The Saint Louis Cardinals celebrate Matt Hollidays walk-off.
  • AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
  • The Saint Louis Cardinals celebrate Matt Holliday’s “walk-off.”

The other day my favorite baseball team, the Saint Louis Cardinals, beat Pittsburgh in extra innings on what the sports pages called a “walk-off single” by Matt Holliday. Walk-off single? Holliday racing to first base; Matt Carpenter racing home with the winning run. Who’s walking?

Journalists are advised to beware of citing Wikipedia as a final authority on anything, but I’m ignoring that advice because its discussion of walk-off home runs is exactly on point. Wikipedia traces walk-off as a baseball idiom back to Dennis Eckersley, then an Oakland reliever, in the late 1980s. According to a 1988 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Eckersley was given to calling home runs that ended ball games “‘walkoff pieces.” Wikipedia then observes the familiar alchemy that turns fresh language into mindless cliché (of which there’s no better example than mindless cliché): “Sportscasters also use the term ‘walk-off hit’ if any kind of hit drives in the winning run to end the game. The terms ‘walk-off hit by pitch’, ‘walk-off walk’ (a base on balls with the bases loaded), ‘walk-off wild pitch’, ‘walk-off reach-on-error’, and ‘walk-off balk’ have been also applied.”

Not to mention, in 2009, “walk-off triple play.” And here, from 1982, is what today I guess we’d call a walk-off steal of home.

I actually admire “walk-off triple play” for its absurdity, but it opens the floodgates to walk-off outs. As in, say, “But the rally and game ended in a lazy walk-off fly ball to left field.”

Is my concern hysterical? I think not. I Googled “walk-off single.” Google responded .27 seconds later with “about 4,420,000 results.” If Google had taken its time, who knows how many it would have come up with?

Meanwhile, on another front of the language wars, the Sunday Sun-Times offered readers the following headline:

Beckman Not Alone: He’s one of several coaches in Year 2 at his school who is under pressure.”

I’ve been waging an uphill battle (here and here) against this construction. But can anyone read the Sun-Times headline and not see how wrong it is?

Sun-Times copy editors apparently noticed. The head was cleaned up online to read, “Illinois’ Tim Beckman not alone among coaches looking for greater success in Year 2.”