Bob Turley, Stan Lopata, Ed Charles

January 10, 2017

I.

I had begun this article with a joke, a convoluted fictional story about a fictional Bob Turley that a few readers had expressed concerns about (see "Comments"), in that it reflected poorly on the late Mr. Turley. Since it wasn’t important (or even germane) to the rest of this article, I’ve asked that it be deleted, but if anyone reads this and would like to know my little joke, an e-mail to stevengoldleaf@gmail.com will do the trick.

 

II.

I like to read about where words come from, and how they got to mean what they do today. Give me an etymological dictionary, and I’ll gladly waste an hour or a day perusing it, and finding out stuff about common words I use every day without really knowing what the words actually mean, historically and right this second. Take the word "glove" for example:  it’s from the proto-Germanic "galofo," meaning a covering for the hand, the source of which is probably (according to the online etymological dictionary http://www.etymonline.com) the prefix "ga" and the root "lofi" meaning "hand." You’ll want to put a "ga" on your "lofi" today, buddy, it’s cold out there!

The baseball-related oddity I noticed was that the word "lofi" comes from the concept of "flatness," as in palm, or sole, or shoulder blade, and is the same root word as appears in the Russian word for "shovel," which is "lopata." As in "Stan Lopata."  Stan Shovel.  The related Lithuanian word for "hand" is "Lapa," which is what my Yiddish-speaking (and maybe Lithuanian-speaking) grandmother used to call her hand in the context of "This heavy thing I am going to hit you with if you don’t stop acting up," halfway between "hand" and "shovel."

The modern German word for "glove" is also interesting, though it has zero to do with Stan Lopata. It is "handschuh," literally "hand-shoe" which is exactly the function that a glove serves, a shoe for the hand. Makes perfect sense that shoes were invented way before gloves were, and that one cold morning someone decided "Hey, how about fitting a shoe for our hands? I can do that." One generation after the invention of the shoe, or a hundred generations later?

There was a character in the Old English epic poem Beowulf, who gets eaten by the omnivorous monster Grendal, with the name of Handscio, but that’s only his name, not a description of what he wore on his hands.  (The poem was written sometime before 1000 AD.) The earliest known use of the surname "Glover," someone who makes gloves, is from the mid-1200s, and the earliest use of "boxing glove" dates from 1847, both which make sense in trying to put together when the need for such terms would arise. People were making gloves long before 1200, I suspect, but not making last names much before then. Before 1847, and probably for a few decades after, gloves for boxing would have been extraneous and weird, but someone was obviously willing to be viewed as such.

 

 

III.

A little up on the scroll from "glove" is the word "glider," which was Ed Charles’ nickname at the end of his career on the Mets. Apocryphally, when Charles belted a crucial HR during the Mets’ 1969 pennant drive, the cry went up around the Mets’ dugout "Never throw a slider to the Glider!" The nickname wasn’t altogether complimentary to Charles, though it did of course contain an element of "gracefulness." The non-complimentary part implied that Charles, on his last legs as a ballplayer, was performing without the power of his younger teammates, just going on previously generated motion, as a glider might be compared to an engine-propelled airplane, slowly, smoothly, running out of energy.

A lot of Old English and Germanic words beginning with "gl-" have to do with "joyfulness" and "smoothness" and "brightness," and until the beginning of the 20th century, a common past tense of "to glide" was "glid," as in "He glid into third base." An older past tense of the verb was "glad," a word that would apply in both the archaic sense and the modern one to the cheery, graceful Charles. Someone on my old Mets-fan website once got off a good line when someone else remarked of an easy play that a Mets third-baseman muffed that Ed Charles would have caught it: "Ed Charles? RAY Charles would have caught it!" Ed Charles was a very positive force in the 1969 Mets’ clubhouse, not much of a ballplayer anymore, though when he first arrived he was briefly one of the best hitters on the team. (I usually batted him cleanup in Strat-o-matic on the 1968 Mets team.) "The Glider" is a great descriptive name for him, as "glide" is a word that sounds exactly like what it is.

