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David Leonard Brain was born in Hereford, England (where hurricanes hardly ever happen). When his family arrived in the United States and where it settled are unknown, but the young man took up baseball, and in 1900, at the age of 21, played third base for the Des Moines Hawkeyes of the Western League, and batted .305. He also played eight games with the Chicago White Stockings of the American League, which was a season away from becoming a major league. He was six-for-25 with Chicago, a .240 batting average.

He began 1901 with Chicago, and hit .350 in 20 at bats, but his fielding at second base presented a problem, so he played most of the season with the St. Paul Saints of the Western League, hitting .262, but leading the league in home runs, with 13.

After batting .331 with the Buffalo Bisons of the Eastern League in 1902, the St. Louis Cardinals purchased him; Brain played 119 games in 1903, at shortstop and third base. He batted .231, second lowest on the team, but had 15 triples, and led the Cardinals in runs batted in, with 60. As you might guess, the Cardinals did not score many runs, and finished in eighth place, with only 43 wins and 94 losses.

Brain remained in the majors until 1908, and was plagued by fielding problems. He played with five different teams during his six-season National League career. He led the league in home runs in 1907, with 10, but his team, the Boston Doves, peddled him to Cincinnati, but the Reds let him go after 16 games. The New York Giants gave him a look, but released him after he had only three hits in 17 at bats.

He was back in Buffalo in 1909, and retired after the 1910 season, which was split between Buffalo and St. Paul. He moved to Los Angeles, where he died in 1959, at the age of 80.

The two most unusual things about Brain: He led the National League in home runs in 1907, then never hit another one. Also, he's the only player to hit three triples in one game twice in one season, apparently for two different teams — St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Those six triples represented more than half of the 11 triples he had that season (1905).

Pitcher Edward Marvin Head is an amazing story, that, unhappily, did not turn out the way it should, though there were some memorable highlights along the way. For details of Head's story, click on his name to read an account by Lyle Spatz, written for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). One of the highlights is a no-hitter Head threw against the Boston Braves in 1946, when baseball was returning to normal after World War Two.

Head had a relatively short, eight-season career in organized baseball, retiring in 1947 because of a sore arm. His overall record of 79-52 is remarkable for a man who was naturally left-handed, but, because of a bus accident when he was a teenager, had to learn how to throw right-handed.

Willie Edward Jones might well have remained plain ol' Willie Jones were it not for a song called "Puddin' Head Jones" about a class clown. Willie became "Puddin' Head" as a youngster, and the nickname endured forever.

Jones played third base for the Philadelphia Phillies Whiz Kids in 1950. He had a 15-year major league career, with a lifetime batting average of .258, hitting 190 home runs along the way.

Elroy Leon Face enjoyed a 16-season career in the major leagues, 15 of those with the Pittsburgh Pirates, primarily as a relief pitcher, who, in 1959, won 18 games, against only one loss. Overall, his record was 104-95, and he was a closer before the term existed in baseball, and led the National League in saves before that category was created.

Face stood just five-feet-eight, and weighed about 155 pounds. His primary pitch was a forkball that challenged batters much like the knuckle ball.

Don Mossi was a pitcher who had two careers in the major leagues — he was an ace relief pitcher for Cleveland in the mid-1950s, a starting pitcher with the Detroit Tigers a few years later. Through it all, he took a lot of kidding about his looks. In addition to "Ears," he was also nicknamed "The Sphinx."

At first, Mossi was best known as the left-handed half of perhaps baseball's first pair of relief specialists. Ray Narleski (right) was his right-handed counterpart, and they teamed up for the first time as rookies with the pennant-winning Cleveland Indians in 1954. In 1957, the Indians put Mossi into the starting rotation, though he was primarily a relief pitcher again a season later when Narleski became a starter. Both pitchers were dealt to Detroit in 1959, which was Narleski's last season.

Mossi, on the other hand, started 30 games, and had the best season of his career, winning 17 games, which tied him with Hall of Famer Jim Bunning and Frank Lary for most victories on the Tigers that season. Two years later, Mossi was 15-7. His career went downhill from there. In 1964 he pitched for the Chicago White Sox, and finished his career in 1965 with the Kansas City Athletics.

I am not certain of the pronunciation of his last name, but outfielder-pitcher Eddie Eayrs (right) seems to qualify for this page. Eayrs played just 114 major league games over three National League seasons with three teams — Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Boston. In 1920, with the Braves, he hit .328 in 87 games. As a pitcher he was 1-2 in 11 games with a 6.23 earned run average. Overall, his major league batting average was .306, raising the question: why didn't someone keep him around longer? He batted .309 in 13 minor league seasons, seven of them in Providence, Rhode Island.

