Shoot the Bull

While watching Braves-Phillies game the other day, my son told me he didn’t know why they called it a “bullpen”. I had to admit I didn’t have a satisfactory explanation.

So I e-mailed my circle of baseball friends asking this question. I got a few responses back and a few links pointing to some possible answers. The most authorative source came from Wikipedia which gave a few possible origins for the name:

1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 clear.

My guess is that #5 was meant tongue-in-cheek considering the source.

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