Why is the third game called the 'rubber match'?

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April 23, 2014 2:35PM

Usually a "rubber match" or "rubber game" of a 3 game series is

only played if no one has a chance to sweep the series. If team A

wins game 1 and team B wins game 2, it shows game 3 can go either

way... Sorta like how rubber can bend either way.

Thus, "Rubber game" of the series.

According to Paul Dickson's The New Dickson's Baseball

Dictionary (Harcourt Brace, 1999), a "rubber game" is "The last and

deciding game of a series when the previous games have been split;

e.g., the seventh game of the World Series." This tie-breaking

sense of "rubber" apparently originated in the pulse-pounding

English game of "bowls," or lawn bowling. Despite its name, bowls

has little in common with American bowling, and consists of rolling

wooden balls (called "bowls") across a level green, the object

being to get your ball as close as possible to (but not to hit) a

little white ball at the other end of the green. "Rubber" in its

tie-breaking sense first appeared in the context of bowls around

1599, and was in use by the card-playing crowd (whist, bridge,

etc.) by 1744. A set of three games of bridge is still generally

referred to as a "rubber."

Unfortunately, no one knows where "rubber" in this sense came

from. It appears to be unrelated to the elastic sort of "rubber."

(Incidentally, our modern elastic "rubber" is short for

"India-rubber," from its original source in the East Indies.

"Rubber" previously meant anything used to rub, smooth or clean.)

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable ventures that the term may

have referred to two "bowls" rubbing together, a fatal error in the

game of bowls. Or it might be a metaphorical use of "rubber"

(something that expunges) referring to the "sudden death" third

game of a series, the loss of which would conclusively "rub out"

the losing team's hopes. But there is, sad to say, no solid

evidence for either theory."

I think that 'rubber match' will mean the match that will decide

the rubber ie the fifth in a series of five. The term rubber

doesn't itself mean decisive.

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