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The following list includes players whose rather ordinary first names were personalized:

 

Tracy Souter Barrett should be better known than he is. Click on his name to read an interesting story that's part of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) biography project.

Barrett was a student-athlete at the University of Illinois, but spent summers playing professional baseball under an alias, Dick Oliver. When he chose to make baseball his career, he chose to be known as Dick Barrett. However, his size (five-feet-nine, perhaps shorter) and his round body earned him the enhanced nickname, "Kewpie Dick."

Barrett had a long career in the minor leagues, pitching mostly for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. He had seven 20-win seasons for Seattle, and won a total of 312 games in the minors. His major league record was a mediocre 35-58, most of his decisions coming with the Philadelphia Phillies during the World War Two years. He lost 20 games in 1945, after which he returned to the minor leagues. He pitched his last professional game at the age of 46.

Richard Bartell usually went by the simple nickname, "Dick," but his fiery temperament and aggressive style of play earned him the nickname that set him apart. "Rowdy" worked better with Richard, and while that nickname increased public awareness of the shortstop, it may have given folks the wrong impression.

How else to explain why a player whose major league career spanned 18 seasons, during which he hit .300 or better five times, got so little respect when he retired. The man had 2,165 hits, and was regarded as a better-than-average fielder. Yet Hall of Fame voters have ignored him. Bartell played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers from 1927 through 1943, and entered the service at age 35. He returned from the war to appear in five games in 1946 before retiring.

Why and how often William Henry Bernhard was called "Strawberry Bill," as they are with most ball player nicknames, appear to be unanswered questions. One guess about the "why" is that Bernhard had a thing for strawberries. Another is that he had red hair. (The color of his hair was not mentioned in any story I read.)

For sure, Bernhard was born in 1871 in Clarence, New York, near Buffalo, and into his twenties pitched for local teams now affiliated with any recognized minor leagues. Finally, he joined Palmyra of the New York State League, and a year later, 1899, made his major league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies, winning six games, losing six. Bernhard was a big man for the times (six-foot-one, 200 pounds), and considered fast, though his strike out totals were modest.

After another year with the Phillies — when he went 15-10 — he jumped to the other Philadelphia team, the Athletics, when the major league version of the American League began in 1901. He won 17 games for Connie Mack's team, but, along with his friend Napoleon Lajoie, Bernhard was subject of a lawsuit filed by the Phillies. The upshot was Bernhard and Lajoie had to play for the Phillies — or else. The ruling extended only so far as the Pennsylvania borders, so Mack dealt Bernhard and Lajoie to the American League's Cleveland team. The complication: Both players could be arrested if they were caught in Pennsylvania, so they took some interesting routes when they traveled from Cleveland to Washington, New York and Boston.

Bernhard had one decision — a win — before going to Cleveland where he won 17 more games, losing just five. He had a 23-win season in 1904, but because he'd started his major league career at the age of 28, he didn't put in that many seasons, pitching his last game for Cleveland in 1907. A year later he was player-manager of the Nashville team in the Southern Association, leading them to the pennants.

Eventually, he headed west and settled in California, dying in San Diego in 1949, at the age of 78.

Jonas Arthur Berry was given his nickname because his herky-jerky pitching delivery made him look ... well, jittery.

Berry would have been a career minor leaguer were it not for World War Two. He was too old to be drafted by the Army, so in 1942 the Chicago Cubs handed the 37-year-old Berry a major league baseball uniform for two brief relief appearances. The next year he was back to the minor leagues for his 18th season as a professional baseball player.

His prayers of a return to the majors were answered in 1944 when he landed a spot on the Philadelphia Athletics roster. He appeared in 53 games, won 10 and lost 8, which was the most in both categories by any relief pitcher. They didn't have a category called "saves" in those days, but baseball statisticians never leave box scores alone, so they have recalculated those from just about every season and — sonofagun — Jittery Joe Berry had 12 saves in '44, tops in the league. Oh, yes, his earned run average was a nifty 1.94.

A year later the Athletics went from fifth place to eighth, but Berry remained effective, posting an 8-7 record and a 2.35 earned run average. Sure, this was World War Two baseball, but Berry, approaching his 41st birthday, deserves credit for a job well done.

The world began to return to normal in 1946, Berry's last season in the majors, playing for the Athletics and the Cleveland Indians. His lifetime won-lost record was 21-22, his earned run average 2.45. He made 133 pitching appearances, all of them in relief.

Berry not only was jittery, he was skinny. A few online sources said a gust of wind once blew Berry off the mound, or at least interrupted his pitching motion. Shades of Stu Miller, a pitcher who had problems with the wind at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.

Jittery and skinny, Berry also was durable. As a minor league pitcher he won 248 games (against 198 losses)

James Leroy Bottomley is remembered for several things. Bottomley enjoyed a 16-season career, playing his first 11 years with the St. Louis Cardinals. The first baseman became known for the way he usually wore his cap at a jaunty angle, achieving an almost goofy look that was appropriate for someone called "Sunny Jim."

He also was the player who, on September 16, 1924, set a major league record by driving in 12 runs in a single game, against Brooklyn. (That record was tied in 1993 by another St. Louis Cardinal, Mark Whiten.) In 1929, Bottomley went on a tear in July and hits seven home runs in a five-game period. The season before he became one of the few players to lead a major league in both home runs (31) and triples (20). His 136 runs batted in also topped the National League.

Bottomley, who owned a farm in Missouri, is also the guy who was given a special day in 1936 when he was back in St. Louis after playing three seasons for Cincinnati. Only this time he was with thee Browns, not the Cardinals. Both teams played home games at Sportsman's Park. Anyway, Bottomley was asked what kind of gift he'd like, and he said, "A cow." And that's what he received. He named the cow "Fielder's Choice."

Bottomley finished that season with a .298 batting average and 95 runs batted in. The next season he was the player-manager of the Browns, and that marked the end of his time in the major leagues. He had a heart condition which surfaced in 1938 when he was the player-manager of the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League, but about a month into the season he was forced to retire.

Bottomley died in 1959, at the age of 59. Fifteen years later he was voted into the Hall of Fame.

He was born Edward William Brown in Milligan, Nebraska, in 1891, and was educated at Syracuse University, serving a hitch in the Army during World War One. He stood six-feet-three and weighed 190 pounds, but couldn't throw very well; thus, the nickname, which he probably despised.

He was a better-than-average hitter, but had little power. As a result, Brown didn't make it to the major leagues until his 29th year. He played with the New York Giants, Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) and Boston Braves, and hit better than .300 in four consecutive seasons (1924-27), peaking in 1926 when he batted .328.

He played center field mostly, but also played a lot of left field, since right field is generally reserved for those who have strong throwing arms. He played 618 consecutive games, one of the longest streaks in National League history. It may be significant that Brown spent the 1923-24 off-season playing in the integrated Cuban Winter League. He may have benefited by competing against Oscar Charleston, regarded by some as the best baseball player who ever lived, but denied a major league career because of his race. Center fielder Charleston batted .379 for the pennant-winning Santa Clara team that winter in Cuba.

James Timothy Burke, a light-hitting third baseman at the turn of the century — the 19th turning into the 20th, that is — was called "Sunset Jimmy" because of his reddish complexion and beaming smile. That was the explanation offered by Associated Press writer Charles Dunkley in a story published October 2, 1932 while Burke was a coach for the New York Yankees. I found other stories that referred to color of Burke's cheeks, particularly when he was excited and agitated. In his playing days, Burke was pugnacious, often the instigator of a fight.

Burke batted .244 in 550 major league games, more than half of those coming in a three-season period (1903-05) with the St. Louis Cardinals. (He managed the Cardinals for 90 games in 1905.) He returned to the minor leagues in 1906 and was a player-manager for a few years. He returned to St. Louis in 1918 to managed the American League Browns for three seasons. Later he managed Toledo of the American Association and was a coach for the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees.

