First Up

Book cover

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, first published in 1989 with new editions in 1999 and 2009, provides definitions of thousands of baseball terms and expressions. The Dictionary does more than just define the terms; it provides, as described by one early reviewer, “etymological descriptions and contending theories, context notes, external uses of the term, and its ‘earliest’ appearance.”1

That 1989 review put the word “earliest” in quotation marks, knowing (no doubt) that the first or earliest use of any term can be hard to pin down. Paul Dickson acknowledges this in the introduction to the Dictionary, noting that “this feature is really meant to give the reader a feel for the relative antiquity and early use of the term. “

And, indeed, the first use listed for many of the terms in the Baseball Dictionary has changed from one edition to the next as DIckson, or his many contributors, found earlier and earlier uses of different expressions. (The overall number of terms — and first uses — in the dictionary has also grown over the years since it was first published.)

Now, 12 years since the completion of the third edition, first use dates are being pushed back even further into the past. With the aid of more and more digitized newspapers and other sources, researchers are finding earlier uses and sharing them with Dickson and with each other. This site, developed in consultation with Paul Dickson, brings together many of those new “earliest” appearances. The hope is that they will be included in a possible new edition of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, in print and/or online.

The site is focused only on earliest uses. The full 2009 Dictionary, with definitions, discussion, illustrations, and much more, is available for purchase in print or digital form. Visit Amazon or your local bookstore to purchase a copy.

1Robert Aken. Library Journal, March 15, 1989, p66