Talking smack on the ball field, 1898 style

While sorting through the collection of the late baseball historian Al Kermish, auction appraisers came across a document of astonishing naughtiness dating from 1898. It includes the earliest known uses of the term “cocksucker” and “go fuck yourself” (thereby giving Deadwood even more cred than it had before).

That such brutal language as “You cock-sucking son of a bitch!” “You prick-eating bastard!” “You cunt-lapping dog!” “Kiss my ass, you son of a bitch!” “A dog must have fucked your mother when she made you!” “I fucked your mother, your sister, your wife!” “I’ll make you suck my ass!” “You cock-sucker!” and many other revolting terms are used by a limited number of players to intimidate umpires and opposing players, and are promiscuously used upon the ball field, is vouched for by the almost unanimous assertion of those invited to speak, and who are competent to speak from personal knowledge.

There is some debate about the authenticity of the document. Some historians consider it ludicrous that the National League in 1898 would send out a memo packed with such shocking profanity. Even “damn” would have been written “d____” at the time.

Herodotus Hotness

I’ve always enjoyed Herodotus’ peripatetic ways and investigative curiosity, not to mention his gift for, erm, let’s just call it embellishment. His histories can be hard to follow, though, packed as they are with unfamiliar locations and meandering references.

Well, there’s a new Herodotus in town: The Landmark Herodotus.

Maps — 127 of them — outline Herodotus’ world; even the text is clearly mapped out, with wide margins offering summaries of each paragraph and identifying the time period.

The headings, index and footnotes let you know precisely where you are in this notoriously winding narrative, providing a set of landmarks far more detailed than anything Herodotus could have found during his tours. The appendices, nonjargony bits of scholarship by various authors, come at Herodotus from as many perspectives as he brings to his inquiries: Herodotus and Athenian government, Herodotus and tyranny, Herodotus and the poets. Photographs of artifacts and statues, most as little worn by the intervening millenniums as Herodotus’ conversational prose, help make history’s abstractions concrete.