Posted by Bob on September 23, 2007
In Reply to: Re: On deck posted by Smokey Stover on September 23, 2007
: : In baseball, the next batter to the plate is known as being "on deck." The hitter following him is said to be "in the hole." I believe the latter term has evolved over time from the phrase "in the hold," a logical extension re: the nautical "on deck." Even the manager is referred to as "The Skipper."
: : Can anyone shed any light on this?
: I don't believe that "in the hole" in this instance is derived from "in the hold." I thing the hole in question is a hole. That gives us the choice of "fire in the hole," "toad in the hole," or "ace in the hole." Notwithstanding the apparent nautical origins of skipper and on deck, I think it is possible that "ace in the hole" may be the model. That expression is used to refer to a resource of any kind held in reserve or secretly which increases the chance of winning. The actual ace in the hole refers to the face-down ace in a hand in stud poker that only the player knows to be an ace. It's a long stretch, but closer than anything else I can think of. In the hole = ready to be played?
It's a hole in a very literal sense. the on-deck batter is allowed on the field (in the "on-deck circle") where he can observe carefully. The next batter is not permitted to be on the field, but must remain in the dugout. In prefessional baseball stadiums, the dugouts are literally dug out, below the surface of the field, and the batter in the hole stands on the steps leading up to the field. He is, in fact, slightl below ground.