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What Is a Can of Corn in Baseball? – A Detailed Explanation

what is a can of corn in baseball

Baseball is not running short of weird and fun phrases anytime soon. This culture in the game makes it exciting but also head-scratching.

For an outsider, these phrases and expressions may not make sense. However, for a baseball player, these phrases can already send runners advancing to their respective bases.

Such was the effect of the phrase “can of corn.” It has prevailed in baseball culture for almost a century now. But what is a can of corn in baseball? What does it mean?

Read on to find out!

What Does a Can of Corn Mean in Baseball

A can of corn is the catching attitude wherein one waits for the ball to work its way onto the “straight down” path. And it is also catchy because, why not!

In a way, it sends out a seemingly informal character. Thus, it counts more as slang. And it does because the term does not measure any catcher’s ability. Instead, it only solely describes that particular effortless way of catching a ball.

How Did the Term Come to Be

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The can of corn origin does not come as a surprise to many baseball players. The baseball players in the field observe first-hand the characteristics of a can of corn. It may seem far from its implications at a glance since the first thing that comes to mind when the phrase pops up is food.

But if you look closely into how a can of corn makes food life easier, you should understand how it relates to a smooth and easy high fly ball catch.

Resources confirm that the phrase came into practice after being recorded sometime between the years 1930-1935. By this record, one can conclude that the phrase did not emerge until more than six (6) decades after baseball’s founding.

Due to the difficulty of tracing the specific beginnings of the term, some historians decided that it took many more decades before the phrase started manifesting from the mouths of the players. Albeit this claim, certain records still maintain that a few players here and there utter the phrase simply by mere creativity.

To reconcile the impasse, experts came up with theories tracing the existence of the term:

  • It all had to do with food sellers or grocers: Canned corn products filled counters and shelves somewhere in the 1900s. People during that time considered corn to be one of the healthiest foods.

It would make sense that baseball players, who are constantly physically exhausted, opt for corn diet for its health benefits. Therefore, cans of corn were the heavy sellouts during the day.

Food sellers would usually pull cans from the top shelves using a long stick with a hooked end. As the cans drop off the shelves, the sellers would catch these with their aprons.

Pulling out cans from high shelves has become a regular task for the grocers that it did not pay them much effort doing so.

According to historians, the effortless catching of the cans provided the can of corn meaning in baseball! Interesting, isn’t it?

  • One influential person popularized this term. Some baseball fans theorized that the announcer of the Pittsburgh Pirates (1948-1975), Bob Prince, helped put the term to the mainstream. And they have all solid reasons to believe so.

Many researchers trace his use of the term to the September 1970 Chicago Cubs play at the Wrigley Field. In his announcement, he said, “the plays were as easy as taking corn out of a can.”

Other MLB names attributed to popularizing the baseball slang can of corn:

  • Buck Martinez: Martinez was an influential professional MLB manager-turned announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays. But it was during his Triple Play 2000 event that marked his use of the phrase after referring to the remarkable pop-fly event.
  • Ken Harrelson: On April 6, 2016, while announcing for the Chicago White Sox, Harrelson mistook the pop-fly catch for a can of corn when it instead landed as a difficult catch, leading to a home run.
  • It owes its existence to the “outfield” term: Baseball players nickname the outfield as “cornfield.” Historically, such a nickname makes sense.

Baseball fields stood along with farm areas. Corns make most of these farms. So one can only imagine how the outfield would line with thick and long corn stacks from behind.

Perhaps, outfields exude a different beauty then.

Just check out the movie Field of Dreams, and you will get a grasp of corn’s long relationship with baseball.

What Does It Take for One to Field a Can of Corn

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A can of corn happens without anybody’s control most of the time. Think of it as an opportunity. But if you are lucky and agile enough to field an easy fly-ball, you are sure to catch a can of corn.

Now, when you are tackling a ball that seems threatening to the home run or turns out to be challenging to catch, you will not be grabbing a can of corn anytime soon. But let us say you were able to bat the ball, sending it higher than expected; the other player catching it, say the shortstop, is sure to end up with a can of corn.

The can of corn baseball term frequently comes out of the mouths of outfielders. That is because the outfield offers a whole lot of potential can of corn! Perhaps, this explains why outfielders would usually mumble “out in the cornfield” when they are in their respective posts.

Conclusion

What is a can of corn in baseball? Well, it turns out to be no big deal for one thing. However, for those seeking to trace the cultural significance of baseball and its slang, the term holds absolute importance.

As we found out in the article, the phrase can of corn means an easy catch in baseball. Of all the theories explaining its beginnings, the theory about the grocers proved most plausible. But that does not mean the rest of them do not make sense.

Do you know any other slang terms in baseball?

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