A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 23, 2013
“A game of inches” (sports saying)

The expression “game of inches” means that there is a very close line between winning and losing. “Football is a game of inches, not yards” was cited in print in November 1941, credited to University of Illinois college football coach Robert Zuppke (1879-1957). The saying “game of inches” became popular in the 1950s, when it was also said of baseball and tennis.


15 November 1941, Canton (OH) Repository, pg. 9, col. 6:
Inches count.
It was a game of inches. Passing missed by inches, runners stepped out of bounds by inches, tacklers overhauled ball carriers by inches kept followers of both elevens on their feet during the clash.
(A football game—ed.)

30 November 1941, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Zuppke Said It” by F. W., pg. 1-B, col. 1:
Football is a game of inches, not yards.
(College football coach Robert Zuppke—ed.)

11 March 1954, Springfield (MA) Union, pg. 33, col. 3
GAME OF INCHES
Atlantic City, N. J., March 10 (AP)—Hugh Daugherty, new head coach at Michigan State College, said today football is a “game of inches” where only constant practice insures that players will move the right way at the right time.

Google News Archive
10 October 1957, Sarasota (FL) Journal, “A Game Of Inches Says Yank,” pg. 26, col. 2:
NEW YORK (AP) - “Baseball is a game of inches.”

That’s what Hank Bauer said yesterday when he learned the home run he hit to win the sixth World Series game was fair by exactly one inch.

Google Books
Man with a Racket:
The Autobiography of Pancho Gonzales

By Pancho Gonzales with Cy Rice
New York, NY: A.S. Barnes and Co.
1959
Pg. 27:
That’s the heartache of tennis — it’s a game of inches.

OCLC WorldCat record
Bunts : Curt Flood, Camden Yards, Pete Rose, and other reflections on baseball
Author: George F Will
Publisher: New York, NY : Scribner, ©1998.
Edition/Format: Book : English
Summary: Contains over seventy essays by columnist George Will in which he tells stories of America’s favorite pastime, and includes an examination of baseball’s evolution through the twentieth century.
Contents: Steve Palermo’s game of inches

The Internet Movie Database
Any Given Sunday (1999)
Quotes

Tony D’Amato: I don’t know what to say, really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives. All comes down to today, and either, we heal as a team, or we’re gonna crumble. Inch by inch, play by play. Until we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me. And, we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell… one inch at a time. Now I can’t do it for ya, I’m too old. I look around, I see these young faces and I think, I mean, I’ve made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I, uh, I’ve pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. You know, when you get old, in life, things get taken from you. I mean, that’s… that’s… that’s a part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losin’ stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game - life or football - the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying! I’ll tell you this, in any fight it’s the guy whose willing to die whose gonna win that inch. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face. Now I can’t make you do it. You’ve got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think ya going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. Your gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team, because he knows when it comes down to it your gonna do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen, and either, we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys, that’s all it is. Now, what are you gonna do?

OCLC WorldCat record
A Game of Inches: Spontaneous Use of Counterfactuals by Broadcasters During Major League Baseball Playoffs1
Author: Lawrence J Sanna; Craig D Parks; Susanne Meier; Edward C Chang; Briana R Kassin; All authors
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: Journal of Applied Social Psychology, v33 n3 (200303): 455-475
Database: CrossRef
Other Databases: British Library Serials; ArticleFirst

OCLC WorldCat recprd
A game of inches : the stories behind the innovations that shaped baseball : the game on the field
Author: Peter Morris
Publisher: Chicago : Ivan R. Dee, ©2006.
Edition/Format: Book : Biography : English
Summary: “The scope of A Game of Inches is encyclopedic, with nearly a thousand entries that illuminate the origins of items ranging from catchers’ masks to hook slides to intentional walks to cork-center baseballs. But this is much more than just a reference guide. Along the way, award-winning author Peter Morris has a sharp eye for the telling quote and the entertaining anecdote. He explains the context that led each new feature of the game to emerge when it did, and chronicles the often surprising responses to these innovations."--Jacket.

New York (NY) Times—Bats (baseball blog)
May 30, 2008, 6:40 am
Why Baseball Really Is a Game of Inches
By TYLER KEPNER
(...)
“The one pitch I hit to Jeter started out on the barrel and ran this far off the plate — a soft line drive off end of bat,” Scott said. “If the ball doesn’t run so much and it’s more on the plate, that ball’s in the gap for a double. This is the difference, two inches.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Tuesday, July 23, 2013 • Permalink