Out of left field

Out of left field is an idiom that originated in America. We will examine the meaning of the idiom out of left field, from where this expression is derived, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Out of left field describes something that takes one by surprise, something that is unexpected or perhaps incongruous. The phrase out of left field may refer to something that is odd or does not fit. The idiom out of left field is taken from American baseball terminology, and its earliest use seems to stem from the 1950s. Its origin is unknown. Some say it was a phrase borrowed by the songwriters in Tin Pan Alley to mean a song that is a surprise success. Others say that the expression stems from a Chicago ballpark that was located near a mental institution, which was located behind the baseball diamond’s left field. Supposedly, the mental patients heckled players and spectators from behind left field.

Examples

The way they got there had too many unexplained pieces and parts, stuff that came out of left field and stuff that just didn’t make any sense. (The York News-Times)

The former told CNN last week that when Trump told four congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries, it “just came out of left field” and “hit a lot of us in the gut.” (The Stillwater News Press)

Though Denk played it with less transparency than Lambert did, it produced a three-minute-long grin that came out of left field. (The Aspen Times)

Hill’s ethics inquiry came out of left field when Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), a long-standing critic of the project, filed an ethics complaint with the FPPC. (The Los Angeles Times)