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Da History of Da Shutout
2002-12-12 12:11
by Mike Carminati

Da History of Da Shutout (Ditka Invented It)

It's always fun to read old baseball guides because so much is the same (standings, box scores, rule books) and so much is different (like batting average based on runs per game with an overage), especially the colloquialisms used. Fans were called "cranks". Players who jumped contracts to sign elsewhere for more money were "revolvers".

But my favorite was always the "Chicago" game. I ran across a list of Chicago games in one old baseball guide, I remember, where just the pitcher, the date, and the score were recorded. I noticed that all of the games were shutouts. I did a little research and found that the term went back to 1870. That year Chicago had formed a team to be the city's answer to the legendary Cincinnati Red Stockings. They called the team the White Stockings and they were the forebears of today's Cubs. The White Stockings joined organized baseball via the National Association of Base Ball Players, the grandfather of the National League.

Well, on July 23, the White Stockings hosted the New York Mutuals at Dexter Park. Five thousand spectators paid to see Rynie Wolters of the Mutual club allow no runs and only three hits in the 9-0 win. This was the first recorded shutout in organized baseball history. We're talking about a sport that allowed the batter to call for a low or high pitch for goodness sake.

Given the singularity of the game, the papers had to come up with a term for it. So the term "Chicago" game, meaning shutout, entered the baseball vernacular. It could be a verb as in, "Those pesky Red Stocking fellows chicagoed our local boys a fortnight ago." You still see the term used until maybe the turn of the century when shutout became the term of choice. It may have been difficult to distinguish between a Chicago game and a game with the team from Chicago. Imagine the confusion when Chicago chicagoed the opposition.

Whatever the reason, the term is now long forgotten, but I'm looking to bring it back. The next time you're at the ballpark and your team shuts out the opposition, go up to a fan for the other team, look him square in the eyes, and pronounce, "Our boys did verily best yours. It wasn't so much a pasting as we truly chicagoed your posteriors." Then see what kind of reaction you get.
[Thanks to for the 1870 game specifics.]

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