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It is neither unkind nor untrue to say that, in some ways, baseball is for the birds. Several players either have given or natural names of various birds, or were nicknamed because of some real or imagined resemblance to a particular kind of bird. So welcome to my baseball aviary. The players are listed in no special order.
 


His hairless head earned William Frank Isbell his nickname, but he was better known by his middle name. He played in the National League in 1898 with the Chicago Orphans (later the Cubs). In 1900 he joined the Chicago White Stockings, then a member of the minor league Western Association which morphed into the American League. Isbell remained with the White Stockings (renamed the White Sox in 1904) through 1909.

He began as a pitcher, going 4-7 in 1898, but from 1901-09 was mostly a first baseman, though he also played some second base and the outfield. His lifetime batting average was .250. From 1910-1917, he managed in the minor leagues.

Kenneth Smith Harrelson, born in 1941, in Woodruff, South Carolina, spent his teen years in Savannah, Georgia, where he developed into a hard-hitting baseball prospect who went on to play nine seasons in the American League with the Kansas City Athletics, Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians until his career was ended prematurely by the effects of a broken leg suffered in spring training.

Harrelson played first base and the outfield, and had his best season with the Red Sox in 1968, when he batted .275, hit 35 home runs, and drove in 109 runs. Boston unexpectedly traded him to Cleveland in 1969; he finished the season with 30 home runs. His batting average was low (.221) but he drew 99 bases on balls, raising his on-base percentage to .336. He stole 17 bases, a career high for the slugger who stood six-foot-two, and weighed 190 pounds.

It was in 1970 that he broke his left leg sliding into second base in an exhibition game. When he attempted to come back — later that season and again in 1971 — he decided it was time to retire from baseball, and try something else. That "something else" was professional golf, but he wasn't successful at it.

So he went back to baseball, this time as an announcer, mostly broadcasting Chicago White Sox games, though for awhile he was the team's general manager. He broadcast his last game last season (2018). 

His nose — which really does look like a hawk's beak — was broken a few times while growing up. He says he received his nickname from teammate Dick Howser when they played in an instructional league in 1959. Howser thought Harrelson resembled a character in a comic strip, and began calling Harrelson "Henrietta Hawk," but soon dropped the first half of the nickname.

It's an interesting story, except, as far as I can tell, there was no such character as Henrietta Hawk in any comic strip. There was, however, a Henrietta Hen who showed up occasionally with Foghorn Leghorn and a bird named Henery Hawk. (That's right — Henery.)

But as far as I'm concerned, Harrelson has always looked more like a real hawk than any comic strip character.

Like Ken Harrelson, pitcher Clay Carroll got his nickname because of his nose. Carroll enjoyed a 15-season major league careers, mostly with Cincinnati (eight years), but also with Atlanta, the Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh and St. Louis Cardinals.

Carroll pitched in 731 games, had 86 wins and 73 losses. Three times he had double-digit wins for Cincinnati. He was a two-time all-star who picked up two World Series victories along the way, against Baltimore in 1970, and against Boston in 1975, when Cincinnati's Big Red Machine was at its best.

He endured a personal tragedy a few years after he retired and settled in Bradenton, Florida. On November 16, 1985, four years after he married his second wife, Frances Nowitzke, a widow with two children, her older son, Frederick, killed his mother and a stepbrother, and shot Carroll in the face. He recovered, and moved to Chattanooga. The native of Clanton, Alabama has been inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Other baseball Hawks
Well-remembered Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca, who enjoyed a 12-season major league career, received his nickname because of his hawk-like profile, though I seldom heard or saw much mention of this. Branca was a three-time National League all-star who won 21 games in 1947, but is most famous (or infamous, depending on your team allegiance) for serving up the pitch that Bobby Thomson hit for a home run to win the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants. Late in his career he played two seasons with the Detroit Tigers and one with the New York Yankees.

For Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson, his nose was not involved in his nickname. Dawson was dubbed "Hawk" as a youngster because one of his uncles thought he had a hawk eye in determining when pitches were in the strike zone. Dawson had 2,774 hits and 438 runs batted in during a major league career that spanned 21 years. His best season was 1987 with the Chicago Cubs when he hit 49 home runs and drove in 137 runs.

Outfielder Aaron Pointer, who played 40 games for Houston in the 1960s, is better known as the brother of the singing Pointer Sisters. He, too, was nicknamed "Hawk," and after he retired from baseball, he became an official in the National Football League.

Catcher-outfielder Bob Taylor, a 1957 bonus baby (which required the Milwaukee Braves to keep him on the roster for two years while he was a teenager) was also nicknamed "Hawk," perhaps because of his nose, but I'm not sure. He was in and out of the majors until 1970. In addition to the Braves, he played for the New York Mets, California Angels and Kansas City Royals. He retired in 1971 after a season with Louisville of the American Association.

Outfielder, Bill Mueller, also had "Hawk" for a nickname. He got into 39 games with the Chicago White Sox in 1942 and 1945, spending 1943 and '44 in the U. S. Navy. He retired in 1946 and went into the jewelry business, owning stores in and around St. Louis. He died in 2001.

Catcher Ken Silvestri was definitely nicknamed "Hawk" because of his nose, though that wasn't significant enough to warrant a mention in the SABR article linked to his name. He was a major leaguer from 1939 to 1951, except for four years in military service (1942-45). However, he played in only 102 games, and had a .217 batting average in 203 at bats. He also was a minor league manager a few years, then a coach with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves.

Versatile Howie Shanks, who played several positions during a 14-season major league career (1912-25), is listed in baseball-reference.com as being nicknamed "Hawk," but that isn't mentioned in his SABR article either. Shanks played 11 seasons with Washington, two with the Boston Red Sox, and one with the Yankees. He was a consistent hitter, usually in the .250 to .260 range, but in 1921 he batted .302 with the Senators, and led the American league in triples (18).

Coming by a bird name naturally was Ed Hawk, who popped into the major leagues briefly in 1911, starting four games for the St. Louis Browns, and losing them all. He did his best pitching for the Burlington (Iowa) Pathfinders of the Central Association, winning 32 games in two seasons.