Eayrs attended Brown University in Providence for two years, but did not play baseball there, having already turned pro. He returned to Brown in the 1940s as baseball coach.

Photos of Fred Hofmann as a young man pretty much tell you how he got his nickname. Hofmann was lucky enough to spend his prime (1919-25) with the New York Yankees, where he was backup catcher to a couple of baseball's best, Muddy Ruel (1920), then Wally Schang. He did well in his role, especially in 1922, when he hit .297 in 37 games, and 1923 when he batted .290 in 72 games.

After slumping to .175 in 1924, he spent most of the time the next season with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association, batting .305. In 1926 he spent the whole season with St. Paul, batting .302 and hitting a career high 13 home runs.

He returned to the majors in 1927 with the Boston Red Sox, but after the 1928 season he became a player-manager in the minor leagues. He worked in baseball for the rest of his life, managing or coaching.

I came upon once incident supposedly involving the rookie Hofmann and Ty Cobb in 1920. It may or may not be true, but considering Cobb's reputation and a lot of similar incidents, this tale is believable. What seems unlikely is that a rookie catcher — granted, Hofmann was 26 by then — would taunt Cobb, which Hofmann claimed he did that day, saying something akin to, "Oh, so you're the great Ty Cobb?" Followed by an insult.

Cobb reportedly told Hofmann he would soon regret his words, and proceeded to single, steal second base, then attempt to score on what was little more than a routine ground out. When the first baseman threw the ball to Hofmann, Cobb was only about halfway home. So the catcher blocked the plate, and prepared for a collision.

Cobb, being Cobb. approached Hofmann spikes first, and ripped the catcher's uniform, drew blood, and knocked the ball loose. Both players wound up on the ground, but Cobb scrambled to home plate, and was safe.

I'd think that Hofmann learned enough to employ a bullfighter's move the next time he found himself in that position.

This would be a good name for any of the many actors who these days think whiskered cheeks make them attractive. When will this ugliness end?

Harry Gordon Cheek was a catchers born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1879 and perhaps thought he'd passed his long-delayed major league test at age 31, but was disappointed. Still, how many other played could claim a lifetime batting average of .500?

In 1910, for reasons unknown, Cheek was called up from the Class B New York State League by the Philadelphia Phillies. He got into two games, played six errorless innings behind the plate, hit a single and a double in four trips to the plate, and was sent back to the Albany Senators, managed by a former major league with one of my favorite nicknames, Boileryard Clarke.

Previously, Cheek seemed permanently planted in the Western Association, catching from 1905-08 with the Goldbugs, the nickname of a team located in Sedalia, then Webb City, Missouri.

Cheek remained with Albany through the 1911 season, then played two years with the Class AA Sacramento Sacts (yes) of the Pacific Coast League, before dropping down to the Class B Vancouver Beavers of the Northwestern League for what looked to be the last three years of his long career.

However, in 1923, he came out of retirement long enough to play 30 games for the Hastings, Nebraska, Cubs of the Class D Nebraska League. The team was managed by Leonard Bennett and Hunky Shaw, which I mention only because Shaw is an interesting story.

Leo Durocher was a light-hitting shortstop who broke into the major leagues with the New York Yankees in the 1920s, alienating teammates and umpires alike. Had a certain 1959 Peter Sellers movie been made thirty years earlier, it would have been Durocher, not Howard Cosell, who was nicknamed "The Mouth That Roared." Instead he was known as "Leo the Lip."

Durocher later played for Cincinnati, but was really in his element from 1933-37 playing with the St. Louis Cardinals, and their legendary "Gas House Gang," led by Pepper Martin. Durocher's fame spread when he became manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, winning, but annoying general manager Branch Rickey, a religious man who didn't approve of Durocher's antics on the field and his lifestyle off of it. Durocher was suspended for the 1947 season for associating with gamblers. The Dodgers won the pennant without him, as the team was managed by soft-spoken Burt Shotten, who did not wear a team uniform in the dugout, but rather looked as though he were a high school teacher.

Durocher returned in 1948, but only for half a season as Rickey arranged for him to leave the Dodgers to take over as manager of the rival New York Giants. Shotten returned, but the Boston Braves won the pennant that year.

It was in '47 that Durocher married for the third time, to actress Laraine Day, who was as classy and conservative as Durocher was loud and profane. This odd couple remained together for 13 years. Durocher died in 1991. Three years later he was elected to the Hall of Fame

Lipman Emanuel Pike is regarded as the first professional baseball player, accepting $20 a week in 1866 to play for the first team to be known as the Philadelphia Athletics. Other players soon followed suit, with Cincinnati's Red Stockings assembling the first all-professional team.

