Saturday, December 17, 2016



                                                                                                                 BASEBALL BROADCASTER DISPUTE

Dear Steve

Welcome to the TV broadcaster booth. I think you in and Tom do an excellent job but I do have a bone to pick with you.

In listening to baseball for 60 years --20 years growing up in Boston and since 1972 in Dallas--  the abbreviated spoken reference to the plural “runs batted in” was in my experience always RBIs-- as in” Josh Hamilton has 101 RBIs.” Unfortunately and reminiscent of political correctness some   broadcasters have introduced into the game  grammar correctness. These enlightened folk say “Josh has 100 RBI”! 

To my dismay you have introduced this enlightened usage to the Ranger broadcast booth. (I note that Tom Grieve and Eric Nadel use what I believe to be the  more traditional “ RBIs”.)  Every time I hear “100 RBI”, I feel as though someone is dragging a fingernail across a blackboard. Not only is this new usage grating, it is arguably grammatically incorrect and simply not necessary.

A term like RBI is considered either an acronym or an initialism. These terms, however, are often used interchangeably although there appears to be a technical distinction between the two. An acronym is pronounced as though the word is spelled, for example, NATO, while in an initialism each letter is pronounced individually, for example, FBI.  I will treat the two terms in this brief discussion as synonymous.

To start my superficial research, I began with Wikipedia.  It's Manual of Style/Abbreviations, Section 2, Acronyms and Initialism concludes that "plural acronyms and initialisms are written with a lower case s."  The specific discussion of” Runs Batted In” in Wikipedia states without qualification that “the plural of RBI is RBIs."

Bryan Garner’s book Common Errors in English Usage (2nd ed. November 2008)   in discussing the RBI pluralism issue concludes” it is standard to treat the [RBI] initialism as a word and say RBIs …." He refers to similar initialisms to make his point, for example, WMDs or POWs. (Garner is a national expert on legal English usage and has recently co-authored a book on the subject with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia; Garner is a Dallas resident and an enthusiastic sports fan).

Ironically in an attempt to be grammatically correct those who use the plural spoken form "100 RBI" are compounding the grammatical error. Using their apparent logic for "100 RBI", the acronym/initialisms should actually be “RsBI”. Ugh!

While I am sure that the RBI crowd has its arguments, I don't know why the change is necessary. RBIs is certainly grammatically acceptable and what I believe to be the traditional usage. Baseball, of course, is the ultimate sport of tradition. Let's default to tradition.


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