 

 

IV.

In my previous article, I used the word "vapid" but after it was published I realized that it was one of those words that I’ve used lots of times over the years without ever actually  having looked up what it means, where it comes from, how the meaning has evolved over time, etc.  That’s probably how we use most of the words we use, and we all get away with relying on the Great God Context, but we probably misuse words all the time by not understanding what the words, technically, mean. So I looked up "vapid" in the etymological dictionary, and found that it means something like "empty" or "nebulous" (another word I use without knowing really what it means). "Vapid" comes from "vapor," most likely, something that is insubstantial while appearing to have substance. Good word, and I’m glad to have been a faithful servant to my God, Context.

Still in the "V"s, I discovered that "Velcro" comes from "velour" and "crochet," that "Vaseline" comes from "water" (pronounced "vasser" in German) and "oil," which I thought couldn’t mix, and "vinegar" comes from "wine" and "sour"  ("vin aigre" in French). "Varsity" comes from "(uni)versity."  I can do this all day.

 

V.

And in fact I will, but not today. Spurred by my understanding of how few words I use that I actually have a profound knowledge of ("profound" sometimes meaning back to the Proto-Indo-European), I tagged a dozen other words I used in the previous article by relying on context rather than any rigorous etymological knowledge. I’ll list them here, and run down the etymology in some future column. In the order I used them in, in "My Mother, Drunk or Sober," they are:

Polemic

Credo

Pragmatic

Heretic

Fervid

Lapse

Mutable

Mortals

Thwarted

Vestigial

Staunch

Utterly

 
 

COMMENTS (40 Comments, most recent shown first)

Aquinas
>"The Glider" is a great descriptive name for him, as "glide" is a word that sounds exactly like what it is.<

And there is an English word that describes just that: "onomatopoeia." This means a word that sounds like it's definition and "glide" is just such a word. It is onomatopoetic. The etymology of that word or its meaning goes back to a time when verbal descriptions of sounds were used to create words. Think "crash." Later on as language became more sophisticated, other words simply sounded like their definitions and became onomatopoetic through usage and development.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

onomatopoeia (n.) Look up onomatopoeia at Dictionary.com
1570s, from Late Latin onomatopoeia, from Greek onomatopoiia "the making of a name or word" (in imitation of a sound associated with the thing being named), from onomatopoios, from onoma (genitive onomatos) "word, name" (see name (n.)) + a derivative of poiein "compose, make" (see poet). Related: Onomatopoeic; onomatopoeial.


9:24 AM Jan 19th
 
pgaskill
Yeah, me too, Brock: I just googled and found a couple of Old English dictionaries that are available either to be used online or to be downloaded, but nothing in printed form (and I think the term "Old English dictionary" was just a description, not the actual name of something).

And I too have online access (indeed it's expensive) to the Oxford English Dictionary (the OED). One advantage to using it online is that one's wife can't hit one over the head with it. ;-)

I didn't know what you said about Anglo-Saxon pronunciation (thanks for taking on the project!), and I never would have thought that a complete set of a language's vowels would each have only ONE pronunciation. Wow. (I believe you. I'm just surprised and amazed to learn something like that so late in my life.) Thanks for the lesson!!
4:26 PM Jan 16th
 
MarisFan61
Brock: You sure you didn't mean the Oxford English Dictionary? (Usually called just "the OED.")

We also have a copy of it. I know it well because it's what my wife uses to hit me over the head with etymologies and whatever else. :-)
12:23 PM Jan 16th
 
Brock Hanke
A couple of quick things. 1) My mother the English teacher was actually fluent in Old English (the language that Beowulf was written in, also called Anglo-Saxon), and could actually sight-read it. She told me that the vowel values for Old English are exactly the same as for Latin, Spanish and maybe another Romance language or two. Essentially, the values are

a = "a" as in father
e - "a" as in hate
i - "ee" as in "feed"
o - "o" as in "holy"
u - "oo" as in "food"

So "Grendel" would be pronounced like "grain - dale", while Grendal would be pronounced like "grain - doll". I believe that "Grendel" is correct.

