They called him safe!

This is perhaps off-topic, but below is St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon’s call of the final play of Game 3 of the World Series (audio here).

And, uh, they have the base open.  Molina’s at third, uh, with Craig down at second.  The pitch coming.  They’re all in, Middlebrooks, Bogaerts, Pedroia and Ortiz.  The pitch.  Swing and a ground ball.  Second baseman makes a heckuva play!  Throws home and he’s out at home.  What a play by Pedroia!  Now they throw to third!  It’s a wild throw!  And he’s gonna try to score!  They can throw him out as he stumbles!  He’s gonna be out at the plate.  GWOOOOOOOAAAAH, they called him safe!  They called interference.  Interference down at third base with the third baseman!  And the Cardinals win this one, 5-4.  They called interference with the man down at, uh, third base. They called interference, and that’s why they called him safe at the plate.  They’re arguing at home plate, but the Cardinals are gonna walk off with a 5-4 win here in the bottom of the ninth.  And the Red Sox are hot.  But, uh, they all agree, all these umpires agree.  He kept stumbling over there, falling down, but he finally gets up and comes home, and he scores the winning run, and the redbirds win this one, 5-4.

There would have been sixteen consecutive pronouns–most with no clear antecedents–but after things calmed down a bit, Shannon actually did identify the “they” who agreed on the call:  the umpires.  Now here is the whole thing again, with the actual people involved identified so you have a fighting change of figuring out what the hell happened:

And, uh, they [the Cardinals] have the base [that would be first base] open.  Molina’s at third, uh, with Craig down at second.  The pitch coming.  They’re all in, Middlebrooks, Bogaerts, Pedroia and Ortiz [way to go, Mike!].  The pitch.  Swing and a ground ball.  Second baseman [Pedroia] makes a heckuva play!  Throws home and he’s [Yadier Molina, the runner who started the play on third base] out at home.  What a play by Pedroia!  Now they [Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Boston catcher, and his imaginary friend?] throw to third!  It’s a wild throw!  And he’s [Allan Craig, who started the play on second base] gonna try to score!  They [the Boston Red Sox, although it might be helpful here to identify which one of them has the ball] can throw him [Craig] out as he stumbles!  He’s [Craig] gonna be out at the plate.  GWOOOOOOOAAAAH, they [the third-base umpire, Jim Joyce, who called interference, although technically home plate ump Dana DeMuth may have made the “safe” call after Joyce’s interference call] called him safe!  They [Joyce or DeMuth or both] called interference.  Interference down at third base with the third baseman [that would be Middlebrooks; you knew that like ten seconds ago, Mike]!  And the Cardinals win this one, 5-4.  They [the umps] called interference with the man [Craig again] down at, uh, third base. They [umps] called interference, and that’s why they [umps] called him [Craig] safe at the plate.  They’re [Red Sox players and coaches?] arguing at home plate, but the Cardinals are gonna walk off with a 5-4 win here in the bottom of the ninth.  And the Red Sox are hot.  But, uh, they all agree, all these umpires agree.  He [Craig] kept stumbling over there, falling down, but he [Craig] finally gets up and comes home, and he [Craig] scores the winning run, and the redbirds win this one, 5-4.

Moral of the story:  if you want people to know what you’re talking about, don’t use a lot of ambiguous pronouns.

Don’t rely on spellcheck

Here is a correction from today’s NY Times:

“An earlier version of this article misspelled, on second reference, the surname of a representative. He is Charlie Dent, not Debt.”

I often remind my students not to rely on spellcheck.  Instead, you have to proofread each and every word to make sure your document says what you want it to say.

Having said all that, “Charlie Debt” could be a cool nickname, kind of like “Johnny Football.”

Let us count the problems with this sentence

My students are currently using the case of Vanevery v. State, 980 So. 2d 1105 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008), among others, to write a memo about second-degree murder.  Vanevery includes the following train wreck of a sentence:

“The truck which appeared to have struck, him was found abandoned near the scene of the accident.”

It’s clear from the previous sentence that “him” refers to “the victim,” so no problem there.  The comma after “struck” is incorrect.  Let’s be generous and call that a typo.  I tell my students that you’ll get most of your comma decisions right if you just read the sentence out loud and put commas in wherever you pause.  Nobody would pause after “struck.”

There is also a passive voice problem, although I would probably leave that as is.  Presumably police officers investigating the accident found the truck, but the identity of the truck-finders is not important.

“Which” is used incorrectly.  “Appeared to have struck the victim” is a restrictive clause, so “that” should be used instead of “which.”  I’m not a huge stickler on this rule, and this sentence doesn’t sound too bad with “which.”

Finally, I don’t know why we need the words “appeared to have.”  Appeared to whom?  Were there a lot of other abandoned trucks found near the scene of the accident?

Here is how I would rewrite the sentence:  “The truck that struck him was found abandoned near the scene of the accident.”