Tear the Cover Off the Ball (1882)

The fielders worked like beavers, grabbing everything within their reach, while the batsmen strove vainly to tear the cover off the ball, so hard did they want to hit it.Cincinnati Enquirer, April 18, 1882, p4

Previous earliest use (Dickson Baseball Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2009):
From “Casey at the Bat” (Ernest L. Thayer, San Francisco Examiner, June 3, 1888): “But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all, / And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball.”

  • Quoted, but not actually cited as first use