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I've always been entertained by nicknames, particularly those given baseball players. Even certain players who had ordinary nicknames interested me if their real names were unusual. One that always comes to mind if pitcher Sandalio Consuegra, whose nickname was simply "Sandy." But I loved saying "Sandalio Consuegra."

And so he was on the first list of favorite names I posted on this website several years ago, a list I removed a few years later. One thing that prompted me to revive, revise and greatly expand that list was something I read online last summer (2018) when nicknames were a hot topic in the major leagues. This piece was entitled "(Nick)name dropping: 25 best in MLB history," and was a list put together by someone named Joe Posnanski, who included so many pedestrian nicknames that I had to reply via my website. I had no idea my reply would be delayed several months, thanks to my efforts to review as many baseball nicknames as possible.

I'm seldom a sucker for the lists that have become the Internet's answer to junk mail, but I couldn't resist this list, and read all of it because it was on one page, not one of those things that forces you to click to 25 different pages. However, even before I began, I knew Posnanski's list was worthless because he numbered his choices. This is a popular was to devise lists — rating things such as athletes, restaurants, movies, TV shows, beaches, etc. The persons making these lists are, I hope, well aware there is no such thing as number one, in anything, except that Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player of all-time. You make these lists — such as the "50 best cities for people over 50" — in hopes of luring people AND pissing them off when they discover their home city is not on the list. Also, only two or three readers will agree with your top choice, which creates feedback.

YOU'LL NOTICE, if you look at any of the many pages that grew out of this project, that I don't number any of the players on my lists. I repeat: there's no such thing as number one. Not even if you back up your choice with statistics that no one can understand. (This is a message to baseball historian Bill James: Joe Morgan was not the best second baseman who ever played the game.)

Posnanski's lists of "best nicknames" was numbered, though I can't remember which was his top choice. Among his favorites were "Joey Bats," for Jose Bautista, "Thor" for New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, "Corey's Brother" for Kyle Seager, and perhaps worst of all, "All Rise" for New York Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge. (Remember, he promised these were the best in major league history, and he sticks pretty much to the 21st century, considered by most baseball fans as the nickname graveyard.)

While I understand where "All Rise" came from, it doesn't function as a nickname. Aaron's not the first Judge to play major league baseball. A first baseman named Joe Judge hung around the bigs for 20 years, 18 of those with Washington. And while no one said it during his day, it would have been fun to use the Chris Berman approach and refer to him as Joe "Here Come De" Judge.

Like many contemporary players, Aaron Judge is more deserving of a nickname such as "Big Whiff" — because he struck out an incredible 402 times in the 294 games he played through the end of the 2018 season. Or you could make a play on the famous Willie Mays "Say Hey" nickname and call Aaron Judge "The Say K Kid."

Several folks have endorsed "Joey Bats" as a catchy nickname, which tells me these folks are very young and new to the game. Sixty years ago there was a catcher whose real name was Matt Batts. Remembering Batts, I found the nickname for Jose Bautista uninspired. There must have been something catchier for a player who hit no more than 16 home runs in any of his first four full seasons to belting 54 in 2010.

ALL THIS is a long-winded introduction to several pages devoted not only to baseball player nicknames, but real names I find interesting. I separate "nicknames" into several categories; the reason for quotation marks is my belief that several "nicknames" are actually titles that do not function the way "Babe" did for George Herman Ruth; that is, "Babe" supplanted his first and middle names, creating a person known as "Babe" Ruth.

Theodore Samuel Williams became Ted Williams, though he had a few labels that described him, including "The Splendid Splinter" and "Teddy Ballgame." Most players continued to be known by rather mundane nicknames — "Chuck" or "Charlie" for Charles, "Jack" for John, etc., even when they had wonderful titles. (For example, second baseman Charlie Gehringer was known as "The Mechanical Man.")

