Some other letters have a good selection of punchy nicknames, but S leads the way. Among the nicknames:

'Sailor Bob' Shawkey
Pitcher James Robert Shawkey, better known as "Bob," had his name amended because he served in the Navy during World War I. (He also was called "Bob the Gob.") He entered the service after he'd pitched five years in the major leagues, with the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees. He managed to make three appearances with the Yankees in 1918, winning one game, losing one.

He'd been a 24-game winner in 1916, and won 20 games in 1919, 1920 and again in 1922, on his way to 195 career victories. Later he managed the Yankees for one season (1930), then in the minor leagues. He died in 1980 at the age of 90.


'Sailor Bill' Posedel
Pitcher Wilhelm Johann Posedel was born in San Francisco in 1906, and served four years in the U. S. Navy (1925-29) before playing professional baseball. Besides "Sailor," he was called "Barnacle Bill." Posedel served in the Navy again during World War Two.

Between wars he played nine years in the minor leagues, but after two consecutive 20-win seasons for Portland of the Pacific Coast League, Posedel joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938, winning eight games. A year later he was a 15-game winner with the Boston Braves. It was his best major league season.

He returned to the Navy in 1942. When Posedel was discharged, he was 39 years old. He played one more season with the Braves, then pitched for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League in 1947, posting a 12-8 record. At that point he retired from playing, but remained active in baseball, managing in the minors, coaching and scouting for the Kansas City Athletics organization. When the A's moved to Oakland, Posedel went with them, and is credited with helping develop the pitching staff that helped Oakland win the World Series in 1973 and '74. Posedel died in 1989.

Also nicknamed "Sailor" was pitcher Ralph Stroud, whose unusual story is told elsewhere.


'Sassafras' Winter
George Winter was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in the early days of the American League. On April 13, 1905, the Albany (NY) Times-Union (and perhaps several other newspapers) reported in a column of sports shorts: "Some Boston fan has christened pitcher George Winter of the City if Culture gang of the Johnson Combine 'Sassafras.' "

"Johnson Combine" referred to the American League, run by Ban Johnson. Sassafras is a tree or a flavor made from the bark and other parts of that tree, and was the main ingredient in root beer, which may be the reason for the nickname.

Winter won 16 games (against 12 losses) in the first season of the American League (1901). The ace of the Boston staff that year was Cy Young, whose record was 33-10. Winter played until 1908 when Boston let him go after he'd lost 14 of 18 decisions. He finished with Detroit, losing five of six decisions for a first place team, and making his record 5-19 for the season. He got to pitch one scoreless inning in the 1908 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, who won the series in five games.

Winter's overall major league record was 83-102. In 1909 he won 15 games for Montreal of the Eastern League, but retired a year later when he was 2-10 for the Royals.


'Satchel' Paige
According to Larry Tye, who wrote an article for Society for American Baseball Research, Leroy Robert Page earned money as a youngster by carrying satchels for railroad passengers from the station to Mobile hotels. He found he could carry four or five at a time if he strung them on a pole. Soon he was nicknamed "Satchel." Along the way his last name picked up an extra letter.

Paige was a legendary pitcher in the Negro leagues, later for the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Browns. He even pitched three scoreless innings for Kansas City in 1965 at the age of 59. He's in the Hall of Fame, which is appropriate for many reasons. No pitcher was more famous


'Satchelfoot' Wells
Pitcher Edwin "Ed" Wells beat Paige to this unusual nickname, which, I assume, had to do with the size of his feet (or the shoes he wore). "Satchelfoot" Wells spent 11 seasons in the major leagues, with Detroit, the New York Yankees, and St. Louis Browns. Well, make that 10 seasons and a few weeks, because Detroit sent Wells back to the minors in 1927, and he responded with 13 wins in 14 decisions for Birmingham of the Southern Association, and in 1928 went 25-7 with the Barons.

Back in the majors in 1929, he had a 13-9 record with the New York Yankees, and went 12-3 in 1930, also with the Yankees. Perhaps because he'd been so successful there, Wells, an Ohio native, settled in Birmingham when he retired, and remained in Alabama until he died in Montgomery in 1986, a few weeks before what would have been his 86th birthday.


'Scat' Metha
Frank Joseph Metha, a five-foot-11 infielder from Los Angeles, apparently was quick on his feet, which earned him the nickname, "Scat." That's the only explanation I've found so far, and I'd like to believe it. Otherwise, you might think people considered him a pest, as in "Scat, Metha!"

He worked his way up the St. Louis Cardinals farm system in the mid-1930s, but had his only shot at the major leagues in 1940 when he played 26 games for Detroit. The Tigers won the pennant, but Metha didn't play in the World Series. He the next two seasons in the minors, then likely found himself in the service during World War Two. Metha would have been in his 30s by the end of the way. In any event, his baseball career was over.

