As cliché as it sounds, baseball is indeed America's pastime. To this day, the sport remains one of the country's most beloved athletic pursuits. But for those who are just learning the difference between a strike and a foul, the extent of the terminology used in the game might be a little overwhelming.
Thankfully, most of the elements of baseball have pretty simple explanations when you look into them. Case-in-point: the bullpen, one of the most famous elements of a baseball field. So, what exactly is a bullpen, how did it get its name, and what's the deal with the controversy around it currently? Here's what to know.
Why does baseball call it a "bullpen"? The name actually makes a lot of sense.
A bullpen on a baseball field is typically a predetermined area where each team's relief pitchers warm up before going on to the field. The bullpen also refers to the specific relief pitchers that a team has on hand.
A lot of theories exist regarding how the term bullpen came about, but a couple of commonly accepted ones involve dairy farms and rodeos, where cattle had to be herded. On a dairy farm, bulls are penned separately from cows, but still in sight of their eventual mates, in an effort to get them ready for action. In rodeo terms, bulls were held in a separate pen before being released into the arena.
However, the earliest usage of the term in relation to baseball reportedly dates back to May 7, 1877, when writer O.P. Caylor wrote the following in a game recap for The Cincinnati Enquirer: "The bull-pen at the Cincinnati grounds with its 'three for a quarter crowd' has lost its usefulness. The bleacher boards just north of the old pavilion now holds the cheap crowd, which comes in at the end of the first inning on a discount."
The newspaper notes today that people around that time period often referred to jails and holding cells as bullpens, and that Caylor was referring in his article to foul territory between the field and the stands where typically rowdy fans loitered — so it makes sense why he would have used the term to describe that area.
These areas eventually became the ones in which pitchers warmed up, and it appears that the term "bullpen" came with it.
Each team almost always has its own bullpen, which tends to be found behind the outfield fence in the out-of-play area in most MLB stadiums. The bullpen itself consists of two pitching rubbers and plates which are placed at the game's regulation distance from one another.
There are currently two professional stadiums where the bullpen is located in a playable foul area: Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Cal., and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
PETA is now calling for the MLB to rename the bullpen as the "arm barn."
In a press release issued by PETA on Oct. 28, 2021, the organization expressed its disdain for the term bullpen and said instead that the MLB should rename the zone as the "arm barn."
"Words matter and baseball 'bullpens' devalue talented players and mock the misery of sensitive animals," the organization's executive vice president Tracy Reiman explained. "PETA encourages Major League Baseball coaches, announcers, players, and fans to change up their language and embrace the 'arm barn' instead."
PETA further noted that this new stance directly reflects their organization's ideology, writing, "animals are not ours to abuse in any way," and adding that the group vehemently "opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview."
The organization tweeted that the term bullpen "refers to the area of a 'bull’s pen' where bulls are held before they are slaughtered." They claimed that "switching to 'arm barn' would be a home run for baseball fans, players, and animals."
Naturally, this suggestion from PETA was met with quite a bit of mockery from longtime baseball fans.
"If PETA is this upset of the term “bullpen” because it’s insensitive to cows just wait until they find out what a baseball is made from," wrote one user on Twitter.
"If I was donating money to PETA (I’m not) I’d be pretty f---ing pissed that this is what they were spending resources on. Fight the good fight for animals, but this is just bonkers," chimed in another user.