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

Apparently people had no specific bug in mind back in 1889 when they hung the nickname "Bug" on James Wear "Bug" Holliday, a center fielder for the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association. The team changed its nickname to Reds and joined the National League in 1890, but "Bug" Holliday was still on the team, and would remain a Cincinnati fixture until 1898.

The story is Holliday was called "Bug" because he looked so small in the outfield, but the man was taller than most players of his era (five-foot-eleven), though he was skinny (150 pounds). His lifetime batting average was .312, and, despite his skinny frame, Holliday hit for power, hitting 19 home runs in his rookie season, and leading the National League three years later with 13 home runs.

The nickname for Arthur Lawrence "Bugs" Raymond had little to do with insects. In Raymond's case, "Bugs" was short for "Bughouse," a nickname for an insane asylum.

Raymond was a pitcher of much promise, but he was a flaky guy with a drinking problem, who had a talent for making enemies. He was in the major leagues for six seasons — 1904 with Detroit, 1907-8 with the St. Louis Cardinals, and 1909-11 with the New York Giants. His best season was 1909, when he was 18-12 with the Giants.

Unable to find a major league pitching opportunity in 1912, Raymond turned more and more to alcohol, and got into fights that contributed to his death that September from a cerebral hemorrhage due to a fractured scull. Police arrested a man, who admitted to beating up Raymond several days earlier, but the former pitcher also had a fight weeks before that in which he'd been hit in the head by a baseball bat.

I found no explanation, but Harry Eccles was called "Bugs" while he was pitching for Jamestown (New York) High School. He finished high school in 1915, and was already 21 years old, also pitching for teams in the Jamestown area. His timing was good, because 1915 was the year Connie Mack dismantled his Philadelphia Athletics team that had dominated the American League for five seasons. He was desperate for players at every position.

Eccles was signed, and appeared in five games, pitching 21 innings for the Athletics , losing his only decision. Philadelphia released Eccles, but hadn't given up on him, farming him out to the Wheeling (West Virginia) Stogies of the Central League. As far as I know, Eccles never went to Wheeling, but pitched instead for the Johnsonburg (Pennsylvania) Johnnies of the Interstate League, winning three and losing three.

That pretty much was it for Eccles. Johnsonburg left the league in July, and I found no record of him appearing in any other minor league. Years later he coaches an American Legion baseball team in Jamestown, and his son, also nicknamed "Bugs," was one of his players.

There are several other "Bugs," most of whom paid brief visits to the majors leagues. You'll find a list on baseball-reference.com.

Utility infielder Herman Earl "Flea" Clifton played 87 games with Detroit over four seasons (1934-37), also playing for the Toledo Mudhens of the American Association those last two seasons. Clifton wasn't unusually small — five-foot-ten, 160 pounds — which suggests he picked up his nickname at an early age. He batted just .200 with the Tigers. Because of an injury to first baseman Hank Greenberg during the 1935 World Series, Detroit juggled their line-up, with Clifton playing third base the last four game. He went hitless in 16 at bats, but the Tigers won the Series anyway, four games to two over the Chicago Cubs.

Clifton spent 12 years in the minor leagues, hitting about .250. To say his childhood was difficult is a vast understatement. His father was killed in World War One; the boy was about 10 at the time. A few years later, Clifton's mother was murdered by a man who also killed another woman (and was executed for his crimes). His mother had remarried, and after her death, Clifton's stepfather kicked him out of the house. The boy found a garage and lived there until he finished his schooling.

Freddie Patek, a five-foot-five-inch shortstop had a 14-season career in the major leagues, most of it with the Kansas City Royals, though he came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose long-time announcer Bob Prince is responsible for giving Patek his better-known nickname, "Cricket." He also was called "Flea," or "The Flying Flea" because of his speed. Patek stole a lot of bases, leading the American League in 1927 with 53.

After being traded to the California Angels in 1980, Patek had his most incredible hitting day during a 20-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Patek his a double and three home runs, receiving a standing ovation from the Boston fans. Patek hit only five home runs that entire season.

