Published in: KQED Perspectives
Date: March 28, 2006
The High Cheese
by Stephanie Gold

I'm at the game. It's bottom of the seventh, tied 3-3, and the visiting team clean up man's at bat. A pitch sails over the plate and the man to my right declares with glee "It's the high cheese!"

The high cheese. I watch the batter pop a few fouls and strike out as I ponder this evocative if inscrutable phrase. Did he mean the pitch reeked like over-ripe Roquefort? Was it an honorific like the Grand Poobah? As the teams trade places, I catch my neighbor's eye.

"The high cheese?" I ask.

He is happy to expound. "Yes, the high cheese. A fast ball up around the collar bone. The batter goes for it and he strikes out." He pauses, in awe of the beauty of the pitch. "The high cheese," he concludes with great satisfaction.

It's spring and Opening Day is nearly here. Time to work on your baseball idiom, show the world you know your heat from your wheelhouse, and engage in one of baseball's most rewarding and least caloric customs. It's traditional as mustard stains on your T-shirt, but more appealing.

Is the pitching less than keen? Forget your four-letter retorts and try "The bullpen's stinking it up again!" If you're the sort who loves to shout "it's a dead mackerel," wait till you see a weak, nothing pitch, and let 'er rip. But ease up on the improv. If Barry should pop one up, for example, don't go yelling "Garlic Fry to the Sky!"

It's bottom of the ninth, two outs, you're ahead 4-3, but they've a man on third, the count's 2-2, and their bambino's dominating home plate. Your fireballer chucks a hard pitch that's high and inside, brushing the batter back. "Ahh, a little chin music," you declare. You settle back to watch the slugger strike out looking. It's baseball season again, you can sling the slang with the best of 'em, and life is good.

With a Perspective, I'm Stephanie Gold.

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