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Walk Off Origins

The magazine Mental Floss does a feature in which they find the inaugural references to phrases within the New York Times. That seemed like a cool thing to do, so I did it for "walk-off."

The problem is that entering that phrase didn't guarantee the results I wanted, but it provided some interesting findings, which I'll share here...

Indians Calmly Walk Off
February 19, 1887 edition

The Jicarilla Apaches left their reservation in southern New Mexico for one in southwest Colorado. "Trouble between the Indians and the settlers is anticipated," the newspaper reported.

Headline: Gen Walkoff Resigns As Sofia War Minister
January 3, 1929 edition

Apparently the Bulgarian Minister of War, General Walkoff (first name not given, unless it's 'General') and the premier of Bulgaria had a disagreement regarding Walkoffs feelings about a group of Macedonian revolutionaries (Walkoff liked them, the premier didn't). In return, Walkoff was named Minister to Rome. A google search found no further mentions of this man, whom I'd like to know more about.

Robins 5 in Ninth Beat the Cubs, 6-5
Four Passes in Last Frame Enable Robbie's Men Literally to Walk-Off With Game
May 24, 1925 edition

The Robins, later to be known as the Dodgers did stage an epic comeback to beat the Cubs. However, this was only referred to as a "walk-off" because of the number of bases on balls. As it turned out, the Robins were the visiting team.

One funny excerpt from the end of the piece: "The news system of three umpires at all games is a great idea," remarked one fan. "Two burglars and a lookout."

Skidding Yankees Lose Fourth in Row, 5-2
Senators Simply Walk Off With Game As Beall Mixes 9 Passes With 6 Hits
August 13, 1926 edition

And you thought today's media was harsh. Here's the lead to this piece from James Harrison.

"Behind the grotesque efforts of Walter Beall..."

The story goes on to tell how Beall once balked by throwing to first base, with runners on first and second, not realizing that Lou Gehrig was not holding the runner on. Grotesque indeed.

There's also the tale of Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt being upset about being pulled from a poor pitching effort recently. Hoyt was fined for issuing "harsh and insubordinate words" towards manager Miller Huggins. "The rate was $200 a gesture."

Wrote Harrison: "Huggins, as a matter of fact, should have been fined $200 for leaving Waite in as long as he did."


The May 8, 2005 edition of William Safire's "On Language" column in the Magazine section notes the first intended usage. We've referenced it previously, but will note it here too.

Dennis Eckersley coined the term in an article from the Gannett News Service on July 30, 1988: "In Dennis Eckersley's colorful vocabulary, a walk-off piece is a home run that wins the game and the pitcher walks off the mound."


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