Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 18:17:34 -0400
From: Gregory {Greg} Downing
Subject: Re: Query of Puzzling Slang Items In A 1910 Baseball Poem

Well, if nobody is going to take a shot at any of this.... I don't have all
the resources I'd like here at home, but maybe a few guesses will provoke
someone who knows more to say something.

At 11:10 AM 6/5/98 -0500, Gerald Cohen wrote:
> Dear Sir: I notice in the papers that your team is ON THE RAG [What is
>the original reference here?]

Could this be "on the rag" = in a bad mood [here, because they are a losing
team]? For what it's worth, OED2 doesn't attest this before 1969 ("Current
Slang (Univ. S. Dakota) I_II. 65 On the rag, in a bad mood.---College males,
Arizona.) But *if* this locution originally refers to menstrual hygiene, it
seems likely to go back at least several decades before 1969 given the
changes in menstrual hygiene by the mid-20th century.

> 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'?]

I don't find it in various references I happen to have nearby, but
speculatively???: "someone who plays baseball for, or at least deserves, a
(high) salary" or "someone who will make money by increasing attendance at
games"??? (In either case, from "tin" = money.) Unless someone can find
"tinner," perhaps it's just a nonce-coinage using the -er suffix -- very common.

>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]

OED2 reel n. meaning 2c. "off the reel" = without stopping, in an
uninterrupted course or succession; also, immediately, quickly; so right (or
_sharp) off the reel. [First cite, 1825.] The second sense ("immediately")
seems correct here. The jobseeker says he'd play well immediately.

> [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.

Maybe: Instead of "taking it lying down" (i.e., F.C. simply having to endure
the results of the tinner's superior baseball skills), F.C. would be so
intimidated or overpowered that in the end he would "take it running [away,
in fear of physical injury]"????

It's perhaps germane that the two most obscure bits in the poem (tinner,
take it running) are rhyme-words. Writers of doggerel are not above
stretching syntax and creating hapaxes in order to get a rhyme. But further
evidence attesting the two locutions solidly would kill that idea....

Anybody else?

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or gd2[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]