Carig: An appreciation of ‘red ass,’ baseball’s most colorful turn of phrase

From Marc Carig at The Athletic on April 30, 2019, with mention of SABR member Jacob Pomrenke:

The​ trophy sits​ in John Kruk’s home office. It​ was​ presented to him​ in 1988​ by Mark Davis,​ the​ one-time​​ Cy Young Award winner and a former teammate of his on the San Diego Padres. The award is a donkey with its rear end painted red, and it remains a conversation piece. One day, with her curiosity piqued by the strange remnant of her father’s past life, Kruk’s 8-year-old asked for an explanation. On the small gold plate mounted on the trophy’s wooden pedestal, she saw a term that for decades has been part of baseball’s colorful clubhouse lexicon.

This only caused more confusion.

“Daddy, what’s a red ass?”

“I’m like, ‘Well, your father back in the ’80s and ’90s.’”

The red ass dates back to the days of Babe Ruth, and while a precise definition may be elusive, players know it when they see it. Generally, it is a description of sudden rage, which goes hand in hand with a central tenet of a grueling baseball season: constant frustration. Too often, the sting of failure lingers. Once it reaches a boiling point, a dugout toilet might pay the price. Or a Gatorade cooler. Or a light fixture illuminating the tunnel to the clubhouse. Or a room-service cart at the team hotel.

Consistent with the best of profane terms, the usage of red ass is flexible, which adds to its charm. It can describe a player or a coach with a habit of snapping, a defining character trait.

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Originally published: April 30, 2019. Last Updated: April 30, 2019.