Pike played for and managed the Troy (New York) Haymakers in the first professional league, the National Association, in 1871. He was five-feet-eight-inches tall, weighed about 160 pounds, but was the most noted slugger of his era. His combination of power and speed made him the league's home run champion four times. (In most parks, a ball hit over the fence wasn't automatically a home run; an outfielder could retrieve the ball, which forced hitters to run the bases full speed.)

Pike used his foot speed to earn money in unusual ways, such as the time he raced a trotter in a 100-yard dash and won.

He played outfield with the St. Louis Brown Stockings during the first National League season and bounced to four other teams over the next five years. His brother, Jay, played one National League game in 1877.

Lip Pike also was known as "The Iron Batter," presumably because of his power. It's possible, I suppose, this nickname referred to the long distance of some of his hits, as though Pike's bat were made of iron, not wood.

William Keister isn't the only player with this unusual nickname, but is the best known. Keister used a wagon tongue bat, made from what is deemed the strongest wood. Such wood was used for wagon tongues (I'd call them handles) for horse-drawn wagons. So, yes, I'm cheating. The "tongue" in his nickname was not part of his body.

But perhaps Keister was loose-tongued, and annoyed teammates with his bragging about his bat. Certainly he was one of the best hitters in the late 1890s, early 1900s, but should have paid more attention to his glove. In 1901, playing shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles of the American League, he batted .328, with 21 triples, but he made 97 errors in just 112 games.

Walt Williams was a short (five-feet-six), squat outfielder who played 10 seasons in the majors, starting with 10 games in 1964 with Houston. He's best remembered for six seasons with the Chicago Whites Sox (1967-72), during which he batted .304 (1969) and .294 (1971). Later he played with Cleveland and the New York Yankees.

With Cleveland in 1973. Williams broke up a no-hit bid by White Sox pitcher Stan Bahnsen, getting a single with with two outs in the ninth inning.

After his last game in the major leagues in 1975, Williams played two years in Japan and two years in Mexico. Later he coached for the White Sox, then did some coaching and managing in the minor leagues. He died in 2016; he was 72.

Pitcher William Alfred "Bill" Hands Jr. was obtained by the Chicago Cubs in a trade with the San Francisco Giants after the 1965 season. Hands had a terrific year with the Tacoma Giants of the Pacific Coast League, posting a 17-5 record, but was shelled during a brief stay with the parent club in September.

After two losing seasons with the Cubs, Hands emerged in 1968 as one of the top pitchers in the National League, at least, for three seasons, going 16-10 in 1968, 20-14 in 1969, and 18-15 in 1970. Those three seasons accounted for nearly half of the 111 victories Hands would have when he retired in 1975, having spent time with Minnesota and Texas along the way. His losses totaled 110.

Hands was a poor hitter, even for a pitcher, and once struck out 14 times in a row.

His Snidely Whiplash-like handlebar mustache turned Roland Fingers into a media darling during the 1972 World Series.

This pitcher's name was perfect for a snack food or a new treat from KFC – "Can I have some Rollie Fingers, mom?" Fingers was the relief pitcher supreme (1968-1985) for Oakland, San Diego and Milwaukee. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992.

Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown came upon his nickname in painful fashion. He injured his right hand twice in childhood accidents in his hometown, Nyesville, Indiana. He lost most of his index finger to a piece of farm machinery; later he broke several bones in the hand when he fell while chasing a rabbit.

A Hall of Fame pitcher, Brown won 239 games in his 14-season major league career, which included two seasons in the Federal League where he pitched for three teams — the St. Louis Terriers, Brooklyn Tip Tops and Chicago Whales. Most of his pitching was done for the Chicago Cub of the National League. He posted a 26-6 record for the Cubs in 1906, 29-9 in 1908, and 27-9 in 1909, and his career earned run average was an incredible 2.06.

More recently, the knuckle ball is a pitch associated with Hoyt Wilhelm, but in the early days of the American League, it was the favorite pitch of Eddie Cicotte, who, unfortunately, is best remembered as one of the Chicago White Sox players who fixed the 1919 World Series.

"Knuckles" Cicotte was banned from baseball, thanks to the Black Sox Scandal, after he'd won 21 games for the White Sox in 1920. The season before, he won 29 games, and in 1917 had won 27. In 14 seasons, Cicotte won 209 games, lost 148. In addition to the White Sox, he played five seasons with the Boston Red Sox, after making his first appearance with Detroit.

