Date: Sun, 18 Jan 1998 12:52:19 -0500
From: Alan Baragona baragonasa[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]VAX.VMI.EDU
Subject: Re: Baseball "Bugs" (an entomology)
This makes me wonder if the title of the classic 1940's vintage Bugs
Bunny cartoon "Baseball Bugs" is a pun on the old term. Would the
animators remember a slang term in vogue in 1906? Did the term survive
into the 20's or later, by any chance?
And how nice to see a newspaper reference to Harry Steinfeldt, the
answer to one of the chestnuts of baseball trivia questions!
(This baseball bug "entomology" is presented as a lexical honor to 1997's
WOTY, "millennium bug." More bugs, perhaps, to follow.)
Ren Mulford, Jr.--the same sportswriter who popularized the baseball
"fan"--also, twenty years later, popularized the baseball "bug."
Mulford was based in Cincinnati (the Red Stockings were baseball's first
"professional" team in 1869) and wrote for its local newspapers and for
SPORTING LIFE for almost forty years (about 1883 to 1920). He's not in the
Baseball Hall of Fame because he died before the Hall was created, and much
before sportswriters began to be honored (there is now a separate
sportswriters' award, but dead people don't have much of a lobby).
Recognition for his contributions to baseball's language is certainly long
overdue. Lack of recognition for a pioneer of American sportswriting
embarrasses the sportwriters' award itself.
The RHHDAS has a sporting "bug" from 1908. Paul Dickson's BASEBALL
DICTIONARY has it from 10 May 1907.
13 January 1906, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 7, col. 1.
A headline is "Some Tales Told at the Fan Club." No bugs yet.
27 January 1906, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 10, col. 1.
A headline is "TALES FOR FANS." Still no bugs.
3 March 1906, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 7, col. 1.
The headline is "BUCKEYE BUGS/ PLAY BASE BALL ON WASHINGTON'S
The story begins "Cincinnati, O., February 24.--Buckeye base hits of the crop
of 1906--amateur caliber--were made during an abnormally warm January
afternoon, but on Washington's Birthday the first game of the comparatively
new year was played in the Bottoms by teams of youngsters. (...) The Reds
have always gone South earlier and returned home later than any other team,
but nobody has seen any champion flag floating over the Western avenue green
in consequenceof the extraordinary length of the periods of practice. As a
matter of fact, these "prep trips" are largely valuable along one line. They
are the swellest sort of "advertising campaign" and are worth every dollar
that is spent on them. When the robins begin to warble the "Bugs" find their
appetite for dope insatiable. They "eat" everything that is set before them
with an avidity that would be lost if the dishes were all "home cooking."
7 April 1906, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 13, col. 2.
"This weather is enough to frappe the enthusiasm of the Society of 32d
Degree Bugs, but they are all sufficiently thawed out to send a message of
cheer to Maryland."
19 May 1906, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 13, col. 1.
"Up Chicago way the Bugs are feeling very gay over the turn of Fortune's
wheel, which spilled Harry Steinfeldt into the West Side net."
2 June 1906, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 13, col. 1.
The headline is "REDS' CLIMB SONG/ CINCINNATI BUGS SIT UP AND NOTICE
6 October 1906, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 2, col. 1.
The headline is "THE OLD RED SONG/ ONCE MORE THE BUGS CHANT OF 'NEXT
YEAR.'" It begins: "Cincinnati, Sept. 29.--Editor--"Sporting Life."--In
another week those Redbird of ours will crawl into their hole for the winter.
Nothing, however, that Jack Frost has to offer in the shape of frost, ice or
snow can keep them from chirping hopefully "The Song of Next Year." It has
been heard often, but there's music in it that soothes the Bugs. No one has
the hardihood to put in any Red claim for glory in 1907. Fantown is still
dazed over the way Hope curled up this season.
26 January 1907, SPORTING LIFE, pg. 10, col. 1.
The headline is "A BUG CLUB TALE."
There are many other citations, but not of interest. Mulford used both
"fan" and "bug" in 1906. I don't have an early citation of this that's close
to the first "bug," but he would often call the team the "Redbugs."