HOME | FAMILY TREES | RECOLLECTIONS | SPOTLIGHT ON SOLVAY | READ ABOUT IT | NAME DROPPING

Some baseball nicknames are memorable because of the way they work with the last name. Alliteration is the oldest trick in the book to achieve that effect. The first letter in the nickname doesn't have to be the same as the first letter in the surname so long as the sound is the same. Example: "Kiki" Cuyler. The list that follows is merely a sampling.

Walter William Beck picked up a nickname as a result of one of baseball's most storied incidents. After getting shelled at Philadelphia's notorious Baker Bowl in 1933, pitcher Walt Beck was lifted by his Brooklyn manager, Casey Stengel. The angry Beck threw the ball off the tin fence in right field creating a sound that became his nickname. (The noise also awakened daydreaming Dodger right fielder Hack Wilson who thought the ball had been hit, so he ran to fetch it and made a perfect – and unnecessary – throw to second base.)

And to describe that noise, the word or words had to begin with B, because "Boom-Boom" Beck works a lot better than "Thump-Thump" Beck.

Beck pitched for six teams — St. Louis and Detroit of the American League; Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh of the National League. His 12-season major league career stretched over 21 years, 1924-45. Despite this long career, Beck won only 38 games, losing 69.

Mostly a relief pitcher, Beck did lead the National League in starts in 1933. That season he won 12 games, but lost 20. The year before he won 27 games with only six losses for the Memphis Chickasaws of the Southern League. In 1935, with the Mission (CA) Reds of the Pacific Coast League, he had a 23-18 won-lost record.

Because of his relatively advanced age, Beck remained a civilian during World War Two and pitched in the major leagues through 1945 when he posted a fine 8-5 record with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with a 2.68 earned run average. He was 40 years old at the time.

Pittsburgh then signed Beck to work in their minor league system, and in 1946 he managed York (PA) White Roses of the Interstate League, and posted a 9-7 record as a pitcher. He managed in the minors for three more seasons, then, in 1950, made his final pitching appearances with Toledo of the American Association. He won two games, and lost two. He was 45 years old. Beck died in 1987.

Joseph Louis Benz was best known as Joe Benz, but he had a nickname that occasionally entered the conversation — "Blitzen," inspired by the pitcher's blazing fast ball.

Benz was a pitcher for Chicago White Sox, 1911-19. In 1914, he put together three consecutive remarkable games – a no-hitter. a two-hitter and a one-hitter. Despite that, he had a losing record (15-19) that season.

Benz had arm injuries throughout his career; his lifetime record (77-75) and modest strike out totals indicate his fast ball wasn't as impressive as his nickname indicated.

Bingo Binks. Sounds like a clown on a kids' TV show. Washington Senators fans certainly thought George Alvin Binks was a clown, and were not amused at his 1945 performance in a crucial September game against the Philadelphia Athletics. Center fielder Binks ignored a teammate's suggestion to wear sunglasses.

In the 12th inning the inevitable happened — Binks lost a fly ball in the sun and his misplay opened the door for a Philadelphia victory. Washington finished the season in second place, just one game behind the Detroit Tigers. Binks' poor judgment cost the Senators a shot at the World Series.

Otherwise, the player who called himself "The Magnificent Binks" had an okay season, hitting .278 and driving in 81 runs. He was partially deaf, which made him 4-F during World War II.

Covelli Crisp was one of the few modern day players whose nickname evoked that old-time spirit, even though the cereal that inspired it hasn't been around that long. The nickname was created by Crisp's sister when he was a young boy, because she thought he resembled a character on the Cocoa Krispies cereal box. The name might have been forgotten, but Crisp listed it on a questionnaire when he became a professional baseball player.

Crisp was an outfielder who arrived in the major leagues in 2002 with the Cleveland Indians. Before retiring in 2016, he also played for Boston, Kansas City and Oakland.

His lifetime batting average is .265, though he batted .300 for the Indians in 2005. In 2011, he led the American League in stolen bases, with 49.

According to a 1944 newspaper story, pitcher Arthur Joseph Cuccurullo was classified 4-F by the Army, which made him available throughout World War Two. He pitched for Harrisburg and Lancaster of the Interstate League in 1942, appearing in the league's all-star game.

In 1943, the five-feet-10-inch left-hander had an outstanding year for the Albany Senators of the Eastern League, winning 20 games, against eight losses. The Pittsburgh Pirates purchased him, and brought him up at the end of the season, and he lost his only decision.

