Do you remember when you were young and your grandpappy used to take you down to the lake? He would wake you early in the morning before the sun rose. You would eat a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs and slug down a glass of orange juice. He filled up his thermos with scalding hot coffee and packed a few tuna fish sandwiches in the cooler for lunch. Granny would make sure that a chocolate chip cookie or two found their way in there as well, tucked comfortably next to the bag of potato chips. You would help grandpappy pack the car with everything and last, but certainly not least, you carefully loaded your fishing poles. These were to be your entertainment for the day as well as the possible reason that you might be having fresh fish for dinner. It was to be a lazy day of leisure, an angler’s delight.
A is for Angler
But what is an angler anyways? Isn’t an angler just a fisherman? The answer is yes and no. Yes, an angler is a fisherman, but the word angler is derived from the angle of a hook. This means that to be an angler you must be fishing with a line and a hook. So, yes an angler is a fisherman, but a very specific one. A fisherman, in the broad sense, is a person who not only uses a rod and reel but also uses nets and rakes to catch fish as well as shellfish and crustaceans.
And while angler is typically used to describe a specific type of fisherfolk it is also used to describe a baseball player and/or their agent. We all know that baseball players (and their agents) make a good deal of money these days. And even in the days before free agency when ballplayers were still under the heavy hand of the reserve clause, they were making a good deal more than the average joe. Some ballplayers were content to make the money that was owed them in their contract, but there were others who wanted to leverage their fame for a little off-field bread. A baseball angler is, according to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary (a necessity for any baseball library), “a player or his agent who ‘casts’ about looking for testimonials, product endorsements, speaking engagements, and other off-field sources of income.”
Anglers on the Diamond
Probably the most famous of baseball anglers is arguably the most famous baseball player of all time. That’s right, you guessed it, George Herman Ruth, the most famous of New York Yankees, better known as Babe Ruth. And Ruth wasn’t alone in his endeavors, he had the help of his agent, a man widely considered to be the first baseball sports agent, Christy Walsh. With Walsh’s help, Ruth became a financial behemoth. Ruth made countless public appearances, endorsements, and investments. He made movies, went on barnstorming trips, and even modeled underwear. Babe Ruth was truly a path paving angler for many baseball anglers to come.
Following Ruth’s success, many ballplayers jumped on the angler bandwagon. Other well-known Ruthian anglers include Alex Rodriguez, Bo Jackson, Bryce Harper, Joe DiMaggio, George Brett, and Shohei Ohtani. But these are just a few. Since Ruth cast his financial fishing pole, the flood gates opened and most ballplayers with the want and the drive have found their way to speaking engagements or an endorsement or two. The baseball angler has become as much a part of the sport as hitting a home run or turning two.