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Baseball Terms Glossary
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This is an alphabetical list of selected unofficial and specialized terms, phrases, and other jargon used in baseball, and their definitions, including illustrative examples for many entries.

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rabbit ears

Indicates a participant in the game who hears things perhaps too well for his own good. A player who becomes nervous or chokes when opposing players or fans yell at or razz him is said to have "rabbit ears". Also, an umpire who picks up on every complaint hurled at him from the dugouts is described this way.

rag arm

A player, typically a pitcher, with a weak arm. "I hope the Cardinals did not give up an actual Major League player for this rag arm home run machine."


To run into and knock over the catcher when running home from third base.

rain delay

Rain delay refers to situations when a game starts late due to rain or is temporarily suspended due to rain. A game that is suspended after it has begun may be resumed either the same day or at a later date. A game that never begins, or that is canceled after it begins due to rainy weather is a rainout and in most cases will be rescheduled for a later date – a make-up date. In the event of a non-tie game past the 5th inning with heavy inclement weather, the game may be called (finalized) with the winner being the team that was winning at the end of the last completed inning.


A curveball with a high arc in its path to the plate.


A rainout refers to a game that is canceled or stopped in progress due to rain. Generally, Major League Baseball teams will continue play in light to moderate rain but will suspend play if it is raining heavily or if there is standing water on the field. Games can also be delayed or canceled for other forms of inclement weather, or if the field is found to be unfit for play. If a game is rained out before play begins, a make-up game is rescheduled for a later date. If a game is called after play begins but before 4½ innings have been completed (if the home team is ahead) or five innings have been completed (if the visitors are ahead or the game is tied), the game is not an official game. The umpire declares "No Game," the game is played in its entirety at a later date, and statistics compiled during the game are not counted. Games that are stopped after they become official games count in the standings (unless the game is tied, in which case it is replayed from the beginning), and statistics compiled during the game are counted.


To really hit the ball hard, all over the park. When you're raking, you're hitting very well. "Mike Gosling allowed one run on five hits over 6⅓ innings and Louisville raked Pawtucket pitching for 14 hits as the Bats defeated the Red Sox, 7-1, in an International League game Wednesday."


To come back from a deficit. This typically occurs in the final innings of a game.

rally cap

A cap worn backwards, sideways, or inside-out by fans or players to bring a rally. Said to have originated by fans of the New York Mets during the 1985 baseball season, when the Mets captured several dramatic come-from-behind victories, and spread to the players themselves some time during the 1986 season. It rose to national awareness during the 1986 World Series. The Mets were down three games to two and losing the deciding game to the Red Sox, when in the seventh inning, television cameras showed some of the New York Mets players in the dugout wearing their caps inside-out. The team rallied to win the game and the series.


A fielder's ability to move from his position to field a ball in play.


  • An RBI or "run batted in" is a run scored as a result of a hit; a bases-filled walk or hit-by-pitch or awarding of first base due to interference; a sacrifice; or a single-out fielder's choice (not a double play).
  • Official credit to a batter for driving in a run.

RBI situation

Runners in scoring position.


Another term for catcher. Also backstop, signal caller.

regular season

The 162 game schedule that all Major League Baseball teams usually complete. However, if a special one-game playoff is required to determine which team goes to the league division championship series (the ALDS or the NLDS), this 163rd game is also counted as part of the regular season. All team and player statistics from this game are also counted as regular season statistics. For example, if a pitcher wins his 20th game in the 163rd game played in the one-game playoff, he would be a "20 game winner" for the season. Similarly, a batter's performance in that extra game might determine whether he wins the title for best batting average or most home runs in the season.
On occasion, teams do not complete every game of the regular season, specifically when playing a make-up game owing to the previous suspension or cancellation of a game due to weather or some other factor would require scheduling hardships and when the outcome of that game would not affect which teams might make the playoffs.

regulation game

A standard baseball game lasts nine innings, although some leagues (such as high school baseball) use seven-inning games. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins. If the home team is ahead after eight-and-a-half innings have been played, it is declared the winner, and the last half-inning is not played. If the home team is trailing or tied in the last inning and they score to take the lead, the game ends as soon as the winning run touches home plate; however, if the last batter hits a home run to win the game, he and any runners on base are all permitted to score.
If both teams have scored the same number of runs at the end of a regular-length game, a tie is avoided by the addition of extra innings. As many innings as necessary are played until one team has the lead at the end of an inning. Thus, the home team always has a chance to respond if the visiting team scores in the top half of the inning; this gives the home team a small tactical advantage. In theory, a baseball game could go on forever; in practice, however, they eventually end (although see Longest professional baseball game). In addition to that rule, a game might theoretically end if both the home and away team were to run out of players to substitute.


A defensive technique where the ball is thrown by an outfielder to an infielder who then throws to the final target. This is done because accurate throws are more difficult over long distances and the ball loses a considerable amount of speed the farther it must be thrown. Also cut-off. Also the second throw during a double-play. As in "They were only able to get the lead runner because the relay was not in time."

relief pitcher

A relief pitcher or reliever is a pitcher brought in the game as a substitute for (i.e., "to relieve") another pitcher.


A relief pitcher or reliever is a baseball or softball pitcher who enters the game after the starting pitcher is removed due to injury, ineffectiveness, ejection from the game or fatigue.

retire the batter

To get the batter out.

retire the runner

To throw the runner out at a base.

retire the side

See side retired.


