To “take one for the team” means a personal sacrifice a player makes for the benefit of the team. The expression began in baseball and has been cited in print since at least 1969. A player who is hit by a pitch is usually awarded first base; such a player who takes a painful hit from a baseball has been said to “take one for the team.” However, it is illegal to crowd the plate and walk into the pitch, purposely trying to get hit. “Take one for the team” is also said of a baseball player who makes a sacrifice (such as a sacrifice fly or a sacrifice bunt) to advance a runner on base.
“Take one for the team” has had an extended use to describe a player taking performance-enhancing drugs, both legal and illegal.
The saying “take one for the team” has been used in business and government. A politician who goes against personal interests to follow the dictates of his or her political party is said to “take one for the team” (the Democratic party or the Republican party, for example).
Wiktionary: take one for the team
By analogy with sports teams when a player makes a sacrifice for the benefit of the team
to take one for the team
1.(idiomatic, informal) To accept some chore or hardship for the sake of one’s friends or colleagues.
Hit by Pitch
When a Batter Should Not be Awarded First Base
It may seem obvious when a batter is hit by a pitch and awarded first base, but there are some cases where a base may not be awarded.
•If the batter makes no attempt to get out of the way of the ball. This normally occurs at higher levels of baseball where a player may “take one for the team”. Make sure to check your rule book as some leagues will allow this. What is not allowed is for a player to intentionally get in the way of the ball. For example a player cannot turn his shoulder in towards the plate for the purpose of getting hit by the ball.
26 March 1969, The Brazosport Facts (Freeport, TX), “Kelly, Shippers shutout CC” by Jesse Miller, sec. 1, pg. 10, col. 5:
Smith then “took one for the team” as losing pitcher Mike Bolden sent him into the dirt with a duster and the Ships had men on first and second.
7 April 1976, The Facts (Freeport, TX), “Exporters start district with big win at Santa Fe” by Don Pearson, pg. 6A, cols. 3-4:
Shortstop Reggie Williams led the inning by “taking one for the team” and was awarded first base on after getting hit by the pitch.
18 May 1977, The Morning Union (Springfield, MA), “Millers rally, 8-7” by Mike Bogen, pg. 33, col. 4:
HOLYOKE—Lanny Phillips gave some credence to the old baseball expression “take one for the team” Tuesday night.
1 April 1979, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, “Jags victims of squeeze play” by Gene Ballard, pg. 1C, col. 2:
Braves pinch-hitter David Rothstein took one for the team when he stuck his shoulder in the way of an Arrington pitch and was sacrificed to second.
20 June 1980, The Post (Frederick, MD), “Bristol defends fight” (AP), pg. B3, col. 1:
Giant players and coaches were stunned by the incident and several players asked a reporter present to “take one for the team” and keep the incident quiet.
23 May 1987, The Times (Trenton, NJ), “Leave this fad out west” by Tony Persichilli, pg. D7, col. 4:
It consists of having batters lean into pitches in order to draw the walk. It used to be known as “taking one for the team” but under any name it is a very dangerous and stupid practice.
OCLC WorldCat record
Taking one for the team : the new thinking on young athletes and dietary supplements
Author: Mike Perko; Jeffrey Holden Schroeder
Publisher: Dubuque, IA : Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co., ©2002.
Edition/Format: Book : English
Washington Post—The Fix by Chris Cillizza
Mitt Romney mocks Rick Santorum’s ‘take one for the team’ in ad
Posted by Rachel Weinerat 12:29 PM ET, 03/01/2012
One of former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum’s biggest stumbles in last week’s debate? Saying he voted for No Child Left Behind to “take one for the team.”