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Some baseball players weren't at all pleased with the nicknames given them by sportswriters and fans. Here are some of the most obvious examples, though several nicknames on other pages probably weren't popular with the players who bore them. (See Glass Arm Eddie Brown.)

Robert Fothergill preferred to be called Bob, and usually was, but at five-feet-10, 230 pounds, Fothergill was a likely target for a nickname such as "Fats" or "Fatty." Detroit teammate Charlie Gehringer said of Fothergill, "He was about as round as he was tall."

An outfielder, Fothergill was one of baseball's best hitters. In one five-year stretch (1925-29) in the American League, Fothergill hit over .350 four times. His lifetime batting average over his 12-year major league career was an impressive .325.

How do you handle a hungry man?
In 1927 outfielder Bob "Fatty" Fothergill went on a diet, which set him up for taunts from opponents who kept reminding him of his favorite foods.

This Fothergill anecdote appeared on ESPN.com in a column by Jeff Meron, who said he got it from a Washington Post column written by Thomas Boswell:

"In 1928, Fat Fothergill, in the agonizing grip of a crash diet — complete with rubber suits and Turkish baths — became infuriated by a third-strike call by Bill Dinneen. The 230-pound Fothergill bit the ump in the arm.

"Upon being ejected, Fothergill quipped, 'Okay by me. That's the first bite of meat I've had in a month.'"


Another baseball "Fatty" was Charles Briody, who carried more than 190 pounds on his five-foot-eight-inch frame, making him an easy target for such a nickname in the 1880s. He was a catcher for seven teams in three different major leagues in his eight-season career. The one season he batted higher than .258 was 1884 when he played 22 games and hit .337 for Cincinnati of the Union Association, more evidence that its major league status was undeserved. (Briody also played 43 games that year for Cleveland of the National League, and batted .169.)

After he retired from playing, Briody was an umpire. He also worked for a trucking company and was a Chicago committeeman for a few years, earning another nickname, "Alderman."

Twice before he actually died in 1903, Briody had the experience of reading his obituary in a newspaper. Even then, death came early for Briody, who was only 44 when his obituary wasn't fake news.

George Grantham was nicknamed "Boots" because of his erratic fielding. He had a reputation for booting balls that were hit his way. As a Chicago Cubs rookie in 1923, Grantham made 55 errors, nearly twice as many as any other second baseman in the league. Although his early nickname was well known, he became an established major league player, one of the best hitters in the National League, and today you usually find him listed as George Grantham.

He was a first and second baseman with Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants (1922-34) and a model of consistency, hitting between .305 and .326 for eight consecutive seasons. His lifetime batting average: 302.

Eugene Franklin Hargrave was given his nickname because he had a tendency to stutter on words beginning with the letter B. I was taken to task a few years ago by someone who resented me referring to Hargrave as "Bubbles," though that's how he is identified by baseball-reference.com and in his biography on the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) website. The person who contacted me suggested I refer to the catcher as Gene Hargrave.

Sorry, but Bubbles is far more memorable. Hargrave put up big batting averages during his 12-year major league career. In 1926, he became the first catcher in baseball's modern era to win a batting title, though it was not without controversy because he participated in only 105 games and had only 326 at bats. But his .353 batting average was the best in the league. His lifetime average was a solid .310.

Hargrave's younger brother also was a major league catcher, who, because of the light red color of his hair, was nicknamed "Pinky," but so were at least nine other major league players.

William McKinley Hargrave was born January 31, 1896, almost four years after his more famous brother, in New Haven, Indiana, and named for the man elected president that November. Unlike his brother, Pinky was a so-so hitter in the majors, with a lifetime average of .278.

I have found several references to "Blimp" being the nickname for catcher Frankie Hayes, but it doesn't make sense. Also, none of those references is from the period (1933 to 1947) that the six-foot, 185-pound Hayes was playing. And "Blimp" is not mentioned in the biographical article linked to his name.

So if anyone actually did call him, "Blimp," Hayes certainly would have objected. He was a major league catcher for at least parts of 14 seasons, spending most of that time with the Philadelphia Athletics, but also playing with the St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and Cleveland Indians (when he caught a no-hit game thrown by Bob Feller).

