Now, the VOA Special English program, Words and Their Stories.
American English is full of colorful expressions. One such expression is to touch all bases. It comes from the sport of baseball.
There are four bases in baseball — first, second and third. The fourth is home plate. Together, the bases form a diamond shape. When a baseball player hits the ball, he must run to each base — in order — and touch it with his foot. It is the only way to score a point. If the player hits the ball and fails to touch all the bases, the point will not be counted.
The importance of touching all the bases was shown at the start of the nineteen seventy-four baseball season.
Hank Aaron was a player with the Atlanta Braves team. He was seeking the record for hitting the most home runs. A home run is a ball that is hit over the wall. Aaron needed just one home run to equal the record held by Babe Ruth, the greatest hitter in baseball history. Aaron got that home run the very first time he had a chance to hit the ball. He sent the ball over the wall that surrounded the playing field. That gave him seven hundred and fourteen home runs — the same as Babe Ruth.
After that day, baseball fans held their breath every time it was Hank Aaron’s turn to hit. When would he hit home run number seven hundred and fifteen?
The wait was not long. In the second week of the season, Aaron again hit the ball over the wall. He had beaten Babe Ruth’s record. But first, he had to run around the four bases. The other players on his team watched carefully to make sure he touched each one. If he did not, the home run would not have counted. There would have been no new record.
So, to touch all bases means to do what is necessary to complete an activity.
The expression is used in business and politics. No business deal or political campaign is really complete until you discuss all the issues involved. Or, as it is said, until you touch all bases.
Even professional diplomats use this expression, as well as others that come from baseball.
A diplomat in reporting on negotiations with diplomats from different countries may say they “touched all bases” during many hours of talks. This means they explored all issues involved in the situation. Perhaps they did this after expressing hope that they could play ball with each other, meaning that they could learn to cooperate.
Sports reporters write about fast-moving, lively events. They must develop a way of writing that goes straight to the point. Their duty is to give the reader a complete picture of the event in as few words as possible. They must touch all bases as quickly as they can.
This VOA Special English program, Words and Their Stories, was written by Mike Pitts. This is Bob Doughty.