2) I have a copy of the Old English Dictionary, which is a very thorough etymological dictionary. I know it's expensive, even the online version, but I'm surprised that no one even mentioned using it. I'm always digging into it to find out things like what "militia" actually meant when the Second Amendment was written.
11:07 AM Jan 15th
 
pgaskill
Oh, damn straight, Maris. Edit and delete would make this place sheer nirvana. Maybe even ahead of world peace, especially since, sadly, I don't think there'll EVER be world peace. :-(
5:48 PM Jan 14th
 
MarisFan61
Of course we can shake and be friends -- especially because I feel sure that you'd join me in using our magic-lamp wishes for 'Edit' and 'Delete' functions in this section. :-)

If I had 3 wishes:

-- World peace
-- No hunger or poverty
-- Edit and Delete functions for this section
10:29 PM Jan 13th
 
pgaskill
What a confusing interface! (Or maybe I'm stupider than I thought.) I only intended to post my previous reply once, and it looks like I've managed to do it three times. Sysop, if you can delete postings, please delete the two extras of mine, and then this one too. If not, apologies, everyone.
1:42 PM Jan 13th
 
pgaskill
Fish: The only times it was important to me were: (a) when I was in Basic Training and the U.S. Air Force kindly informed me that I was spelling my name wrong (and offered me the chance to fix the whole thing easily and cheaply, but I said hell with it, I'll just keep the 2 L's, thanks); and (b) when, a few years later, I went back and tried to get my college transcript, etc., and they (the anal-retentive good folks at THE Ohio State University) didn't have any records of anyone by that name. Otherwise, it's made no difference whatsoever to me. I had to change my signature, but I didn't have any problem doing that.

Maris: I DID get it (I think I even said so). But never mind. I overreacted in any case, and I now apologize for that. I still think you were overreacting yourself, but now I ask you to forget the whole thing vis-a-vis me. Can we shake and be friends? Thanks.
1:40 PM Jan 13th
 
pgaskill
Fish: The only times it was important to me were: (a) when I was in Basic Training and the U.S. Air Force kindly informed me that I was spelling my name wrong (and offered me the chance to fix the whole thing easily and cheaply, but I said hell with it, I'll just keep the 2 L's, thanks); and (b) when, a few years later, I went back and tried to get my college transcript, etc., and they (the anal-retentive good folks at THE Ohio State University) didn't have any records of anyone by that name. Otherwise, it's made no difference whatsoever to me. I had to change my signature, but I didn't have any problem doing that.

Maris: I DID get it (I think I even said so). But never mind. I overreacted in any case, and I now apologize for that. I still think you were overreacting yourself, but now I ask you to forget the whole thing vis-a-vis me. Can we shake and be friends? Thanks.
1:40 PM Jan 13th
 
pgaskill
Fish: The only times it was important to me were: (a) when I was in Basic Training and the U.S. Air Force kindly informed me that I was spelling my name wrong (and offered me the chance to fix the whole thing easily and cheaply, but I said hell with it, I'll just keep the 2 L's, thanks); and (b) when, a few years later, I went back and tried to get my college transcript, etc., and they (the anal-retentive good folks at THE Ohio State University) didn't have any records of anyone by that name. Otherwise, it's made no difference whatsoever to me. I had to change my signature, but I didn't have any problem doing that.

Maris: I DID get it (I think I even said so). But never mind. I overreacted in any case, and I now apologize for that. I still think you were overreacting yourself, but now I ask you to forget the whole thing vis-a-vis me. Can we shake and be friends? Thanks.
1:39 PM Jan 13th
 
MarisFan61
PG: I thought your prior post was a reply to mine, and that you weren't getting what the problem is. If you did, then of course that's fine. If not, my reply was needed.
(Yes, needed. :-)
Including because some folks clearly aren't getting it, so how was I supposed to see that you did?)
6:20 PM Jan 12th
 
flyingfish
So, pgaskill, I can't help asking whether it would have made any difference in your life if you had one l (ell) instead of two. I occasionally wonder, in a desultory sort of way, why a few reasonably common names like Phil(l)ip, Steven/Stephen, Ann(e), and several others have alternate spellings like that, and what leads parents or even occasionally children to choose between the alternatives.