I stumbled upon an online auction site offering the Scat Metha trophy he won as the most popular player on the 1939 Fort Worth Cats team in the Texas League. The information offered on this page said Metha stole 66 bases that season, which supports the story of his nickname.

'Schoolboy' Rowe
In 1925, at the age of 15, Lynwood Thomas Rowe had the opportunity to pitch against a team that included some former major league players. He won that game and earned a nickname when one of the embarrassed opponents grumbled, "Beaten by a schoolboy."

Nearly six-foot-five, Rowe was not your ordinary schoolboy. Years later he was a good-hitting, right-handed pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies and made a brief appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942. (More on the right.)

Rowe's words on radio
came back to taunt him

Lynwood Thomas "Schoolboy" Rowe arrived in the majors in 1933, winning seven games, and the following season his 24-8 record led Detroit into the World Series. Rowe, 24-years-old at the time, was interviewed that season on Eddie Cantor's network radio program, and during the interview Rowe said he'd like to be a radio announcer, which prompted Cantor to turn the pitcher loose on a microphone. Rowe played announcer for a few seconds, then, in a low voice, asked "How'm I doin', Edna, honey?"

He was talking to his fiancée, Edna Mary Skinner. Cantor knew a good thing when he heard it, so the comedian made it a point to say "How'm I doin', Edna?" at least once during every broadcast for several weeks.

So when Rowe pitched Game Two of the 1934 World Series, he was taunted throughout by the opposing St. Louis Cardinals, who yelled the phrase over and over. It didn't do the Cardinals much good — Rowe went 12 innings to beat St. Louis, 3-2. Later the Cardinals beat Rowe, 4-3, in Game Six. When the Cardinals erupted in the third inning of Game Seven, Rowe was brought in to relieve starter Elden Auker, but couldn't put out the fire, giving up two hits and a run, and St. Louis went on to crush Detroit, 11-0. However, Rowe came out a winner: He and Edna were married shortly thereafter.

Rowe won 19 games each of the next two seasons, but the best he could do afterward was a 16-3 record in 1940. He hit .300 or better three different seasons, with a high of four home runs in 1943 with Philadelphia.



'Scoops' Carey
Slick-fielding first baseman George Carey, a Pittsburgh native, scooped up everything in sight. Thus the nickname. He also hit a ton for a couple of minor league teams (the Altoona Mud Turtles and Milwaukee Brewers). His reward was a season with baseball's best team, the Baltimore Orioles, in 1895. Carey batted .261 for the National League pennant winners, the lowest batting average among the starting players, so he returned to the minors.

He made a brief reappearance in 1898 with Louisville, then of the National League, but batted only .188. In 1901, he hit .316 with Buffalo of the Eastern League, earning him a shot the next year with Washington of the fledgling American League. He batted .314, and, at 31 years of age, Carey looked as though he had finally made it, but a season later his average plummeted to .202, and he was relegated to the minors for the rest of his playing career. Still, "Scoops" Carey left his mark in the form of his nickname. (See below.)

Carey's nickname lived on
First baseman George "Scoops" Carey played only 299 major league games, batting .271, but he left his mark on the game. When outfielder Max Carey arrived in Pittsburgh in 1910, the future Hall of Famer was given the nickname, "Scoops," for no reason except it belonged to a local player who never actually played for the Pirates. It has been suggested that "Hawk," or "Eagle" would have been more appropriate for Max Carey, whose speed allowed him to cover the outfield like few players of his time. Carey also was one of the best base runners in the history of the game, leading the National League in stolen bases 10 times. He had 738 stolen bases by the time his 20-year career came to an end in 1929.

When infielder Tom Carey came along in the 1930s, he, too, was nicknamed "Scoops," because of the fame of Max Carey. This "Scoops" played three seasons for the St. Louis Browns (1935-37). and parts of five seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Appearing in 466 games, he batted .275 with two home runs, playing mostly second base, with several games at shortstop.

Another Carey arrived in the major leagues in 1952, but this one —named Andy — avoided the "Scoops" nickname, though it would have been appropriate, because he was a third baseman. Andy Carey spent most of his 11-season major league career with the New York Yankees.


'Scrappy' Carroll
John E. Carroll of Buffalo, New York, must have loved baseball. Born in 1860, he played with whatever team he could, at whatever position he was needed, but usually in the outfield. Apparently, the five-foot-seven Carroll was a feisty guy, whose attitude kept him employed.

Because he played mostly in the 1880s, Carroll's "major league" experience was rather unusual, perhaps unique — three seasons, three teams, three different leagues. His story continues on the right.

Baseball had another "Scrappy." He was infielder William Allen Moore, who got into four games with the St. Louis Browns in 1917, served in the Navy in 1918, then played six seasons (1919-

John Carroll was 'Scrappy'
by name and by nature

At five-feet-seven, John E. Carroll of Buffalo, NY, was a feisty guy who lived up to his nickname, "Scrappy."

