You may bring in a base runner with a run batted in (RBI), but you don’t actually need to get a hit to do it, as explained by Jesse Goldberg-Strassler in this week’s Tales from the Baseball Thesaurus.
You could walk, hit a sacrifice fly or get hit by a pitch to notch an RBI—even if it’s an intentional walk, as was the case once with Barry Bonds, who was issued the intentional pass to first base to avoid greater damage from the slugger. The phrase dates back to 1879, when a Buffalo newspaper noted an occurrence, and in 1880 the Chicago Tribune started tracking RBI—but stopped when fans protested. The same protests and debates continue today about the effectiveness of the RBI as an evaluative tool. And yes, there are different terms for the RBI—a ribby, a ribeye or a steak, among them.
Goldberg-Strassler shares his insights on the colorful patois of America’s Pastime in this weekly podcast. You can find The Baseball Thesaurus at augustpublications.com.
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