Who knows how good William Victor "Bill" Hawke, would have been if he hadn't fallen off a horse in 1895, just before he was to report for another season with the Baltimore Orioles of the National League. He'd been a major league pitcher for three seasons, throwing a no-hitter in 1893, and posting a 16-9 record in 1894. He broke the wrist on his pitching arm, an injury that was slow to heal. The wrist has to be re-broken along the way. Five years passed before Hawke returned to professional baseball, but he just didn't have it anymore, perhaps because his health already was failing. He died in 1902, at the age of 32.

Tom Long, a left-handed pitcher who made one appearance with Brooklyn in 1924, stood five-foot-nine, but perhaps seemed shorter, because his nickname was "Little Hawk."

Outfielder Miki Mahtook, who has played with Tampa Bay and Detroit, is nicknamed "Night Hawk."

And then there are two "Hawks" so obvious I don't consider them real nicknames, merely words that denote familiarity. The players involved are two pitchers — Andy Hawkins, who played for 10 seasons (1982-91) with San Diego, the Yankees, and Oakland, and Wynn Hawkins, who played for Cleveland (1960-62). In both cases, the use of "Hawk" replaced both the first and second names, as in, "Hey, Hawk, how the hell are you?" Andy Hawkins should have been called "Hard Luck." Read his story if you don't already know why.


We either have two birds with one name, or one bird of prey that comes in several varieties with several names.

Nelson Louis "Chicken" Hawks came out of California's Santa Clara College and played 41 games for the New York Yankees in 1921, mostly as a pinch hitter, doing very well in that capacity, with eight hits in 23 at bats. He also played 15 games in the outfield.

He dropped down to the minor leagues until 1925 when he played first base for the Philadelphia Phillies, batting .322. You'd think that would keep him around awhile, but apparently his fielding — worst among National League first basemen — doomed him to a return trip to the minors where he had a .306 lifetime batting average over 11 seasons.

Philip Raymond Regan was a relief pitcher who always seemed to be hovering around to clean up the mess created by another hurler. Regan pitched in the major leagues for 13 seasons. He was a starting pitcher with Detroit, but went to the bullpen when he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, leading the National Leagues in saves in 1966 and 1968. He also pitched for Chicago Cubs, and (briefly) the Chicago White Sox.

With the Dodgers in '66, he had a 14-1 record to go with his 21 saves. His earned run average was 1.62, and he was selected for the All-Star team. After retiring, he was the baseball coach at Grand Valley State College, then became the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners, the Cleveland Indians, and Chicago Cubs. He managed the Baltimore Orioles in 1995, and the Albuquerque Dukes the next year, then coached Team USA in the 2000 Olympics.

Frank Peter Joseph Crosetti was better known as Frankie, and given the obvious nickname, "The Crow."

Crosetti was one of several players who came out of San Francisco in the 1920s and ‘30s. (Some of the others included the three DiMaggio brothers, Lefty O'Doul, Tony Lazzeri and Ping Bodie.)

The shortstop joined his hometown Seals when he was just 17, and remained with them four seasons, improving ever year — from a batting average of .248 in 1928, to .314 the following season, to .334 in 1930, and .343 in his final season in the Pacific Coast League.

He joined the New York Yankees in 1932, and wore pinstripes until 1948, though he was a part-time player during several of his 17 seasons. Never much of a hitting threat in the majors, Crosetti’s lifetime batting average was .245. His best season was 1936 when he hit .288, with 15 home runs and 78 runs batted in. He scored 137 runs that season, a career high, and scored 109 runs or more for the next three years.

When he retired as a player, he became the Yankees’ third base coach, a job he held until 1968. He died in Stockton, California, in 2002. He was 91.

The list of major league players includes five who had the last name Crow (or Crowe). There's Aaron Crow, a relief pitcher for Kansas City (2011-14), who played in the Mexican League in 2018; outfielder Trevor Crow played with Cleveland (2009-11) and Houston (2013) before retiring in 2014; relief pitcher Dean Crow made 32 appearance with Detroit in 1998, winning two games, losing two, and Don Crow was a catcher who got into four games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1982.

Best of the bunch was George Crowe, a first baseman who, from 1952-61, played for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves, Cincinnati, and the St. Louis Cardinals. He began in the Negro Leagues (1947-48). His best year in the majors was 1957 when he hit 31 home runs for Cincinnati.


The story of how Clifford Carlton Cravath became "Gavy" or "Gavvy," is almost too weird to be true, but if a Randy Johnson fastball could kill a bird that flew in front of home plate at the wrong time (it really happened; I've seen the tape), then I suppose a Cravath line drive could have killed a sea gull in flight.

It happened while Cravath was playing with Los Angeles of the Pacific League. Spanish fans started chanting, "Gaviota! Gaviota!" ("Sea gull! Sea gull!") and other fans mistook this as a cheer for the player. Thus Gavy was born, though chances are you'll see it spelled with two v's. Cravath himself preferred one v, but because most people rhyme his nickname with "savvy," the Gavvy is more popular than Gavy.

Cravath, a native of Escondido, California, also was called Cactus, and folks who assumed Gavy (or Gavvy) was his first name, often called him Cactus Gavy.

The outfielder broke in with the Boston Red Sox in 1908, but it was with the Philadelphia Phillies, starting in 1912, that he made his mark, leading the National League six times in home runs through 1919, with a high of 24 in 1915. The right handed hitter benefited by playing in the notoriously small Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, where he hit 92 of his 119 career home runs. Cravath's lifetime batting average was .287, but in 1913 he hit .341.

Here we have two Hall of Famers and a an excellent 16-season third baseman name Robin, and if we went a few letters more, and included all of the major league players named Robinson, we might have a team that could beat all comers.

Pitcher Robin Roberts won 284 games in his 19-season career, most of them (234) with the Philadelphia Phillies. Roberts was a 20-game winner six straight seasons, his best year being 1952 when he was 28-7. He led the National League in victories every year from '52 to 1955. He also led the league in home runs allowed five times, partly because he pitched so often and completed so many of his games. (He worked 300-plus innings six consecutive seasons.)

