Baseball History
Word and Phrase Origins

Where did the term the 'bullpen' originate?

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2006-09-17 12:07:19

The origin of the term bullpen is debated with no one theory

gaining unanimous, or even substantial, prevalence over another.

The term first appeared in wide use shortly after the turn of the

20th century and has been used since in roughly its present

meaning. Some of the most common theories are: The bullpen

symbolically represents the fenced in area of a bull's pen, where

bulls wait before being sent off to the slaughter. The relief

pitchers are the bulls and the bullpen represents their pen. Late

arrivers to ball games in the late 19th century were cordoned off

into standing room only areas in foul territory. Because the fans

were herded like cattle, this area became known as the bullpen, a

designation which was later transferred over to the relief pitchers

who warmed up there. At the turn of the century, outfield fences

were often adorned with advertisements for Bull Durham Tobacco.

Since relievers warmed up in a nearby pen, the term bullpen was

created. In the 1800s, jails and holding cells were nicknamed

bullpens, in respect of many police officers' bullish features --

strength and a short temper. The term was later applied to bullpens

in baseball. Casey Stengel suggested the term might have been

derived from managers getting tired of their relief pitchers

"shooting the bull" in the dugout and were therefore sent

elsewhere, where they wouldn't be a bother to the rest of the team

-- the bullpen. How serious he was when he made this claim is not


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