The Cubs are headed back to the World Series for the first time since 1945. They may not have won a World Series title in a very long time (as announcer Jack Brickhouse once said, "Any team can have a bad century"), but during that dry spell they have been enriching the language of baseball. Here are nine phrases that trace back to the Cubs.
1. WRECKING CREW
The phrase “wrecking crew” has a life outside of baseball in salvage, music, and football, but in baseball, according to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, it was first applied as a term for a group of heavy hitters in reference to the 1912 Chicago Cubs.
2. TINKER TO EVERS TO CHANCE
In 1910, New York Evening Mail columnist Franklin P. Adams wrote a poem called “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” about the double-play damage the Cubs trio of shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance had inflicted on the Giants:
These are the saddest of possible words: "Tinker to Evers to Chance." Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds, Tinker and Evers and Chance. Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble, Making a Giant hit into a double— Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble: "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
The phrase “Tinker to Evers to Chance” became a popular way to remark on any well-executed, coordinated achievement. For example, according to a 2010 Chicago Tribune article, “a 2003 motion picture ad for Golden Globe-winner The Hours, starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, proclaims that ‘Kidman to Meryl to Moore' is ‘the acting version of baseball's fabled 'Tinker to Evers to Chance.'”
3. LET’S PLAY TWO
The beloved “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, known for his cheerful disposition, used to express his love of the game by saying “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two.” As Scott Simon said after Banks died at the beginning of this year, “It was a phrase he used to remind himself and other players that whatever their complaints, they got to play a game for a living, and hear the cheers of strangers. It was a reminder to all of us to cherish life and the chance to have work that gives enjoyment to others.”
4. BLEACHER BUM
The Dickson Baseball Dictionary defines a bleacher bum as “One of a horde of boisterous, often shirtless fans who inhabit the bleachers.” In 1966, a group of 10 devoted fans at Wrigley Field proudly declared themselves “bleacher bums,” and their wild, inebriated antics became part of the attraction of a day at the ballpark.
5. HOLY COW!
Long time Cubs announcer Harry Caray was not the first to exclaim “Holy cow!” but all the same, he made it his own trademark cry. It’s the title of his autobiography, where he explains that he trained himself to say “holy cow” early in his career because “it was the only exclamation I could come up with that didn’t involve profanity.”
6. IT MIGHT BE, IT COULD BE, IT IS
Another Harry Carayism, the rising excitement of “It might be … it could be … IT IS!” is the perfect send off for a home run ball or any other triumph at the end of a tension-filled moment.
The single word “woo” does not come from Cubs baseball, but what we linguists might call “the extended ‘woo’ list construction,” perfected by superfan Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers, has undeniable Cubs pedigree. A typical example of the construction: “Cubs, woo! Love, woo! Cubs, woo! We’re number one, woo! Baseball, woo! Cubs, woo!”
8. THE FRIENDLY CONFINES
This nickname had been applied to other ballparks in the old days, but it only stuck to cozy, neighborhood Wrigley Field.
9. I DON’T CARE WHO WINS, AS LONG AS IT’S THE CUBS
In the 1940s and '50s, Cubs announcer Bert Wilson would often wax rhapsodic about the beautiful weather or the wonderful atmosphere at the game and conclude with “I don’t care who wins, as long as it’s the Cubs.” Fans of other teams or pursuits have since used the phrase, substituting their own choices for the ending, but none has felt the emotion behind it as deeply or sincerely as a Cubs fan.