7 Ridiculous Products Licensed by Major League Baseball

Last weekend the New York Times ran a really interesting article about Yankees Sod, a new product that's pretty much just what it sounds like: grass that's been licensed by the Bronx Bombers for sale to fans. The turf actually has a legitimate claim to being just like what's growing in the new Yankee Stadium; it comes from the same 80-acre plot as the grass that was recently installed in the House that Jeter Built. Now if you go to a New York-area Home Depot, you can pick up swatches of the very grass for around $7.50 for a five-square-foot patch.

To most casual fans, this idea seems patently absurd. By the strange logic of Major League Baseball product licensing, though, there's nothing odd about it. In fact, it might not even be the most ludicrous or unnecessary thing an MLB team has licensed. Here are a few other currently available products that at least give Yankees Sod a run for its money in the ridiculousness department.

1. Wincraft Chicago Cubs 5 Quart Galvanized Pail

At some point in his career, every dairy owner runs into the same problem: his cows just don't know what MLB team to cheer for. This galvanized milk bucket quickly answers the question for any confused bovines. Well worth the $15.99 asking price.

Still not convinced? Check out this sales pitch from MLB.com: "They have a waterproof sealed bottom and are great for holding ice, water, dirt, or anything else you would like to carry or hold in these great decorative pail." I'm willing to overlook the singular/plural confusion here, but really, MLB? That's your selling point for a bucket? That it won't leak and you can put stuff in it? Why not just cut to the chase? "This is a bucket. It's just like every other bucket you've ever seen, but with a Cubs logo on the side and more expensive."

2. Fleer New York Mets B2 Stealth Bomber

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You want your kid to play with sports toys, but he loves military ones. What to do? In years past, you probably would have had to send him to live with his grandparents, but now there's room for a compromise! For just $25, you can purchase a die-cast stealth bomber replica covered with Mets logos. There's apparently no underlying logic that ties the team and the plane together, so this novelty is just a sublime bit of licensing absurdity. Really, if Mets fans want to talk about something quiet, fast, and awesomely destructive, they can just recall the team's 2008 bullpen.

3. Baltimore Orioles Father's Day Mr. Potato Head

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Father's Day gifts are tough. Most dads are difficult to shop for, and once you buy the gift, you always worry you've picked out the wrong thing. Remove all of that uncertainty by buying Dad something he definitely won't like. Say, a Mr. Potato Head decked out in Baltimore Orioles gear.

Plunk down $25 and you can get not only your favorite baseball-playing tuber, but also a set of Topps baseball cards of the 2008 Orioles team. This way, your dad will never forget that magical 68-93 season.

4. Caskets and Crematory Urns

pirates-casket.jpgHas a lifetime of being a Pirates fan not been quite enough for you? Now you can take your frustration into the afterlife with a series of MLB-licensed funerary products from Eternal Image, Inc. Since early 2007, the company has been selling MLB-themed urns, and towards the end of 2008, it introduced its first run of MLB caskets. They sold out within a week. The urns, which have an MSRP of $799, come with a baseball as part of the display, although the product's website notes that the family can replace the ball with one from their collection. Just don't take the ball down and play with it; that's a one-way ticket to a haunting.

5. Garden Gnomes

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Wish your garden could show a little more team spirit? Forever Collectibles makes a line of lawn gnomes whose hats feature MLB logos. At this point, fans of certain downtrodden teams will take any luck they can get, so enlisting magical creatures like gnomes might not be a bad idea. (Note to Padres fans: No, you don't already have a gnome. That's David Eckstein, and he's playing second base for the team this season.)

6. ProMark Arizona Diamondbacks Level and Hammer

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When Brandon Webb does home improvement projects, do you think he uses just any old tools? Of course not. If he's got any team loyalty, he picks up his special 10-inch Diamondbacks level and matching hammer before he even starts working. For around $40, you can outfit your own toolbox with the same gear. The grips even look like baseballs. And if that's not enough, the hammer description offers more poetry from MLB.com. "The comfortable molded rubber grip is designed to fit the sport." What sport, baseball or competitive hammering?

7. Team Sports America Cleveland Indians Forest Face

You know what's terrible? Forests. You can blab all you want about the natural beauty of trees and how nothing could possibly improve on their magnificence, but we all know that's bunk. Every tree would be significantly improved if it had a human face and a Cleveland Indians cap on its trunk. Then it would look like people!

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Consider this problem solved. MLB.com will sell you a "forest face" that will allow you to put a mouth, a nose, a pair of eyes, and a team cap on a tree's trunk. MLB.com does not, however, explain to you why you want to enter into this endeavor in the first place.

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New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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iStock

Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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