In 1944, Cuccurullo appeared in 32 games, starting four of them. He won two, lost one, and had four saves, a statistic tabulated many years after he retired ... because no one had heard of "saves" back then. (The scant bit of information available on Cuccurullo via baseball-reference.com says he was among the National League leaders in saves that season, which may be true, but is hilarious because no one was aware of it at the time.)

He had a 1-3 record for the Pirates in 1945, and returned to the minor leagues, where he remained active until 1950. Cuccurullo showed signs of being a good hitter, batting .327 (17 hits in 56 at bats) while playing for Pittsburgh.

Meet two more Cookies ...

Like many nicknames from the days before political correctness, Hazen Shirley Cuyler received his as an insensitive joke. Early in his career, the outfielder stammered the pronunciation of his last name, and someone made fun of him. Thus "Kiki" came into being. Apparently, he didn't regard the nickname as worse than being called Hazen or Shirley. And while the letters are different, the result is alliterative.

Cuyler once offered a different explanation for his nickname. According to the player, two infielders on one of his minor league teams would yell, "Cuy" when a fly ball was hit his way. He claimed the crowd picked up on it and began yelling, "Cuy Cuy."

I don't buy this story because a center fielder wouldn't need to be told that a ball was headed his way, nor would he have to be told where to throw it afterward. It does suggest that teammates called him, "Cuy," which would mean he was introduced as "Cuy Cuyler." Perhaps that's what led to "Kiki."

Whatever, Cuyler went on to become one of the best in the business, playing 18 major league seasons, and putting up figures that got him elected to the Hall of Fame. His lifetime batting average was .321; he had four seasons of hitting between .354 and .360, two of those with Pittsburgh, two with the Chicago Cubs.

Robert Sterling Detweiler was a third baseman. In 1942, he played 12 games for the Boston Braves, batting .315, then left for three years of military service. After the war he had only one pinch hit appearance in the major leagues. He played in the minors until 1952, when he retired at the age of 33.

Before being called up by the Braves in 1942, he had a 40-game hitting streak with Evansville of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League on his way to a .341 batting average. He was a player-manager for five seasons (1948-52) and set a good example for his players by batting .339 or higher each season.

He said he was called "Ducky" because of his flat feet, though they didn't keep him out of the Army. Like a lot of baseball players, he spent much of his military service playing the sport for various Army teams.

I came across a story about Detweiler in which he recalled an incident while he was player-manager of the Red Spring-Laurinburg team in the Carolina League. There was an advertisement on the fence at the stadium in Smithfield — any player who hit a ball over the sign would win a ham. Detweiler did it, only to discover the "ham" turned out to be a young pig.

"Luckily,, someone offered me $50 for the pig, and I took it."

Later that season he hit another home run that won him a watch. He picked out a ladies' model, and gave it to his wife, who was pregnant at the time.

When he became a grandfather, he said, his grandchildren called him "Pop Duck."

Meet other baseball ducks.

Raymond Harold Flaskamper, usually called Ray, was a short (five-foot-seven), light (140 pounds), switch-hitting shortstop who played 26 games with the Chicago White Sox in 1927. He batted .221, which wasn't good enough to warrant his return in 1928.

Flaskamper, only 26 years old at the time, was the playing manager of the San Antonio Bears of the Texas League when he was purchased by the White Sox. Flaskamper returned to the minors in 1928, and kept playing until 1936, also doing more managing along the way.

Henry Luther "Hinkey" Haines may have fallen short of expectations as a major league baseball player, but he made his mark as an athlete nonetheless.

Like many young men of his time, Haines played more than one sport in college. The native of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, went first to Lebanon Valley College where he immediately became a football star. But he left school to serve in World War I as a lieutenant in the Army.

After the war, he attended Penn State where he was an all-American in both football and baseball. He also played basketball. His football coach, Hugo Bezdek, predicted Haines would be a great major league baseball player. Bezdek had baseball credentials, having managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for three seasons before becoming one of the country's most successful college football coaches.

After two minor league seasons, Hinkey Haines joined the New York Yankees as an outfielder in 1923. This got him into two games in the 1923 World Series against the New York Giants. The Yankees won the Series. For the season Haines had only 25 at bats, getting four hits. Mostly he was used as a pinch runner – because running is what Haines did best. He was one of the fastest athletes of his time.

He went to spring training with the Yankees in 1924 and roomed with Lou Gehrig, whose major league career was just beginning. For Haines, however, it was all over, though he continued to play baseball, albeit in the minors leagues, until 1935. He had a .293 lifetime batting average in 12 minor league seasons.