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976, and from 1977 to 1985 was coach of the baseball team at the University of South Florida. He died in 2010 in Tampa, Florida, at the age of 83.

Robin Ventura was primarily a third baseman, but also played first base during his career that included 10 seasons with the Chicago White Sox. He also played for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. His lifetime batting average was .267, but hit .295 with the White Sox in 1995, with 26 home runs, and a year later hit 34 home runs and drove in 105. He batted .301 with the Mets in 1999, had 32 home runs and 120 runs batted in.

For his career, Ventura hit 294 home runs, including 18 with the bases loaded. While playing at Oklahoma State University, he had a 58-game hitting streak. After he retired in 2004, he did some broadcasting, then managed the White Sox for five seasons (2012-16).

Robin Yount became a professional baseball player at the age of 17, and a year later was the starting shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers. He remained with the Brewers for 20 seasons (1974-93), eventually leaving the infield to play center field.

He had 3,142 hits, with 251 home runs, before retiring at the age of 37. His lifetime batting average was .285, but he hit over .300 six times, his highest mark being .331 in 1982. Twice he was the American League's most valuable player. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

His older brother, Larry, was a minor league pitcher (1968-75) who had perhaps the most unusual one-game major league career. Summoned from the bullpen in 1971, he injured his arm while warming up, and was removed from the game before he could pitch to a single batter. He never got a second chance.

There was a fourth Robin — Robin Jennings — an outfielder-first baseman who played 93 games in four seasons in the major leagues, batting .244. He was a real traveling man in 2001, playing for six teams — Oakland, Colorado and Cincinnati in the majors; Louisville of the American Association, Sacramento and Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League. All told, he played 125 games that summer, batting .290 with 18 home runs, all but three of them with the minor league teams. Jennings was born in 1972 in Singapore, the only major league player from that country.

And let us not forget the Brooklyn Robins, the future Dodgers. From 1914 to 1931 the team, which had a few nicknames previously, was called the Robins in honor of long-time manager Wilbert Robinson.

Starling Javier Marte completed his seventh season with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018, batting .277 with a career high 20 home runs. His best season so far was 2016 when he hit .311 and made the National League all-star team.

Marte was born in 1988 in Santo Domingo, capital city of the Dominican Republic. He is considered one of today's best outfielders. He's also one of the better base-stealers, averaging more than 30 a season. However, like most players in this free-swinging era, Marte strikes out a lot — more than 100 times each season he has played more than 100 games.

Conrad Cardinal is his given name, and that's catchy enough, but he was better known by his nickname, "Randy." Born in Brooklyn in 1942, the pitcher was signed by the Detroit Tigers 20 years later, and made his professional baseball debut in 1962 with Jamestown of the New York-Pennsylvania League, posting a 14-7 record, and striking out 189 batters in 183 innings.

I suspect he must have had an exceptional fastball, which is probably what attracted the Houston Colt 45s (later the Astros) who drafted Cardinal. He was on their roster when the '63 season opened, but appeared in only six games — one as a starter — lost his only decision and gave up nine runs in 13 innings. The highlight of his major league career was striking out Willie Mays.

He finished the season with San Antonio of the Class AA Texas League, winning nine games, losing nine. He was demoted to the Class A Durham Bulls of the Carolina League in 1964, and had a 5-12 won-lost record. He remained with Durham for the 1963 season, but started just two games before he retired. My guess is he had arm trouble.

James Edward Bird, nicknamed "Red" for the color of his hair, didn't pitch professionally until he was 31 years old. After winning 17 games (and losing 11) with Shreveport (Louisiana) of the Texas League in 1921, he was summoned to the American League by the Washington Senators, who used him in relief in one game in mid-September. He pitched five innings, gave up five hits and three runs.

That was Bird's only major league appearance. He pitched six more seasons with several teams in two Class A minor leagues — the Texas League and the Southern Association.

Oh, the red bird in the photo is a summer tanager.

Joseph Richard Jay, better known as Joey Jay, was 17-years-old when he signed with the Milwaukee Braves. It was 1953, which made him a "bonus baby." Under the rules of the day, he began his career in the major leagues, spending a lot of time on the bench.

It was in 1955 that he was sent to the minor leagues where he belonged. He pitched awhile for Toledo of the American Association, winning three games, losing three. He also spent part of the summer with Milwaukee, but at the end of '55, all he had to show for three seasons in the majors were 47 innings pitched, two wins and no losses.

In 1956 he divided the season between two teams — Wichita of the American Association and Atlanta of the Southern Association. He won nine games, lost nine. Finally, in 1957, he posted a 17-10 record with Wichita, and returned to the majors.

However, in his next three seasons with Milwaukee, he won just 22 games and lost 24, so the Braves traded him to Cincinnati, where he demonstrated just what a good pitcher he could be, winning 21 games as the Reds captured the National League pennant. Jay was the only Cincinnati pitcher to win a game in the 1961 World Series against the New York Yankees.

Jay followed that with another 21-game season in 1962, but in 1963 developed arm trouble. He never fully recovered, and won just 33 games over the next four seasons, finishing his career in 1967 with the Tidewater Tides of the Carolina League, a Philadelphia Phillies farm team. He won three of his four starts with Tidewater, but the Phillies didn't think Jay could help them, so the pitcher retired.

Unlike many ballplayers, Jay had prepared for retirement, even at the early age of 31. He had invested in a variety of businesses. As a result, he has lived a nice, but very private life ever since. In 2008 he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.


Walter Christensen was called "Cuckoo" because of his behavior on the field. Sometimes he would do somersaults in the outfield when a fly ball was headed his way. In 1927 he lost a game for Cincinnati when he somersaulted under a fly ball — and proceeded to drop it.

The outfielder batted .350 as a Cincinnati rookie in 1926. A year later his average dipped to .254 and he was sent back to the minors where he almost always batted over .300. At five-foot-six, the left-handed Christensen did not hit many home runs. Likewise, he seldom struck out.

