In early 1998, I took my first job out of college at The Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho.
I picked that paper over a couple of other options because I was promised the chance to cover the University of Idaho sports teams. Even though the money was, as my dad called it, “peanuts,” it seemed like an ideal job to launch my career as a sportswriter.
My very first day in Moscow, though, told me I took to the wrong job.
That night, the new sports editor took me out to dinner along with the other writer on the staff. This is where I found out that I would be covering the Vandals like I was promised when I was offered the job. However, I would spend even more of my time covering about a dozen high schools in the area.
After sitting through a talk that lined up what amounted to about 70 hours per week for that peanuts salary, I was still on board with the job. I was going to live the dream of being paid to write about sports.
Then, the topic of runs batted in came up.
When discussing multiple runs batted in during a baseball or softball game, is it RBIs or RBI?
I knew where I stood on the subject, and I was adamant about it. It is RBIs. Plural. It is not even debatable.
That was how it was before Babe Ruth hit his first home run. It was RBIs when Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio had those magical seasons of 1941. It was RBIs when Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967.
It was RBIs when former Butte Copper King Cecil Fielder racked up 389 of them in the three-season span from 1990 through 1992.
It was not 389 RBI. It was 389 RBIs.
Then came along a wannabe comedian anchor on SportsCenter.
“Shouldn’t it be RsBI since it’s ‘runs batted in?’” he asked.
Then, the type of people who just like to sound smart jumped on the bandwagon. It should be RBI because there is no S in the word “in.”
The next thing you know, RBI started showing up more and more on SportsCenter. It started showing up more and more in newspapers around the country. It was starting to take over.
Before you go and argue that I am wrong, let me explain for those types who cannot tell the difference between English class and the ballpark.
RBI is a statistic earned. When a batter hits the ball — be it a base hit or a sacrifice — to drive in a run, he is credited with an RBI. Same goes for a bases-loaded walk or beanball.
If the batter does it a second time, he or she gets another RBI. At that point, he or she has two RBIs.
That right there should settle the argument.
Unfortunately, the people who just want to sound smarter than others keep getting it wrong, and that drives me nuts. Of course, it is just one of many things that drive me insane, though that, admittedly, is not a very far journey.
Another is “Red Sox.”
No, I absolutely adore the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox. It just drives me bonkers to hear announcers refer to the team I have lived and died with my entire life.
The latest trend is for these announcers and writers to take the spelling of Sox too seriously.
Sox means Socks. The name is based on the color of socks the team used to wear. The team’s logo is a pair of socks.
Yet, announcers and writers have started referring to an individual member of the Boston Red Sox as a “Red Sox.”
I would think even the English teachers out there will agree with me on this one, even though they are probably appalled by the spelling of Sox in the first place.
A player for the Boston Red Sox is a Boston Red Sock. Likewise, a player for the Chicago White Sox is a White Sock.
That seems easy enough. Unfortunately, those smarty pantses out there just have to sound smart.
They are not necessarily smart. They just try to sound smart. There is a difference. It is called being pretentious.
Those smarties almost exclusively pronounce the T in the word “often,” too.
The T is silent people. We used to be taught that in school, but the pretentious faction has changed that. Now the kids come home from school pronouncing the T, and it has me pulling my hair out.
I was just starting to recover from Alanis Morissette killing the meaning of the word “ironic,” too
Since I did not completely pay attention to my teachers, I cannot tell you exactly why the T is silent in “often.” I just know that it is silent for the same reason the T is silent in the world “listen.”
Unless you are talking about the boxer who knocked out Floyd Patterson, you do not pronounce the T in “listen.” Not yet, anyway.
In that case, by the way, it is “Liston.”
Listen, we might not all agree on “often,” but we should all agree on RBIs, especially if you make a living writing or talking about baseball.
Unfortunately, too many smart-guy types have influence. That is why you see RBI instead of RBIs on respected places like ESPN and The Boston Globe.
We will give the writers the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the editors for changing it.
I know that because I was the victim of a misguided editor when I was in Moscow. The editor and my fellow writer both incorrectly disagreed with me on the subject of RBIs, and the official style of the paper was to use RBI instead of RBIs.
So, I wrote around it. I never abbreviated runs batted in any of the stories I wrote about baseball or softball in my time at that paper.
There was no way I wanted my byline associated with a right fielder who chalked up “five RBI.”
When it came to the box score, though, I could not get around it.
In every box score we typed up, there was a line for RBIs, and the editor told me to type RBI. Even though it was just a small line in the bottom of the box, I never gave in. Not once.
For every story I wrote that included a box score when I was at the paper — and counting call-in reports, they numbered in the 100s — the sports editor had to go in and delete the S at the end of RBIs.
After yelling at me for the first 50 or so, he just silently went in and corrected the rest. I used to love to look over my computer and see Mr. Smarty Pants shake his head and mutter under his breath as he made the incorrection.
I just could not let him win that easily, and that was probably one of the 389 reasons the sports editor in Moscow did not shed a single tear that July when I took my RBIs and peanuts and left town for good.
— Bill Foley, who has never been accused of being a smarty pants, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.