However, Lawrence Peter Berra became "Yogi" Berra; Harold Patrick Reiser became "Pete" Reiser, often "Pistol Pete," and John Leonard Roosevelt Martin became "Pepper" Martin, whose title was "The Wild Horse of the Osage." To me, it's important that their nicknames were given them by other people.

Last year's silly project, which had a certain number of major league players wearing nicknames on the backs of their jerseys, included several nicknames the players gave themselves. That's not how nicknames work. It's also important to remember that many "nicknames" are things created by sportswriters looking for clever descriptions of players, or radio and television announcers who got carried away. No one seriously went up to Bob Feller and said, "So you're The Heater from Van Meter!"

IN RECENT YEARS there seems to have been an increased interest in old baseball nicknames (or titles), perhaps because the Internet allows obsessives such as myself to research, write and publish articles about such things. The old "nickname" attracting the most attention is "Death to Flying Things," though the player for whom it was created remains in doubt: Was it Bob Ferguson or Jack Chapman? (I was dismayed to learn someone tried to apply the phrase to a modern-day player, whose name escapes me. It's not worth looking it up.) Others in this category — titles posing as nicknames — are "The Knight of Limitless Linen" and "The Old Woman in the Red Cap." This was mostly a 19th century thing, and I've made a page devoted to the weird descriptions I like best.

There's also a large group of baseball players whose natural, mostly trite nicknames didn't set them apart, so someone noticed a trait and applied it to the name — Larry Doyle became "Laughing Larry" Doyle, Joe Berry became "Jittery Joe" Berry, and, perhaps the most famous of all was a player with an dull name who before he became a major leaguer showed up for a game without any footwear and became known as "Shoeless Joe" Jackson.

Deciding what players should be identified by a nickname is tricky business. I'm one of those doesn't use "Pete" to identify Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. There's no doubt "Pete" was one of the nicknames he picked up along the way. His first nicknames, as far as I know, were "Alex" and "Alex the Great." But none of them replaced Grover as his first name.

After he joined the Philadelphia Phillies, Alexander went on a camping trip with teammates who started calling him "Pete" after a character in a series of short films. Some versions of this story confuse the character (Alkali Ike) with his sidekick (Mustang Pete), claiming his camping companions thought Alexander reminded them of a non-existent "Alkali Pete."

IN ANY EVENT, Alexander was often called "Pete" by teammates, though this was slow to catch on with newspapers, who didn't jump on the bandwagon until the 1920s, almost ten years after he arrived in the majors. Soon newspaper called him "Old Pete," or "Ol' Pete." However, when first and last names were given, he was usually identified as "Grover Alexander." It wasn't until recently that baseball historians took it upon themselves to change his name, referring to him as "Pete" Alexander even while dealing with a period of his life before he was given that nickname.

Alexander is hardly alone in this regard. Catcher Eugene "Gene" Hargrave was nicknamed "Bubbles," but as far as I know, that nickname didn't supplant Gene during the years he was active. Outfielder Robert Fothergill was, indeed, called "Fatty" by opponents, but was identified in the press as "Bob."

Granted, nicknames make players more interesting, but I wonder if we tend to use them out of context. From what I've read, Hargrave and Fothergill harbored resentment over those nicknames, though perhaps not as strongly as did Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Medwick over being called "Ducky," or, worse, "Ducky Wucky."

INSENSITIVE nicknames were all the rage in the early days of professional baseball. Deaf or hearing-impaired players were called "Dummy," Native American players — even those only rumored to be part-Indian — were invariably called "Chief," and those whose families had emigrated from Germany were often called "Heinie." Several players were given female nicknames — "Sadie," "Dolly," "Kitty," even "Buttercup."

People familiar with the old nicknames carp that today's nicknames — the relative few that exist — are dull and silly. Well, that's correct, though there have been several memorable nicknames in the modern era — "Pumpsie" Green, "Mookie" Wilson, "Gates" Brown, "Tug" McGraw among them.