While on the Yankees staff, he was interviewed by Will Wedge for an article in the New York Sun (May 12, 1931). Burke was almost proud of the fact he had hit only one home run in the major leagues.

"We were batting against a croquet ball in the old days," he said. "The ball was harder than an umpire's heart, and what those pitchers were allowed to do to it was a shame. The old horsehide would come fluttering up to the plate looking like a butterfly, or something, half of it white and clean, and the other half black with licorice or tobacco juice or just ordinary mud. Why I could hit three homers, maybe four or five a year, even at my age, off the kind of balls served up now."

Without the descriptive adjective, the name Phil Collins would suggest the singer. Philip Edward Collins was born in Chicago in 1901, and made his first major league appearance with the Cubs in 1923. But he was back in the minors the next season, and didn't find a home in the majors again until 1929. He was a mainstay on the Philadelphia Phillies' pitching staff from 1929 until 1934, then divided his last season (1935) between Philadelphia and the St. Louis Cardinals.

His nickname described his demeanor on the mound, but since he played most of his big league career with the hapless Phillies, no one could blame him for being nervous.

You've got to wonder what John Oscar Dicksus of Waukegan, Illinois,was thinking. First, he changed his last name to Dickshot, much later he proclaimed himself "the ugliest man in baseball," nickname resulting. Today, as in many cases, writers tend to exaggerate how prevalent this nickname was. I found no articles from Dickshot's playing days that referred to him as "Ugly Johnny" or "Ugly John," but there were several who mentioned his self-deprecating remarks or that his teammates called him "The Ugly Duckling."

In 1936, while playing for Buffalo, Dickshot selected an all-ugly team for the International League, naming himself as one of the outfielders. His other choices included Phil Weintraub and Phil Becker of Rochester; Sammy Bell of Albany; Keith Molesworth of Syracuse; Bob Seeds and Bill Rhiel of Montreal; Harlin Pool of Toronto; Hank "Swat" Erickson of Toronto; Cliff Melton of Baltimore; Emmett Nelson of Toronto, and, as the ugliest manager, Frank Shaughnessy of Montreal.

In 1937, Dickshot made it to the majors as the left-fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There he told everyone, "Don't mind my looks; I've got personality."

Columnist Paul Mickelson in the Gloversville and Johnstown (NY) Morning Herald (May 5, 1937), provided this anecdote:

Dickshot surprised everyone by getting married to a pretty woman just before the spring training season opened. One day, she was shown a picture of her husband in a sporting paper with the caption: 'Personality Kid.'

"Yes," she replied to John when he asked her if she saw the picture, "but where's the personality?"

The outfielder, who batted .359 with Buffalo, could hit no better than .254 with the Pirates and New York Giants (1937-39), and was back in the minor leagues in 1940. After batting .352 for Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, Dickshot returned to the major leagues, this time with the Chicago White Sox in 1944. Teams were hard-pressed for players during World War Two, and despite hitting only .253, Dickshot remained with Chicago in 1945, rewarding the White Sox with a .302 batting average.

That was not enough to keep the 36-year-old Dickshot in the major leagues when a flock of players returned from the war in 1946. He played for Hollywood and the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association in 1946, and played his last season in 1947 with the Brewers. In retirement he ran a tavern. Dickshot died in 1997; he was 87 years old.

William Leopold Doak was called "Spittin' Bill" for a simple, very obvious reason — he was a pitcher who threw a spitball, and because he began his major league career before the spitter was outlawed, he was allowed to use it afterward.

Doak was in the majors for 16 seasons, most of them with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had one 20-win season (1920) and two others when he won more than 70 percent of his games (going 19-6 in 1914 and 15-6 in 1921). His career won-lost record was 169-157.

While playing for St. Louis, Doak visited the Rawlings sporting goods company located in the city and suggested ways to improve baseball gloves. In 1920, Rawlings introduced the Bill Doak model, which changed the way baseball gloves were made from then on. The big differences were in the size of the thumb, the webbing between the thumb and forefinger, and the creation of a pocket that became a sort of nest for balls that were caught. Doak may not have become a millionaire, but royalties from the sale of his gloves provided a comfortable life for him.

What I particularly liked reading was that after dabbling in real estate, Doak opened a candy store in Bradenton, Florida, where he died in 1954, at the age of 63.

Not surprisingly, Shufflin' Phil Douglas, a six-foot-three pitcher, was so nicknamed because of the way he walked to and from the mound, though some joked it was for the way he shuffled off to places unknown after his many disputes with his managers. He particularly disliked John McGraw when he pitched for the New York Giants (1919-1922).

Douglas had a lot of potential, but his attitude, in part caused by alcoholism, made him a classic underachiever who had 94 wins and 93 losses in his nine-year major league career. He'd made the mistake in 1922 of writing a letter indicating he was willing to undermine McGraw's efforts to bring the Giants a second National League pennant in a row. Douglas was having his best season (11 wins, four losses) and so hated his manager he wanted his team to lose. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Landis found out about the letter and immediately punished Douglas.

Douglas had been instrumental in helping the Giants win the 1921 World Series, pitching two of his team's five victories over the New York Yankees.

I don't know why this nickname appeals to me so much; perhaps it's because I have found no explanation for why Thomas Jefferson Dowd was called "Buttermilk Tommy." Did the nickname reflect his skin or overall appearance — I think of the song,, "Buttermilk Sky" — or a food preference?

Dowd, a speedy five-foot-eight outfielder-second baseman, played most of his major league games in the 1890s, but also is recalled as the first man to bat for the Boston Americans in 1901. This is the team that became the Boston Red Sox. Dowd was 32 years old at the time.

Although he played every game that season and scored 104 runs, his batting average (.268) was sixth best among the team regulars, and 10 points below the team average. That may be one reason this was his last season in the major leagues. He had sat out the 1900 season in his hometown (Holyoke, Massachusetts) to work in the laundry business, another indication that in the early days of baseball, players could make better money at other jobs.

Dowd's lifetime batting average was .271. Only once did he bat over 300, and that was in 1895 with the St. Louis Browns when he hit .323. However, several years later, Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young was quoted by sportswriter Bozeman Bulger as saying Tommy Dowd was the toughest batter he ever faced.

"Tommy was not a great hitter," said Young, "and that makes it queer why he always had something on me . . . for years he always managed to outguess me. It is a queer thing about pitchers, that they always have some weak batter who always gives them trouble . . . I don’t hesitate to say that Tommy Dowd is the one man who gave me the most trouble. And the funny part of it is that he didn’t trouble other pitchers that way.”

Dowd was an interesting athlete who took advantage of the eligibility rules of the time. He had attended Brown University for two years and played baseball there before turning professional. Although he started out in 1891 with the Boston Reds of the American Association, then a major league, he played most of the season with the Washington Statesmen of the same league. That fall he enrolled in Georgetown University and played on its football team. He was considered an outstanding running back, and he was on the football team again in 1892 after he had spent the baseball season as second baseman for the Washington Senators of the National League.

In 1893 he played in the outfield for the St. Louis Browns of the National League, but that fall he was back in Washington, playing football for the Columbia Athletic Club.

Until the 1901 season with Boston, which finished in second place, Dowd had spent his career with teams that had losing records. The St. Louis Browns were particularly bad. In 1896, the team went through four managers in its first 67 games, winning only 15 times. Dowd took over as manager and the team won 25 of its last 63 games, which earned him the manager's job for 1897. However, the team went 6-22 under his leadership, and he was replaced, spending most of that season with the slightly better Philadelphia Phillies before going back to St. Louis in 1898.