He spent his autumns playing professional football, and in 1925 joined the New York Giants of the young National Football League. His NFL career was short, by today's standards, but Haines was one of the league's best players. In 1927 he helped the Giants win the NFL Championship, making Haines the only man to play on teams that won both the World Series and NFL titles. Haines had a key role in the 13-7 victory over the Chicago Bears that clinched the championship for the Giants. The teams were tied, 7-7, and the Giants had just made a goal line stand after the Bears decided to go for a touchdown from the one-yard line, rather than kick a field goal. A few plays later, Haines faked a punt from the end zone and completed a 58-yard pass that started the drive that led to the winning score.

Nearly as memorable – and perhaps a tad more dangerous – was Haines' involvement in a stunt engineered by the Giants before a game against the Los Angeles Buccaneers, a team that featured a passer, Brick Muller, known for his ability to throw a football long distances. His best effort was a 72-yard heave, which might not seem special today, but the football in use at the time was almost as round as a basketball and about as difficult to control.

Someone on the Giants, perhaps owner Tim Mara, decided to have one of his players throw a pass from the top of a building to another player down at ground level. To do so, they reversed the usual procedure; that is, they had an end, Lynn Bomar, throw the ball to a back, who happened to be Haines. The distance from the street to the top of the building was 324 feet – or 108 yards.

On the first attempt Bomar's pass hit the sidewalk and the football burst. A couple of throws later, the ball finally made it to Haines, who was across the street in a park. The force was such that the ball knocked Haines to the ground and no catch was made. But they kept trying, and on the fifth attempt Bomar and Haines completed football's longest pass and the Giants got the publicity they were seeking.

After Haines retired from playing, he was the Giants' offensive coach; for awhile he also was an NFL official. He eventually settled in Philadelphia where he found a new interest – theater. Word is he did some acting and directing.

Robert Sidney Hazle broke in with Cincinnati in 1955, carrying the nickname given him a year earlier after a hurricane named Hazel struck his native state of South Carolina. The Reds called him up after Hazel had hit .314 with Nashville of the Southern Association, slamming a career-high 29 home runs. He had only 13 at bats with the Reds, getting three hits, but was still with Cincinnati when spring training began in 1956. However, he was traded to Milwaukee, and sent back to the minors.

An injury to Milwaukee outfielder Bill Bruton in 1957 opened the door for Hazle's return to the majors, and this time he really came on like a hurricane, hitting .403 in 154 at bats to help the Braves win the National League pennant.

However, the next season, when his average dropped to .179, he was plain ol' Bob Hazle, and traded to Detroit. By 1959 he disappeared from the major leagues.

St. Louis native Frank Keck apparently picked up the nickname because he pitched in Texas on his way to the major leagues, though that team was in Houston, which doesn't suggest cactus. Nonetheless, he was dubbed 'Cactus' Keck while pitching for Cincinnati in 1922.

Keck, a sidearm pitcher, won ten games in two seasons with the Reds. He returned to the minor leagues, and spent three seasons with the Texarkana Twins of the East Texas League. In 1926, he won 17 games for the Twins, and the following year won 22 games for the Monroe Drillers of the Cotton States League. He then spent two seasons with the Evansville Hubs of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League before retiring.

Moxie often refers to people with street smarts and nerve; it's also the name of a soft drink popular about the time Merton Merrill Meixell was born (1887), but no one seems to know for sure how the young man wound up with his nickname. I suspect alliteration played a part.

Meixell was an outfielder who retired with a major league batting average of .500 – two at bats, one hit (a single) as a Cleveland pinch hitter in 1912. He had spent most of the summer with the New Orleans Little Pets and Yazoo City Zoos of the Cotton States League, and the Flint Vehicles of the Southern Michigan League, compiling an overall batting average of .323.

After his brief exposure to big league pitching, Meixell returned to the minors and put up mediocre numbers, retiring from professional ball in 1917 as a member of the Fargo-Moorhead Graingrowers of the Northern League. (Love the names of these minor league teams.

Anyway, Merton Merrill "Moxie" Meixell lived a full, long life, dying at the age of 94.

John "Pretzel" Pezzullo was a pitcher who had a 3-5 record with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1935, but in his only 1936 appearance had obvious control problems, walking six batters in two innings. Exit Pretzel, never to return to the major leagues.

Though he was 25 years old as a rookie, Pezzullo had pitched only one season in the minors, posting a fine 16-4 record with Richmond of the Piedmont League. In 1938 he had his best year as a professional, winning 26 games with Savannah of the South Atlantic League (aka Sally League). His career minor league record was 91-65.