In those days, all sorts of weird pitches were allowed, most famous of which was the spitter. Those pitches were eventually outlawed, but Cicotte's knuckle ball (above, right), which did not involve doctoring the baseball ball in any way, was perfectly legal, but just as baffling. Three Finger Brown (above) couldn't help but throw a similar pitch.

Roach was better known as "Skel" (short for "Skeleton"). His actual name was Rudolph Weichbrodt, who stood six-feet-two and weighed about 150 pounds.Teammates had difficulty pronouncing the last name of the German-born pitcher; one of them suggested "Roach," which remained his baseball name throughout a professional career that began in 1895 and ended in 1905, but included only one major league game, with the Chicago Orphans of the National League in 1899. Roach earned a complete game victory and a trip back to the minors.

Frank Robert Donald Raney (nee Raniszewski) was a right-handed pitcher who made three starts for the St. Louis Browns of the American League in 1949. He had a complete game victory, but made early exits and was the losing pitcher in the other two games. He worked one game in relief the following season and took the loss. Raney was finished in the majors.

He stood six-feet-four and his major league weight is listed at 190. Perhaps as a teenager he was skinny, which might account for the nickname "Ribs." However, he was much better known as Bob Raney. During World War II he served two years in the Navy.

William Frederick "Fred" Ely stood six-feet-one and weighed around 150 pounds. "Bones" seemed a logical nickname for the versatile player who soon settled in at shortstop, playing for eight major league teams from 1884 to 1902.

Statistics for Ely are misleading. He was regarded as a better-than-average fielder, but in 1894 he made 79 errors. That, of course, has to be weighed against the rest of the shortstops in the league, and, well, he was worse than most, but not by much. And his .306 batting average that season was misleading — because that was three points below the league average. Turns out 1894 was a great year for hitters, even for Ely, whose career batting average was .258. However, his 12 home runs in 1894 was tops on his St. Louis team, and among the league leaders.

Also worth a mention here is Ricardo "Ricky" Bones (right), whose 11-season career (1991-2001) included stays with the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals, Florida Marlin, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. He arrived as a starting pitcher,, left as a reliever. He had 63 careers wins, 82 losses, and made the American League all-star team once, in 1994.

He was born Frank Gordon McKenry in Piney Flats, Tennessee. Somewhere there has to be a story behind his nickname, though I've yet to find it. Some websites say he had two more nicknames — "Pete" and "Big Pete."

This may be another case of revised history. His 1956 obituary was the first mention I found that he was called "Pete," but I found several mentions — in stories from his playing days — of McKenry being called "Big Frank." The pitcher stood six-feet-four and weighed 205 pounds.

For that matter, I didn't find him identified as "Limb" McKenry, but that's how several baseball sites list him, including the incredibly detailed baseball-reference.com.

In any event, McKenry pitched a bit for the Cincinnati Reds during the 1915 and 1916 seasons. He won six games, lost six. Previous to his major league debut he pitched for the Victoria (Canada) Bees of the Northwest League, and made a few appearances with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League.

Though born in Tennessee, McKenry lived most of his life in California. After Cincinnati loaned him to Richmond of the International League in 1916, McKenry won eight games and lost 11, but his season was cut short because he was a member of the California National Guard and was pressed into service along the Mexican border. Apparently for the two years after that he served in World War I.

McKenry played with Sacramento of the PCL in 1919, then spent the five years with semi-pro teams in California. But in 1925-26 he was back in the PCL, pitching for the Oakland Oaks.

In 1956, McKenry, who had complained to friends about his poor health, used a shotgun to commit suicide.

Sammy Byrd was an outfielder for the New York Yankees (1929-34) during Babe Ruth's declining years. Byrd was often used as a pinch runner for Ruth. Thus the nickname.

Byrd had hit very well in the minors, and showed promise during his rookie year with the Yankees, though he never had more than 218 at bats in any season. He batted .312 in 62 games in 1929, but did not hit for power.

When Ruth left the Yankees after the 1934 season, Byrd was dealt to Cincinnati, where he finally became a regular, but batted only .262 and .248 in his final two seasons in the big leagues.

Later he became a pro golfer, winning six tournaments.

At six-feet-three, 205 pounds, catcher Barry Clifton Foote could have been nicknamed Big Foote. He was born in 1952 in Smithfield, North Carolina, son of a minor league pitcher named Ambrose "Amby" Foote.