Hayes was a five-time American League All-Star. His best season may have been 1940 when he batted .308. (His lifetime average was .259.) He had some power, once hitting 20 home runs (in 1939). It was Hayes' home run that provided the only run in that Feller no-hitter.

He set a record by catching 312 consecutive games, including all of the games his teams played in 1944 and 1945.

The catcher certainly known as "Blimp" was also nicknamed "Babe." That was Ernest Phelps, who was six-feet-two, and weighed more than 235 pounds, and would have shrugged off any reference to his size. People said he reminded them of Babe Ruth, and Phelps apparently took that as a compliment.

Like Hayes, Phelps came along in the 1930s, retiring after the 1942 season. Unlike Hayes, Phelps spent all of his time in the National League, except for three games with Washington in 1931. Most of his career was spent with the Brooklyn Dodgers, for whom he batted over .300 four seasons in a row, finishing with a .310 career batting average.

Also unlike Hayes, Phelps lived a long life, dying in 1992, at the age of 84. Hayes retired in 1947, at the age of 32, and died just eight years later.

Charles Hickman had stocky legs that supported his 5-feet-9, 195-pound frame, and he was a slow runner. He was usually referred to as Charlie Hickman, which led to a second nickname, Cheerful Charlie. Naturally, he preferred either one to being called, "Piano Legs."

In his 12-season major league career, Hickman played every position but catcher. Mostly he played first base and outfield. Hickman could hit, but was a terrible fielder. Playing third base for the New York Giants in 1900, he made 86 errors in 120 games. Cleveland moved him to first base in 1902, and he made 40 errors in 98 games.

Returning to Morgantown, West Virginia, he coached the West Virginia University baseball team for four seasons. Later he became mayor of Morgantown, then sheriff of Monongalia County.

This photo is from BlueGoldNews.com, a West Virginia University website, announcing the 2017 class of the school's Sports Hall of Fame.

This one is dealt in more detail on another page. Outfielder Charlie Keller was upset when teammates, then the press, and everyone else began calling him "King Kong"

Doyle Marion Lade was a right-handed pitcher who was a switch-hitter during part of his career. He spent five seasons with the Chicago Cubs (1946-50), appeared in 126 games, about half of them as a starter.

His best season was 1947 when he had an 11-10 won-lost record. He walked more batters than he struck out. For a pitcher, Lade was a pretty good hitter, batting .220 for his career.

Jack Wayne Lohrke was a National League infielder in the late 1940s, early '50s. He hated his nickname, which evoked painful memories (see story below).

After he retired, the nickname retired with him. "Now everyone calls me Jack," he said. Lohrke died in April 2009.

His nickname was unavoidable
Jack Lohrke may not have liked the nickname "Lucky," but there was no way he could have avoided it, thanks to the incredible story that goes with it. During the World War Two, Lohrke participated in both the landing at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Four times a soldier next to him in action was killed, while Lohrke wasn't wounded.

After he returned to the United States, Lohrke was to fly from Camp Kilmer (NJ) to California, but a colonel bumped him from the flight. That plane crashed, killing everyone aboard.

Lohrke started the 1946 season with the Spokane Indians of the Western International League. The team was en route by bus from Spokane to Bremerton (Washington), a 300-mile trip. Halfway there, the team made a scheduled dinner stop in Ellensburg, where a message was waiting for Lohrke. He was to get back to Spokane any way he could because he had been called up to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League.

While Lohrke was hitchhiking to Spokane, the team bus headed for Bremerton, but missed a curve and went off the road. Eight Spokane players were killed, along with the driver. It was the worst such disaster in minor league history.

And don't call him plain ol' "Ducky," either. Joseph Medwick wasn't called "Ducky Wucky" for the way he walked, but for the way he swam. During an off day in the minors, he and some teammates went to a pool. A woman commented that Medwick swam like a duck, and from then on his teammates called him "Ducky Wucky," later shortened to "Ducky." Medwick much preferred his other, more obvious nickname: "Muscles," though most often he was simply called "Joe."

