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The following players had their rather ordinary
first names personalized:

 

'Kewpie Dick' Barrett
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. 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.

'Glass Arm' Eddie Brown
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.

The outfielder was a better-than-average hitter, but had little power, and 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).

'Fidgety Phil' Collins
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.

'Spittin' Bill' Doak
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.

'Shufflin' Phil' Douglas
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. But he wasinstrumental in helping the Giants win the 1921 World Series, pitching two of his team's five victories over the New York Yankees.

'Jumping Joe' Dugan
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. 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.

'Fat Freddie' Fitzsimmons
Pitcher Fred Fitzsimmons apparently was good-natured about it when his expanding waistline earned him his nickname. 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.

'Still Bill' Hill
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. 

'Shoeless Joe' Jackson
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.

'George 'High Pockets"Kelly
I assume Hall of Famer George Kelly was called "High Pockets" because the first baseman was six-feet-four. 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, and twice Kelly led the National League in runs batted in, and once in home runs (when he hit 23 in 1921).

'Jughandle Johnny' Morrison
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, Morrison's jughandle 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.

'Pistol Pete' Reiser'
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 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.

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.

'Wonderful Willie' Smith
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. On his way up, he played for the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League. 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.

Harry 'The Hat' Walker
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.

   
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