’s in a letter to the editor referencing an earlier Tickler article (probably a 2 June 1813 one with the headline “Bow vow vow!,” a reference to a dog barking). But you don’t need to know that to understand how south paw is being used:

Dear Toby,

Being in a room the other night where HONEST BOB happened to come in contact with a late number of your useful paper, his Irish eye in the general glance over it chanced to rest on “Bow, Vow, Vow,” when the Pat-riot in the fulness of his HONEST heart, exclaimed, “Arrah, by my shoal these Yaunkees are the divile boys at spaking V for W, so much that by the hill o’hoath their very dogs have pecked it up, for instead of barking, Bow, Wow, Wow, as they ought—it’s—(growing impatient)—arrah luk here mon, and convince yourself,” said he, holding up the Tickler, in the right paw, between the ceiling and the floor, and with the south paw pointing to the “bow, vow, vow.”

The 1818 Tickler in Google Books appears to be a different, London-based publication.

Thanks for this.  So this usage of “south paw” is not in any sporting context, it’s just jocular slang for left hand? Unless the author’s also trying to imply Honest Bob is using his left hand from beneath, to point upwards.

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