Another baseball "Cricket" — because he chirped — was infielder Bill Rigney, who spent eight seasons (1946-53) with the New York Giants, though he was a part-time player his last four years. His best season was 1947 when he and his Giant teammates went on a home run rampage, setting a record (since broken) of 221 team homers. Rigney hit 17, a career high and more than twice as many as he'd hit in seven years of minor league ball.

Leading the 1947 Giants was first baseman Johnny Mize, who hit 51 home runs. Outfielder Willard Marshall hit 36, and catcher Walker Cooper hit 35. Those numbers also were career high for all three players.

As for Rigney, he went on to manage in the minor leagues for two seasons, later managing 18 seasons in major leagues for the New York and San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles and California Angels, and the Minnesota Twins.

When Rigney joined the Giants in 1946, he wore glasses, earning an alternate nickname, "Specs." Most photos I've seen of him, particularly after he started managing, show him without glasses. Perhaps he began wearing contacts, but that's a guess because I didn't see it mentioned anywhere.


The five-foot-seven Arnold Statz told a reporter he was a small youngster and people called him Chigger, a reference to the tiny, pesky bug. To many folks, apparently, chiggers are called "jiggers," and that's the word that prevailed as the player's nickname.

Statz was a legendary outfielder who played with four major league teams — the New York Giants, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers — but is remembered for his 18 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and his 3,356 hits, the minor league record. Add his 737 big league hits and Statz joins Ty Cobb and Pete Rose as the only professional baseball players with more than 4,000 hits.

His major league batting average was .285,, his best season being 1923 with the Chicago Cubs when he hit .319 with 209 hits. He scored 110 runs. His minor league batting average was .315.

 

James Evans Whitney, who pitched from 1881 to 1890, was nicknamed "Grasshopper" because he was tall (six-foot-two), skinny, and has a small head. In other words, he looked like a grasshopper. He also was, according to Bill James in his "Historical Baseball Abstract," the ugliest man of his decade.

Looks aside, Whitney might have had the same nickname for the way he delivered his pitches.

This is how the National Police Gazette (July 6, 1901) recalled the pitcher:

“Grasshopper” Jim Whitney was a great card in the days when he threw the ball for Boston. At that time a pitcher was allowed to run around the infield before delivering the ball. The lean, lanky James was in the habit of doing a running high jump and a back handspring before sending the ball at the terrified batsman. He was very successful until the rule compelling a pitcher to stand still while delivering the ball was passed, when he lost his effectiveness.

In his first season with the Boston Red Stockings, as they were called for awhile, Whitney became the first pitcher to lead a major league in wins (31) and losses (33). Actually, he was tied for the most wins by Chicago's Larry Corcoran, who lost only 14 games for the pennant-winning White Stockings. (Corcoran is one of the most overlooked players from his era, a tiny fellow — five-foot-three, 127 pounds — who had a career won-lost record of 177-89, winning 170 of those games in five seasons. Obviously, he wore out his arm, because he made only 16 pitching appearances after his 25th birthday.)

Whitney had a similar experience, winning 115 games for Boston in his first four seasons. In 1882, he gave Boston fans a preview of Babe Ruth, winning 24 games and leading the team in home runs (5) and batting average (.328). By 1885, however, Whitney no longer intimidated hitters. He won 18 games, but lost 32, after which the Boston team (now called the Beaneaters) sold him to the Kansas City Cowboys.

After one year with Kansas City, he spent two season with the Washington Nationals, then the Indianapolis Hoosiers, for ending his career in 1890 with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. He started only four games for Philadelphia, and in his finale lost to St. Louis, 9-8. The ultimate insult was giving up five hits to the opposing pitcher, Tom "Toad" Ramsey, who had a lifetime batting average of .204.

Tragically, Whitney died the following May. He was only 33 years old. Cause of death was tuberculosis. However, another player, Al Maul, told a Chicago Tribune reporter a few years later that he thought the real cause of Whitney's death could be traced to a line drive that struck the pitcher in the chest in 1888.

It happened in a game against Pittsburgh, according to Maul, a versatile player who played first base and the outfield for the Alleghenys that season, doing a little pitching, though that would become his primary position later on. The line drive that struck Whitney was hit by Pittsburgh infielder Bill Kuehne.