Outfielder Medwick was known as an intense competitor, easily riled. Because he was not Mr. Congeniality, teammates didn't mourn when Medwick was traded elsewhere. He came up to the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals, but also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and, briefly, the Boston Braves.

Medwick was a hitting machine who's enshrined in Cooperstown, thanks to his lifetime batting average of .324. In 1937 had one of the most amazing seasons ever — he led the National League in batting average (.374), hits (237), doubles (56), home runs (31), runs (111) and RBI (154).

Granted, he played during perhaps baseball's gaudiest hitters' era, but what Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Al Simmons did from 1925 to 1931 was remarkable. He put together batting averages of .387, .341, .392, .351, .365, .381 and .390. His at bat and hit totals for those seven seasons were 3,755 and 1,397, and an overall batting average of .372. The fact he won only two batting titles during that period — in 1930 and '31 — is an indication there was a whole lot of hitting going on, but few people did it better than the man who was born in Milwaukee as Alois Szymanski, but changed his name to Aloysius Harry Simmons.

What he didn't appreciate was the nickname prompted by his unusually batting stance that had the right-handed batter aiming his front, left foot toward third base. In baseball parlance, that's putting your foot in the bucket. Supposedly it makes it difficult to hit pitches on far side of home plate. Simmons compensated with a long bat and whatever footwork was necessary to reach the pitches he liked. By the way, the three seasons that followed his seven-year splurge weren't bad, either — .322, .331 and .344.

Simmons spent 12 of his 20 years with the Athletics, then played for the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators, before ending his career with what seemed like a farewell tour — the Boston Braves, Cincinnati Reds, back to the Athletics, then Boston, and finally a return to Philadelphia. Being selected to the Hall of Fame was inevitable for the man who stumped the hitting experts. Simmons' lifetime batting average was .334, and he did it on 2,927 hits, 539 doubles, 149 triples, 307 home runs, and 1,828 runs batted in. He also scored 1,507 runs.

He was inducted at Cooperstown in 1953, but died three years later at the age of 54. Because of the era in which he played, Simmons doesn't get the respect he might well deserve, but the ghosts of other players from the 1920s and early '30s might complain about the same thing.

Nobody likes to be called "Chicken," but the meaning was different for William Van Winkle "Willie" Wolf when he received his nickname during his teens, thanks to his friend Pete Browning, another Louisville boy who'd become a major league baseball player.

Wolf and Browning were teammates on a semi-pro team. One day, before an important game, Wolf overindulged on chicken stew, which came back to get him during the game. That's when Browning started calling his friend "Chicken."

Wolf didn't like the nickname, but was stuck with it because he and Browning remained teammates for several years with Louisville of the American Association, then considered a major league. Eventually Wolf started calling himself Jimmy, but to most he remained Chicken til the end. Why he wanted to be called "Jimmy." no one knows. Nor do I know why his friend, Louis Rogers Browning, was called "Pete." Nicknames are mysterious things.

Wolf was an outfielder who played every other position at least once (1882-1892). He led the American Association in hitting in 1890 with a .363 average.

When he retired, he became a Louisville fireman and was involved in a serious accident in 1899, suffering a head injury from which he never fully recovered. He died in 1903.


It was inevitable, given his last name and the era in which he pitched, but Irvin Key Wilhelm must have hated it when people called him, "Kaiser," after the despised German emperor (1888-1918), who was slightly deformed, and more than a bit deranged.

Irvin Wilhelm became a professional pitcher at the age of 18 in one of the country's many small, unclassified leagues for which no statistics have yet been found. After a couple of years, he enrolled in the College of Wooster, in his Ohio hometown, but when he finished his schooling, in 1901, he turned pro for real, signing with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association. He won 15 games, but lost 18. However, in 1902, he posted a 14-9 record, and was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Wilhelm won five games for Pittsburgh in 1903, and lost three. This would be his only winning record in the major leagues. In 1904, he pitched for the Boston Beaneaters (later known as the Braves), and won 14 games, losing 20, but a year later had one of the worst seasons any pitcher had to endure — three wins, 23 losses, with a team that lost 103 times, but managed to avoid last place by finishing two games ahead of the even more hapless Brooklyn Superbas.

