The Baseball Thesaurus: Finding the Right Words Just Got Easier
Laurel Wilder | On 13, Apr 2013
Mark Twain once said that “writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Not to discount Twain’s literary prowess at all, but – that’s easy for him to say. Writing about boys having adventures on the Mississippi River leaves a lot of room to find the right words to misplace those “wrong ones” he apparently had to cross out.
Writing about something like baseball, though, doesn’t seem to lend itself to this notion as easily. It’s easy to fall into a rut, repeatedly using the same words and phrases to describe the action on the field. This was the exact dilemma author and minor league broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler found himself facing when he started his broadcasting career in 2005.
“I realized that I was using all the same words to describe everything,” Goldberg-Strassler said. “For example, if a ball was hit hard, I would say it was ‘hammered’ or ‘drilled,’ but I wouldn’t use any other words.”
This frustration led Goldberg-Strassler to develop a novel idea (no pun intended) – why not find a plethora of new ways to describe baseball occurrences and make a book out of it?
“I started coming up with lists of other words that I could use and different ways to describe a player rounding the bases, things like that,” Goldberg-Strassler said. “I had a great list of references to draw from. Paul Dickson wrote The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, which is a tremendous resource, and he gave me his blessing to go back compiling a thesaurus in this area and sent me all his work on the matter as well.
“I’d go to libraries, I’d go to bookstores, and I talked to everybody,” Goldberg-Strassler said. “Talked to broadcasters, talked to players, talked to coaches and just sort of built it up.”
Goldberg-Strassler was not without his own collection of baseball reference material to study as well. He boasts a walk-in closet with the entire top shelf filled with baseball books he collected growing up due to his love of reading.
As chronicled in the introduction to The Baseball Thesaurus, Goldberg-Strassler experimented in learning the “cutting player jargon” used inside the clubhouse upon a suggestion from pitcher and author Dirk Hayhurst. These phrases never made it into the final thesaurus, which focuses on the use of terms more widely understood by the general public instead of obscure words tossed around by specific players or teams. The completed Baseball Thesaurus was published in 2013 by August Publications.
With an abundance of words now at his fingertips for use in the broadcaster’s booth, Goldberg-Strassler no longer has to fear monotony during his announcing gigs.
When it comes to which major league teams he enjoys watching, Goldberg-Strassler lists number of teams. He grew up in Maryland before the Nationals played in D.C. and roots for the Detroit Tigers, while also being raised with his father’s affinity for the Giants and his mother’s support of the Mets. His family are Orioles fans, his sister likes the Rangers and his brother supports the Diamondbacks. Goldberg-Strassler worked in the Rays system in 2006 and 2007 and now works in the Blue Jays system.
“You can see how things get complicated,” Goldberg-Strassler joked.
While the Cleveland Indians are not on that original list of team affiliations, Goldberg-Strassler said that he “could easily be persuaded” to cheer them on due to their exciting recent signings and strong core.
A strong core similar to the strong core of baseball passion possessed by Goldberg-Strassler from a young age. He grew up in a family that enjoyed baseball. “I was raised interested in [baseball]. I was in a baseball family because my father’s such a huge fan. I would listen to the baseball games every single night.”
Now, his family can be the ones listening to him. Goldberg-Strassler is currently the broadcaster for the Lansing Lugnuts, the Class-A minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Prior to his work with the Lugnuts, Goldberg-Strassler broadcasted for the Southern League Champion Montgomery Biscuits (2006-2007) and the Frontier League Champion Windy City Thunderbolts (2008), where he was named a Runner-Up for Ballpark Digest’s Broadcaster of the Year.
“That was more for a specific event,” Goldberg-Strassler recalls of his 2008 recognition. When a thunderstorm knocked out internet access in his press box in Chicago during a broadcast, Goldberg-Strassler called the game from the team’s front office, having play-by-plays messaged to him and using sound effects to recreate the game for his audience – a game which ended up being the first no-hitter in the history of the team. Goldberg-Strassler continues this broadcasting tradition now every August, recreating a game with sound effects that he does not watch.
And although he does not watch it, at least Goldberg-Strassler will never be at a loss for how to describe the game. Neither will anyone else, thanks to the widespread success and appeal of The Baseball Thesaurus.
“I thought I was writing it just for myself because I needed a book like this,” Goldberg-Strassler said. “No one else had written it, so I wrote it! Other broadcasters loved it, but then journalists loved it. Baseball players love it; they love going through and finding their slang. I’ve heard from folks who are not baseball fans, who are dating baseball fans or who are with baseball fans, and they can go to the book and they’re learning baseball things from it. I continue to be amazed by all the different people that the book appeals to.”
You can purchase The Baseball Thesaurus by Jesse Goldberg-Strassler for $14.95 on www.amazon.com. It is also available for Kindle, Nook, iBook and through Vook online bookstore.
Photo: Larry Hook/MLive