I found nothing to explain his nickname. Perhaps it had something to do with the way he curled his body when he pitched, maybe it was all in the interests of alliteration.

Clarke Alonzo Pittenger was a utility player (SS-3B-2B-OF) for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, playing parts of seven seasons during the 1920s. He had 959 at bats in 373 games, hit .263 with one home run.

No word on just how he picked up his nickname, though Pinky wasn't unusual in his time. Pinky Hargrave and Pinky Higgins come to mind.

How did Wilbur Charles Roach, a son of a violin maker, wind up as a baseball player nicknamed Roxey? No one knows for sure, though baseball-reference.com seems to think he may have been named after an obscure 19th century catcher, but I don't think so.

You can find a wealth of information about the Roach family online, though the best material is about Selman "Sol" Roach, who was Roxey's father. Sol Roach was a crack shot who appeared in exhibitions with Buffalo Bill Cody, and a hunter who was almost legendary in parts of Pennsylvania. He also made violins.

He passed his love of fishing and hunting on to his son, Wilbur, who preferred baseball, basketball and boxing to anything concerning the violin. According to bits and pieces I saw from the Roach family, Wilbur's first venture into a sports career was as a boxer known as "Rocky" Roach. They believe "Rocky" morphed into "Roxey," and had nothing to do with any catcher.

By 1906, the 23-year-old Roach had hung up his boxing gloves, and turned to baseball, playing for the Punxsutawny Policeman of the Interstate League. And for four seasons he played minor league baseball for various Pennsylvania teams until, in 1909, he batted .303 for the Lancaster Red Roses of the Tri-State League, and was noticed by the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees).

He'd played professional basketball the winter before, with teams in Uniontown and Johnstown, members of the Central Basketball League, and, I believe, continued to play semi-pro basketball for several years afterward.

Anyway, the 27-year-old rookie played 55 games at shortstop for the Highlanders in 1910, plus a few games in the outfield. He batted .214, and was still with the team when the 1911 season began, but then was sent to play for the Jersey City Skeeters of the Eastern League.

Roach was a traveling man in 1912, going to Washington long enough to hit a home run in one of his two at bats with the Senators, but dividing the rest of his time between Jersey City and the Baltimore Orioles of the International League.

In 1913 and 1914, he was with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League, then joined the Buffalo Blues of the Federal League in 1915. (Buffalo's Bisons continued to field a team in the International League.) Roach batted .269 for the Blues, who finished sixth. He also played with Toronto of the International League that same summer.

The Federal League folded, and Roach landed in the American Association, where he finished his baseball career, playing three seasons with Louisville, his final season with Columbus.

He went home to Windber, Pennsylvania, and was in the news in 1924 for another sport — trap shooting, winning a state tournament. (His wife won the woman's division the year before.) Roach also coached local baseball teams, but it was also in 1924 that he left Windber, and moved to Tawas City, Michigan, where he owned a Ford Motor agency (which he would lose in the depression). Later he worked for the National Gypsum Company.

Remaining in Windber was one of Roach's 14 children, John Selman Roach, who then lived with his parents. John Roach would go on to play semi-pro basketball and pro baseball in the Mid-Atlantic League, then become a teacher and coach.

As for Roxey Roach, he may be he second most famous baseball fisherman (after Ted Williams). According to the website, flyanglersonline.com, Roach was not a professional guide, but his fish camp on the East Branch of the Au Sable River always found room for strangers. He never sold a fly, but gave them away, and some of them apparently remain popular among fishermen..

Roach lost two wives to illness, but married a third time. In all he had 14 children, all of whom survived him when he died in 1947, as did his third wife. The United Press obituary said that in addition to being a champion trap shooter, he was the handler of a grand champion English setter.

George Shuba usually was known by his first name, but it was his nickname that set him apart from other players who displayed great potential in the minor leagues, but were slow to find a season-long spot on a major league roster.

The left-hand hitting Shuba had what baseball experts considered one of the best swings in the game, and he became known for the sound of his bat meeting the ball, and the force and trajectory of his line drives. Someone commented that it looked like he was firing a shotgun, and his nickname was born.

An outfielder-pinch hitter, his .259 lifetime average doesn't reflect the hitting reputation he established in the minor leagues. Shuba remained with the Brooklyn Dodger organization and played at least parts of seven seasons in the majors. He did hit .305 in 1953 (in 256 at bats) and was 11-for-29 (.379) as a pinch hitter in 1955. In 1953, against the New York Yankees, Shuba became the first National Leaguer pinch hitter to record a home run in the World Series.