He began the 1884 season with the St. Paul Apostles of the Northwestern League, which included 14 teams. The Apostles, with a 24-48 record, finished in 13th place.

Nonetheless, Carroll and other members of the Apostles became part of the St. Paul White Caps in September to help finish out the first — and last — season of the Union Association, the weirdest thing ever considered a major league. Twelve teams participated — well, maybe thirteen; it depends on how you view the Chicago Browns who left the league on August 22 and became the Pittsburg Stogies a day later. (Yes,in those days, Pittsburgh was spelled without the H.) Only five of the original league teams played more than 100 games.

The St. Paul White Caps replaced the Stogies for the last nine game of the season. All nine game were played on the road, making St. Paul the only "major league" team not to play a single home game. St. Paul won two, lost six, tied one. Carroll played all nine games and batted a feeble .097, three hits in 31 at bats. (He'd hit .230 for the Apostles.)

In 1885, Carroll played for Memphis of the Southern Association, Cleveland of the Western League, and his hometown Buffalo Bisons of the National League, who needed an outfielder late in the season. Carroll had three hits in 40 at bats for Buffalo, which lowered his "major league" batting average to .084.

He spent 1886 with Utica of the International League, then returned to Cleveland to play for its new team, the Blues, in the American Association, then considered a major league. Primarily an outfielder, Carroll played in 57 of the team's 131 games, and his .833 fielding average was one of the worst on the team, and his batting average (.199) was the lowest of any player who had 50 or more at bats. It wasn't much of a team; with only 39 wins, the Blues finished eighth in an eight-team league.

That concluded Carroll's major league career, though he did contribute something to the game while he played in Cleveland. According to a book with perhaps the longest title I've ever seen — "Base Ball on the Western Reserve: The Early Game in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, Year by Year, and Town by Town, 1865-1900," by James F. Egan Jr., Scrappy Carroll wore something in the outfield that no one had ever seen — sunglasses.


'Shags' Horan
Why Joseph Patrick Horan was so nicknamed, I have no idea. "Shags" has several possibilities, and I will not speculate. The five-foot-ten-inch outfielder was 18 years old when he began playing professionally in 1914, with the Cairo (Illinois) Egyptians of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee (Kitty) League.

Horan apparently didn't play in 1916 or 1918, but spent 1919 with the Evansville Evas of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa (Three-I) League, and the Joplin Miners of the Western League. He hit only one home run that season, and would hit none in 1920 playing 49 games for the Beaumont Exporters of the Texas League.

Then came 1922. With the Des Moines Boosters of the Western League, Horan batted .320, with 47 doubles and 16 home runs — twice as many as anyone else on the team. (One of his teammates was 21-year-old Nick Cullop, who hit six home runs in 55 games. Cullop would become a minor league legend, hitting 420 home runs before he retired.)

In 1923, Horan was like Joe Hardy, the guy had made a deal with the devil in "Damn Yankees." Still in Des Moines, he led the league with an incredible .411 batting average, hitting 57 doubles and 23 home runs. This attracted the attention of the New York Yankees, thinking another Babe Ruth had been discovered.

Horan went to New York the next year and had nine hits in 31 at bats, a decent .290 average, but he was no Babe Ruth. His hits included no home runs, so he was demoted to Reading of the International League, where he hit .376 with six home runs. But there was no trip back to the big leagues. He kept playing a few years, then settled in California, working for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. He died in Torrance, California, in 1969. He was 73.


'Shano' Collins
John Francis Collins was an outfielder, sometimes first baseman who played 16 seasons (1910-1925) with the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. Collins was one of the White Sox players who survived the gambling scandal involving the 1919 World Series. He was regarded as a good defensive player, though his statistics don't seem impressive. He had a lifetime batting average of .264.

He managed the Boston Red Sox in 1931, lifting the team out of last place for the first time in seven seasons. (They finished sixth.) But Collins was fired in 1932 after Boston lost 44 of its first 55 games. The Red Sox finished last again, losers of 111 games. Meanwhile, Collins resumed managing in the minor leagues."Shano" is a variation on "Sean", the Gaelic version of "John".


'She' Donahue
I've seen no explanation how Charles Donahue acquired what may be the strangest, most mysterious nickname of them all.

Donahue was born in Oswego, NY, in 1877. I checked several old Oswego newspaper stories, and while one of them referred to Donahue as "a famous old ballplayer," locally speaking, at least, there was no accounting for the nickname.

Donahue didn't stick around the major leagues long enough to stimulate much interest. He was an infielder who played 62 games in the National League in 1904, most of them with the last-place Philadelphia Phillies. He batted .219, which was bad, and fielded .858, which was worse. Maybe the "e" in the nickname had something to do with errors because Donahue made 38 of them in those 62 games.


'Shovel' Hodge
Clarence Clemet Hodge
had large feet. Some joker said they looked like shovels. Lots of people agreed. Hodge was born in Mount Andrew, Alabama, and by the time he stopped growing he was six-foot-four and pitching well enough to turn pro.

