This being an election year, many trite old political terms will be brought out for another interminable go. One such is dark horse. I recently stumbled across the fact that dark horse was created by none other than the Ol’ Diz. No, not the great right-handed pitcher from Arkansas, Dizzy Dean. The other one:

“After explaining that a dark horse candidate is an originally obscure politician who comes from nowhere to win the race, John Ciardi writes: ‘Coined by Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman and popular novelist. In “The Young Duke” (1831) he wrote: ‘A dark horse which had never been heard of (swept to triumph).’ The term passed at once into British race track idiom, was soon after adopted on American tracks, and then acquired its (now dominant in America) political sense.’ “


The baseball Dizzy had nothing to do with stalking horse either, as far as we know. A stalking horse is “a decoy; a candidate put forward to split a vote or deadlock a convention, concealing another candidate’s plan.” That would have been too tricky for Ol’ Diz. He just threw it by ’em. (It would be too tricky for modern politics too. Television pretty well ended that sort of backroom maneuvering. And a good thing for politicians’ health. The old backrooms were traditionally smoke-filled.)

The young Dizzy Dean probably came out of the bullpen a few times near the beginning and near the end of his career. A baseball bullpen is “The area of a ballpark where the relief pitchers and warm-up catcher are situated during the game. … The primary purpose of the bullpen is as a place where relief pitchers can prepare and warm up for entry into the game.” Disraeli might have hidden a stalking horse out there too.


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