Shortly after the conclusion of the 1998 Arizona Diamondbacks Inaugural Season work began on NowHitting. Besides the dry historical aspects of chronicling a Major League Baseball franchise, the web site also attempted to infuse some humor into the game. This was done through a section called "Bunting with a Fungo" which included several tongue-in-cheek articles and some feeble attempts at humor and graphics. It became a complete shock when this section became one of the most visited aspects of the web site.
Through the years the web space has been devoted to more of the historical aspects of the Diamondbacks existence. Somewhere in the second or third iteration of site redesign Bunting with a Fungo fell to the chopping block and was seen no more. During a recent review of back-up files I uncovered this old humor section and have decided to resurrect it in hopes that the fans would find a little enjoyment in its inclusion.
What the Heck is a Fungo?
A fungo bat is used by coaches, especially those responsible for the outfielders to hit fly balls during practice. The actual introduction of this term into the baseball vocabulary is unknown but many popular theories have been raised.According to Joe Reichler's Great Book of Baseball Records, a newsstand publication of 1957, the word fungo first appeared in Haney's Book of Reference, which was published by Henry Chadwick. In it fungo is defined as: "A preliminary practice game in which one player takes the bat and, tossing the ball up, hits it as it falls, and if the ball is caught in the field on the fly, the player catching it takes the bat. It is useless as practice in batting, but good for taking fly balls..."
William Safire's What's the Good Word column has included letters on the origin of the fungo. According to Jan H. Hall, associate editor for the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), in Madison, Wisconsin, she describes the word as being derived from a Scottish verb, fung. She states "According to The Scottish National Dictionary the verb 'fung,' meaning 'to pitch, toss, fling,' was in use in Aberdeen as early as 1804; 'Ye witches, warlocks, fairies, fien's! Daft funging 'fiery pears an' stanes.'" She claims that the connection with baseball is that the ball is tossed into the air before it is hit. The "o" ending is common in other games (bingo, beano, bunco and keno).
In the February 1937 issue of American Speech, author David Shulman wrote, "My guess is that the word, which is baseball slang, may be explained through the elements of a c compound word, fun and go." Bill Bryson, a reporter for The Des Moines Register, researched the basis of the slang fungo and claims it was derived from an early baseball chant, "One goes, two goes," etc. The chant was used in conjunction with a street game in where a player replaces the batter after catching a specified number of fly balls.
A variation of this appears in Patrick Ercolano's Fungoes, Floaters and Fork Balls when he states, "Still others believe that the word has it derivation in rhyme consisting of the words 'run and go.' Hy Turkin, in the 1956 Baseball Almanac, suggests, "an old game in which the man using this style of hitting would yell, 'One go, two goes, fun goes.'"
Regardless of the origin, it should be noted that bunting and fungo are typically an oxymoron. To attempt to bunt with a fungo bat would most likely result in a base-hit. It is used here in an attempt to describe the bizarre and demented side of baseball.