Sex and baseball are undeniably two of the great pastimes in contemporary America. There are novels, movies, songs and plays that deal directly with the intersection of these two great leisure-time spheres.
The sportswriter W. O. McGeehan once wrote about Babe Ruth that "the statistics will show that the greatest number of successes have been scored by those who led moderately dirty lives." Ruth is an unblurred example of an American myth. He did much to connect the concept of the home run with the sexual act of intercourse. Ruth, one of the all time great home run hitters was also one of the all time great womanizers.
The filmmaker Paul Arthur once observed that the time it takes for a home run baseball to clear the field of play is roughly equivalent to the average duration of the human male orgasm. And for those of you who know the feeling, the joy of hitting a home run and the subsequent counterclockwise circuit around the base paths can be equivalent to the joy of lovemaking.
Many baseball expressions have entered everyday language: "he's batting a thousand" denotes success, "you're way off base" suggests a mistaken approach, "playing hardball" describes an aggresive style. Many of the game's technical terms have been incorporated into sexual metaphors. Striking out and hitting a home run are two opposite results found in the baseball game of love and romance.
The connection between baseball and sex might be found in the observation by the child psychologist Melanie Klein. Ms. Klein wrote, "Speech and pleasure in motion have always a libidinal cathexis of a genital-symbolic nature." The use of overtly sexual language is common among baseball players.
Even more developed and ritualized is the covert, metaphorical language. Lawrence Frank has analyzed the way baseball players taunt each other. Their speech patterns and the expressions disclose a dynamic and complex inner game of psychological warfare. Getting inside a competitor's head is usually done with taunts suggesting sexual inadequacy or incompetance. The hitter is seen in a distinctly sexual position.
Frank points out that a pitch in the hitter's most desirable spot of the strike zone is referred to as "cock high." Meaning that the ball is at the same place as the erect penis (waist-high).
Teammate's try to bolster thre hitter's confidence with comments that suggest the hitter's sexual domination of the pitcher, such as "Jump on him (the pitcher)!" or "Jump all over him!", meaning to be aggressive and alert and "attack" the ball...These comments are also a metaphorical sexual threat to the pitcher since to "jump on" someone, in the folk speech of many American youths, is to initiate some form of sexual activity. (Frank.)
Camille Paglia defines popular culture as an "eruption of the never-defeated paganism of the West." Our baseball heroes, wrapped inside mystical numerology, are a reflection of this paganism. One aspect of our pagan heritage, the erotic, is precisely what the judaeo-christian teaching has tried to suppress. Sublimated, our libidinal urges find expression elsewhere. The game of baseball offers a comfortable refuge for the interminably turned-on, sex-crazed, horn-dog.
Click on the Babe for a review of baseball events and their equivalent sexual activities. (This is humor for mature people.)
W. O. McGeehan quoted in The Voices of Baseball edited by Bob Chieger. New York: 1983.
Paul Arthur. Report of the Commissioner of the Cosmic Baseball Association. Los Angeles: 1982.
Melanie Klein. "Infant Analysis," International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. 1926.
Lawrence Frank. Playing Hardball: The Dynamics of Baseball Folk Speech. New York: 1983.
Camille Paglia. Sex, Art, and American Culture. New York: 1992.
Gershom Levi teaches high school history in the State of Maine.