Long story short, Wilhelm went on to pitch for Brooklyn, then Baltimore of the Federal League, and his career record in the majors was 56-105. Thanks to some fine years with Birmingham (1906-07) and Rochester (1911-13), he won 165 games in the minors, while losing only 125.

He became the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies midway through the 1921 season, and held the job through the 1922 season. His record as a big league manager was a lot like his pitching record in the majors — 85 wins, 137 losses. He managed for two minor league teams later in the 1920s, but the results were about the same.

Finally, there's the matter of whether Wilhelm holds the minor league record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched. Statisticians have had a field day going over old scorecards to verify records. In Wilhelm's case, the question was did he pitch 59 consecutive scoreless innings, or 72?

It's something that matters only to extreme baseball nuts, and in this case it's complicated by Wilhelm going back to the majors in 1908, after ending his stay in Birmingham with 59 consecutive scoreless innings. After three seasons with Brooklyn, he returned to the minors, this time with Rochester, then of the Eastern League, and introduced himself by pitching scoreless ball for 13 more innings.

Meanwhile, there are some who say the record belongs to Hall of Famer Walter Johnson for holding opponents scoreless through 77 innings in the Southern Idaho League, pitching for a team in *Weiser. This was in 1907, a couple of months before Wilhelm began his streak in Birmingham.

Trouble is, the Southern Idaho League was more semi-pro than a real minor league, but it's things like this that keep some baseball fans busy during the winter months. Oh, yes, there's another pitcher who enters this particular discussion, Ralph Savidge (aka "The Human Ripcord"). Admittedly, there are only about six people who are debating the matter.

* Weiser, Idaho, is pronounced 'WEE-zer," not like the last two syllables in Budweiser. The town may figure in a baseball player's nickname.


I have no idea if the nickname really bothered Henry William Meine, but "Heinie" was so predictable because the pitcher came along near the end of that period when almost all players of German descent who were named Henry (and some who weren't) were called "Heinie." Ten Heinies made it as far as the major leagues. This one stands out because it goes with Meine, making it a classic whether you pronounce the last name "Mine" or "Mine-Ee."
(Pronouncing it as "Mean" is only a slight improvement.

Meine was a pitcher who built his early career around the spitball, which was outlawed soon after he turned pro. He adjusted, and after a brief, unimpressive start in the majors (plus one retirement that didn't take), he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1929 at age 33. Two seasons later, he won 19 games. He finally retired for good in 1934 to run a tavern and liquor store in his hometown, LeMay, Missouri.

The pitcher also has one of those longer nicknames that sound like titles. Being called "The Count of Luxemburg" qualifies Meine for two of my other lists — the geography-related nicknames and baseball royalty. Meine's title doesn't refer to a small European country (spelled Luxembourg), but his hometown, which was settled by immigrants from Luxembourg, Belgium, a province located near the border, close to Luxembourg, the country, and Luxembourg, France. The American settlers apparently dropped the "o" from the name. Luxemburg, a community in St. Louis County, is now considered one of Missouri's forgotten cities.

Henry Emmett Manush was a Hall of Fame outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators who also made brief stops in Boston, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn near the end of his career. Again, I have no idea how he felt about the nickname, which was all too common among players with German roots and with Henry as a first name.

Manush had a lifetime batting average of .330; was the American League batting champ in 1926 (.378); in 1928 had 241 base hits (and another .378 average).

His older brother, Frank, played 23 games with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1908.

It's difficult to explain my fondness for the name Manush; maybe it's because his name sounds like one of my wife's favorite foods: baba ganoush.

Back to his nickname. I'm not sure what was lazier or more insensitive — replacing Henry with "Heinie," or using that nickname on players who came from German families. "Heinie" Jantzen played 31 games for the St. Louis Browns in 1912; his given name was Walter. Thirty years later, nothing had changed. Another infielder, William Wade Heltzel, played 40 games for the Boston Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in 1943 and '44. He, too, was called "Heinie."

