Baseball Metaphors for Sex: An Incomplete History

Everyone – even in countries where they don’t play baseball, or have only the foggiest idea what the sport is all about – is probably familiar with the use of baseball metaphors to describe sexual activity, though not everyone agrees on what each “base” is. (See Wikipedia for more.) According to Wikipedia, this is a post-WWII thing, though I’m not sure anyone has ever tried to track down the origin of the usage.

I spent a little time recently digging into it, and I was a bit surprised at what I found. You might be, as well.

If you hunt around with Google, it’s possible to find baseball being used as a metaphor for progress in general as early as 1920, and possibly even a few years before that. But that’s distinctly non-sexual, non-romantic.

As near as I can tell, baseball as a metaphor for (romantic) progress between two people can be documented to 1935 or so , and can be documented in a popular magazine a year later.

All these references are to first base, and it’s not clear that the term had any actual codified meaning or limits.

The first reference I can find to “second base” in a relationshop context is this 1965 Ann Landers column, which is unfortunately not particularly helpful.

What brought this on, you might ask? I was browsing through an old collection of the Gregg Writer, a magazine for secretaries and shorthand writers, and came across this January 1940 article:

…which I thought was an unexpectedly early use of baseball metaphors in a romantic context. Hence, i turned to Wikipedia, which wasn’t of much help, so I decided to spend a couple hours delving through Google.

Pointless? Perhaps. But interesting? Well… I think so. Your mileage may vary…

Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on July 21st, 2010| 1 Comment »

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One Comment

  1. On 7/27/2012 at 4:37 pm Lisa Said:

    I did find myself wondering that exact question! Thank you for the answer. 🙂