An argument or fight in a baseball game. Hence, Rhubarb, a novel by H. Allen Smith.

ribbie, ribeye

Slang for a run batted in (RBI).


  • A very strong arm. A cannon, a bazooka, a gun. Also used as a verb, "He rifled the ball home to catch the runner."
  • A batter can also be said to rifle a ball when he hits a hard line drive. "Griffey rifles the ball . . . foul, just outside first base."

ring him up

A strikeout. The phrase is probably drawn by analogy to cashiers who ring up the total on the cash register when a customer is ready to pay up. It also comes from the "cha-ching" motion that plate umpires use to signal a strikeout.


  • To hit a hard line drive, as in "He ripped a single through the right side."
  • A hard swing, usually one that misses the ball: "Reyes took a good rip at that pitch."


Acronym for Runners In Scoring Position. See Runner In Scoring Position.

road game

A game played away from a baseball club's home stadium. When a team plays away from home, it's on a "road trip" and is the "visiting team" at the home stadium of another team.

road trip

A series of road games or away games occurs on a road trip, a term derived from the days when teams indeed traveled from one town to another by roadway or railroad.


  • When a fielder makes a spectacular play the denies the batter a hit or a home run, the batter may be said to have been "robbed" by the fielder -- as if the fielder had taken away something that belonged to the hitter. Headline: "A-Rod robbed of HR, Joba will join rotation."
  • When a questionable call is made by an umpire that leads to losing a game, the losing team or its fans may complain that the team was "robbed". "Braves Robbed of a Win . . . was Beltran Out at 3rd in the 9th?"


A slightly derogatory acronym for a right-handed relief specialist. Stands for "Righty One Out GuY".


Conventionally, rookie is a term for athletes in their first year of play in their sport. In Major League Baseball, special rules apply for eligibility for the Rookie of the Year award in each league. To be eligible, a player must have accumulated, prior to the current season:
  • Fewer than 130 at bats and 50 innings pitched in the major leagues or
  • Fewer than 45 days on the active rosters of major league clubs (excluding time on the disabled list or any time after rosters are expanded on September 1).

room service

A ball hit directly to a fielder such that he hardly has to move to get it.

rooster tail

A spinning ball rolling on wet grass that kicks up a line or tail of water behind it.


A hard line drive. Also see "frozen rope".


The official list of players who are eligible to play in a given game and to be included on the lineup card for that game. Major League Baseball limits the regular-season active roster to 25 players during most of the season, but additional players may be on the disabled list, and the roster can be expanded to as many as 40 active players after August 31st by bringing up players on the 40-man roster.


A starting pitcher in professional baseball usually rests three or four days after pitching a game before pitching another. Therefore, most professional baseball teams have four or five starting pitchers on their roster. These pitchers, and the sequence in which they pitch, are known as "the rotation." In modern baseball, a five-man rotation is most common.
Often a manager identifies pitchers by their order in the rotation, "number 1," "number 2," etc. "Discussions over whether Jason Schmidt or Brad Penny is more deserving to occupy the No. 2 spot in the starting rotation behind Derek Lowe can cease, as least temporarily."

roughed up

An offense has "roughed up" the opposing pitcher when it hits his pitches hard and scores several runs. Akin to beating somebody up. Headline: "Hill Roughed Up in Loss to Pirates."

roundhouse curveball

A curveball that instead of breaking sharply makes a more gradual loop. "One Boston writer in the late-'40s summed up Joe Dobson's roundhouse curveball this way: 'It started out somewhere around the dugout and would end up clipping the outside corner of the plate. There are curveballs, and there are curveballs.'"


A home run. The analogy is to a commuter who buys a round-trip ticket from home plate to second base and back again to home.


The rubber, formally termed the pitching plate, is a white rubber strip the front of which is exactly sixty feet six inches (18.4 m) from the rear point of home plate. A pitcher will push off the rubber with his foot in order to gain velocity toward home plate when pitching.

rubber arm

A pitcher is said to have a "rubber arm" if he can throw many pitches without tiring. Relief pitchers who have the ability to pitch consecutive days with the same effectiveness tend to be known as "rubber arms."

rubber game

A term used for the last game of a series when the two teams have evenly split the previous games. Originally a card-playing term.


  • A player who advances around all the bases to score is credited with a run. The team with the most runs wins the game.
  • A manager "runs his players" when he calls on them to steal bases and to be generally aggressive in trying to advance extra bases when the ball is in play.
  • A player or coach may be "run" by an umpire by being ejected from a game.


A play in which a runner is stranded between two bases, and runs back and forth to try to avoid fielders with the ball. The fielders (usually basemen) toss the ball back and forth, to prevent the runner from getting to a base, and typically close in on him and tag him. Also called a hotbox or a pickle. Sometimes used as a baserunning strategy by a trailing runner, to distract the fielders and allow a leading runner to advance.


To be ejected from the game.

runners at the corners

runners on 1st and 3rd, with 2nd base open.

runners in scoring position

Runners on 2nd or 3rd base are said to be in scoring position, i.e., a typical base hit should allow them to reach home. Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) is used as an approximation of clutch hitting. Game announcers are apt to put up and comment on the latter statistic during a broadcast to set the stage for an at bat. A good hitter is expected to have a higher batting average when there are runners in scoring position.

Ruthian blast

A home run that travels very far. After famous slugger Babe Ruth.


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Published - February 2011

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