He was 27-years-old in 1920 when the Chicago White Sox purchased him. He made four appearances, had one win, one loss, and posted a 2.29 earned run average. He hung around two more seasons, but walked many more batters than he struck out, gave up too many hits, but managed to win almost as many games as he lost. (His lifetime won-lost record was 14-15).


'Showboat's' hitting simply wasn't enough
George Aloys "Showboat" Fisher
compared his stance to Babe Ruth's, at least the way he stood at the plate, with his feet together, but judging by the photo above, he twisted his body in peculiar fashion when he swung. It's a wonder he didn't trip himself on the way to first base.

Fisher was only a part-time player for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1930, enjoying his longest visit to the major league. He played in 92 games, with only 286 plate appearances, and 254 at bats in compiling his .374 average, just one point higher than another outfielder, George Watkins, who had 391 at bats. This was the zaniest hitters' season of the modern era. Even the last place Philadelphia Phillies had a team batting average of .315, with two hitters (Chuck Klein and Lefty O'Doul) batting over .380. Bill Terry of the New York Giants led the league with a .401 average.

Still ... you'd think the Cardinals would have asked a guy who hit .374 to stick around for the 1931 season. But they didn't. Fisher went back to the International League where he'd hit 36 home runs with a .336 batting average in 1929.

Fisher returned to the major leagues in 1932, but only long enough to get 22 at bats with the St. Louis Browns. He'd had a couple of brief, but unimpressive shots with the Washington Senators in the 1920s, but put all four of his major league seasons together, and the guy's batting average was .335, just about what he hit during his 14 seasons in the minor leagues.

Apparently it wasn't that he made just a few more errors than the average outfielder, but his speed. Showboat didn't cover much ground. But the fellow sure could hit. Though you wouldn't think so, not from the way he looks in the photo.


'Shucks' Pruett
Hubert Shelby Pruett was better known as Hub Pruett, but was nicknamed "Shucks" because that was the strongest word he used when he was upset. Pruett's claim to baseball fame is the hex he had on Babe Ruth, who struck out 10 times in the first 11 times he faced the left-handed pitcher.

Ruth's luck improved afterward — he did hit a couple of home runs off Pruett eventually — but the Bambino was happy to see the pitcher disappear from the American League after the 1924 season. Pruett had pitched for the St. Louis Browns, and other batters had no trouble hitting him. His three-year record with the Browns was 14-18. Later he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants and Boston Braves, but lost twice as often as he won. After retiring, he completed his medical studies and became a doctor.

'Sibby' Sisti
Buffalo, NY, native Sebastian Daniel Sisti obviously got his nickname from his given first name. Sisti was a handy guy to have around because he was at home playing any infield position. Sisti joined the Boston Braves in 1939, just before his 19th birthday. That season he was the youngest player in the big leagues.

His career peaked in 1941, then he hit a slump in 1942, and spent the next three years with the Coast Guard during World War Two. He returned in 1946, played for Indianapolis of the American Association, hit .343, and was named Minor League Player of the Year.

In 1947 he returned to the Braves. In all, Sisti spent 13 seasons with the team, retiring in 1954, the Braves' second year in Milwaukee. As an indication of how highly regarded Sisti was, he was the fourth player inducted into the Boston Braves Hall of Fame – behind Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain and Tommy Holmes.

I always had a special place for Sisti in my memories because he spoke at my high school's athletic banquet in 1954. He also was one of the 40 players included in my first Ethan Allen All-Star Baseball Game, which at the time was known simply as All-Star Baseball.

'Sig' Jakucki
In 1936, pitcher Sigmund Jakucki was 0-3 with the St. Louis Browns and dropped out of baseball a couple of years later. But World War II created an incredible player shortage, so Jakucki came out of a five-year retirement in 1944 and won 13 games for the Browns, helping them to their only American League pennant. He was the losing pitcher in his only World Series start. 

He returned in 1945 and won 12 more games, but then the war ended and so did Sigmund Jakucki's big league career. He had nicknames off both his first and last names. "Sig" was the more popular nickname, but he also was called "Jack." Jakucki died in Galveston, Texas, in 1979. He was 69 and reportedly destitute.


'Silk Stockings' Schafer
Henry "Harry" Schafer
had two nicknames; I've chosen the one that fits this page, his other would be appropriate on my Pop Culture page. David Nemec, who wrote the linked SABR article, probably knows more about more oldtime players than anyone in the world, and he couldn't come up with a reason Schafer was nicknamed "Silk Stockings" or "Dexter," Dexter being the name of a famous 19th century race horse. Nemec says Schafer was neither particularly fast or rich.