[Christensen also had the nickname, "Seacap", which went back to childhood when his mother sent him to school in a sailor's uniform, which was not uncommon. I had one of those uniforms myself when I was a youngster. — JSM]

Frank Edward Thrasher was an outfielder who played 30 games and batted .255 for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1916-17, an infamous period for manager-owner Connie Mack who'd sold off many of the players who had helped his team win four American League pennants and three World Series during a five-year stretch (1910-14). The A's finished in eighth place during both of Thrasher's seasons.

Thrasher, a native of Watkinsville, Georgia, became a professional baseball player in 1911, when he was 21. He was one of my favorite kind of players — an outfielder who threw right-handed and batted back-handed (incorrectly described as left-handed).

He was another of those guys who hit well in the minor leagues, never batting less than .325, joining the Athletics after batting .337 with Atlanta of the Southern Association. In seven games with the Athletics at the end of the 1916 season, he batted .310, then hit well during spring training the next season.

But on April 19, 1917, Thrasher had the misfortune to bat against Carl Mays, then pitching for the Boston Red Sox. Mays was the pitcher who three years later hit Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians, resulting in major league baseball's only fatality. In 1917, May already had a reputation for throwing at batters' heads; his teammates had complained he even threw at them during batting practice.

Mays threw one high and inside to Thrasher, who turned away and was hit in the back of the head. Thrasher was never the same hitter afterward. A month later, another Boston pitcher, Dutch Leonard, narrowly missed beaning him, but Thrasher ducked under the pitch and the ball hit his bat.

Connie Mack was convinced the beaning destroyed the young man's confidence, and that he'd become frightened every time he faced a pitcher. So with Thrasher batting .234, he was sent back to Atlanta, where he had his first sub-.300 season, batting .284. His average would have been 16 points lower if it weren't for a double-header Atlanta played against Nashville on August 17 when Thrasher went to bat eight times and had seven singles and a double. A newspaper account said it was an organized baseball record for the most consecutive hits on one day. The story referred to Thrasher as "the Watkinsville walloper."

Apparently Thrasher did not play baseball in 1918, perhaps because he was in the service during World War One, or working in a war-related industry. He was inactive in 1919, as well. According to baseball-reference.com, Thrasher played 26 games for the Wilson (North Carolina) Bugs of the Virginia League in 1920, and batted .354. Seven years later, at the age of 37, he again played some games with Wilson, and, in 1929, managed the Cedartown Sea Cows of the Georgia-Alabama League.

Thrasher had four brothers who played baseball, and attracted interest from scouts, but I've seen nothing to indicate any of them got beyond the semi-pro level. Buck Thrasher died in 1938. He was only 48.

Thanks to the nickname, Jay, we're presented with two birds in one. His full name was James Bugg Partridge, born in Mountville, Georgia, in 1902. He looked like a bright second base prospect when the Brooklyn Robins (soon to be Dodgers) signed him after he had completed his studies at Oglethrope University in June, 1925. Two years later he played for Brooklyn, but his major league career was short-lived. However, something happened in 1930 that made Partridge's story too interesting to contain here, so he has his own page.

Pitcher Roy Hansen explained how he got the nickname "Snipe" in an interview with Roy Shudt for his column, "The Sports Round-Up by Shutsie" in the Troy (New York) Times Record, June 12, 1935:

" Snipe" Hansen, the elongated Albany southpaw, gained the moniker when he broke in with Reading as a 17-year-old after older players initiated him into the game.

"We went hunting — snipe hunting, they told me it was," Hansen explains. 'Well, we got out in the woods quite a ways, and the boys handed me a bag, saying, 'You hold this bag and we'll drive the snipe your way.' Then they left. They returned home to laugh their heads off at the trick they played. I began to realize I was someone left holding the bag. It was funny. Then I left the bag and went home."

Apparently, another pitcher, Patrick Michael Conley, came by his nickname the same way, only some 20 years earlier, and with different teammates.

Snipes are real birds, but snipe hunting is mostly fiction, a joke that years ago was played on naive, unsuspecting people, mostly boys and young men.

As for the pitchers who were victims of this prank, both reached the major leagues, but neither lived up to expectations. Snipe Conley became a minor league legend in Dallas, while Hansen had a slightly longer, more successful time in the majors.

Edward Nicholas Crane was born in South Boston, Massachusetts, in 1862 , and grew up to be five-foot-eleven, not particularly tall by today's standard, but taller than most men of his time. He was husky, well coordinated, and athletic enough to stand out on a baseball field no matter what position he was playing. Primarily a catcher in his teens, he was usually found in the outfield when he became a professional player at the age of 22. However, he became famous when he switched to pitching.

While "Cannonball" was his most popular nickname, he sometimes was called "Cyclone" Crane, his pitching delivery described as "cyclonic." Contrary to what it says on his Wikipedia page, "Cannonball" had nothing to do with the shape of Crane's body. He was called "Cannonball" because of his blazing fast ball. (It's true he had trouble with his weight, but didn't reach cannonball proportions until long after his nickname was established.)

It's possible, I suppose, that some called him "Cannonball" even before he became a pitcher, because Crane first attracted attention in baseball-throwing contests that were popular in his time. If you watch someone hurl a baseball 400 feet, as Crane reportedly did on several occasions, it's easy to envision cannonballs. (He also held a world distance record for throwing a cricket ball.)

There's much more to the story of "Cannonball" Crane, but, be warned, it does not have a happy ending.

There were two major league players named Sam Crane, and both were noteworthy, but for very different reasons. Both stories are worth a longer look than this page allows, so I've given them a separate page.

Other Cranes include a fellow with a long name — Frederick William Hotchkiss Crane, Fred for short, who goes back to the National Association in the early 1870s when he played briefly with the Elizabeth (NJ) Resolutes and the Brooklyn Atlantics. This Crane came along too late in life, because he was in his 30s by the time the first major league began. Apparently he was a highly regarded player in the 1860s. He played first base in the National Association; almost certainly he played other positions before then.

