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Sticky wicket
Posted: 02 August 2007 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Is the phrase used at all in the US, or if not, is it at least generally understood?

OED

phr. to bat (or be) on a sticky wicket: to contend with great difficulties (colloq.).

1882 Bell’s Life in London 29 July 4/6 The ground..was suffering from the effects of recent rain, and once more the Australians found themselves on a sticky wicket.

Or is there, perhaps, some equivalent figure from baseball?

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Posted: 02 August 2007 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s widely known as a Britishism--the sort of thing someone pretending to be English would say.

I can’t think of any common baseball-derived expression that carries the same sense, though perhaps someone else will come up with one.

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Posted: 02 August 2007 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I would say that the metaphorical meaning is understood but the literal meaning is not.  Before I found out what it meant literally I imagined it to refer to the stumps and bails, specifically that the bails didn’t come loose when the ball brushed agains the wicket*.  The normal form that would be used here in South Leftpondia would be “that’s a bit of a sticky wicket.”

*Not that I knew the terms stumps and bails.

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Posted: 02 August 2007 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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In a rundown comes to mind.  This is the situation in which the runner is caught between two bases and the basemen (usually) throw the ball back and forth trying to tag the runner out.  The phrase is not widely used outside of baseball and doesn’t quite mean the same thing as sticky wicket.  Other phrases that are used to describe this rundown situation in baseball are “hotbox” or “in a pickle” but those don’t originate in baseball, I don’t think.

In a clutch is close, I think.  A clutch hitter is one who hits well in difficult situations (bottom of the last inning, two outs, one run behind, hits a home run sending the game into extra innings).  Dave in his word of the month piece on baseball, says that clutch may come from mechanics. Still not a great parallel but there you have it.

Interesting that there is a baseball phrase “through the wickets” which means that the ball went right through the legs of the fielder.  But it seems to be based on croquet which Americans would know better that Cricket.

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Posted: 02 August 2007 02:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I used to have a sticky wicket - it was a toy you could order with box-tops from Cap’n Crunch cereal.  It was sort of like a ninja throwing star only with suction cups instead of blades…
pic782.jpg

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Posted: 03 August 2007 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I just want to emphasize what Dr. Techie said.  I would expect any education American to know the metaphorical sense, but probably not the literal sense.  For an American to actually know anything about cricket is wildly eccentric (immigrants from Commonweath countries excepted).  But I would not expect “sticky wicket” to be part of an American’s active vocabulary, except perhaps intended jocularly.

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Posted: 03 August 2007 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Yes, I was talking about Americans’ familiarity with the metaphorical sense, since that’s the sense expressed by the definition aldi cited in his OP.

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Posted: 04 August 2007 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Perhaps one of the reasons for the obscurity of the literal expression in the US is the fact that cricket games depend a lot on how the ball bounces off the track (or wicket or pitch; the ground itself in any case!) before it reaches the batsman.

In baseball the pitcher’s delivery should, ideally, go straight through the air to the batter.

The state of the ground in baseball is at worst a hindrance for the (out)fielders and not at all if they catch the ball before it hits the ground so relatively unimportant to the outcome of the match as a whole.

Is there some baseball phrase that relates to the game in rainy conditions that might apply?

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Posted: 06 August 2007 06:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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BlackGrey - 04 August 2007 06:27 AM

Perhaps one of the reasons for the obscurity of the literal expression in the US is the fact that cricket games depend a lot on how the ball bounces off the track (or wicket or pitch; the ground itself in any case!) before it reaches the batsman.

In baseball the pitcher’s delivery should, ideally, go straight through the air to the batter.

The state of the ground in baseball is at worst a hindrance for the (out)fielders and not at all if they catch the ball before it hits the ground so relatively unimportant to the outcome of the match as a whole.


Is there some baseball phrase that relates to the game in rainy conditions that might apply?

Actually, in baseball the ball should not go “straight through the air to the batter”.  That sort of pitch results in home runs.  This is true even of fast balls.  There should be spin on the ball affecting its flight.  This is what announcers mean when they talk about a pitch’s “movement”.