I'm afraid I also thought you were talking of next year's Cy Young winner. Now, to dance on the head of a pin, "the FOLLOWING year's Cy Young winner" would have been clearer. Of course, if I had been paying attention, that you wrote "winner" instead of "winners" should have been a clue. There was only one in 1959, and I expect there to be two next year. In any case, nice catch getting the Turley/Early couple.


5:59 PM Jan 12th
 
pgaskill
Maris: You're driving this into the ground. Ease up. I wasn't recommending USING Early instead of Turley and republishing the joke publicly or ANY SUCH THING. OKAY??? EASE UP!!! I was JUST saying that the joke, if I may STILL CALL IT A JOKE, OKAY?, would have worked roughly equally well, if I may STILL SAY IT WORKS ON SOME LEVEL, OKAY??, with two consecutive Cy Young winners. That's ALL! Jesus.

Steven: Yeah, sorry, I wasn't trying to be obtuse there: I did say "the next year's Cy Young," not just "next year's." You're right: if I knew who NEXT year's CYA would be, I'd be able to retire a rich man, one assumes.

And I agree with Early being a VERY unusual first name, and especially in the context of his trying for one more late Wynn, which, as I recall, did take him a year or two. Somewhat like a much better pitcher with the unusual first name of Lefty. ;-)

"Early" was, I'd guess, a typo or a misunderstanding or a corruption of Earl, much like my first name (Phillip) is a birth-certificate typo for "Philip," which is what my parents intended.​
5:30 PM Jan 12th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Oh, the next year meaning "1959"--I thought you mean the next year meaning "2017" which I was curious to know in January, and wondered how you knew so far ahead of time.

I always thought "Early Wynn" was such a funny name, especially since when I first started following baseball, there was all this talk about this old guy trying to eke out one very Late Wynn for his 300th. I mean, fiction writers know better than to make up an absurd name like "Early Wynn" for a 40-year old trying to win one elusive final game.
4:25 PM Jan 12th
 
MarisFan61
Right.
But he also was an actual person.

I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. :-)
3:28 PM Jan 12th
 
pgaskill
Well, (a) he was a dominant AL pitcher for a lot longer than Turley was; he pitched for the AL champion team of that year; and (c) his first name rhymes with Turley's last name.
3:13 PM Jan 12th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Just a typo. Who is next year's Cy Young winner? Wish I knew.

Thanks for the kind words
9:30 AM Jan 12th
 
MarisFan61
.....and best of all, perhaps, with some completely fictional name -- which is why I don't understand any comparison to Huckleberry Finn.

The Huckleberry Finn thing is a debate over what is or isn't offensive and proper, and what the public can or can't deal with. That has no relation to creating a false story about a real person.

What made it even worse was that the player in question, while of fair note, doesn't have any particular existing lore connected with him -- and so something like this could well have become his main lore.

I'm very, very, very surprised that any member of this site would not easily realize that. It's a little blind spot.​
9:28 AM Jan 12th
 
pgaskill
And as far as The Joke is concerned, it works even a little better in some respects, and almost as well in others, with the NEXT year's Cy Young winner, using his first name rather than his last.​
7:52 AM Jan 12th
 
pgaskill
Grendal? I've always seen it as Grendel. Do you have a source for your spelling that you could tell us about? I don't even know what the pronunciation of this name was a thousand years ago, but randomly I'd say it's fifty-fifty that it was gren-DELL, otherwise we'd have seen several alternative spellings over the years; but, OTOH, that same accentuation scheme wouldn't allow your spelling; so maybe you know that the original pronunciation accented the first syllable, which then SORTA would allow your spelling. Anyhow, I'm sure you can see my dilemma here, which is mainly: who says that the spelling and perhaps pronunciation has changed (or that ours was wrong in the first place)?