With not major league opportunity in 1902, Dowd became player-manager of the Johnstown-Amsterdam-Gloversville Jags of the New York State League. (The initials of the three cities were used to form the nickname, but otherwise the team was usually identified by placing the cities in alphabetical order.)

It was agreed at the end of the season that Dowd was a terrible manager. According to the Amsterdam Evening Recorder (December 23, 1902), the team owners wanted to dismiss Dowd, but he had an iron clad contract that kept him around until the bitter end. The team won just 29 of 101 games.

Dowd continued to play for various minor league teams, and despite his performance with the Jags, he found other opportunities to manage, and to coach college baseball teams. I found no further mention of whether he had ever received a law degree from Georgetown. In any event, he apparently never practiced law, and, financially, was in dire straits near the end of his life. In July, 1933, Dowd drowned in the Connecticut River near his home in Holyoke.

The Two Dowds — any connection?
Besides the reason for his nickname remaining unexplained, there's no answer to the obvious question — was "Buttermilk Tommy" Dowd related — an uncle, perhaps — to "Snooks" Dowd?

Raymond "Snooks" Dowd came along about 20 years after "Buttermilk Tommy, who was from Holyoke, Massachusetts. "Snooks" was born in nearby Springfield. Both were short, fast, and versatile athletes.

Tommy Dowd played football for Georgetown, "Snooks" Dowd played professional basketball in addition to baseball, and also was a football player at Lehigh University.

Pitcher Judd Bruce Doyle was known as "Joe," and then as "Slow Joe." This had nothing to do with the velocity of his pitches, but how long it took him to deliver them. Patience not only was a virtue, but a requirement for batters when they stepped up to the plate to face Doyle.

He'd been a minor league pitcher for five seasons when the New York Highlanders brought him up after he'd won 14 games for Wheeling of the Central League in 1906. He pitched shutouts in his first two starts for New York, but he was nothing special after that. His best season was 1907 when he was 11-11. He won only nine games in his last three seasons, and wound up his major league career with five games Cincinnati in 1910.

His claim to fame today involves a mistake made on a Joe Doyle baseball card. Details can be found in the story linked to his name.

Second baseman Lawrence Doyle was a valuable member of the New York Giants during the heyday of manager John McGraw. Doyle is well remembered for a quote during an interview with Damon Runyon in 1911: "It's great to be young and a New York Giant."

The name Larry Doyle means little to me, so it's "Laughing Larry" that catches my attention. The nickname is obvious, referring to Doyle's upbeat personality. He batted left-handed — though as one similarly inclined, I prefer to think of it as back-handed, since Doyle, like a lot of us, threw right-handed, which made his right hand dominant when he swung the bat from the left side of the plate.

Whatever, Doyle was a good hitter, leading the National League with a .320 batting average in 1915. It was one of five seasons he hit better than .300; his lifetime average was .290.

For Joseph Anthony Dugan, the nickname that stuck with him through most of his life had negative connotations. It was pinned on him in 1918 when he was a 21-year-old infielder for the Philadelphia Athletics, playing mostly shortstop at the time. To say Dugan was struggling is an understatement. He made too many errors, had too few hits, and was frequently booed. His response was to go AWOL from time to time, always being forgiven by manager Connie Mack.

A sportswriter dubbed him "Jumping Joe," as in jumping ship. Dugan finally persisted, and wound up playing third base, his hitting improving from the .195 average he posted after his first two seasons. In 1920 he batted .322, but in 1922 was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, who then traded him to the New York Yankees, where he was a fixture at third base for seven seasons, which made him a member of the famous 1927 world champions. He played in five World Series with the Yankees, who won three of them.

Pitcher Fred Fitzsimmons apparently was good-natured about it when his expanding waistline earned him his nickname. When the happened, I'm not sure. His SABR biography by Gregory Wolf says the late 1920s — his major league career ran from 1925-43 — but I found a New York Sun cartoon by Feg Murray, dated May 12, 1931, that, while hinting the pitcher wasn't svelte, offered only this as a nickname: "The Mishawaka Marvel," after his Indiana hometown.

By today's standards, Fitzsimmons, at five-feet-eleven inches, 215 pounds, wasn't particularly large. Unfortunately, baseball uniforms at the time made every player look out of shape, and Fitzsimmons probably looked like the Goodyear blimp.

Fitzsimmons was an excellent pitcher for most of his 19-year major league career with the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, winning 217 games. His most memorable seasons: 1928, when he posted a 20-9 record with the Giants; 1930, when he went 19-7, again with the Giants, and 1940 when he had a 16-2 record for Brooklyn.

According to David Nemec, in the final book in his amazing trilogy about 19th century baseball, John J. Gorman was nicknamed "Stooping Jack" because of the way he pitched. There were a lot of unusual deliveries in the early days of baseball, and Gorman was active in the 1880s. Nemec says Gorman would stoop low to the ground, then rise up to make his pitches. By the way,, the title of this third book is "The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball: Biographies of 1,084 Players, Owners, Managers of Umpires." Whew!)

He appeared in three games for Pittsburgh of the American Association in 1884, winning one, losing two. He played other positions, mostly the outfield, in the other 14 games he played games for St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and for Kansas City of the Union Association.

His best season was 1887 when the high altitude in Denver may have contributed to his .373 batting average. But that was the year bases on balls counted as hits, and Gorman's batting average merely tied for fifth best on the Denver team. Like too many people at the time, Gorman died at an early age, passing away in 1889 at the age of 30.

What jumped out at me when I read Nemec's brief sketch of Gorman was that as a teenager in St. Louis, Gorman played for a team called "Little Potatoes and Hard to Peel," which I thought was an extremely clever name, probably unique, until I looked through old newspaper stories and discovered several cities had youth teams with the same name, though it should read, "Little Potatoes But Hard to Peel." Funny how those things spread so quickly, and so far.

Third baseman Stanley Camfield Hack was considered a very friendly guy, someone who made newcomers to the Chicago Cubs feel right at home. His nickname, "Smiling Stan," fit him perfectly. Fans of Stan Hack don't have much to smile about, because he has been ignored by Hall of Fame voters, though he was one of the best players of his era (1932-47), and probably THE best third baseman of that period.

Hack spent his entire major league playing career with the Cubs, six times batting over .300 on his way to a lifetime .301 average and 2,193 hits. He was a four-time National League all-star, twice leading the league in hits and stolen bases. He was an excellent fielder and a model of consistency, which may be why he was taken for granted by a lot of folks, including those Hall of Fame voters. Hack drew a lot of walks, something that wasn't appreciated until Bill James and other statisticians began emphasizing a player's on-base percentages. There were five seasons when Hack's was over .400. His ability to get on base — so important for a lead off man — was a reason Hack scored more than 100 runs in seven seasons. He appeared in four World Series — all losing efforts for the Cubs — and batted .348.

After he retired as a player, he managed for several years, including three years for the Cubs.

Other players nicknamed for a similar facial expression: "Smiling Tim" Keefe, "Smiling Al" Orth, and "Smiling Mickey" Welch.

Keefe, a Hall of Fame pitcher, won 342 games, losing 225. He won 32 or more games six times, topped by 42 in 1886 with the New York Giants.

Orth pitched for 15 seasons (1895-1909) in the National and American Leagues, winning 204 games, losing 189. His best season was 1906 when he won 27 games for the New York Highlanders (Yankees).

Welch was a teammate of Keefe. He, too, is a Hall of Fame pitcher, with 307 wins, 210 losses in his 13-season career. With the New York Giants in 1885, he had a won-loss record of 44-11. He did a lot of smiling that season.

