Posted: Friday December 15, 2006 10:15AM; Updated: Friday December 15, 2006 10:15AM
Have a question or opinion for Pete? He might answer/address it in his mailbag.
6. Why is a quarterback who takes a snap from several yards behind the center said to be in the shotgun formation?
Answer: The term was coined by former 49ers coach Red Hickey in 1960, who unveiled the formation with quarterback John Brodie (who beat out veteran Y.A. Tittle because he was more mobile). In addition to moving the quarterback away from center so he could survey the field before the snap, wide receivers were "spread" to the flanks rather than aligned flush to the linemen as was traditional. Hickey felt this enabled him to "spray" receivers around the field like pellets from a shotgun. The '70s Cowboys used the formation extensively with the mobile Roger Staubach at quarterback, and many teams now use it in long-yardage situations. But it's most in vogue at colleges that use some variation of the spread offense, especially with mobile quarterbacks. (See especially coach Urban Meyer at Florida.)
7. Why is the baseball offseason referred to as the Hot Stove League?
Answer: The term comes from when fans would gather during the winter months to discuss prospects for the upcoming season in places such as saloons, poolrooms, barbershops or drugstores. These locations often had a coal- or wood-burning stove in the center of the room to keep patrons warm. Presumably the chatter was the most heated where the fans huddled to stay warm around the stove.
8. Why is a football field called a gridiron?
Answer: According to Hendrickson, a gridiron was originally the name for a metal-barrel griddle used to cook food; the name comes from the Middle English gredire, or griddle. When Walter Camp's rules proclaimed that the football field should be marked with horizontal white lines at five-yard intervals, some thought the result looked like a gridiron.
9. Why is a fastball sometimes referred to as "cheese" or "high cheese"?
Answer: Dickson gives the credit to none other than colorful former pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee. In Lee's 1984 book The Wrong Stuff, he translates former Red Sox teammate Dennis Eckersley's "cheese for your kitchen" as meaning a "fastball up and in." The phrase has a long history outside baseball. The London Guide in 1818 described "cheese" as meaning "the best thing of its kind." By the 19th Century, "cheese" was used as a slang term to mean something first-rate, as in "that's the cheese." The term probably comes not from the dairy product but from the word "chiz," which means "thing" in Hindustani and Anglo-Indian.
10. Why is an unfairly good player, such as a star athlete who's too old to play in his youth league, known as a "ringer"?
Answer: Hendrickson says that a ringer is a counterfeit, "especially a superior horse passed off as an unknown, or a professional athlete posing as an amateur." The best explanation is that the phrase comes from old county fairs, where brass rings were sometimes passed off as gold on unsuspecting purchasers.