I think the reason for the obscurity of the literal expression in the US is that cricket is obscure in the US.  That a game with this name exists is generally known, but virtually nothing about the game is generally known, and most of what is believed about it is wrong.  And we are, as a class, serenely satisified with this situation.  I took it upon myself several years ago to learn something of the game.  I found that there are active cricket leagues in my area and I have no difficulty finding a game in season.  I will almost always be the only US citizen of European ancestry there.  I have met exactly one player who was a US citizeon of European ancestry, and he spent much of his youth overseas.  I have occasionally invited friends who go to baseball games to accompany me to a cricket match.  They look at me like I have sprouted horns.  The idea of actually watching a cricket match is completely outside the mainstream American world view.

So, bringing this back to the expression “sticky wicket”, its literal meaning is obscure in the US because the vast majority of us lack the background to understand it, are not interested in obtaining the background, and can’t even imagine being interested in it.

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Posted: 07 August 2007 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Several years ago on a business trip, I noticed that colleges around the Philadelphia area had cricket pitches, and I was told that it was a common part of the sports curriculum.  However in terms of % contribution to overall USA awareness, probably very little.

Mind you, worth noting that the first international cricket match took place in New York between the USA and Canada (1844)!  So perhaps sticky wicket might have been understood (along with origin) in the late 1800s?

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Posted: 07 August 2007 05:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The home of Derby County Football Club in the UK was The Baseball Ground until they moved to a new stadium in 1997. The stadium used to be the home of Derby County Baseball Club from 1890 until 1898 and kept the name when the footballers took over.

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Posted: 07 August 2007 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Cricket was fairly widely played in the United States in the 19th century.  Before the Civil War it was more popular than baseball, but it gradually faded.  By the end of the century it was something of a niche sport.  Philadelphia was the major exception.  It was most strongly established there, both in the colleges and in private clubs.  It was strong well into the 20th century, but largely faded there, too.  One of the prestigious country clubs is still called the Philadelphia Cricket Club, but they haven’t fielded a team in many decades.  In the 1990s they began sponsering an annual cricket tournament, but they don’t have their own team.  As for the colleges, I’m not sure if they have a continuous cricket tradition of if it was reinstated at some point.  Note, also, that the colleges that have it are the old prestige private schools.  Ask a Temple graduate about cricket and you will get a blank stare.

As for The Baseball Ground, there was a tour of American baseball players in 1889.  This inspired clubs to form American baseball teams (as contrasted with British baseball, which is a different, related game).  Football clubs saw this as a good off-season activity.  I don’t know a great deal about the history of this, but you can read about baseball men in the 1890s going to England as coaches.  Clearly it died out, but I don’t know when.

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Posted: 07 August 2007 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Richard Hershberger - 06 August 2007 06:16 AM

Actually, in baseball the ball should not go “straight through the air to the batter”.  That sort of pitch results in home runs.  This is true even of fast balls.  There should be spin on the ball affecting its flight.  This is what announcers mean when they talk about a pitch’s “movement”.

Yes, I see enough baseball from time to time here in Holland where it is quite popular to know that, but you missed my main point: whether the ball spins in the air or not in baseball, it goes ‘straight’ to the batter from the pitcher without touching the ground (normally!). The wetness or dampness of the air in which the ball is pitched has no real connection with the ground, so neither does the pitch’s (ground’s) “movement”.

So the relative wetness (stickiness) or not of the ground is not really so much an issue in baseball. In cricket if the ground is wet or muddy, it can give the bowlers an advantage as the ball stays low and skims in towards the wickets which it wouldn’t do on dry ground.

So my question remains: no vernacular expression derived from how rainy or wet it is in baseball?

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Posted: 07 August 2007 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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BlackGrey - 07 August 2007 07:04 AM

So my question remains: no vernacular expression derived from how rainy or wet it is in baseball?

No. Baseball games are stopped if it starts to seriously rain and the field is covered so it doesn’t get muddy.

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Posted: 07 August 2007 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Sounds like having a sticky wicket (so to speak) would be ideal playing conditions for a suicide squeeze.

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Posted: 08 August 2007 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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"It’s a bit sticky” means very grim in Brit understatement, too.

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