Of course, if it was a simple typo, please strike this whole Comment. Although that would make it the only typo in your article, as far as I can remember.

In either case, let me express my admiration for ALL your articles here (as far as I can remember) and for your writing and erudition in general.
6:28 AM Jan 12th
 
MarisFan61
Steve161: You're wrong. :-)

No, I take back the smiley: You're flat-out wrong.

You're approaching this backwards (implicitly). You're saying basically that the thing was fine, because only some people would have failed to realize these 2 things (and both of them would need to be realized):

-- The thing was a joke, and
-- Not only was it a joke, but the initial part was fictitious.

(As you see from Rich's post, it's possible to realize the first thing but not the second.)

You can't say it's okay as long as only 'some' people fail to get it.
Because, as long as some people fail to get it, the thing is DESTRUCTIVE. Destructive in capital letters.

BTW, I'm not just "pun-impaired." I'm imperfect in many respects. But, y'know, quite a few people aren't as perfect as we might wish them to be. :-)

Steve, I have a very, very high regard for you and for almost everything you've ever said on this site. You just have it way wrong on this one.
2:54 PM Jan 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
FF: sent.

steve161--I'll send you a copy, too, but haven't you already read it?

The funny part is that I'm sitting on an anecdote (a true one) about a MLB player's peccadilloes that my source is reluctant to have me publish, and I'm voluntarily respecting his wishes, even though it's an amusing story. Like Turley, the MLBer in question was a 1950s star, and is now deceased, but has several living children and grandchildren who think very highly of their grampa and my source is reluctant to disturb them for the sake of our entertainment. I'm thinking of publishing it as a blind item, though publishing gossip and unsourced journalism isn't my function here anyway, nor is it is in keeping with Bill's style, of course. I just like the story. It's very 1950s and very American, which is to say as hypocritical as all-get-out.

The other funny thing, to me, is that my original made-up Turley story would apply to other 1950s Yankees heroes, by their own admission--I'm thinking of course of the most famous 1950s Yankees star but I'd suppose that he had company on some of his adventures as well, though not AFAIK from Turley.
2:41 PM Jan 11th
 
steve161
I regret the loss of the opening paragraph, which I thought a) was very funny and b) telegraphed that a pun was coming less than halfway through. Steven, you have my email: please send.

I've known pun-impaired people; I never would have guessed Maris is one of them.

Sorry, but this smacks of the same mentality that prevents Huckleberry Finn from being taught in our colleges.​
2:21 PM Jan 11th
 
flyingfish
Well, very timely for me, Steven, because I've just been having a fairly intense conversation about machine translation with a friend who's studied and written about such things for many decades. We and others agree that context is everything (and I will add that etymology is nothing) for that endeavor. However, I also love etymology, and three of my favorite books are Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), in part for its brilliant definitions but also in part for its creative, whimsical, and sometimes downright weird etymology; Walter Skeat's An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (2nd edition, 1883) for its scholarly and accurate etymologies; and Sidney Landau's Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography (1984), for its deep, insightful, entertaining, and eminently readable discussion of the art, craft, history, and PHILOSOPHY of dictionary making. I'll write separately and ask for the Turley joke, which I probably would not have had enough context to get.
12:50 PM Jan 11th
 
Davidg32
Drifting a bit from the topic, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for Ed Charles.

When I was seriously into baseball cards in the mid-60's...(Can't believe it's been 50 years ago!)...I always seemed to get either Ed Charles or Ed Brinkman in any package I ever bought. Topps had started selling packages of 5 baseball cards and one stick of gum per package. (I guess it was a lot cheaper for them to produce than those individual packages, with just one card and one stick of gum.) And it seemed like every package I would get was guaranteed to have either Ed Charles or Eddie Brinkman...and a few times, both.