[This was probably not the same Harry Schafer, but he was a Philadelphia native and this did occur in the city of Brotherly Love in 1883, five years after "Dexter" Schafer retired from baseball. He would have been 37 at the time. The New York Clipper, on December 22, 1883, reported that a Harry Schafer and one William F. Gretner engaged in a 500-yard race at Corinthian Reservoir on December 15, and Gretner won by 40 yards. Assuming this was done outside, in the middle of December, I'm guessing the two men may have got into a debate while doing some pre-Christmas celebrating.]

Anyway, Schafer played third base for the Boston Red Stockings in both the National Association (1871-75) and the National League (1876-78). His statistics, like most of those in the early days of professional baseball, don't indicate much of anything. Nemec says Schafer wasn't an interesting fellow, but I did stumble upon something that amused me. It was a classified ad that appear in several newspapers in the 1870s. Seems Schafer was one of the first players to endorse a product, though the ad mistakenly identifies him as a second baseman and was published weeks after Schafer retired from playing.

Wheeling (WV) Daily Intelligencer, August 2, 1878
A Bawl, From Second Base — Harry Schafer, the second base of the Boston Club, fell and dislocated his kneecap a little while ago. He says that he owes his almost immediate recovery to Giles’ Liniment Iodide Ammonia. Sold by all druggists. Send for pamphlet. Dr. Giles, 451 Sixth Avenue, N.Y Trial size 25 cents.

'Ski' Mellilo
Second baseman Oscar Melillo had two "S" nicknames — "Ski" and "Spinach." The first one went back to his youth and a local football hero whose nickname was "Ski." Young Melillo was such a fan of this player that his friends started calling him "Ski.

As for "Spinach," that is strictly for Popeye lovers. In fact, Bill Nowlin, who wrote the story linked to Melillo's name, above, says it's possible Melillo's spinach incident may have inspired Popeye, who was created three years later. Melillo became seriously ill in 1926, the year the 27-year-old second baseman became a major leaguer with the St. Louis Browns. Melillo's doctor ordered him to begin a steady diet of spinach, and, sure enough, a few days later the ballplayer was well on the road to recovery.

Melillo had a 12-season career in the majors, most of it with the Browns, but the last three years with the Boston Red Sox. He was a good fielder, but a so-so hitter, with a lifetime batting average of .260.


'Skinny' Graham
Kyle Graham (right) was a pitcher who really was skinny, 172 pounds stretched over a 6-foot-two-inch body. He pitched for the Boston Braves (1924-26) and Detroit Tigers (1929), winning 11 games, losing 22.

Also nicknamed "Skinny" was Arthur William Graham (left), an outfielder who was short, but not skinny – five-foot-seven, 181 pounds. He played a few games for Boston Red Sox in 1934-35. He owed his nickname to his father, a semi-pro pitcher in Massachusetts. For awhile, his son was called "Young Skinny."

"Skinny" also was a nickname for an outfielder named Wally Shaner, who wasn't particularly skinny, carrying 195 pounds on his six-foot-two frame. But Shaner is a whole different story, which can be found on another, more appropriate page.

Pitcher Hector Harold Brown probably was better known as Hal, though you'd often see him identified as Hal "Skinny" Brown during his 14-season career (1951-64). Brown stood six-foot-two and weighed 180 pounds, and his nickname was a joke from his early childhood when his family thought he was fat.

Originally signed by the Boston Red Sox, it was with the Baltimore Orioles that he enjoyed his best seasons, going 33-20 from 1959 to 1961. Before he retired in 1964, he briefly pitched for the New York Yankees before going to the Houston Astros and suffering through his two worst seasons, which dropped his overall won-lost record below .500 (85-92).

One swim he'll never forget
Hal "Skinny" Brown, who had a 14-season career (1951-64) as a major league pitcher was lucky he had any career at all..

At the age of 18 he enlisted in the Army Air Force and served during World War Two as a gunner on a bomber. During one of his missions directed at a Nazi submarine base, the bomber was hit, but the pilot tried to make it back to England. However, the crew wound up parachuting into the English Channel, where they were picked up a few hours later.


'Sleeper' Sullivan
I can only speculate why Thomas Jefferson Sullivan was nicknamed "Sleeper," just as I can only speculate why someone born in Ireland in 1859 was named after an American President.

Sullivan also was nicknamed "Old Iron Hands," probably because he made so many errors behind the plate. He played professional baseball from 1877 until 1892, almost all of it in the minor leagues, which were more like semi-pro outfits. He spent parts of four seasons (1881-1884) with major league teams in Buffalo, St. Louis and Louisville, and his batting average (.184) was barely above his weight. As a catcher with these "major league" teams, he made 82 errors in 90 games; in the outfield, he made four errors in 13 games.


'Sleepy' Townsend
According to an item in a column called, "Sporting Notes," in the Syracuse (NY) Standard of Friday, March 28, 1890:

"Sleepy George Townsend, the catcher who, when with the Athletics, used to take a nap on the bench while a game was in progress, has signed with the Baltimores."