There were two "Heinie" Muellers, neither one named Henry. Outfielder-first baseman Clarence Mueller played for four major league teams — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Browns, the New York Giants and Boston Braves — from 1920 to 1935. Emmett Mueller played second base, third base and the outfield for the Philadelphia Phillies (1938-41).

Besides Manush, the best "Heinies" were Henry Groh and Henry Zimmerman, who played in the National League between 1907 and 1927. Zimmerman spent 10 years with the Chicago Cubs,, four with the New York Giants, batted .295, and led the league in home runs in 1912. He also was the RBI champ three times. Groh enjoyed a 16-season career, including nine with Cincinnati, seven with the Giants, and batted .292.

The website baseball-reference.com lists 15 other players nicknamed "Heinie," and all but one — Emil Batch — is referred to by his nickname, not his given name. Among them are two with unusual, but similar last names — catcher Heinie Peitz, who hung around the National League for 16 seasons between 1892-1913, and infielder Heinie Reitz, who batted .292 during his seven-year major league career, spent mostly with Brooklyn. Reitz led the National League in triples in 1894, with 31, a total surpassed only once in major league history, by John Owen "Chief" Wilson, who had 36 triples in 1912. (More on Wilson, below.)


If German-American players were called "Heinie," many Native American ballplayers — full-blooded or even one-sixty-fourth — were called "Chief." This was done without much thought (and no imagination) in an era that also found many Irish-Americans called "Mickey."

Pitcher Charles Albert Bender — I believe he preferred to be called "Albert" — certainly didn't appreciate being called "Chief," but he tolerated it. Bender's father was German, his mother a member of the Ojibwe tribe (sometimes called Chippewa). I've read that he was one of eleven children, and perhaps that is why he was enrolled in a government-run school for Native Americans, and why he was later educated at Carlisle Indian School, before attending Dickinson College. All of these schools were in Pennsylvania, though Bender was born — and his family remained — in northern Minnesota.

Bender was a quiet, studious young man, who just happened to be a good baseball player. His coach at Carlisle was Glenn "Pop" Warner, better known for his football teams. From what I've read, people greatly overlooked the influence of his German half (which spared him the "Heinie" nickname), and were surprised that he developed so many talents and interests. (Among his hobbies: gardening, painting landscapes, and reading English literature. He also liked to hunt, fish, and play billiards.)

But as a young man, Bender's greatest talent was as a baseball pitcher. He spent most of his long major league career playing for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics. He won 212 games, losing only 127, and happened to be with the A's during their best years, which is why he pitched in five World Series, winning six games. He pitched particularly well under pressure, though he was not the sturdiest of men, often being sidelined for brief periods because of health problems. That accounts for such seasons as 1911, when he had only 22 decisions, 17 of them wins, and 1914 when his record was 17-3.

In 1919, at the age of 35, he opted to be a player-manager in the minor leagues, and had his first opportunity with the Richmond Colts of the Class C Virginia League, leading them to a second place finish, largely on the strength of his 29-2 pitching record. He could have returned to the major leagues, but remained in the minors except for a one-inning appearance with the Chicago White Sox in 1925, when he was 41 years old.

Bender married Marie Clement in 1904, and they remained together until he died on May 22, 1954, at the age of 70. They had no children. Bender was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1953, but did not live long enough to attend the induction the following year.

Here are some of the other ball players who were nicknamed "Chief" because they were at least part Native Americans, or people believed they were:

John Owen Meyers was a member of the Cahuilla tribe. He was a National League catcher for nine seasons, seven of them with the New York Giants. One of the better hitting catchers, his lifetime average was .291, with a high of .358 in 1912. He played in four World Series.

Elon Chester Hogsett pitched in the American League for 11 seasons, mostly for Detroit. He had a lifetime won-lost record of 63-87. He said he was called "Chief" because his mother was 1/32 Cherokee.

