Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 11:10:25 -0500
From: Gerald Cohen
Subject: Query of Puzzling Slang Items In A 1910 Baseball Poem

I would like to present an annotated version of a 1910 baseball poem
in a book I am preparing on slang, but I first need clarification, if
possible, on some puzzling slang items in it. Can anyone help? Due
acknowledgment will of course be given.

The poem is from the _Seattle Post-Intelligencer_, April 10, 1910,
p.7/4-5. Here are two of the verses, with the unclarified slang items
printed in capital letters and with my comments appearing in brackets.

Poem title: 'Letters To A Magnate.' subtitle: No. 1 -- 'From a
Would-be Recruit'

Dear Sir: I notice in the papers that your team is ON THE RAG [What is
the original reference here?]
Half of last year's bunch are holdouts and the new ones can't play tag
[i.e. can't even do child's play]
If you really want a winner,
Sign me up--I'm now a TINNER [What is a 'tinner'?]
But I've trained with all the good ones--what I want is one square deal,
And I'll bet the fans will say I'm making good right off the reel. [The
reference seems to be to a fishing reel]

[Verse #4]:
If you need a real live captain--I don't want to puff myself,
But I'll make these big leaguers look like Swiss cheese on the shelf
[seems to indicate something stale]
Freddie Clarke WOULD TAKE IT RUNNING [Does this mean 'skedaddle'? Why
'take it' here?]
Any time that I went gunning
For his berth back there in Pittsburg, but this climate suits my speed.
So just pass along the contract--and don't offer chicken feed.

[Then: several more verses] ---So, might anyone have ideas about 'on
the rag;' 'tinner;' or "take it running'? Any suggestions would be very

---Gerald Cohen