He batted .389 in 74 games for the Mobile Bears of the Southern Association in 1948, and the next season returned to Mobile to hit 28 home runs in just 113 games, with a .328 batting average. In Montreal, in 1951, he batted .310 in 92 games, with 20 home runs.

Shuba was playing for Montreal on opening day in 1946 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in organized baseball. Robinson hit a home run, and was greeted at home plate by Shuba, the next batter, who shook Robinson's hand, a moment that was captured by an Associated Press photographer.

It was a nice gesture, but Shuba didn't remain with Montreal very long. His batting average was only .200, so he was sent back to Mobile, where he had hit .320 the season before. Meanwhile, Robinson batted .349 and led the Royals to the International League championship.

During his 15-season minor league career, Cecil Washington Tyson was widely known as "Turkey," but sometimes called "Slim."

Tyson had minor league seasons in which he batted .363, .380, and .349. His lifetime batting average was .309, but he never rose above the Class A level — except for one at bat with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1944, at the height of the World War Two player shortage.

Why Tyson was called "Slim" was understandable — he stood six-foot-five, though, as an adult, he was not particularly skinny, weighing 225 pounds. Where "Turkey" came from, no one says. Oddly, despite his size, Turkey Tyson didn't have power, hitting only 18 home runs, just a fraction more than one a year.

However, he did have a temper, often arguing with umpires, and sometimes instigating brawls on the field. One fight, in 1945 while he was playing for Utica of the Eastern League, got Tyson suspended "indefinitely." But "indefinitely" turned out to be only 15 days.

In 1947, Tyson was with the Class C Durham (NC) Bulls of the Carolina League. He batted .349 for the season, but in one game the Bulls erupted to score 17 runs in one inning. Somehow, Tyson managed to make two of the team's outs in that inning, doing it in the most embarrassing manner possible — he struck out both times. (The player-manager that season had a perfect name for Durham — Willie Duke, an outfielder who led by example: His batting average was .385.)

Tyson was a native of Elm City, North Carolina, and when his baseball days finally ended, he returned home and was involved in the tobacco business.

Major league baseball had another "Turkey"; his name was Ewell G. Gross. How,, when and why the nickname originated is a mystery, but he's a good example of the difference between alliteration and two names that do nothing for each other. Granted, Turkey Tyson is helped a bit by the Tyson Chicken connection, but his name is catchy, whereas Turkey Gross is memorable only if you imagine your teenaged son inviting a vegetarian girl friend to Thanksgiving dinner: "Turkey? Gross!!"

Gross was a shortstop who spent nine of his 12 minor league seasons in the Texas League, fitting because that was his home state. (He was born in Mesquite.) He played nine games with the Boston Red Sox in 1925, getting three hits in 34 at bats (.094). He batted about .270 in the minors, and apparently was an adequate fielder.

The best Turkey of them all was Norman Thomas Stearnes, who played in the Negro League, and was so good he was elected to the Hall of Fame. In recent years, catcher Josh Gibson has gotten a lot of attention, some saying he was just as good a home run hitter — perhaps better — than Babe Ruth. Overlooked was Turkey Stearnes, who may have been a better hitter than both men.

There have been two Rasty Wrights in major league baseball, the second one most likely named after the first, though I've yet to find a reason why William Smith Wright, a 19th century ballplayer, was nicknamed "Rasty."

Wayne Bromley Wright (below), who came along many years later, was the second "Rasty." Perhaps the word meant something back in the late 1800s, though I suspect people thought "Rasty Wright" was catchy, which is why several other Wrights — men who didn't play baseball — also got tagged with the nickname.

The original Rasty Wright played only one year with what were then considered major league teams, but his story is the more interesting of the two. He was an outfielder for the 1890 Syracuse Stars of the American Association. He batted .305, but was released after 88 games. He finished the season with the lowly Cleveland Spiders of the National League, batting .111.

Syracuse Stars officials shouldn't have been surprised by Wright's free-wheeling, often confrontational behavior, because he'd spent two previous seasons with the team when it was a member of the International Association, then the International League. He batted .349 for the Stars in 1888, .310 a year later.

After his miserable showing in Cleveland, Wright never played another game in the major leagues, but became the 19th Century version of Jigger Statz, the legendary player who hit very well in the majors, but settled for a career in the minors, mostly the Pacific Coast League, and had more than 4,000 hits when he retired.