So that explains the nickname. Townsend was a backup catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in 1887 and 1888, playing behind Wilbert Robinson, which gave Townsend plenty of opportunities to sleep during a game.

Attention, please: Is there
a doctor on the beach?

Nineteenth century catcher George Townsend, who was nicknamed "Sleepy," wasn't much of a ballplayer, as professionals go, but he made his mark in other ways.

When he retired from playing in the early 1890s, he finished his medical studies at New York University, and became a doctor, practicing in Branford, Connecticut.

In August, 1907, he was in the news for rescuing a young woman from drowning in Long Island Sound. Newspaper accounts referred to him as "the famous Baltimore catcher of a decade ago."

Dr. Townsend plunged into the water fully clothed, and, though exhausted by the effort, managed to bring the woman to shore. The story noted that the former catcher had grown stout since his playing days.


'Slicker' Parks
There have been seven major league baseball players who have been nicknamed "Slick" for various reasons, but only Vernon Henry Parks was ever known as "Slicker." Why? At this point, I have no idea.

As for the others, there were either slick dressers or slick operators or seemed to go through life (or their position on the field) smoothly and with ease. Only two pitchers — Slick Castleman and Slick Coffman — were known by the nickname. For the others — Whitey Ford, Andy Van Slyke, Lou Johnson, Grover Hartley and Gene Host — "Slick" was merely a spare nickname.

Parks was a star pitcher for the University of Michigan, and was touted as the best college pitcher in the country, but his major league experience consisted of 10 appearance for the Detroit Tigers in 1921, which resulted in three wins, two losses. Thereafter he spent several seasons in the International League with 'Syracuse, Jersey City, Reading and Buffalo.

"Harold Brooks" exposed
Vernon Henry Parks, nicknamed "Slicker," was a student at the University of Michigan in 1920 when he tried playing professional baseball under an alias.

He thought he'd be safe in Portland, Oregon, pitching with the local entry, the Beavers, in the Pacific Coast League. He wasn't particularly successful — his won-long record was 6-10 — but his picture appeared in the paper, and someone recognized "Harold Brooks" as a Michigan pitcher named Parks. He notified the school, and the not-so-young man (he was 24) lost his eligibility, and turned pro for real.

He played until he was 36 years old, but pitched only briefly in the majors with the Detroit Tigers in 1921.


'Slim' Sallee
Harry Franklin Sallee
of Higginsport, Ohio, is the champion of "S" nicknames, being called "Slats," "Skinny," "Skeleton, "Scissors," "Scatter," but mostly "Slim" during his life. was almost certain to wind up nicknamed "Slim," "Slats," "Skinny," or "Skeleton."

The left-handed pitcher arrived in the majors in 1908, and hung around until 1921. He did most of his pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, but had his best seasons with the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds. When it was all over, he chalked up 174 wins (against 143 losses). In 1917, he helped the Giants win the pennant with his 18-7 record. (Another left-hander, relatively unknown Ferdie Schupp had 21 wins that season for New York.)

Two years later, Sallee posted a 21-7 record, helping Cincinnati reach the World Series. Yes, THAT World Series. Sallee won game two against the Chicago White Sox, but lost game seven to Eddie Cicotte. (This was a best-of-nine series.) Cincinnati became world champs a day later, beating Chicago 10-5, as White Sox pitcher, Lefty Williams, lost his third game of the series. Cicotte and Williams would later be banished from baseball for their roles in throwing the 1919 World Series.

A remarkable thing about Sallee's 1919 pitching was he walked only 20 batters in 227-2/3 innings. More remarkable, he struck out only 24 batters.

(For an interesting story about how Sallee left the Cardinals and was grabbed by the Giants, see Ralph "Sailor" Stroud, who also was involved.)


When in doubt,
call 'em 'Slim'

Besides pitcher Harry Sallee (below,, left), several major leaguers have been nicknamed "Slim," an old, now trite nickname that at one time was a favorite in cowboy movies.

• Six-foot-seven-inch Edward Haughton "Slim" Love, picked up a win with the Washington Senators in 1913, went back to the minors, had 21 wins for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in 1915, then spent three seasons with the New York Yankees, his busiest being 1918 when he had a 13-12 record. He pitched for Detroit the next two seasons, and returned to the minors for the rest of his career.

He pitched five seasons (1923-27) for the Dallas Steers of the Texas League, winning 86 game. Overall, Love was 28-21 in the major leagues, 155-136 in the minors.

• Walter Howard McGrew was another "Slim," because he stood six-feet-seven-1/2 inches, and was considered the tallest player in major league history to that point. He was well-built, weighing almost 240 pounds, and early reports on him was that he threw as hard as Walter Johnson, who was his Washington Senators teammate during his three brief stops in the major leagues.