Moses J. Yellow Horse (sometimes spelled as one word, Yellowhorse) was a full-blooded Pawnee Indian who pitched for Pittsburgh in 1920-21, winning eight games, losing four. He had two 20-win seasons in a relatively short minor league career.

Vallie Eaves, a pitcher standing six-feet-three, was quite a presence on the mound, but often had trouble finding the strike zone. Alcoholism limited his major league career to 24 appearances, spread over five seasons, eight years (1935-42), and three teams (the Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs). Drinking did not prevent him from winning 207 games in the minor leagues.

Virgil Earl Cheeves was Cherokee, and pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and New York Giants in the 1920s. The Cubs had high hopes for Cheeves, who won 23 games over two seasons (1920-21), but injuries shortened his career. Unlike most other Native Americans dubbed "Chief," Cheeves had no objection to the nickname.

• George Howard Johnson. who'd attended both Haskell and Carlisle Indians Schools, pitched for Cincinnati of the National League and Kansas City of the Federal League from 1913-15, and won 40 games, losing 43. During the off-season, he conducted medicine shows, peddling Native American remedies. In 1922, during a dice game in Des Moines, an argument broke out, and Johnson was fatally shot. He was only 36.

• Albert Clyde Youngblood pitched briefly for the Washington Senators in 1922. He was only 19 at the time, but he never made it back to the majors, retiring from baseball seven years later. He was a veteran of both World Wars.

Louis LeRoy was called "Chief" because his mother was Mohican. His father was French Canadian, and he was born in Wisconsin, but attended Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. He pitched for the New York Highlanders (Yankees) in 1905-06, winning three games, losing one. He made one appearance with the Boston Red Sox in 1910. He played 17 season in the minor leagues, nine of them with St. Paul of the American Association. Overall, including his three wins in the American League, LeRoy had 225 victories in his professional baseball career.

William Cadreau, like most of the men on this list, was a pitcher. He grew up on the Ojibwe Reservation in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and when he began pitching professionally was called Chief Chouneau. He lost his only major league game, in 1910, for the Chicago White Sox.

Jim Thorpe, the most famous Native American athlete, played major league baseball for six seasons as an outfielder, mostly for the New York Giants. As far as I know, he managed to avoid being stuck with a nickname, except maybe, "The Greatest Athlete in the World."

Also avoiding the "Chief" label was Louis Sockalexis, who was an outfielder for Cleveland of the National League (1897-99). Recognized as the first Native American to play in the majors, Sockalexis is a classic what-might-have-been story, an athlete of great promise. His career was destroyed by drinking, though years later he overcame his addiction, but too late to make his mark in baseball.

Not all baseball "Chiefs" were Native Americans. Charles Louis Zimmer was a major league catcher for 19 seasons, starting in 1884. Known as "Chief" Zimmer, perhaps because of the way he directed his teammates, he was a durable player and a better-than-average hitter, especially for a catcher, batting as high as .340 in 1895, though the figure is a bit misleading because it was a good year for hitters.

John Owen Wilson, an outfielder from Austin, Texas, was nicknamed "Tex" when he showed up in 1908 to play for Pittsburgh, but manager Fred Clarke thought he looked like the chief of the Texas Rangers. Or so the story goes. "Chief" Wilson made his mark in 1912 when he set the major league record for triples in one season — an incredible 36.

Melvin Leroy Harder was usually called Mel during his 20 seasons as a Cleveland Indians pitcher, and a coaching career with the team that continued almost as long. Harder was a four-time all-star who won 223 major league games. He also had two nicknames — "Wimpy," because, like the same-name character in "Popeye," Harder loved hamburgers — and "Chief," because after several years in Cleveland he'd become recognized as the leader of the Indians whenever there were grievances to be aired.

Three other players who — like it or not — found themselves nicknamed "Chief" were Cesar Geronimo, of the Dominican Republic, long-time Cincinnati Reds outfielder; Geronimo Berroa, also of the Dominican Republic, who was an outfielder for several teams from 1989-2000, and Geronimo Gil, from Mexico, who was a Baltimore Orioles catcher from 2001-2005.

 
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