One nickname that caught my attention last year was "Laser Show," attached to Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Upon reflection, however, "Laser Show" seemed forced and out of place. Oh, I can see it for a player who hits 50 home runs a season (if that player doesn't strike out four times as often), but not for a second baseman who averages 10 home runs per season.

Besides, Pedroia and most of the players involved in last season's nickname fiasco violated that first rule of nicknames. You do not create them for yourself. Nicknames are a gift from parents, relatives, friends and rivals. Like any gift, nicknames may not be appreciated. Unlike most gifts, however, nicknames are non-returnable.

IT MAY BE a consequence of political correctness, or of living at a time parents treat their children like little princes and princesses, but relatively few people seem to acquire nicknames in childhood anymore. This is one reason there is a shortage of baseball nicknames. Back in what some refer to as the "Golden Age of Nicknames," most players arrived in the major leagues with nicknames already in place (though sports writers and fans often tried to improve upon them).

However, I'm certain that if we'd been forced to rely on sports writers and fans, they couldn't have matched the nicknames given Ellis Ferguson Deal, Orville Inman Veal, Arnold John Statz and David Meadow Ferriss, who are recalled mostly because we knew them as "Cot" Deal, "Coot" Veal, "Jigger" Statz, and "Boo" Ferriss. All of their nicknames were given them in childhood. And all of those nicknames are uniquely American.

That's why I think another reason for the shortage of memorable baseball nicknames is that the game has spread so far beyond the United States. Where nicknames are concerned, the influx of players from Latin American countries has changed things considerably. For example, since 1970, there have been 47 major league players named Rodriguez. (Before that date there were only six.) There are almost as many players named Hernandez, Ramirez and Perez.

EQUIVALENTS in the old days were Smith, Jones and Johnson, and efforts to distinguish them through the use of a nickname met with mixed results.

John Smith (1884-1891) was called "Phenomenal"; Sam Smith (1888) was called "Skyrocket"; Charles Smith (1890-1891) was called "Pop"; Clarence Smith (1913-17) was called "Pop-Boy"; Frank Smith (1904-1915) was called "Piano Mover" because of his off-season job; outfielder-third baseman Earl Smith (1916-22) was called "Sheriff"; another Earl Smith, a catcher (1919-1930), was called "Oil," because that's how Brooklyn fans pronounced his first name.

Bob Smith (1958-59) was called "Riverboat"; Aleck Smith (1897-1906) was known as "Broadway Aleck"; more recently Al Smith (1953-64) was called "Fuzzy," and pitcher-turned-outfielder Willie Smith (1963-71) was popularly known as "Wonderful Willie" Smith. Outfielder Elmer Smith (1914-25) needed no nickname; being called "Elmer" was sufficient. More recently there has been a player called Brick Smith (1987-88) because that's what his parents named him.

There were two George Smiths between 1884 and 1903. One was known as "Germany" Smith, the other was called "Heinie." I'm guessing this was because their families were originally known as Schmidt, or something close.

Of the modern Smiths, the one with the best nickname — or title — was shortstop Ozzie — "The Wizard of Oz."

Among the many players named Jones, we've had "Nippy," "Puddin' Head," "Binky," "Bumpus," "Cowboy," "Available," two "Deacons," and "Chipper."

The long list of Johnsons has no nicknames that match "Puddin' Head" and "Bumpus." There's "Si," "Syl," and "Spud," but mostly they're rather simple — four Bob Johnsons, three Bills, three Randys, one Deron, one Darrell, and a whole bunch more.

WHEN IT CAME to the name Rodriguez, the nickname game got off to a promising start, then turned into a "Sesame Street"-like exercise in learning the alphabet. When Alex Rodriguez was still amazing the baseball world as the Seattle Mariners shortstop, he was dubbed "A-Rod." Later catcher Ivan Rodriguez became "I-Rod," and pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, who struck out 1,142 batters in only 976 innings, was nicknamed "K-Rod." Amusing, but clearly not original. (Catcher Ivan Rodriguez also was called "Pudge," a hand-me-down from Carlton Fisk's closet).