I've read over the years that the Topps and Fleer companies always insisted that they made just as many cards of the superstars (Aaron, Mantle, Mays, etc.) as they did they regular run-of-the-mill players...but I never could bring myself to believe that.

At least I never had a problem picking which cards to stick in my bicycle spokes.
10:48 AM Jan 11th
 
MarisFan61
.....Since that's not clear either :-)
Here's a coherent re-write:
I'm very into etymology too, and talk about it often, in any which context. Although, just for fun, unless I'm among strangers who might not get what I'm doing, I purposely mispronounce it "entomology." Sometimes I combine the two by claiming (as straight-faced as I can) that whatever word we're talking about comes from some insect.?
9:05 AM Jan 11th
 
MarisFan61
I'm very into etymology too, and talk about it often, in any which context. Except, for fun, unless I'm among strangers who might not get what I'm doing, I purposely mispronounce it "entomology." Sometimes I combine the two by claiming (as straight-faced as I can) that the word comes from some insect.​
8:54 AM Jan 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
DaveNJNews--it was a reference to Yogi's line "It gets late early out there."
6:43 AM Jan 11th
 
Rich Dunstan
Thank you, Steven. Good work.
12:05 AM Jan 11th
 
MarisFan61
(Typo: I'm )
9:56 PM Jan 10th
 
MarisFan61
Steven: Good job with the revision. FWIW, I like the rest of the article.

'm surprised the site saw fit to allow the original version ever to be posted.
9:55 PM Jan 10th
 
DaveNJnews
OK, I don't get the punchline.
9:28 PM Jan 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
The first paragraph will be deleted, with an explanatory paragraph substituting for its absence. The rest of the piece will remain intact.
9:26 PM Jan 10th
 
MarisFan61
Don: I have a far excessive sense of that context, and I very nearly didn't get it. It was only as a result of doing some relatively heavy brainwork on the punchline that I had the first inkling that the stuff about sport fucking was false.

BTW, I used the expletive on purpose to help send this article to the garbage can.
8:30 PM Jan 10th
 
doncoffin
Personally, (a) I thought the Turley non-anecdote was funny and (b) I can see how it could get wrenched out of context by someone with a deficient (etymology: "1580s, from Latin deficientem (nominative deficiens), present participle of deficere "to desert, revolt, fail," from de- "down, away" (see de-) + facere "to do, perform") sense of context.
8:11 PM Jan 10th
 
MarisFan61
Steven: Thanks for considering it and asking for further views.
I hope and trust that the site will be able to take that material off of here as pronto as possible.
6:08 PM Jan 10th
 
Rich Dunstan
I support Maris. I did figure out the joke (once I remembered the Yogi-ism), but a) I wasn't 100 per cent certain even then that the joke wasn't leveraging a convenient historical fact I had managed to be unaware of, and b) the joke is too potentially toxic to be left to people figuring it out. I realize Turley is dead, but he has kids and grandkids.
3:44 PM Jan 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Sorry--if anyone else shares MarisFan61's sense that the opening anecdote is not obviously invented for the sake of the punchline, please let me know and I'll see what I can do to have it taken down, or erased, or otherwise put out of its misery.
1:53 PM Jan 10th
 
steve161
Dizzy Dean would have loved "He glid into third base."
1:44 PM Jan 10th
 
MarisFan61
Just wanted to say, I think the opening was extremely ill-advised.

You have to realize these couple of things (yes, HAVE TO):

-- Not everybody reads things fully. I think it's safe to say that most people don't read things fully. (I'm certainly guilty of that, and it's perhaps one of the few things on which I'm in the mainstream.) :-)
So, a lot of people who might read this -- even many members of this site -- won't walk away with any clue that it's a put-on.

-- Things on the internet get picked up and then sometimes get made into accepted lore, often without the original 'source' being known by hardly anyone, including unsuspecting purveyors of the lore.

I would add that even people who do read that opening fully might not get that it's a put on -- because the punchline is a bit abstruse. I had to work at it to get it.
1:13 PM Jan 10th
 
 
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