Frank Reberger, was a six-foot-five-inch pitcher whose height was responsible for his being nicknamed "Crane." He pitched five seasons (1968-72) with Chicago Cubs, San Diego and San Francisco, and had a lifetime won-lost record of 14-13. His busiest season was 1970, when he was 7-8 with Giants in 152 innings, 45 appearances, including 18 starts. He finished with Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League (1972-74), and retired at age 30. Since then he has been a pitching coach and minor league manager.

Tall (six-foot-four), slender George Theodore looked and moved like his nickname. He played first base and the outfield for two seasons (1973-74) with the New York Mets, his career undoubtedly cut short by the after-effects of an outfield collision with Don Hahn in a 1973 game, in which Theodore fractured his hip.

He returned to play part of another season with the Mets, and finished his career in 1975 with Tidewater of the International League. His major league career included 105 games and a .219 batting average.

Theodore was born in Salt Lake City and was signed by the Mets after he finished his studies at the University of Utah. Before retiring at the age of 28, he played seven seasons of professional baseball, hitting 59 home runs, 42 of them in his two seasons with the Visalia Mets of the California League.

Alan Storke is one of baseball's tragedies. A native of Auburn, New York, he was the player-manager of the Auburn team in the Empire State League the summer he graduated from Amherst College. He was 21. (Another player on that team was a member of my slightly extended family, outfielder Mickey Major.)

However, Storke didn't stick around; people said he was too good for a Class D minor league outfit, and he was grabbed by the Class A Providence Greys of the Eastern League. The 21-year-old third baseman batted .290, and finished the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League. He remained with the Pirates until midway through the 1909 season, when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Storke seemed certain to remain in the big leagues because he could play any position. In 1909, he raised his batting average to .270, and, at 24, was probably going to get better and better. In the off-season the Cardinals traded Storke and pitcher Fred Beebe to Cincinnati in exchange for second baseman (and future manager) Miller Huggins, pitcher Frank Corridon and outfielder "Rebel" Oakes.

Meanwhile, Storke spent his off-season studying law at Harvard University. But as spring training approached in March, 1910, Storke became ill in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When his condition worsened two days later, he sought help at a nearby hospital. A week later, he died.

According to a story in the Auburn Democrat Argus (March 15, 1910), the hospital in Newton listed the cause of death as "empyema, an affection of the lungs — the formation or collection of matter in the pleural cavity." It was a consequence of influenza.

Storke's older brother, Paul, also an Amherst graduate, had died a few years earlier from typhoid fever.

John Gaston Peacock was a catcher (1937-45) who spent most of that time with the Boston Red Sox. Little did he know when he hit his first home run in 1938 that it would also be his last. He's one of the few catchers who ended his career with more stolen bases (14) than homers. He stood five-foot-eleven, weighed about 165, and batted left-handed (or as I've said too many times, backhanded with his throwing arm, which happened to be his right one).

Peacock was an all-around athlete who played baseball, basketball and football at the University of North Carolina. His favorite football opponent was probably Wake Forest. He returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown against them in his first game, in 1930, and a year later returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for another touchdown.

After he left the majors, he spent 1946 as player-manager for New Orleans in the Southern Association. The obvious Chris Bermanism: Johnny "Struts Like a" Peacock.

Baseball's other Peacock is a pitcher named Brad, who has spent the last six seasons with the Houston Astros, after arriving in the major leagues with Washington in 2011. His best season so far was 2017 when he won 13 games, lost only two, striking out 161 batters in just 132 innings. Last season (2018) he was primarily a relief pitcher, appearing in 61 games. He struck out 96 batters in just 65 innings, but gave up 11 home runs.


Their last name is one letter too long to correctly spell "parrot," but I had to include the Parrott brothers. Their story is too interesting, too amusing, and, unfortunately in the case of Jiggs Parrott, too tragic to put aside. And Tacks' story is too long to be placed at the end of a page that already is too full. For more on the Parrott brothers . . .

No relation to the Parrott brothers was Mike Parrott (nicknamed "Bird"), a six-foot-four pitcher for Baltimore (1977) and Seattle (1978-81). He had a 14-12 won-lost record with Seattle in 1979, but after winning his first start a year later, he lost 16 straight. He began 1981 by losing two more before he ending his unfortunate streak.

Things were far different for him with the Rochester Red Wings in 1977. His record was 15-7, and he was named the International League pitcher of the year.

Likewise, William Dayton Perritt isn't a parrot, except when you say his last name out loud. That's when it suggests "Polly" or "Pol." Both nicknames were widely used, though "Pol" seems to prevail. Either way, Perritt was one of several baseball players who had to deal with a name that made him seem eligible for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. (For some of the others, see Call These Guys 'Mister'.)

Perritt was a tall (six-foot-two), slim pitcher from Arcadia, Louisiana, who joined the Class D Vicksburg Hill Billies of the Cotton States League in 1912, and finished the summer in the National League, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was just 20 years old.

Two years later he won 16 games for the Cards, but his best seasons (1916-18) were spent with the New York Giants. He won 53 games during those three seasons, pitching 16 shutouts.

But then things got weird:

Albany (NY) Evening Journal, February 28, 1919
NEW YORK, February 28 — William Dayton Perritt, better known as Polly, is the latest Giant pitcher to announce his retirement from baseball. Oil has been discovered near Perritt’s property at Homer, Louisiana, and the pitcher says he is too much interested in promoting the oil business to return his contract to the Giants.

Perritt, who formerly was a cotton planter, has rushed into the oil game with both feet, and he is said to have struck it rich.

How rich Perritt became was never established, but the man began to miss baseball, and did some pitching for semi-pro teams to get back in shape for the Giants, appearing briefly with them before the 1919 season ended. He pitched even less for the Giants in 1920, and in 1921 was released by the Giants, and then by the Detroit Tigers. From 1919 through 1921, he won just four games, lost one, but was not impressive, except for an exhibition game in Cuba on October 22, 1920, when he shut out the Havana team.