McGrew first attracted major league attention in 1921 while pitching for the Galveston Pirates of the Texas League. He pitched an exhibition game against the New York Giants, who needed a ninth inning rally to beat the 21-year-old pitcher. Manager John McGraw wanted to sign McGrew, but the young hurler made a salary demand the Giants wouldn't meet. This annoyed McGraw because he knew the pitcher not only was inexperienced, but had a losing record for Galveston.

A year later McGrew won 18 games for Shreveport, which earned him a visit to Washington, where he gave up six runs in one-2/3 innings. In 1923 he won 22 games for Memphis of the Southern Association, and pitched five innings in three appearances with the Senators. Back in Memphis in 1924, he had a 15-5 record, then got called up again, but was unimpressive in six games with Washington, getting his only major league decision — a loss.

Not surprisingly, Slim McGrew had another nickname — "Dangerous Dan."

William Jennings Bryan Harriss was yet another appropriately nicknamed "Slim," standing six-foot-six, weighing 180 pounds. The right-hander broke into professional baseball in 1919, winning 21 games for Houston of the Texas League. From 1920 to 1928, he pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox, and was twice a 20-game loser. However, in 1925, his 19-12 record helped the Athletics to a second place finish in the American League.

His lifetime record was 95-135. Harriss won 105 games in the minor leagues, with an 84-71 record with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association from 1929 thru 1933, giving him 200 wins overall.

There also were:

• William Peter "Slim" Emmerich pitched briefly with the New York Giants (1945-46), splitting eight decisions, before returning to the minors for five seasons. Emmerich, who retired at 31 years of age, was the shortest of these seven "Slims," standing just six-foot-one. His weight is listed at 170 pounds, which sounds about perfect for his height, but about 20 more than you'd expect from someone called "Slim."

• Oscar Martin "Slim" Harrell came out of Baylor University, pitched in the minors for a few years, and saw three innings of action for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1912. He was six-foot-three, and weighed 180 pounds.

• Charles Akin "Slim" Embry captained the Vanderbilt University baseball team, and soon after he graduated in 1923 he pitched two and two-thirds innings for the Chicago White Sox, giving up seven hits and six runs, though four of those runs were unearned. He quit baseball and became a lawyer in Nashville.

Ten other players, better known by their given names or other nicknames, also were sometimes called "Slim."

'Slippery' Eels
The nickname was inevitable for anyone with this last name. Harry Archibald Eels was a pitcher who, at the age of 26, surfaced with Cleveland in 1906, winning four games, losing five. He seemed to perform well enough to warrant another season, but he returned to the minor leagues, and retired a couple of years later and went into real estate. In the minors, he was both a 20-game winner (with Joplin in 1904) and a 23-game loser (with Kansas City a year later).

'Smash' Smajstrla
It seems obvious why Craig Lee Smajstrla received his nickname, though it could have been "Scrabble," since his last name looks like something you'd get by picking up nine Scrabble letter squares at random. Apparently, his last name is pronounced Suh-ma-STRUH-luh.

Smajstrla was primarily a second baseman who got into eight games with Houston in 1988 after he had batted .310 with Tucson of the Pacific Coast League. He returned to Tucson, and in 1990 again did well, hitting .313, but retired at the end of the 1991 season.

Despite his nickname, "Smash" had little power. At five-foot-nine, weighing 176 pounds, he never hit more than seven home runs in any season.

'Smoky' Burgess
A rather ordinary name, I know, though the name he was born with — Forrest Harrill Burgess — is unusual. It's hard to explain personal preferences, so I won't even try. Smoky Burgess, catcher and pinch hitter extraordinare, was a favorite of mine throughout his 18-year major league career.

While it was another catcher, Carlton Fisk, who was called Pudge, that nickname better suited Burgess, who looked like the reincarnation of Babe Ruth.

Knowing what was coming didn't help
the Milwaukee Braves against Haddix

Milwaukee Braves pitcher Bob Buhl admitted in 1993, long after the fact, that what was so remarkable about Harvey Haddix on the night he pitched a perfect game through 12 innings (May 26, 1959) was that the Braves knew every pitch that was coming.

How did they know?

Because, said Buhl, signals were so easy to steal from Smoky Burgess, who caught that game for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Seems Burgess could not crouch down all the way and his fingers were constantly exposed. Buhl said pitchers in the Braves bullpen relayed signals to the batter by the way they placed a towel on the bullpen fence.

Making it easier, added Buhl, was that Haddix used only two pitches all game — his fast ball and his curve.

'Smoky Joe' Wood
For starters, Joe Wood's real first name was Howard ... Howard Ellsworth Wood, so "Joe" was his first nickname, given by his parents after the Wood family went to a state fair or a world's fair — that varies from story to story — and had been greatly amused by two clowns called Joey and Petey. Howard became Joe, and his brother, Harley, was forever after known as Pete.

"Smoky" was added because of how hard Joe Wood threw. Most sources spell "Smoky" without an "e,' though some — including statistics guru Bill James — seem to insist on "Smokey."

