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"Take one for the team" is a ubiquitous expression that can quickly be understood as putting yourself in an unfavorable position for the benefit of the larger group. But the expression itself references a team rather than "take one for us" or "take one for the group".

Is there a specific sport this phrase originally referred to before the general public started using it?

1 Answer 1

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Is there a specific sport this phrase originally referred to before the general public started using it?

Yes. Baseball.

From idiomorigins.org:

Take one for the team

This expression derives from baseball and dates from the latter half of the 20th century c. 1970, and means that a player takes a pitch on the body in order to move to first base i.e. the player is making a sacrifice on behalf of the team. The player has to be careful because the umpire can penalise the player if the umpire believes it is deliberate. The expression has moved on to other sports, like (association) football, for example, where it means to commit a cynical foul and risk a yellow card in order to stop an opposing player from moving into a potential goal-scoring position. It is now frequently used outside of sporting contexts where it means to accept some chore or hardship for the sake of one's colleagues or friends.

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  • Just as an aside, in 1990 the laws of football were changed to make the so-called "professional foul" a red card offence.
    – richardb
    Feb 22 at 8:37
  • @richardb Of course that's football as we know it Richard. Our transatlantic friends would prefer "soccer".
    – BoldBen
    Feb 22 at 9:06
  • @richardb It is, however, seldom given a red card - unless "it is done to prevent a clear goal-scoring opportunity". Every week players commit yellow-card offences, where the commentators adjudge that "he took one for the team".
    – WS2
    Feb 22 at 20:45
  • @BoldBen Well they'll have to get used to us calling it football. It is by a thousand miles the world's most important spectator sport, played in every country on the planet, and called something that roughly translates as "football" virtually everywhere - except the USA!
    – WS2
    Feb 22 at 20:48
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    @Acccumulation The expectation in baseball is that players and coaches will conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner at all times. Moving so as to get hit is extremely unsportsmanlike conduct. Even standing ones ground is not sportsmanlike conduct. The sportsmanlike thing to do regarding a pitch that would otherwise hit the batter is for the batter to try move so as to avoid being hit by the pitch. That doesn't always work; batters are hit by pitches with regularity. Sometimes it's because the batter couldn't avoid being hit. But sometimes it's because the batter took one for the team. Feb 23 at 10:36

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