Why William Hassamaer was called "Roaring Bill," I have no idea. Maybe he was loud, maybe he had quite a temper. Hassamaer played three seasons (1894-96) with Washington and Louisville of the National League. He was a 30-year-old rookie in 1894 when he batted .322, scoring 106 runs. However, his hitting tailed off to .264 in 1895 and .245 in 1896. The next year he was in the minor leagues, playing for Toledo

Hassamaer was primarily an outfielder, but also was used at every infield position during his brief major league career. Just a thought: in Hassamaer's day, teams didn't have coaches; instead, at least one player was used to coach either first or third base. It's possible, I suppose, that Hassamaer did some coaching, and received his nickname for the way he yelled from the first or third base areas.

I've found no reason for this nickname, which (1) could have involved moonshine, (2) described a man who kept movements to a minimum, or (3) expressed a manager's frustration, as in "Another loss! Ah, what can I say? He's still Bill Hill!"

William Cicero Hill pitched four seasons in the 1890s, winning only 36 games, losing 69. His rookie record with Louisville, then of the National League, was 9-28 in 1896. He also pitched for Cincinnati, Cleveland, Baltimore and Brooklyn. That's a lot of teams for such a short stint. 

He had a brother, Hugh Hill, an outfielder who played briefly (1903-04) with Cleveland and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Joseph Walker Jackson is one of baseball's most-storied players, the man disgraced and banished from the game for his involvement in fixing the 1919 World Series between his Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. (Oddly, Jackson had 12 hits in that eight-game series, batting .375.)

"Say it ain't so, Joe," one of the sport's famous quotes, was attributed to a youngster who supposedly said it to Jackson after the player's testimony about the series.

Because of the scandal, Jackson lost his chance to be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, despite his .356 lifetime batting average. He never won a batting title, because he played during the Ty Cobb years. Jackson batted .408, .395, and .373 from 1911 to 1913, but Cobb bested him by posting averages of .420, .409, and .390.

I've read varying accounts of how he got his nickname, but the one that appears to be true involves a minor league game in Anderson, South Carolina, in 1908, when Jackson batted in his stocking feet, and hit a triple. Someone in the stands noticed Jackson's stocking feet, and made a loud comment about the shoeless player.

Joe Jackson is a fairly common name, but there certainly was only one "Shoeless Joe."

Samuel Pond Jones spent 22 consecutive years pitching for six of the eight American League teams. Along the way he was a teammate of Babe Ruth in Boston and New York. Typically, Boston traded Jones to the Yankees after he won 23 games with the Red Sox in 1921. Two years later he was a 21-game winner for the Yankees.

Jones was called "Sad Sam" because of the sad expression he usually wore. However, the Woodsfield, Ohio, native had plenty of reason to be happy, considering his long career in which he won 229 games, losing 217. In addition to his two 20-win seasons (with Boston and New York), Jones went 17-7 for the Washington Senators in 1928, and 15-7 two seasons later. He also pitched for Cleveland, the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox.

Born Daniel Pore Franklin, he took the last name of his mother, Athelestine Jones because his father had left the family. However, before that, his mother had told a census taker that her son's name was Sam Franklin. Long story short, by the time the young man was in his teens, he was known as Sam Jones.

Like the earlier Sam Jones, this one bore the nickname "Sad Sam" for the same reason — his natural expression seemed sorrowful. But this Sam Jones liked to chew toothpicks, and by the time he reached the major leagues in 1951 with Cleveland, the 26-year-old pitcher had two nicknames. "Toothpick Sam" became more popular, probably to separate him from the earlier Sam Jones.

This one began his professional career in the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s. He then signed with Cleveland, but didn't establish himself until 1955 when he became a workhorse for the Chicago Cubs, winning 14 games, losing 20. Later he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, before joining the San Francisco Giants in 1959 and winning 21 games.

In all, he pitched 12 years in the major leagues, winning 102 games, losing 101. On May 12, 1955, with the Cubs, he became the first African-American to pitch a no-hitter in the major leagues. It was against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and only 2,900 fans showed up for the game. However, the Cubs radio announcer, Harry Creighton, rewarded Jones by buying him a gold toothpick.

Jones pitched three seasons in the minor leagues after his major league days were finished. He died of cancer in 1971 in Morgantown, West Virginia. He was only 46 years old. Or 48. There was always some question about his correct birthdate.

One of the most famous players from baseball's first 50 years was born William Henry O'Kelleher in Brooklyn 1872. He stopped growing at five-feet-four-inches, and became known as Wee Willie Keeler, sometimes referred to as "Hit 'em Where They Ain't" Keeler, because that was his advice on how to get base hits.

He played major league baseball for 19 years, with the New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Brooklyn Grooms (and Superbas, forerunners of the Dodgers), and the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees).

He threw and batted left-handed, used a 30-inch bat, described as the shortest ever, was an expert bunter and exponent of the Baltimore chop (hitting the ball down, creating a big bounce that allowed him to reach first before a play could be made). With Baltimore in 1897, he batted .424, and a season later hit .385, leading the National League both seasons. When he finally retired, he had a .341 lifetime average, and 2,932 hits.

Keeler, afflicted by various heart diseases, died in 1923, at the age of 50. Sixteen years later he was voted into the Hall of Fame.

I assume George Kelly was called "High Pockets" because the first baseman was six-feet-four. As far as statistics guru Bill James is concerned, his nickname should have been "Highway Robbery," because James doesn't think Kelly deserved to be voted into the Hall of Fame by a veterans committee headed by a former Kelly teammate (and admirer), Frankie Frisch.

Kelly is credited with 16 seasons in the National League, 11 of those with the New York Giants, though he played in 100 games or more only nine of those years. His lifetime batting average was .297, but, as James pointed out in his "Historical Baseball Abstract," Kelly's full seasons were all in the 1920s, a hitter's decade. Twice Kelly led the National League in runs batted in, and once in home runs (when he hit 23 in 1921). He batted just .248 in four World Series.

However, in his prime, Kelly was a consistent hitter and, apparently, an excellent fielder. He eventually lost his job to Bill Terry, and was traded to Cincinnati in 1927. In 1930 he split his season between Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs, and in 1931 he played for Minneapolis of the American Association, batting .320 with 20 home runs.

He was back in the National League in 1932, playing 64 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers. (I'm not going to take the time to make a list,, but it seems a lot of long-time Giants ended their career with their arch-rival Dodgers, and vice versa.)

Left-handed pitcher Samuel Edward Thomas McDowell was called "Sudden Sam" because of his blazing fastball. He also was unusually wild, leading the American League in walks as well as strike outs five times each during his years with the Cleveland Indians (1961-71). Few pitchers scared more batters than "Sudden Sam" McDowell, whose career was cut short by alcoholism..

McDowell remained in the major league four years after Cleveland traded him to San Francisco for Gaylord Perry, but when he left the game, in 1975, he was only 32 years old, having pitched for Cleveland while he was a teenager. Perry would pitch until he was 44 years old, win 314 games, and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. McDowell, though a six-time all-star, was a 20-game winner just once, had a lifetime won-lost record of 141-134, and is remembered mostly for what might have been.

According to the story on the other end of this link, John Dewey Morrison had an incredible curveball. The pitch became known as the Jughandle, and gave Johnny Morrison a memorable nickname. Unfortunately for the native of Pellville, Kentucky, "jughandle" took on another meaning when his love of alcohol complicated his life.

However, for a few seasons in the 1920s, Morrison's jughandle mostly caused problems for National League batters. Pitching for Pittsburgh, Morrison won 25 games in 1923, but by 1927 he was finished with the Pirates. He was out of the majors in 1928, pitched well for Brooklyn in 1929, but had only one more season in the majors before finishing his career with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. His major league pitching record was 103-80.

Morrison's older brother, Phil, had the figurative cup of coffee in the major leagues, pitching two-thirds of an inning with the Pirates in 1921. Jughandle Johnny had won 26 games with Birmingham of the Southern Association in 1920; brother Phil was a 20 game winner for Birmingham the next two seasons, retiring after the second one. He made a brief comeback in 1926, then retired for good, while his younger brother was still with the Pirates.