After being cut loose by the Tigers, Perritt spent the rest of 1921 with Minneapolis of the American Association and St. Joseph of the Western League. He was only 29, but knew his major league days were over. Perritt went to California and played semi-pro baseball for awhile before returning to Louisiana full-time to work in the oil business. He died in Shreveport in 1947. He was 56 years old.


Richard Michael Gossage pitched professionally for 25 years, spending at least parts of 22 years in the major leagues, appearing in 1,002 games. He started just 37 of them, 29 in the same season (1976) with the Chicago White Sox. Gossage is best remembered for a six-year stretch (1978-83) with the New York Yankees, as well as for his size (six-foot-three, about 220 pounds), his overpowering fastball, and Fu Manchu mustache (which he claims he grew to annoy Yankees owner George Steinbrenner).

Gossage got his nickname in 1972 as a 20-year-old rookie with the White Sox. Teammate Tom Bradley, one of the team's starting pitchers, joked that Gossage's neck seemed to stretch when he looked for a sign from the catcher. Bradley said it reminded him of the way a goose moves his head. The comment was passed on to a Chicago journalist, and Gossage found himself with a nickname that endured.

Unlike today's closers, Gossage often worked more than one inning, and was involved in more decisions than a lot of relief pitchers. There were four seasons he reached double numbers with wins, his best won-lose record being 13-5 with the Yankees in 1983. For his career, Gossage won 124 games, lost 107. (Seventeen of those losses came in 1976, the only season he was a starting pitcher.) Gossage was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Three reasons are given why outfielder Leon Allen Goslin was nicknamed "Goose." The most obvious is the reason most quickly dismissed — his last name sounds like "gosling," a baby goose.

Another theory involves his large nose, variously described as a "beak" and a "honker." Reportedly, Pittsburgh catcher Earl "Oil" Smith rode Goslin unmercifully about his nose every time the Washington star came to bat during the 1925 World Series.

And according to “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract,” Goslin himself was quoted in the season before as saying, “I've been hitting .344 as a one-eyed hitter. If I could see around my nose, I’d hit .600.”

But many people accept the theory that Goslin was nicknamed "Goose" for the way he flapped his arms when he ran, especially while chasing balls hit his way. Like several of our baseball birds, Goslin's story is, I think, interesting enough to warrant his own page.

Okay, I'm cheating on this one. Outfielder "Hoot" Evers' nickname had nothing to do with owls. Not directly, anyway. Walter Arthur Evers was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1921, and grew up on the other side of the Mississippi in Illinois. He was a big fan of cowboy movies, especially those starring Hoot Gibson, who provided the baseball player's nickname.

The actor's real first name was Edmund, and there are at least three stories about how he came by his nickname. All the stories involve owls. And it's on that shaky basis I list Evers here.

Hoot Evers was a promising Detroit Tiger prospect who played his first American League game in 1941. World War II interrupted his career; he didn't rejoin the Tigers until 1946. He hit .296 in 1947, then had three consecutive .300 seasons, peaking in 1950 with a .323 average, 21 home runs and 103 runs batted in.

Then, THUD! His average fell to .224 in 1951. Evers played until 1956, but never again hit better than .264.

After his playing days, Evers remained part of major league baseball. He worked for awhile in the Cleveland Indian farm system and in 1971 became director of Detroit Tiger player development. He died in 1991.


Television's best-known "Ducky" is the medical examiner, Dr. Mallard, played by David McCallum on "NCIS." If the nickname annoys him, you'd never know. But with baseball's best-known "Ducky" . . . well, anyone who called him that had to be prepared to do a little ducking himself. Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Medwick hated his nickname, but, then, it didn't take much to upset Medwick, and when he was upset, punches were often thrown.

There are two reasons given for his nickname — the way Medwick walked, and the way he swam. I prefer the latter. What really infuriated him was when teammates and opponents called him "Ducky Wucky." There's more about Medwick on elsewhere.

Another player who hated the nickname was perhaps the first major leaguer called "Ducky." William Hemp wanted to be called "Billy," but the 19th century outfielder was only five-foot-seven, weighing about 140 pounds, and didn't frighten anyone with his protests. He got stuck with the nickname because people thought he waddled when he walked.

Ducky Hemp spent most of his baseball career in the minor leagues, but made a brief appearance in 1887 with Louisville of the American Association, when that was considered a major league. He also played 21 games with Pittsburgh of the National League in 1890, and nine games the same season with Syracuse of the American Association during its major league phase. His career batting average was only .214.

When he retired, his nickname remained, thanks to a minor league third baseman named Charles Hemp, who got stuck with "Ducky" as a nickname probably because of Billy Hemp. (In the early days of the 20th century, Charles Hemp was called the best third baseman in Notre Dame history, but he never made the major leagues.) Anyway, this second Ducky Hemp was well-enough known that that his had a bounce-back effect on the first Ducky Hemp, who couldn't escape the nickname, except among family and close friends.

Shortstop Dick Schofield, who filled in at other positions during his 19-season career with seven major league teams (mostly Pittsburgh and the St. Louis Cardinals), inherited the nickname "Ducky" from his father, a minor league player in the 1930s.

One of my favorite "Duckys" was born Robert Sterling Detweiler. Because his nickname plus last name resulted in an entertaining, almost musical sound, you'll find more about him on my alliteration list.

Pitcher Martin Duke (left), who played professionally from 1887-1895, belongs on this list, and not among baseball royalty, because Duke wasn't his real last name, just as "Duck" wasn't actually his nickname — it was the last name on his birth certificate. But after being subjected to the taunts of "Quack! Quack! Quack!" when he pitched, he gave himself a new name. It didn't help that Duke/Duck stood five-foot-five, had a squat body, and likely waddled slightly when he walked. And as the saying goes, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck . . .

He made four appearances with Washington of the American Association in 1891, and had no wins, three losses. With Minneapolis of the Western Association, in 1889, he won 24 games, lost 16, and struck out 347 batters. There's something suspect about the Minneapolis and the Western Association that season, because Duke hit 11 home runs, which was fourth best on the team. He hit 14 home runs in his entire career — all of them while playing for Minneapolis.