Barry Foote was drafted by the Montreal Expos out of high school in 1970, and played four seasons of minor league ball before he joined the parent club. He got his first taste of major league pitching in 1973 after he'd batted .262 with 19 home runs for the Peninsula Whips of the International League's South Division. He got six at bats with Montreal that year, and had four hits, including a triple.

He came down to earth in 1974 when he was the starting catcher for Montreal, playing 125 games. He batted .262, which would be his highest average in a major league career that continued until 1982. In 1977, Foote lost his starting job to Gary Carter, and was traded to Philadelphia, where he found himself on the bench, behind Bob Boone and Tim McCarver.

In 1979, he was the primary catcher for the Chicago Cubs, batting .254 with a major league career high 16 home runs. The next season he was the backup to Tim Blackwell. In 1981 he was with the New York Yankees, and a year later was back in the International League, this time with Columbus. He retired from playing at the end of the 1982 season. From 1982-89 he managed minor league teams, including Columbus in 1986.

His son, Derek Foote, was a first baseman and catcher in the minor leagues from 1994-97.

How Clarence Vic Blair got his nickname I don't know, though one website said it was because Blair was the first soccer star to play major league baseball. That was a joke, but apparently some folks took it seriously and have passed it along as gospel. Blair was born in Enterprise, Oklahoma, not exactly a soccer hotbed.

Except for smart alecks like myself who write and make feeble jokes about nicknames, Blair was mostly called Clarence, not "Footsie," though baseball-reference.com lists him by his nickname. (It's a wonderful website for baseball fans, but inconsistent in the way it chooses to replace real first names with nicknames.)

"Footsie" wasn't an uncommon moniker at the time, usually given to people who had big feet. "Footsie" Benton, an Arkansas football player in the 1930s, got his nickname because of his size 12-1/2 shoes. John Marcum, next on my list, also owed his nickname to feet.

Blair, an infielder who was primarily a second baseman, was lucky he wasn't called Boots, considering his fielding shortcomings. Early in his minor league career he made 23 errors in 41 games.

He broke in with the Chicago Cubs in 1929, and batted .319 in 72 at bats. Then, in his only full season with the Cubs, he hit .273 in 1930. He saw limited action in 1931, and returned to the minors. He kept playing until 1941.

In retirement Blair returned to the southwest. He died in 1982 in Texarkana, Texas.

John Alfred Marcum was a pitcher who could hit. He hit so well, in fact, that some manager considered using him as an outfielder, but what provided a nickname was what may have deprived him of a longer major league career — his feet. They were said to be the biggest in baseball. Some men might have overcome the problem, but Marcum was neither fast nor agile in the outfield, and the expression, "He trips over his own feet," might have been created with him in mind.

Marcum won 65 games, lost 63, in seven American League seasons with Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis and Chicago. His best season was 1935 when he won 17 games for the Athletics.

For someone with such a short career — 662 games in seven minor league seasons, and eight games with the Chicago Cubs in 1958 — Richard Johnson is well-remembered because of his nicknames. "Footer" is the more unusual, but "Treads" is pretty good, too. Trouble is, there's no recorded explanation for how the Duke University graduate came to be known by either one of them.

Johnson was an outfielder whose statistics are unremarkable, giving no indication why the Cubs promoted him for about a month, during which he pinch hit five times without success, and was used as a pinch runner three times.

Johnson retired early, went to law school, and later set up his practice in the Phoenix, Arizona, area.

George Selkirk ran funny, not on his toes, but on the balls of his feet. Frankly, I don't see how that's possible, but that little bit was included in an explanation of how he received his unusual nickname.

The Canadian-born outfielder for the New York Yankees (1934-42) had the distinction of inheriting uniform number 3 (since retired) that had been worn by Babe Ruth. Mostly referred to by his given first name, it was "Twinkletoes" that made Selkirk memorable.

Selkirk is mentioned — rather unfairly, I think — in "Fences," the August Wilson play that was turned into a 2016 Denzel Washington movie. Washington's character, a former player in the Negro League, harps about being denied a chance to play in the major leagues in his prime, citing Selkirk's .269 batting average for the Yankees in 1940.

"Man batting .269, under- stand? .269. What kind of sense that make? I was hitting .432 with thirty-seven home runs! Man batting .269 and playing right field for the Yan- kees! I saw Josh Gibson’s daughter yesterday. She walking around with raggedy shoes on her feet. Now I bet you Selkirk’s daughter ain’t walking around with raggedy shoes on her feet! I bet you that!"

This certainly gives a false impression of Selkirk, who batted higher than .300 in five of his six seasons leading up to 1940.

 
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