Harold Patrick Reiser is an anomaly on this list because "Pete" isn't suggested by his first or middle name. He was nicknamed Pete as a youngster, because he loved cowboy movies, and one of the screen heroes at the time was called "Two-Gun Pete." Because young Pete Reiser so enjoyed playing with his toy pistols, he soon was known as "Pistol Pete," a nickname that was appropriate for the wild and reckless way he played baseball. (Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Alexander received one of his nicknames in similar fashion, but only after he'd been in the major leagues for a few seasons, when, on a hunting trip with teammates, they began calling him "Alkali Pete" after a cowboy character. That's how the story goes, except the character actually was called "Alkali Ike," appearing in films with a character called "Mustang Pete.")

Perhaps no player has been the subject of so much "what if" speculation than Reiser, who in 1941, as a 22-year-old rookie with the Brooklyn Dodgers, led the national league in batting with a .343 average. His potential seemed limitless, and for the first half of the 1942 season, Reiser was playing even better than he had the season before, batting .356.

Then he ran into a concrete outfield wall in St. Louis and was knocked out, injured so badly he was given the last rites. He survived, of course, and returned to the line-up less than two weeks later, ignoring the advice of doctors who told him to take the rest of the season off.

He was never the same ballplayer after that, though he finished the season hitting slightly better than .300. He tried to join the Navy, but was classified 4-F. Determined, he tried the Army, and was accepted, perhaps because he'd be ordered to play baseball. But injuries continued with the Army team, and when Reiser returned to the major leagues in 1946, he was no longer a potential superstar, and only once managed to appear in more than 120 games in any season until he retired as a player in 1952.

A piece of trivia: Reiser made his debut with the Dodgers in 1940. Also joining the team that season was Harold Henry Reese, better known as Pee Wee Reese. Soon both Reiser and Reese were every-day players for the team, though some fans occasionally confused the two because of the similarity in their last names. Reese managed to avoid injuries and enjoyed a 16-season career with the Dodgers, moving to Los Angeles with them in 1958.

Burly pitcher Jim Scott (six-feet-one-inch, 235 pounds) had a Wild West nickname and a Wild West birthplace —Deadwood, South Dakota. He got tagged with the nickname because of a famous con man, prospector and showman called "Death Valley Scotty," real name Walter Scott, and the man indirectly responsible for the building of "Scotty's Castle" in Death Valley.

Scott, the pitcher, spent his entire major league career (1909-17) with the Chicago White Sox. He won 20 games in 1913, but lost 21. Two seasons later, however, he put together his best record — 24-11, pitching seven shutouts.

His career was divided by World War One. He cut short his 1917 season to join the Army, and when he was discharged in 1919, he decided not to return to Chicago. He was only 31, and like a lot of players at the time, he looked west and accepted an offer from the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. He spent six seasons with the Seals, winning 94 games, highlighted by his 25-9 record in 1922.

After a 4-7 season in 1924, he headed for New Orleans and pitched three more seasons for the Pelicans of the Southern Association, retired at the end of the 1927 season, at the age of 39. He did some umpiring after that, then settled in Southern California and was an electrician at a few Hollywood movie studios.

In his early days in the majors, he spent the off-season as part of a vaudeville act with Chicago teammate Buck Weaver. who later was banned from baseball for his role in fixing the 1919 World Series. However, long before that, he and Scott married sisters who appeared in their vaudeville act.

Back to his nickname. One story says he and "Death Valley Scotty" arrived in Chicago on the same train, but that's most likely untrue. "Death Valley Scotty" attracted a lot of attention in 1905 when he arranged an attempt at breaking a train speed record from California to Chicago, but this was a special train with only a handful of passengers. Jim Scott didn't arrive in Chicago until four years later.

The pitcher apparently never visited Death Valley. He left the Los Angeles area and spent his last days in Jacumba, California, known for its hot springs. It sits almost on the Mexican Border. Scott died there in 1957, He was 68 years old.

To me, this is baseball's all-time feel good name. I feel wonderful just thinking about it.

Willie Smith came into the majors with Detroit in 1963 as a good-hitting pitcher. Like several players on my list, Smith has a Syracuse connection. He'd played there on his way up, Syracuse being a Detroit farm team at the time. It was in Syracuse, I believe, that Smith was nicknamed "Wonderful Willie." Well, why not? His pitching record was 14-2, and he would have won more games if he hadn't spent some time with the Tigers that summer. Detroit returned him to Syracuse in time for Smith to start the International League All-Star game.

The clue to his future was what he did in Syracuse when he wasn't pitching — 30 hits in 79 at bats, which was good for a .380 batting average.

The next year Detroit traded Smith to the Los Angeles Angels who were more impressed with his hitting. Smith made 15 pitching appearances but spent most of his time in the outfield, hitting .301. A big fuss was made over Smith at the time, but he never again hit anywhere near .300.

His major league career ended in 1971, so he went to Japan and played two seasons for the Nankai Hawks, hitting 24 home runs in 1972. He retired at the end of the 1973 season and went home to Anniston, Alabama, where he died in January, 2006. Former teammates recalled him as a particularly upbeat fellow, who maintained a positive attitude, and was likely to burst into song at any moment. A wonderful guy to have around.

So far, there have been 41 major league baseball players who bore the last name of Walker. One way to differentiate between the various Walkers is to check the nicknames, which include Dixie, Rube, Gee, Tillie, the mysteriously named Mysterious, and, of course, Harry "The Hat" (because of his habit of adjusting his baseball cap each time he stepped up to the plate).

Harry William Walker was born in 1918 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, younger brother of "Dixie" Walker, who was an enormously popular player, especially in Brooklyn, when he was a member of the Dodgers.

Both Walkers were outfielders who were considered excellent hitters. Harry won the National League batting title in 1947 with a .363 batting average, playing for two teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies.

Later Walker managed in the minor leagues, also serving as a hitting coach, before doing the same in the major leagues, briefly with the Cardinals, then three seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and five seasons with the Houston Astros.

Here are my favorite short nicknames that were popular, but usually stood alone, or were mentioned as an afterthought. When written, they were usually inserted between the first and last names, as in Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd. Unlike the classics — such as Yogi, Pee Wee, and Tug — these didn't necessarily substitute for a real first name, but when they were mentioned, you almost always knew the players who owned them.

Henry Irven Arft was best-known as Hank Arft, and this nickname, while obvious, was little used. And since he was a first baseman for the lowly St. Louis Browns (1948-52), Arft wasn't exactly famous.

Like many players of his era, Arft's career was interrupted by World War Two. He served with the Navy on a destroyer escort, the USS Goss, and was in Tokyo Bay on VJ Day in 1945.

His best year in professional baseball came in 1947 when he batted .366 for Springfield (Illinois) of the Three I League (Indiana-Illinois-Iowa). Later Arft became an embalmer in Ballwin, Missouri.

(Many years before Arft was born, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle tried to pin "Bow Wow" on George Miller, then widely known as "Calliope" Miller and "Foghorn" Miller. The nickname was aimed at the noise Miller made on the field, especially while he was coaching at one of the bases. "Bow Wow" never caught on; instead the player-coach became known as "Doggie" Miller.)

Max Bishop, a light-hitting second baseman, spent 12 seasons (1924-35) in the major leagues, the first 10 years with the Philadelphia Athletics, then finishing up with the Boston Red Sox.

Bishop's lifetime batting average was .271, but here's the thing: his on-base percentage was .423. Bishop drew more than 100 bases on balls for eight consecutive years.