Wright spent 1891 with three minor league teams — the Detroit Wolverines of the Northwest League, and St. Paul/Duluth and Omaha of the Western Association — and batted .352. He then west to the West Coast and played for the Los Angeles Seraphs of the California League in 1892, batting .292. The team became the Angels in 1893, but remained in the California League, and Wright batted .350.

In 1894, he was the player-manager of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Rippers, and batted .423, with 233 hits. He batted .408 (with 224 hits) the next season with Grand Rapids, but lost his job as manager. Wright had given the team the nickname, "Rippers," but when he was replaced as manager, the team became known as the Gold Bugs. Go figure.

With the Newark Colts of the Atlantic League in 1896 and 1897, Wright batted .385 and .372. In 1898, he batted .371 for Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League. He seems to have retired after the 1899 season when he played for Buffalo of the Western League (no statistics available) and the Paterson Giants of the Atlantic League (batting .462 in 52 at bats).

Statistics are incomplete for his 15 seasons in the minor leagues — he is credited so far with 1,859 hits — but it is believed that Rasty Wright was the first man to have more than 2,000 hits at that level.

The second Rasty Wright — actually, there was a third, but he never made it out of the minor leagues — went to Ohio State University, then pitched one season in the Western League with the St. Joseph Drummers/Hutchinson Wheatshockers, and was more impressive than his 16-21 record would indicate.

He also got into 16 games with the St. Louis Browns of the American League, and remained with them for the next two seasons, during which he won eight games, losing seven, mostly in relief. After two seasons with Louisville of the American Association, Wright was back with the Browns in 1922 and '23, winning 16 games against 11 losses.

After a year off, he spent four seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. having his best season in 1926 when he won 19 games. After a losing season (5-8) in 1928, he was released by Los Angeles, and finished his career in 1929 with the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association.

Did Clarence Yaryan really get his nickname from the sweet potato? Had he become more famous, someone might have provided the answer, along with a hint about how to pronounce his last name.

Statistics available on baseball-reference.com indicate he spent his first four seasons (1917-20) of professional ball with the Wichita Jobbers of the Western League, starting when he was 24 years old. After two unremarkable years in which he batted .262 and .230, hitting six home runs in 1917, and four the next year, Yaryan improved to .273 in 1919, with 12 home runs. In 1920 he must have been eating lots of Wheaties or spinach, because his batting average soared to .357 and he hit 41 home runs, an incredible total at that time. That was 11 more than teammate Fred Beck, and more than twice as many home runs hit by any other player in the league.

Yaryan spent 1921 with the Chicago White Sox, playing in 45 games. He batted .305, with no home runs, but in 1922 his batting average dipped to .197, and he was sent to Toledo of the American Association. He remained in the minor leagues forever after, spending five season (1926-30) with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association, batting .340 or higher each year.

He made up for his late start by playing and managing in the minor leagues until he was 47 years old, and in his last season appeared in 86 games with the Brewton Millers of the Alabama State League, and batted .302.

These days George Washington Zabel is recalled mostly for a nickname that was seldom used. It was traced to a Kansas newspaper reporter's account of a game Zabel pitched as a teenager. It surfaced again in his obituary in 1970, but during his brief professional career, Zabel was known as George.

He was a right-handed pitcher known for his wicked curve ball. In 1915, with the Chicago Cubs, he pitched 18-1/3 innings in relief in a win over Brooklyn. That's the longest relief stint in major league history, made possible by his entering the game in the first inning.

Great things were expected of Zabel, but the next season he was in the Pacific Coast League, winning 17 games for the Los Angeles Angels, and in 1917 he pitched for Toronto of the International League. The United States was involved in World War One by then, and players were rather strongly encouraged to either enlist in the armed forces or find jobs in war-related industries. I believe that's how Zabel, a native of Wetmore, Kansas, wound up in Beloit, Wisconsin, working for Fairbanks-Morse, a company that made gasoline engines.

Fairbanks-Morse also had a baseball team — it was nicknamed "The Fairies" — and its members in 1919 at least briefly numbered a few other players with major league experience, including former White Sox pitcher Jim Scott, who'd spent the previous year in the Army. (Scott soon left the team to join San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League.)

Zabel never returned to professional baseball. He was the mainstay of the Fairbanks-Morse pitching staff, and in 1919 had a winning streak that reached at least 19 games. He settled in Beloit, and later served 10 years on the Rock County board of supervisors and one year on the Beloit city council.

 
HOME CONTACT