There was a Cuban-born player, Jose Rodriguez, who played 58 games for the New York Giants over three seasons (1916-18), mostly at second base, though he was primarily a first baseman during a long minor league career that continued until 1932. His nickname was "El Hombre Goma," which, as far as I know, translates as "Rubber Man." This — or any — nickname would be necessary today because since 1970 there have been more than 50 players named Jose Rodriguez in organized baseball, though so far only one has made it to the major leagues

Since 1970, there have been 31 major league players named Ramirez. Had I been paying more attention to the game, I might keep them straight in my head. Off-hand, I'd say any player named Ramirez is good for at least 30 home runs a year. This impression is the lasting effect of retired outfielder Manny Ramirez, who managed to separate himself from the crowd, both with his amazing hitting and the way he conducted himself, which earned him one of the few memorable modern nicknames — "Manny Being Manny."

SOMETIMES nicknames backfire and create identity problems. My favorite example is "Ducky" Holmes, an outfielder who became notorious for an anti-semitic remark he made during a game in 1898. (Considering the language being used at baseball games in those days, it was highly unusual that Holmes' remark became such an issue.)

A few years later, there was another "Ducky" Holmes in the major leagues, and then another. When the name "Ducky" Holmes appeared in print, it sometimes was difficult to know which one was which.

Popular nicknames are often passed on to the next player who has the same last name, which is why baseball had two "Cozy" Dolans.

But mostly it's the given name that confuses the issue, even when the players spell them differently. Take the case of two men named Charles Jones. The obvious nicknames are either Chuck or Charlie, which sometimes is spelled Charley. Doesn't matter, because there's at least one baseball reference book that confuses two old-timers — pitcher Charlie Jones with outfielder Charley Jones, which shouldn't happen since Charlie was better known as "Bumpus," and Charley was nicknamed " Baby," and also called "The Knight of Limitless Linen."

THOSE WHO wallow in the past — where I do a lot of my wallowing — enjoy the nicknames of baseball players who came along before the 1950s because we can identify with them, and the circumstances that produced their nicknames. We may have had the same nicknames for the same reasons; if not, we certainly had friends who did, because we grew up in an era when almost everyone had a nickname.

Bill James, the well-known baseball statistician and historian, included nicknames in his "Historical Baseball Abstract." He doesn't believe the oft-told story how 1930s first baseman James Collins came to be called "Ripper." James thinks the nickname stemmed from Collins' lifestyle; I believe it stems from an incident in his youth (or early days in the minor leagues) when Collins hit a baseball that became impaled on a nail, ripping the cover off the ball.

Here I'm reminded of a classic comedy routine by the late Richard Jeni, in which he recalled his father's "When I Was Young" litany . . . because when I was young we often played with baseballs that lost their covers. When that happened, we'd wrap them in black electrical tape, and use them until one of us was lucky enough to get a new baseball.

I also relate to the story about how catcher Herald Ruel was given the nickname, "Muddy," supposedly for making baseballs out mud when there were no others available. I don't for a minute believe the story — preferring the version that his mother called him "Muddy" simply because, as a youngster, he came home one day covered in the stuff — but it's the kind of story that recalls my youth.

I remember sandlot baseball, before youth leagues were organized and equipment was furnished. And I grew up a few miles from the home of the Syracuse Chiefs, an International League team, and I watched players with such names as "Dutch" Mele, "Dixie" Howell, "Rocky" Nelson, "Goody" Rosen, "Cookie" Cuccurullo, and a young Newark catcher named "Yogi" Berra.

Enough already. It's time for . . .