Among the "Duckys" listed on baseball-reference.com is one who doesn't belong. At least, that's my opinion after digging into the information available about a catcher named William Pearce, better known as "Bunny" Pearce. One nickname is enough, but my favorite baseball website says Pearce also was nicknamed "Ducky." I found nothing to indicate the was true. Perhaps someone confused this Pearce with Dickey Pearce, a player in the earliest days of the National League.

There are a few other baseball "Duckys," according to baseball-reference.com, but there's only one worth mentioning. Well, three, actually, because they all had the same last name, and one of them seemed to relish his nickname. The story of Ducky Holmes, Ducky Holmes, and Ducky Holmes has its own page.

This item could have been placed on the "Please, Don't Call Me That" list because Mike Donlin, one of the best hitters in the first decade of the 20th century, really hated his nickname, reportedly given him because of his strut and his red neck (which, I imagine, was particularly red at the sound of "Turkey Mike.")

Donlin was called lots of names during a career interrupted several times because of his drinking, his violent nature, and his interest in showgirls. He began playing professional baseball in St. Louis in 1899 with a National League team nicknamed the Perfectos. It was in St. Louis he was badly injured in a barroom brawl. One of his St. Louis teammates was John McGraw, who recognized Donlin's skill and appreciated his combativeness, even though it often got the player thrown out of games (something that also marked McGraw's career).

So when McGraw managed the Baltimore Orioles in 1901 when the American League became a major league, Donlin was in the outfield, batting .340 (a figure topped only by McGraw's .349, though the player-manager didn't put himself into the line-p every day).

On March 13, 1902, Donlin got drunk and went to a theater in Baltimore to see a musical production of "Ben Hur." He was fascinated by an actress named Mamie Fields, but his behavior got him kicked out of the theater. He went back the next night, drunk again, but hung around outside the theater, waiting for Miss Fields to leave. When she did, accompanied by a man and a woman, Donlin approached her, made a crude remark, and was confronted by the man. Donlin knocked the man down, and when Miss Field interfered, he punched her, too. Donlin fled, but was later arrested. The upshot was the player was sentenced to six months in jail (of which he'd serve five).

This behavior got Donlin banned from the American League. The Chicago Tribune (March 6, 1902) referred to Donlin as "an extremely undesirable player." But even while Donlin sat in jail, he signed a contract to play in the rowdier National League for the Cincinnati Reds upon his release. Efforts to get Donlin pardoned were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Donlin became ill and lost about 40 pounds while spending much of his sentence in a prison hospital. Released in August, he joined the Cincinnati team for 34 games, batting .257. A year later, he hit .351, best on the team. He was hitting ever better in 1904 when he was traded to New York because the Giants' manager, his old pal John McGraw, wanted him.

Donlin's six seasons with the Giants were not consecutive. He continued to make news, such as the time, in February, 1906, he was arrested for his drunken behavior on a train ride from New York to Albany, when he pointed a loaded revolver at a porter.

Apparently. this did not result in more jail time, because by a month later he was training for another season with the Giants, taking time off to get married in Chicago to Mabel Hite, a vaudeville performer. He also got into trouble with McGraw the same month, in Memphis, where the team was training. Donlin blamed his behavior on teammate Billy Gilbert's cold medication, which Donlin couldn't resist sampling. The medication, said Donlin, made him drunk, causing him to insult McGraw, who had recently suspended him for being out of shape.

The player submitted a written apology, which McGraw accepted, and Donlin began the season with the Giants, and was leading the league in batting when he broke his ankle in May. The result was he played just 37 games before the season ended. He and his wife became a performing team in the off-season, but they proved so popular that Donlin occasionally had no time for baseball.

Sporting Life, March 22, 1909
BOSTON, March 22 — Mike Donlin and his wife, Mabel Hite, showed here all of last week. Of course, he was interviewed on his intentions regarding baseball. Donlin said that he had heard from (National League) President Brush and that the latter had agreed with him (Donlin) that he is right in quitting the game for the year.

“They have got me quitting the game for keeps,” said Mike, on his way to Keith’s to appear in the sketch, “Stealing Home.”

“But just say that I am not out of the game for keeps.”

“No,” chirped in Little Mabel. “I would not let Mike quit the game. Baseball is too fine a sport for Mike to quit forever, and while the fans might criticize us this year, it is only a question of our theatrical contracts that keeps us booked up for the next twenty weeks. And Mike will be back again, stronger than ever next year.”

Mike thoroughly agreed with Mabel’s statement, and as further evidence that he would not be with the Giants the coming season, he produced a letter from President John T. Brush which stated that he greatly regretted Donlin’s temporary retirement, but as vaudeville offered a more profitable engagement than baseball, he was right in his decision.


Donlin and Mabel Hite (right) married in 1906. He was her second husband. In 1901, when she was 18, she married Edward Ellis Hamlin, son of a Marshall Field's executive. She began performing when she was 14, and specialized in vaudeville comedy sketches and musical comedy. Tragically, in 1912, she died of intestinal cancer, at 29.

Her death sent Donlin into retirement from baseball, though he changed his mind — briefly — in 1914. But then the Peoria, Illinois, native settled in Hollywood, and became an actor. Seldom more than a bit player in films, he has a long list of credits, which undoubtedly would have been much longer had he not died in 1933 when he was only 55.

Had he concentrated on baseball, and spent less time drinking, arguing and performing on stage, Mike Donlin almost certainly would have put up batting numbers worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. There were only five seasons in which he played more than 100 games, and in those years his batting averages were .340, .351, .329, .356 and .334. His career batting average was .333.

Infielder Fred Stanley had a 14-season major league career, mostly with the New York Yankees (eight years), but also with Oakland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Seattle and San Diego. He said his nickname went back to a Florida instructional league when he was a skinny 19-yeas-old, and another young player, Del Unser, told Stanley he looked like a chicken wing. From there his nickname became "Chicken," and Stanley went along with it, even to the point of walking around like a chicken, flapping his arms.

Primarily a shortstop, Stanley also played several games at second and third base. He was almost always a utility player — only three seasons did he play more than 100 games — and had a lifetime batting average of .216.

