Saturday, February 15, 2014

Baseball's Outlawed Camouflaged Bat

Goose Goslin with his camouflaged baseball bat
Above A news photograph (c1932) of Leon Allen "Goose" Goslin, who played left field for the St. Louis Browns, holding what was said to be a "camouflaged bat." In the midst of a terrible year, he began using it as a means of raising his batting average. Designed by Willis Johnson, the team's secretary, it was simply a standard baseball bat with green and white lengthwise stripes. We have no idea what it was supposed to accomplish, but according to news reports, Johnson was planning to design comparable bats "decorated with cross-rings, blocks and triangles," for use by other team members—until the use of so-called "zebra bats" was forbidden.


Anon, from USING CAMOUFLAGE (reprinted from Collier's magazine) in the Milwaukee Journal on January 11, 1918—

Seldom has an exotic word been so suddenly assimilated into our daily American speech as has the French camouflage. It was only a few months ago that we fist saw it mentioned in our more erudite publications. Then some newspaper man found out what it meant, and used it in a story. Sporting writers, always scratching about for news with which to bolster up the epics of a slow season, were among the first recognize its adaptability and soon it appeared in every well-ordered baseball story. From there it spread to the funny pages, where the artists, in spite of considerable trouble with the spelling, found it a boon. It is now a recognized expression in all walks of life, from the scholar, who uses it roguishly and with precise accent—as if it were something of his coined for the occasion—to the man who calls it "camooflag" and who throws it in to add color to an account of how he pused a policeman into the river.

What is the explanation of the mushroom rise into popularity of this soft-sounding word borrowed from the French? Cynical as it sounds, may it not fairly be said that the word "camouflage" epitomizes the majority of our personal actions throughout the day, and that by electing it to readily to membership in our language we are unconsciously hailing it as the expression of a common expedient? Not that we are all leering hypocrites. But for the man who hides behind is paper in his car seat on the way to his job—a job which he lose in short order if it were ever to be discovered how really little he knows about it (and this applies equally to his boss and his boss' boss), as well as for the woman who smiles as she sends her man to France, is not camouflage, to borrow another phrase from the same prolific source, le mot juste? Some of our camouflage is criminal; some of it is noble, but for the most part, it is a weak little piece of acting, trying to pass ourselves off for all kinds of things which we are not, affecting poses or affecting lack of pose, and playing, day in and day out, the great universal game of bluff in a harmless sort of way. Try checking up for one forenoon your actions and speech with what you are really thinking.