Bishop broke in with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. At the time, the Orioles were one of the very best minor league teams in the country, often better than some major league teams. Owner Jack Dunn was reluctant to sell his best players, but in 1924 dealt Bishop to the Philadelphia Athletics after the second baseman batted .333 and hit a surprising 22 home runs. That was Bishop's sixth season in Baltimore.

(One of Bishop's Oriole teammates in 1923 was future Hall of Fame pitcher, Lefty Grove, who won 27 games that season for the Orioles. It was Grove's fourth year with Baltimore, and the second time he'd won more than 20 games. Did Dunn let Grove go to the majors? Not until he got another season out of the left-hander, who was 26-6 with Baltimore in 1924.)

Dennis Ray Boyd got his nickname from his beer-drinking teen years in Meridian, Mississippi, where he and his friends referred to the beverage as "oil."

Boyd was a pitcher, a free spirit, and a Boston Red Sox fan favorite, who won 78 games (against 77 losses) in his 10-year major league career. His best season was 1986 when he compiled a 16-10 record. He's one of the few modern-day players to have an original, but decidedly old-fashioned nickname.

Primarily an outfielder, Pete Browning also played the infield during his early days with Louisville of the American Association in the 1880s, when that was considered a major league.

It is written he was called "The Gladiator" because of his combative personality, particularly with journalists, and the more he drank, the more combative he became. What I have yet to see explained is how a man born Louis Rogers Browning became known as "Pete." James K. Skipper Jr., who researched nicknames for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), using a 1969 edition of the Encyclopedia of Baseball, discovered that of the many "Petes" in major league baseball, 20 of them did not have Peter as a first or middle name.

Browning twice led the American Association in batting — in 1882 with a .373 average, and in 1885 when he hit .362. (When he had his best year, hitting .402 in 1887, he was beaten out for the title by Tip O'Neill of St. Louis, who batted .435.)

Browning jumped to the Players League in 1890, and led that league in hitting with a .373 average. From then until the end of his career four years later, Browning played in the National League. He was finished at the age of 33; apparently his drinking had taken its toll, though his career batting average was a lofty .341.

He ended his days in an asylum, and died at the age of 44.

Roger Clemens has been called the best pitcher who ever lived. The problem that so far has cost the man election to the Hall of Fame is did he have some chemical help along the way. And the man born William Roger Clemens often hurts his own cause with his behavior and foolish remarks.

For the time being, like Barry Bond and Pete Rose, Clemens is stuck in baseball limbo. His on-field credentials for Hall of Fame status are impeccable — 354 career wins, seven Cy Young Awards, 4,672 career strike out, six 20-win seasons. He began with Boston, and later pitched for Toronto, the New York Yankees, and Houston.

At six-feet-four, 215-plus pounds, you'd expect Clemens to have a rocket-like fastball, but he was late in his teens before learning how to get maximum velocity out of his pitches. Anyone who played youth baseball faced at least one big kid who was scary. Oddly, Clemens was not that kid. It wasn't until he was out of high school that he instilled fear into a batter's mind, and it wasn't just because he'd learned to throw hard. Clemens was mean, and knew how to hold a grudge.

Douglas Wayne Gwosdz is best remembered for his nickname. Well, you've gotta love: "Eyechart." Who would have guessed the proper pronunciation of his last name was "Goosh"?

Gwosdz did some catching for San Diego (1981-84). He batted .144 in 69 games over those four seasons. 

His 11-year career in the minors leagues was sandwiched around his seasons as a Padre. He retired in 1989, posting a .242 batting average in 641 minor league games. He never had more than 286 at bats in any season.

Arvel Odell Hale went by his middle name, but picked up several nicknames along the way. The one that stuck — at least, it's the one Hale favored — was "Bad News," as in "bad news for pitchers." It was given to him during his first season of professional baseball as a 20-year-old third baseman for the Alexandria (Louisiana) Reds of the Cotton States League after he hit at least one home home in five consecutive days. For the season he hit 23 of them, and batted .324.

Hale hit over .300 in the minors for four years before becoming a regular with the Cleveland Indians. From 1933 to 1940, Hale batted over .300 four times for Cleveland, winding up with a career batting average of .289. He injured his throwing arm in 1938, which hampered him in the field. By 1940, though only 31 years old, he was used primarily as a pinch hitter. He retired two years later and went to work in a defense plant during World War Two.

Tommy Henrich's nicknames are self-explanatory. Besides "Old Reliable," he was called "The Clutch," and was counted on to play well when it most counted. The Massillon, Ohio, native seemed headed for the Cleveland Indians outfield in the mid-1930s, but the team preferred an outfielder named Jeff Heath, who may have been more talented than Henrich, but is now regarded as an underachiever.

Henrich became a free agent and joined the New York Yankees in 1937 and hit .320 in 67 games. He remained with the Yankees until the 1950 season, except for the three years (1943-45) he served in the Coast Guard.

He was part of one of baseball's best outfields — with Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller — but also played several games at first base. He retired with a .282 batting average and 183 home runs. He played in four World Series, though his best season was 1948, when the Yankees finished third. That year Henrich hit .308, scored 138 runs, and drove in 100.

He died in 2009, at the age of 96.

Michael Joseph "Joe" Hornung was an outfielder-first baseman in the early days of the major leagues (1879-1890) who spent most of those season with the Boston Red Stockings who morphed into the Boston Beaneaters. He was known more for his fielding than his hitting, since his lifetime batting average was .257.

Apparently, Hornung was an outspoken fellow, reportedly released by Boston because of his "unruly mouth." And from some of his quotes in the Watertown, New York, Daily Times, he was not bashful about praising himself.

His unusual nickname stems from his habit of shouting what sounded like, "Ubbo ubbo," whenever he was pleased with something he did during a baseball game. Seems the Boston fans picked up on this, and began referring to him as "Ubbo Ubbo."

After his release from Boston, Hornung played one season with Baltimore, one with the New York Giants, then remained active in the minor leagues, while also doing some umpiring, which was not uncommon at the time because several minor league umpires were unreliable, and when they failed to show up for games, players were drafted to take their places.

Andrew Lapihuska likely was called "Apples" because it played well with his last name. He was much better known as Andy.

The pitcher was just 19 when he made his major league debut in 1942, appearing in three games. A year later, he joined the Army. He returned to baseball after World War II, but only for one season, winning five games and losing 14 for Utica of the Eastern League. He was only 23 when he retired from baseball.

He was born Anthony Michael Lazzeri, but it's his nickname – and I don't mean Tony – that makes this player memorable. Oh, the fact he was a New York Yankee alongside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig AND Joe DiMaggio helps. But only Lazzeri was called "Poosh 'Em Up."

According to a 1993 story in the Salt Lake Tribune, Lazzeri's nickname originated in that city during that 1925 season. One of the player's biggest fans was restaurant owner Cesare Rinetti, who made sure Lazzeri and his young bride were well fed.

It was during a game against Seattle that Rinetti shouted out, "Poosh 'em up, Tony!" And spectators around him picked up the chant, which urged the player to advance the runners. Lazzeri responded with a home run. Salt Lake sportswriter John Derks learned of the incident and wrote a story about it. Overnight Lazzeri had himself a nickname.

Well, actually – again, according to the Salt Lake Tribune – the player's last name in those days was spelled Lazerre (sometimes LaZerre). Hal Schindler, who wrote the 1993 article, said " ... somehow, some way, his version of the name picked up a 'z,' dropped an 'r' and turned an 'e' into an 'i' to become Lazzeri."

The second baseman had a well-deserved reputation as a good clutch hitter; seven times with the Yankees he drove in more than 100 runs. His best season was 1929 when he batted .354, and his a major league career high 18 home runs, something he did three times. However, with Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, he hit 60 home runs in 197 games.

"Poosh 'em Up" played his entire career with epilepsy. He died of a heart attack in 1946. He was only 42.