Nineteenth century outfielder Phil Routcliffe, a native of Frontenac, Quebec, also was nicknamed "Chicken." Routcliffe's family moved to Oswego, New York, where the boy became such an outstanding baseball player that he joined the Oswego team of the New York State League in 1885, when he was only 14. Two years later, he batted .334 with Sandusky of the Ohio State League.

In 1890, while still a teenager, he played one game with Pittsburgh of the National League, had one hit in four at bats, also was hit by a pitch, and stole a base.

On May 16, 1891, while playing for Tacoma of the Pacific Northwestern League, his double drove in the deciding run in one of the professional baseball’s longest games, a 22-inning battle with Seattle. The double put Tacoma ahead 6-5. Tacoma pitcher Neal Donaghue then retired Seattle in the bottom of the inning.

It wasn’t exactly a pitcher’s duel, there were plenty of hits to go around. Routcliffe himself had five of them, but both teams squandered several scoring opportunities.

Routcliffe played one more year with Tacoma, then retired. He was only 21. He went home and became an Oswego policeman and coached a local baseball team. He died in the 1918 flu epidemic. He was 47.

Third baseman (and later manager) Doug Rader was nicknamed "The Red Rooster" and shortstop (later manager) Rick Burleson was called "Rooster."

Wikipedia says Rader got his nickname from the tuft of red hair sticking out from beneath his helmet. Maybe, but I think his colorful personality contributed. Rader spent nine of his 11-season playing career with Houston, and three times hit 21 or more home runs. After he retired from playing, he managed the Hawaiian Islanders of the Pacific Coast League for three seasons (1980-82), then moved up to the majors, and over he next nine years managed the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and California Angels.

With Burleson, I suspect the nickname had to do with his strut. He looked the a rooster the way he moved. Burleson played seven seasons (1974-80) with the Boston Red Sox, then five seasons for the California Angels, before closing out his major league playing career in 1987 with Baltimore. He was a four-time American League all-star. From 1997-2007 he managed several minor league teams.


Among baseball players, there was only one Penguin — Ron Cey, long-time third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1971-1982). Cey also played for the Chicago Cubs and, briefly, the Oakland Athletics, during his 17 major league seasons. He had 316 home runs.

As for his nickname . . . well, it's like that old saying about ducks. In Cey's case, he was built like a penguin and people thought he walked like one. This Chris Berman pun will serve as a pronunciation lesson: Ron Born in the US Cey.

Now we come to two birds of no particular breed, but possessors of two of baseball's most popular names:

A catcher (1936-52) with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, "Birdie" Tebbetts, a Providence College graduate, managed for 11 seasons in Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Cleveland, and spent 28 years as a big league scout.

No doubt Tebbetts knew baseball, but as a manager he had more bad seasons than good. In 1956, his third as leader of the Cincinnati Redlegs, he was the Associated Press choice as National League Manager of the Year when his team finished third. It was all downhill after that, though his lifetime record was 748-705, for a winning percentage of .515.

Likewise, his best seasons as a player were relatively early in his career. In 1940 he batted .296 for the Detroit Tigers, who won the American League pennant.

Tebbetts' lifetime batting average was .270. He had just 38 home runs, 19 during his four seasons with the Red Sox in cozy Fenway Park. He was on the American League All-Star team four times. His final hit, with Cleveland in 1952, was number 1,000.

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) story about "Birdie" Cree says he played semi-pro baseball while he was attending Penn State. Like several other college athletes, Cree tried to hide his identity using an alias. It's not clear if the alias — Burde — was taken from his nickname, or whether the alias actually was the reason he became known as "Birdie."

When Cree came clean and went pro, he played for Burlington of the Northern Independent League and two seasons with the Williamsport Millionaires of the Tri-State League. After batting .332 with Williamsport in 1908, he finished the summer with the New York Highlanders (later Yankees), batting .269 in 25 games.

His career peaked in 1911 when he batted .348, hit 22 triples, stole 48 bases and had 88 runs batted in, all of these figures tops on the team. He was batting .332 the next season until he was injured, and missed 100 games. Cree's average slipped to .272 in 1913, and he spent half of the next season with Baltimore of the International League. He batted .356, and returned to the Highlanders and hit .309 in 77 games.

But after he slumped to .214 with New York in 1915, he retired rather than play in the minor leagues.

Cree settled in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and took a job with First National Bank, eventually becoming cashier. He was an avid golfer and skilled billiards player. He died in 1942, at the age of 60.

Included among those with even the briefest major league careers are two sparrows.

Charles "Sparrow" McCaffrey, a 120-pound catcher, had a single and a base on balls in his only two at bats in 1889 for the Columbus Solons of the American Association. He played only four seasons in the minors, then retired, probably for health reasons, because he died in 1894, at age 24.

William "Sparrow" Morton pitched two complete games for Philadelphia of the National League in 1894, and lost them both. However, he had three hits in eight at bats, for a .375 batting average. Figures on baseball-reference.com indicate he played minor league baseball only long enough to make two pitching appearances in two seasons.

Catcher Zack Taylor spent most of his life in baseball, catching for 16 years (1920-35, mostly with Brooklyn and the Chicago Cubs. Later he managed in the minor leagues and for the St. Louis Browns, perennial losers. (He was the manager when team owner Bill Veeck ordered him to use three-foot-seven Eddie Gaedel as a pinch-hitter against the Detroit Tigers in 1951.) He's mentioned because his given name was James Wren Taylor. His nickname came from Mexican War general and later president, Zachary Taylor.

Chris Fussell pitched for Baltimore (1998) and Kansas City (1999-2000), finishing his major league career with five wins and nine losses. He was born Christopher Wren Fussell. 'nuff said.

And then there was Joel Finch, who spent enough time with the Boston Red Sox in 1979 to lose three games, though his record that season with the International League Pawtucket Red Sox was 9-1.

Finally, there's Dennis Dove, who made three pitching appearances with St. Louis in 2007, going three innings, giving up five hits, five runs, and two home runs.

 
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