"He fell forward prone on his stomach," Maul said of Whitney. "He was carried off the field, and a few days later hemorrhage of the lungs set in." He claimed Whitney never recovered from the blow.

In 1888, Whitney was still fairly effective, posting an 18-21 record for a Washington team that won 48 games and lost 86 times. After that season, however, Whitney won only four times in 15 games.

The mosquito has been a popular source of nicknames, especially the insect's own nickname, Skeeter, which worked very well in the case of Frank John Scalzi. Not only was the shortstop small — five-foot-six, which made him ripe for a comparison with an insect — but his last name began with the best possible letter, which was followed by one that repeated the sound of "Sk."

Scalzi was an Ohio native who went to the University of Alabama. He returned to his home state to begin his professional baseball career, hitting .315 for Zanesville of the Class C Middle Atlantic League in 1936. He remained in that league in 1937, but this time played for the Springfield (Ohio) Indians, batting .377 with 34 home runs. This was an aberration, because Scalzi never hit more than eight home runs in any season after that.

Though originally was signed by Cleveland, Scalzi had his only major league experience with the New York Giants, in 1939. He was 26-years-old by then, and did not fare badly in his brief tryout, getting six singles in 18 at bats, for a .333 average. He also walked three times.

But that was it for Scalzi. Back to the minors he went for a career interrupted by World War Two. He served in the Navy for three years, and when he returned to baseball, he played part of 1946 for Vicksburg (MS) of the Southeast League, then landed a job as manager of the Hopkinsville Hoppers of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League (which I believe was also called the Kitty League).

He was a player manager for a few minor league teams for several years, until an automobile accident forced him into retirement in 1960. He eventually moved to Pittsburgh, where he died in 1984. He was 71 years old.

Scalzi was not the best-known player nicknamed "Skeeter." He's here because of the alliteration. Certainly Skeeter Newsome and Skeeter Webb were more successful, having long major league careers, though neither was much of a hitter.

Lamar Ashby Newsome and James Laverne Webb were both five-foot-nine, weighing about 150 pounds. Both were called "Skeeter" mostly because of their size, were primarily shortstops, and both had 12-season careers in the major leagues.

Newsome arrived in 1935 with the Philadelphia Athletics, and later played five seasons with the Boston Red Sox and two with the Philadelphia Phillies. He returned to the minors in 1948, playing for the Seattle Raniers of the Pacific Coast League, and in 1949 became the player-manager of the Portland Pilots of the New England League. He managed seven teams over the next 11 years, winning four league pennants.

Skeeter Webb played one inning at shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1932, then returned to the minors until he resurfaced in 1938 with Cleveland. Later he played five seasons with the Chicago White Sox, before bouncing to Detroit and the Philadelphia Athletics. Only twice in 12 years did he appear in more than 84 games, and his lifetime batting average was only .219. Webb was born (and died) in Meridian, Mississippi, and while there may be more out there, I did find one newspaper column that referred to him as "The Meridian Mosquito." Apparently,, that nickname didn't catch on.

Another "Skeeter" was Everett Lee Kell, a second baseman who hit .221 in 1952 for the Philadelphia Athletics. Like Newsome and Webb, Kell stood five-foot-nine. His claim to fame was being the brother of third baseman George Kell, a Hall of Famer who batted .306 in his 15-year career, and in 1949 was the American League batting champion, beating Ted Williams in an incredibly close race. Kell batted .34291, Williams .34276.

On the other hand, there was Andrew Kemper Shelton, also nicknamed "Skeeter," an outfielder who found himself with the New York Yankees in 1915, and hung around long enough to play 10 games, during which he had a single in 40 at bats, or a batting average of .025, which is the lowest batting average in major league history for a player who had one hit. But there's more to Skeeter Shelton's story.

Then there's William Henry Barnes, also known as "Skeeter," who spent at least parts of nine seasons in the major leagues from 1983 to 1994, playing for Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Montreal. He played every position but catcher and pitcher, but never got up to bat more than 181 times, and had a .259 average.

