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Sports legends revealed: Did Wally Moon coin the term 'flake' to describe an eccentric person?

April 6, 2010 | 10:00 am

BASEBALL LEGEND: Former baseball star Wally Moon coined the term "flake" to describe an eccentric
person.

STATUS: True

Wally_Moon_October_1961_picnik Wally Moon cemented his place in Los Angeles Dodger lore by adapting his swing in his first season playing for the team, 1959, which was the second year that the Dodgers played in Los Angeles. You see, Moon typically drove the ball to right field, but when the Dodgers first played in Los Angeles, they held their games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a gigantic football stadium converted for baseball usage. Due to the strange dimensions of the stadium, right field and center field were far away while left field was only 250 feet from home plate. The Dodgers erected a 40-foot-high screen designed to keep balls in play, but even with this precaution, a stunning 182 homers were hit to left field in 1958, with just three hit to center and eight to right. So Moon adapted his swing to loft balls towards left field and the screen.

As a result, Moon led the league in triples and also hit 19 home runs. His fly balls to left were soon referred to as "Moon shots."

Moon was an All-Star and came in fourth in the MVP voting as the Dodgers
went on to win the World Series for just the second time in franchise
history (and first in Los Angeles). Moon was around to win two more World
Series with the Dodgers before retiring.

However, Moon had a strong career before joining the Dodgers as a member
of the St. Louis Cardinals. Moon actually won the Rookie of the Year with
the Cardinals in 1954, beating out a strong crop of rookies that included
a shortstop named Ernie Banks and an outfielder named Hank Aaron, who I
think both went on to have decent careers in the majors.

As impressive as a ballplayer Moon was in St. Louis, it is actually an off
the field "accomplishment" that I'd like to discuss here.

You see, it appears that Moon coined the term "flake" to describe an odd or eccentric person.

Seems hard to believe, doesn't it? Or it certainly sounds extremely
random, but it also appears to be true.

While in St. Louis, in 1956, Moon played with a fellow named Jackie Brandt
who was certainly an eccentric guy (self-admitted).

In 1973, legendary baseball writer Maury Allen (in his 1973 book on Bo
Bellinsky) credited Moon as describing Brandt as being so wild that his
brains were falling out of head, or flaking out of his head, hence the
nickname "flake."

The term definitely had become attached to Brandt by his next stop, San
Francisco, as a member of the Giants.

And by the early 1960s, the term "flake" became an "insider nickname"
among baseball players to describe their more eccentric teammates, and by
the end of the 1960s, the term had been expanded to the adjective "flaky."

And it has stuck ever since.

It is accepted now that the term almost certainly DID come from
professional baseball in the late 1950s, although some etymologists credit
the fact that "flake" was a slang term for cocaine during the 1920s as
also being an influence on the baseball term, which could be true,
although I don't know if I personally buy that as a reason.

So it comes down to who in baseball first coined the term?

It does seem to be Brandt who the term originated around, and Moon WAS his
teammate in 1956, so I don't really have any reason to doubt Allen, so I'm
willing to credit Moon as inventing the term "flake."

Which, on top of Rookie of Year and three World Series titles, is a pretty
impressive legacy for a guy to have.

Moon has a website you can check out - which, interestingly
enough, doesn't mention the "flake" story, but the majority of his
Cardinals days doesn't get a lot of play there, just his rookie campaign.

Thanks to Maury Allen's Bo: Pitching and Wooing for the story about Moon,
and thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary as well!

Be sure to check out my Sports Legends Revealed for more sports legends!

Some recent legends include...

What strange occurrence resulted in Alex Rodriguez not having a Topps
baseball card for the first few years of his career
?

What famous college football player never went pro because of his religion?

What rule was put into place specifically to handicap a famous professional
tennis player?

What newly signed Angels free agent refused to accept his pay for the first
month of his contract because he opened the year poorly?

Also be sure to check out my Entertainment Legends
Revealed 
for legends about the worlds of TV, Movies, Music and more!

 Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for
future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.
And buy my book, "Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends
Revealed! here.

-- Brian Cronin

The Times is pleased to have Brian Cronin, who runs his own urban legends website, contributing to us weekly. Be sure to read his newest sports urban legend every Tuesday on the Fabulous Forum.

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