William "Bill" Lee III was interesting enough that he didn't need a funny nickname to increase his popularity. From the day he arrived in Boston to pitch for the Red Sox, Lee was regarded as a flake.

Lee stood six-foot-three, and weighed 210 pounds in his prime. I remember him more as an off-speed pitcher than someone who got by on his fastball. Being a left-handed pitcher in Fenway Park can be intimidating, but Lee managed to be a 17-game winner three seasons in a row (1973-75).

He wound up his career in Montreal, and his best season with the Expos was 1979 when he posted a 16-10 record. Overall, he won 119 major league games in 14 years, losing 90. He is recalled for his feud with manager Don Zimmer, whom Lee dubbed "The Gerbil."

There was another Bill Lee . . .
William Lee of Plaquemine, Louisiana, also was a pitcher who stood six-feet-three inches, and in the 1930s this gave him the nickname, "Big Bill." While now overshadowed by the "Spaceman," Big Bill Lee was the better pitcher. He won 169 games from 1934 to 1947, losing 157 for the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Braves. Twice he won 20 or more games, his best season being 1938 when he won 22 games, lost only 9, had an earned run average of 2.66 and pitched nine shutouts, a figure unheard of today.

There were two major leaguers who had this unusual nickname, each for a very different reason, but the one that always comes to mind is Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson. Initially he was stumped when he heard New York fans chanting "Big Six." According to the linked SABR story, the nickname probably originated with sportswriter Sam Crane, who compared Mathewson to New York City's Big Six Fire Company, the fastest to put out the fire. (The pitcher had thought it was a reference to his six-feet-one-inch height.) Because the nickname was so strongly connected to New York City, Mathewson was better known across the country simply as "Matty."

Mathewson won 20 games or more 13 times for the Giants. There were four seasons he won 30 or more games. He had 373 career wins, and is remembered as one of the very best pitchers of all-time, and one of baseball's most beloved players.

"Big Six" also was the nickname of another pitcher, Elden Auker (left), because he had starred in football, basketball and baseball at Kansas State University (1929-32), then a member of the Big Six Conference with Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Auker was all-conference in all three sports.

Auker's name was unusual enough that the nickname was seldom applied. (There's more on Auker elsewhere.)

"Ninety-Six" also was a nickname. It was given to pitcher Bill Voiselle (left), because that was the name of his South Carolina hometown.

Voiselle had a nine-season major league career with the New York Giants, Boston Braves and Chicago Cubs. He won 21 games in 1944, but his overall record was 74-84.

He came into this world as Joseph Jerome McGinty, but somewhere along the line slightly changed his last name. Yet, until fairly recently he was known as McGinty, not McGinnity. Baseball researchers have made the correction, but it's one of those things that seems unimportant ... unless you're settling a barroom bet.

The other mix-up about McGinnity is why he was nicknamed "Iron Man." As a boy, I'd always heard it was because on four occasions he pitched both ends of double-headers. I've since learned that pitching both ends of a double-header wasn't uncommon for pitchers up to the early 1900s. Now the story of his nickname is that McGinnity once worked in an iron foundry, and when he described himself as "an iron man," was referring to that job.

But in terms of his professional baseball career, he must have had an iron arm, because he pitched until he was 54 years old, winning six games with Dubuque of the Mississippi Valley League. Two years earlier, in 1923, he was 15-12 with Dubuque.

Overall, McGinnity won 478 games as a professional, losing 352. His major league record — in ten seasons, mostly with the New York Giants — was 246-142. His best years with the Giants were 1903, when he was 31-20, and 1904 when he won 35 games, against just eight losses. He was a right-handed pitcher who stood five-feet-11, weighed about 205 pounds, and obviously loved the game. He died in 1929 in Brooklyn, at the age of 58.

It's probably unfair to include George "Prunes" Moolic on this list. After all, he only played 16 games in the major leagues, and did it in 1886 with Cap Anson's Chicago White Sox. Moolic was mostly a catcher, and a light-hitting one at that, batting .143 in 56 at bats. He was, however, described by a Chicago writer as a terrific defensive catcher ... but probably not that terrific.

Moolic is part of an interesting story, however. He and John "Jocko" Flynn (below), both from Lawrence, Massachusetts, were battery mates, and played together the year before for the minor league Meriden (Connecticut) Maroons, who over that summer competed in both the Southern New England League and the Connecticut State League. Flynn won 25 games, lost 11, and Anson wanted him for his Chicago team. Perhaps it was friendship, perhaps Flynn thought he needed Moolic behind the plate. Whatever, Moolic became part of the deal.

The upshot is Flynn became the third starter on the pennant-winning Chicago White Stockings in '86, responding with a 23-6 record. Trouble was, he developed arm trouble from which he never recovered. Anson kept Flynn around briefly in 1887 as an outfielder, but soon let him go. Flynn tried playing in the minor leagues awhile, so did Moolic, but both had trouble hitting their weight, which was unfortunate because Moolic, at five-foot-seven, weighed only 145, while Flynn was an inch shorter and a few pounds lighter.

However, "Prunes" Moolic lives on because of his unusual nickname. I wish I knew the story behind it. As for Jocko Flynn, he's a sad case of what-might-have-been, an early day Karl Spooner.

Richard Porter usually was called by the obvious nickname, "Dick," but also had at least three other nicknames — "Wiggles,""Twitches," and "Twitchy," because of his movements while in his batting stance. (As far as I know, neither of those last two nicknames had anything to do with Porter's middle name, which was Twilley.)

Outfielder Porter was an outstanding left-handed hitter who didn't move up to the big leagues until he was 28 because he played for Jack Dunn's International League Baltimore Orioles, a team better than some in the majors. Dunn finally sold Porter to the Cleveland Indians in 1928. He remained in the American League through 1934, finishing with Boston after five years in Cleveland. His stay in the majors proved successful. His lifetime batting average was .308, his career best was .350 in 1930.

Later he managed minor league teams for 11 seasons.

Hall of Fame pitcher Charles Gardner Radbourn — his last name is often spelled Radbourne — is remembered best for winning 60 games in one season — with the Providence Greys of the National League in 1884. That figure has since been revised to 59, with Radbourn losing credit for a victory in a game that found him pitching in relief, something he did twice that season when he appeared in 75 games, 73 of them as a starter. (In both relief appearances, he is now credited with saves, a statistic that wasn't kept at the time.)

He pitched 678 and 2/3 innings in 1884, had a won-lost record of 59-12 (with two games likely ending in ties, since he finished every game he started). It's no wonder Radbourn was regarded as a workhorse, which led to his nickname, "Old Hoss."

Radbourn actually had more decisions the season before when his record was 48-25, but he made fewer starts, more relief appearances, and pitched "only" 632 innings.

Teams in those days generally used only two or three pitchers. The Greys' other starter, Charlie Sweeney, was suspended in 1884 after winning 17 games (with eight losses). There was a third pitcher, Ed Conley, but he started only eight times because, during the second half of the season, Radbourn pitched almost every game, including 20 in a row.

I cannot envision the way Radbourn and other pitchers delivered the ball. Brian McKenna, who wrote the linked SABR article, says of Radbourn: "He had an easy underhand motion from which he delivered a variety of pitches from varying arm angles." However, "The Ultimate Baseball Book," edited by Daniel Okent and Harris Lewine, with historical text by David Nemec, says "Radbourn won his 60 games in 1884 with a cricket-style pitching motion that included a running start."

Cricket pitchers do not throw underhanded, yet McKenna is not the only person to say that Radbourn did. So I remain puzzled. In any event, pitching baseballs, softballs and cricket balls takes a toll on the arm, which it eventually did with Radbourn, whose major league career ended in 1891, when he slumped to an 11-13 record with Cincinnati.