Pitcher Clyde Wright also was nicknamed "Skeeter," but unlike the others, is listed under his given first name on baseball-reference.com. The left-hander had a 10-season career in the majors with the California Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers. His best season was 1970 when he won 22 games for the Angels. (In 1974 he lost 20 games for the Brewers.) His career record was 100-111. He left the majors after the 1975 season, then pitched three years in Japan.

Also having "Skeeter" as a nickname was Carson Bigbee, who is featured on another page.

James Franklin Slagle, a five-feet-seven-inch outfielder from Worthville, Pennsylvania, enjoyed a successful 10-season career in the National League (1899-1908), mostly with the Chicago Cubs. (Slagle was a member of two Cubs teams that won the World Series.)

Best known as Jimmy, Slagle is listed in several places as being nicknamed "Rabbit" and "Shorty." But if you dig further, the most popular nickname for him was "The Human Mosquito."

Twice — once with the Philadelphia Phillies, once with the Cubs — Slagle scored more than 100 runs. His best batting average was .315, in 1902, his first season with the Cubs. His lifetime average was .268, and fittingly, perhaps, that's what he batted for Baltimore of the Eastern League in 1909, when Slagle returned to the minors. He played one more season with Baltimore before he retired, batting .269. He then settled in Chicago and ran a laundry service.

I was taught that spiders were good bugs, so I have seldom killed one, because I was told they're helpful in how they feed on insects that can be household and backyard pests. Still, many people are squeamish around spiders, the way they are around snakes. I'm not squeamish, but I am wary, because some spiders, frankly, are dangerous.

As for their good qualities, well, spiders may be a bit overrated when it comes to eliminating insects such as flies, mosquitoes, silverfish, and the like. Nearly as I can figured, even a small piece of property would need about a million spiders to put a dent in the insect population that invades a typical home in our South Carolina neighborhood, where chiggers and no seeums thrive. But the subject here is two-legged spiders, such as . . .

If the story is correct, John Donald Jorgensen owed his nickname to a pair of shorts he wore to play basketball as a teenager. The shorts were black with an orange stripe, and a teacher said they reminded him of a spider. Sounds weird, but stranger things have led to nicknames.

Jorgensen truly came along at the wrong time. After graduating from Sacramento City College in 1941, he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, and played third base for the Santa Barbara Saints of the Class C California League. He batted .332, and his future looked promising.

But when the United States entered World War Two, Jorgensen joined the Army Air Force, and his baseball career was postponed until 1946, when he was assigned to the Montreal Royals of the International League. One of his teammates was Jackie Robinson.

He and Robinson advanced to the Dodgers in 1947, and that turned out to be the only season Jorgensen played regularly in the major leagues, though he'd spend at least part of the next four years with the Dodgers, then the New York Giants.

Later Jorgensen played in the Pacific Coast League for nine seasons. After he retired as a player, he worked as a scout for the Chicago Cubs for 22 years.

Apparently, there were two other players called "Spider" often enough to have the nickname supplant their given first name on baseball-reference.com. Neither player had much of a record in major league baseball.

Charles Ernest Wilhelm was nicknamed "Spider" supposedly for the way he covered the infield while playing shortstop. He appeared in seven games with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953, hitting a single and double in seven at bats for a .286 batting average. He spent 11 seasons in the minor leagues, six of them in Class AA and Class AAA, where his batting average was .223.

Utility man Owen "Spider" Clark, who played every position at least once during his two-season career (1889-90) with Washington of the National League and Buffalo of the Players League, batted .262 in 107 games, and may have had a longer career if he hadn't died at the age of 24.

Roger Nelson, a six-foot-three pitcher reportedly was nicknamed "Spider." He had a nine-season major league career with the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore, Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati between 1967-1976.

Outfielder Art James, who played in 11 games for Detroit in 1975, also was nicknamed "Spider." He spent seven years in the minor leagues, three in the Mexican League.

Torii Hunter, who in 2015 finished a 19-year major league career as one of the best defensive outfielders in the American League, was nicknamed "Spider-Man" for the way he ran down and snared fly balls.

HOME CONTACT