by Ron Spence

Take soccer’s better behaved hooligans – not the burn them down and bag their ashes ones – and you’ll have baseball’s kranks from 125 years ago.

They got drunk during games, threw their containers at – and ran onto the fields and assaulted – rivals, plus the umps.

And, of course they always had a lot to say.

The press wrote that: “kranks in the bleaching boards think they know more about the sport than do its participants.”

Bleaching boards was the precursor of today’s bleachers, and referred  to people bleaching in the sun.

The first baseball book was called The Kranks: His Language and What It Means and was written by Thomas Lawson.


In 1562, a krank was an “inaccessible hole or crevice.”

By 1594 the word had been elevated to “a twist or fanciful turn of speech.”

Then, two centuries plus later – in 1821 – a krank was “cross-tempered, irritable.”

And a decade after that – 1833 – a crank was an irrationally fixated person, who like a barrel organ, kept playing the same tune over and over again.

Kranking it out so to speak….

Then the November 8, 1906 edition of Nature magazine wrote that: “A crank is defined as a man who cannot be turned.”

By this time, kranks were being called fans, and the phrase “turning a crank” was being applied to turning a motor over until it started (1908).

Kranks had been called “fans” since the mid-1880s and continued to think that they knew more about the sport than its participants.




Summation of The Kranks: His Language and What It Means, courtesy of  American Baseball: From Gentleman’s Sport to the Commissioner System, by David Quentin Voigt.

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