For his career, Radbourn won 309 games, lost 194. Besides 1883 and 1884, when he won 107 of those games, Radbourn had seven other seasons in which he won 20 games or more. Nice work for a player who entered professional baseball as a second baseman and outfielder, because he was a better-than-average hitter.

He entertained ideas of a comeback, even after his 40th birthday, but lost an eye in a hunting accident and died in 1897 from syphilis. He was 42.

Pitcher Allie Reynolds got a late start in baseball, and didn't make his first appearance in the major leagues until he was 25 years old, and then only in two games, for five innings with the Cleveland Indians. He remained with the Indians until 1946, winning 51 games, losing 47, and then was traded to the New York Yankees for second baseman Joe Gordon, one of the best in the league.

The Yankees knew what they were doing. In the next eight years, Reynolds won 131 games, lost just 60, and was on the winning end seven times in nine World Series decisions.

Because Reynolds' grandmother was three-fourths Creek Indian, he was, like most players with Native American heritage, dubbed "Chief," but because he became so successful, Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen began referring to him as "Super Chief." The nickname caught on, but because Reynolds had a blazing fast fall, most people, I suspect, thought "Super Chief" referred to the famous train that was part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway between Chicago and Los Angeles. (The railway became the title of a popular song written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, with Mercer recording a version that became a smash hit in 1945.)

Phil Rizzuto became widely known as Scooter, a New York Yankee shortstop (1941-42; 1946-56) who proved small guys (five-foot-six) can come up huge.

His lifetime average was .273, but he was an invaluable cog in the Yankee machine and a big reason the team made it to the World Series nine times in Rizzuto's 13 seasons. He hit over .300 twice, his rookie season (1941) and in 1950 when he posted these career bests – average (.324), hits (200), doubles (36) and runs (125). He's a member of baseball's Hall of Fame.

In retirement he became the voice of Yankee baseball whose excited "Holy cow!!" became his trademark shout. He also was the obnoxiously loud and over-enthusiastic spokesman for THE MONEY STORE!!!!!

Rizzuto died in 2007, about six weeks shy of what would have been his 90th birthday. Since his death, another "Scooter" has arrived on the major league scene in the form of Ryan Joseph "Scooter" Gennett, who now plays second base for Cincinnati.

His last name accounts for the nickname given Marc Rzepczynski, a six-feet-one-inch left-handed relief pitcher also known as "Zep," which is a valuable hint that the R in Rzepczynski is silent. His career hit a bump this season (2018), which landed him back in the minors in the Seattle farm system.

Over ten years he has pitched with seven teams — Cleveland, St. Louis, Toronto, Seattle, Oakland, San Diego and Washington. In a way, Rzepczynski is a baseball gypsy, partly because he's the product of the new strategy that has managers using pitchers for only parts of an inning.

As this was written, he had appeared in 506 games, but only received credit for pitching 434-2/3 innings. I hate this change in baseball, but I love the man's nickname.

Before there was "Spaceman" Bill Lee, there was "Moonman" Mike Shannon, an outfielder-turned-third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals (1962-70). I was surprised to read the nickname originated while Shannon was in the minor leagues and jumped away from an inside pitch. The way he went airborne reminded a teammate of an astronaut in space.

Years later, with the Cardinals, Thomas Michael Shannon was regarded as a bit of a flake. Apparently, he loved to talk, jumping from subject to subject, leaving listeners dazed and confused.

A kidney ailment cut short Shannon's career in 1970. He was only 30 years old. He was considered more valuable than his .255 lifetime average would indicate. During his years with the Cardinals, the team won three pennants and two World Series.

His gift of gab served him in good stead during retirement. He was a Cardinals broadcaster for 40 years.

The career of good-hitting pitcher Jim Tobin has several interesting footnotes. More on those later, because this is about nicknames. While spelled slightly differently, Tobin's nickname conjures up thoughts of "Aba Daba Honeymoon," a song popularized by a 1950 Debbie Reynolds movie ("Two Weeks With Love"), but written way back in 1914.

So did Tobin get his idea from the song, or was his inspiration something else, something that also inspired the song?

According to Bruce Markusen, in a piece on detroitathletic.com, Tobin, briefly a member of the 1945 Detroit Tigers, liked to do imitations of a vaudeville magician. As part of the act, Tobin would pause in the middle of a magic trick and declare, “Abba Dabba, are you ready?”

So maybe "abba dabba" springs from "abracadabra."

Sports writer George Vescey had a slightly different take on Tobin's nickname, saying the magic was in the pitcher's knuckleball. He mentions how much Stan Musial was baffled by the pitch when he saw it as a rookie, in 1941. But baseball-reference.com claims Tobin didn't start throwing the knuckleball until 1944, near the end of his career. Researchers on every subject seldom seem to agree.

In any event, Tobin enjoyed only modest success during his nine-season major league career. His lifetime record was 105-112, but he deserved better because he spent six seasons with the lowly Boston Braves, four times leading the team in victories.

About those footnotes. On May 13, 1942, Tobin became the first modern day pitcher to hit three home runs in one game. He had six home runs for the season, which tied him for third best on the team.

On April 27, 1944, Tobin threw a no-hitter against the Brooklyn Dodger. Two months later, he threw another no-hitter, against the Philadelphia Phils, but this time the game was called after five innings.

On May 15, 1944, against the Cincinnati Red, Tobin drew a walk off Clyde Shoun. As things turned out, Tobin was the Braves' only base runner that day, spoiling what otherwise was a perfect game for Shoun.

Tobin had a younger brother, "Jackie," who played third base for the Boston Red Sox in 1945. The younger Tobin kept playing minor league baseball until 1957.

As for Jim Tobin, he retired after his brief stint with the Tigers in 1945, though he unretired to played for Casey Stengel in Oakland, then of the Pacific Coast League, in 1948. He played briefly for Oakland the next season, and with the Memphis Chickasaws in 1950.

This was the catchy nickname of Leon Wagner, and outfielder who made his major league debut in 1958 with the San Francisco Giants, but emerged as the first star of the fledgling Los Angeles Angels in 1961. He hit a career high 37 home runs in 1962, but a war of words with management was one reason Wagner was traded to Cleveland in 1964. He remained with the Indians until his career began to slide in 1968. A year later he left the majors, played minor league ball for a couple of seasons, then retired with a .272 batting average and 211 home runs.

He owned a Los Angeles clothing store for awhile, but it went bankrupt, and he wound up homeless, and died in 2004.

In a way, the story behind these nicknames doesn't make sense, but even one of the men involved claimed there was validity to one variation of the story. The players involved are Paul Waner and his younger brother, Lloyd. They were outfielders and teammates on the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1927 to 1940, though both had careers that extended a bit beyond that.

Both brothers were voted into the Hall of Fame, though older brother Paul's statistics are slightly more impressive — .333 lifetime average, 3,152 hits, six seasons when he batted .354 or higher, three National League batting titles.

Lloyd Waner batted .355 as a rookie in 1927, and hit higher than .350 two of the next three seasons. His lifetime average was .319, and he had "only" 2,459 hits. He was a difficult man to strike out. In fact, in 1941, when he was slowing down and played only 77 games, he didn't strike out at all — in 234 trips to the plate.

Now about the Little Poison and Big Poison business. Apparently it goes back to the New York City accent (or a Brooklyn accent). Whether it was a loud-mouthed fan in Brooklyn, or a newsboy near the Polo Grounds, somebody yelled about the big person and the little person who were hurting the Giants — or the Dodgers — by getting so many hits.

The two villains in question were the Waner brothers, but the problem is Lloyd was slightly taller than his older brother, so, in a way, he should have been the big person (or "poy-son"). But some newspaper writers handed out the nicknames in chronological order, softened the sound of the "s," and turned the word into "poison."

 
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