Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 — Houston, TX

Commentary: Softball uses forgotten play as means for success

By Casey Michel     3/13/08 7:00pm

The game of baseball has many great moments any fan loves to see - a do-it-yourself triple play, a successful "daylight" pickoff move or a squeeze like the one our very own Jimmy Comerota executed to perfection against UH. Not only do these plays result in gleeful grins from fans in attendance (and, if we're lucky, Wayne Graham), but since the years of yore, baseball writers have scrounged for nicknames to describe them for the next morning's newspaper readers. From "basket catches" to "worm-burners," all were cleverly coined yet all were easy to picture.But despite following the game since I was a diapered little dude, there was one phrase which had origins outside my experience - the "Baltimore Chop." Cleaving downwards with the bat, a batter aims to bounce the ball off the area around the plate and sky it into the air while the impatient fielders squirm underneath. Rarely is this play utilized; rarer still is its success. Those who unleash the Chop are few in number and must be quicker than a chameleon's tongue on smack, i.e. Ichiro or Jose Reyes.

In fact, this play is so rare that I didn't even know it existed until I perused my "Wide World of Baseball Words" novella a couple months ago. Turns out that the Baltimore Chop did not originate with crack deals gone wrong - the play actually started with the Baltimore Orioles during the dead ball era. The only reason I could surmise the phrase had lost favor with the voices of baseball was the play's resemblance to a Great Depression steel-worker - no one would employ either of them.

No one in baseball, that is.

Softball, on the other hand, is a totally different story. In softball, the Chop is drawn on by some of the most successful athletes in the game. The small dimensions of the field also allow the batter to bound the ball over the heads of the drawn-in infielders, putting fans on the edge of their seats and sometimes requiring the coach to bring in an extra infielder for certain batters.

Had my brother not had the hots for an All-State softball player last summer, I would've known none of this. After my bro turned on that infamous Michel charm, I found myself finally attending my first softball game, and in between sleeping late and dressing in a giant beaver suit to entertain school-kids -gotta love minor-league ball - I soon found myself sitting alongside my family witnessing the trials and tribulations the state softball tournament had in store.

Before the first game, my exposure to softball was about as limited as the rights of a Gitmo detainee. To me, softball was little more than a poor (or at least overweight 40-year-old) man's baseball, and with a bit of adolescent chauvinism sprinkled in I went into the opening playoff game with a smarmy attitude and a dour outlook. Entering the warm, breezy stands, I saw the girls tossing the cantaloupe-sized ball around the 60-foot base-paths and taking their hacks with the tiny-barreled bats. "Simpletons," I thought. "Where's the difficulty? Where's the intrigue? Where's the danger?"

Boy, was I mistaken.

Not only is softball as strategic and technical as America's pastime, but it succeeds where baseball leaves off. The occasional molasses-like pall that baseball's critics harp on is forgone in softball, thanks to the down-time in between plays and smaller number of innings. But the ramped-up speed doesn't stop when the ball is in play: Because the field is so small, plays can happen quicker than you can say, "Matt Youn (a Baltimore resident) won SA President."

The girlfriend's team won that game handily, mercy-ruling their puny opponents, and soon found themselves hosting the state final in Corvallis, Ore. The aluminum seats were blistering underneath the few thousand fans, and the all-dirt infield was just as hot, singeing the ball as it skidded along the scorched earth. Extra innings proved the girls' downfall, but the excitement, determination and true grit they displayed were in no way lessened.

While I'd like to say Rice needs softball almost as badly as Stephen A. Smith needs to contract laryngitis, I know that's a far-off dream for another day. But wouldn't it be nice if someday, while the baseball team is away bashing a conference foe, the campus isn't without a Baltimore Chop?

Casey Michel is a Brown College sophomore and sports editor.

More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 3/22/23 5:14pm
Review: 'READY TO BE' captures TWICE's upbeat energy

 On “READY TO BE,” TWICE returns with a record-breaking set of infectious and danceable tracks sure to delight their fans. TWICE is one of the K-pop groups that has had substantial crossover success in the United States, selling out arenas across the country last year. TWICE features nine members: Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu, all of whom shine throughout the album’s bouncy and energetic production.

NEWS 3/21/23 10:39pm
Muslim students and H&D prepare for Ramadan

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this week, falling between March 22 to April 20 this year, overlapping with events such as Beer Bike and the end of the semester. Observers fast from dawn until dusk, which is approximately 13 hours in Houston, to practice spiritual devotedness.

NEWS 3/21/23 10:38pm
Beer Bike to divide races amid safety concerns

Beer Bike races will be held in two heats this year, instead of the traditional singular race, according to Anne Wang, a campus-wide Beer Bike coordinator. The change is in light of last year’s crash during the women’s race, which injured three bikers and sent one to the hospital.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.