Favorites from A to Z
My trip starts at Arntzen, ends with Zuber
"Death to Flying Things"
And what about that old woman in the red cap?
More title than nickname
Examples: "The Mechanical Man" and "The Meal Ticket"
"Kings" and other royalty
From Mike Kelly to the "Sultan" and 'Rajah"
They didn't need no stinking nicknames
You can't improve upon Vida Blue and Clyde Kluttz
Kick it up a notch
While other names need a little bit extra
Cricket, anyone?
These players all had jolly good names
A lesson in Geography
But beware — there are several misleading nicknames
When in doubt, alliterate
It's the surest way to create a catchy nickname
Pop culture's contribution
Several nicknames come from comic strip characters
Paging Dr. Frankenstein
Here's how to assemble a baseball player
Now playing
There are three features at our baseball multiplex
We've got you, Babe
From Ruth to Dahlgren, Adams and Herman, too
Ladies' Day
A tribute to "Sadie," Liz," "Beauty" and "Blondie"
"Daff,""Dazzy" and "Dizzy"
And a bunch of names that rhyme with "olly"
"Rips,"Ripples and Riddles
Nicknames that sound like killers or "Batman" villains
Give us an "S"
As in "Skinny," "Sparky," "Stubby," "Stuffy," "Sloppy, " "Soup ". . .
Anything but that!
Some players must really have hated their nicknames
A Chris Berman primer
Some names practically write their own Bermanisms
From aviary to zoo
This is for the birds
Consider all the robins, cranes, hawks and ducks.
Animal house
Meet "Hippo," "Moose," and "Weasel," among others
A hutch, not a dugout
That's what you'd need for this team of "Rabbits"
Baseball's pesty fellows
"Flea," "Jigger," "Cricket," and a swarm of mosquitoes
Spotlight on ...
'Cannonball' Crane
He threw his life away
The two Sam Cranes
They went in opposite directions
Jay Partridge
This Dodger was too timid
George Miller
A man of several nicknames
"Goose" Goslin
Denied use of his striped bat
The Parrott brothers
Ill-fated "Jiggs," musical "Tacks"
Charley Jones
"The Knight of Limitless Linen"
Fred Walker
Unusual, but not mysterious
"Ducky" Holmes
There's more than one
Once upon a time
Short tales about some interesting and unusual players.
Player index
 

A few acknowledgments:

"The New Bill James Baseball Abstract," the 2001 edition, replaced the annual edition of "Who's Who in Baseball" as my favorite go-to publication, or, if you prefer, my bathroom reading. James provided a lot of information, a host of anecdotes, and gave me several ideas to pursue. I didn't agree with a lot of James' player evaluations, and I don't believe anyone can use statistics, regardless of the formula, to put today's players on a level field with those who played 100 or more years ago. But I love it that James questioned so many opinions that had been cast into stone by baseball elders.

"The Ultimate Baseball Book," edited by Daniel Orken and Harris Lewine, 1979, is a never-ending source of pleasure and information, with some great photos.

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) website is an invaluable source of information about baseball players, thanks to its biography project, and I spent a lot time on baseball-reference.com, with which I developed a love-hate relationship. The website must have a zillion pages, giving several to each player who ever dressed in a major league uniform, but often the pages don't agree on certain details — such as size and nickname, and some statements are just flat-out wrong. When you try to contact the website — which claims to want feedback — you encounter one of those "prove you are not a robot" quizzes that asks you to check off photos that contain an image of a person born in Montana, or some such nonsense. And if I had a dollar for every time the website uses the phrase "had a cup of coffee" to describe a player's short visit to the major leagues, I'd buy a Porsche.

I also received help from several other websites such as baseballhistory.com, and that website and others are thanked on the appropriate pages.

As always, I relied a lot on newspaper articles I found on fultonhistory.com, which has millions of newspaper pages from many old newspapers, mostly from New York State, but there are several from other areas, including Chicago, Washington, D. C., and Los Angeles. The turn-of-the-century New York and Brooklyn newspapers were particularly helpful.

 
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