There are a bunch of players nicknamed "Smokey," but the only one of any note is Walter Alston, better known as a manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers than he was as a player.

'Smoky Joe' Wood went from
Bloomer Girls to Boston Red Sox

When he was 16-years-old, Wood accepted an offer to pose as a young woman to play a few games with a Kansas City-based team called National Bloomer Girls. This was not unusual; there were several "Bloomer Girls" teams that toured for exhibition games against pro and semi-pro teams, and they always hired a few male ringers.

A year later (1907), Wood was with the Hutchinson (Kansas) Salt Packers of the Class C Western Association, winning 18 games, losing 11.

In 1908, he pitched for Kansas City of the American Association, and despite a losing record, he was purchased by the Boston Red Sox, and made his major league debut at the age of 18, winning a game, and losing one.

By 1911, the 21-year-old Wood emerged as one of the best pitchers in the American League, winning 23 games, but it was what happened a year later that established Smoky Joe Wood's reputation as perhaps the very best pitcher of them all. He won 34 games, lost only five, threw 10 shutouts, and won three more games in the World Series against the New York Giants.

A season later, however, Wood broke the thumb on his pitching hand, and that triggered a series of arm injuries when he tried to play too soon afterward. He saw limited action in 1913, winning 11 games (against five losses). He pitched even less in 1914, but was still effective, winning 10 games (with only three losses). His record in 1915 was 15-5, and he had the best earned run average in the American League (1.49). But the Red Sox wanted him to take a pay cut, and he refused, and sat out the 1916 season, after which Boston sold him to the Cleveland Indians.

He only pitched 15-2/3 innings for Cleveland in 1917, losing his only decision. The next season the Indians gambled on the good-hitting Wood, making him an outfielder. He batted .296 in 110 games, and remained with Cleveland until 1922, when he batted .297 and drove in 92 runs. (He made one brief pitching appearance in 1919 and again the following season.)

Only 32, Wood retired after the 1922 season, saying he needed to stay home with his family. He named one of his sons, Joe, who, fittingly, also became a pitcher, first for Yale University, and later in the minor leagues during the 1940s. He had one shot in the major leagues, with the Boston Red Sox in 1944, but lost his only decision.


'Snooker' Arnovich
Morris "Morrie" Arnovich was nicknamed "Snooker" because of his pool-playing skill; more specifically, his skill at playing the British version, snooker, which involved pocketing 22 balls in a particular order.

Born in Superior, Wisconsin, Arnovich attended Superior State Teachers College (now known as the University of Wisconsin-Superior), and, appropriately, began his professional baseball career with the Superior Blues of the Class D Northern League in 1933. He batted .331 and .374 in two seasons with the Blues, then moved up to the Hazleton Mountaineers of the Class A New York-Pennsylvania League for two more seasons, batting .305 and .327, earning a call-up from the Philadelphia Phillies near the end of the 1936 season. He batted .313 in 13 National League games.

He remained with the Phillies until he was traded to Cincinnatii during the 1940 season. He played for the New York Giants in 1941, but spent the next four years in the Army. He returned to the Giants in 1946, but only for one game. He spent the rest of the season with the Jersey City Giants of the International League, and from 1947 to 1950 managed in the minor leagues.

His major league batting average was .287, with a career high .324 in 1939. He returned to Superior where he died in 1959, at the age of 48.


Here are other players with "S" nicknames profiled on other pages:

"Sad Sam" Jones
John "Sadie" McMahon
Robert "Sailor" Stroud
Jim "Sarge" Bagby

Ernie "Schnozz" Lombardi
Dave "Scissors" Foutz
Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto
Mark "Scrabble" Rzepczynski

Charlie "Sea Lion" Hall
James "Shanty" Hogan
John "Sheriff" Blake
"Sheriff" Charlie Gassaway

"Stooping Jack" Gorman
"Shoeless Joe" Jackson
George "Shotgun" Shuba
George "Showboat" Fisher

"Shufflin' Phil" Douglas
Frank "Skeeter" Scalzi
Everett "Skeeter" Kell
Lamar "Skeeter" Newsome

James "Skeeter" Webb
Clyde "Skeeter" Wright

Rudolph "Skeleton" Roach
Walter "Skinny" Shaner

Samuel "Skyrocket" Smith
Lena Blackburne aka "Slats"
Hollis "Sloppy" Thurston
"Slow Joe" Doyle

"Smiling Stan" Hack
John "Snake" Deal
Fred "Snake" Henry

Louis "Snake" Wiltse

Patrick "Snipe" Conley
Roy "Snipe" Hansen
George "Snuffy" Stirnweiss
"Spaceman" Bill Lee

John "Spider" Jorgensen
Spittin' Bill" Doak
Forrest "Spook" Jacobs
Wally "Spooks" Gerber

Roy "Squirrel" Sievers
"Still Bill" Hill
Harold "Stinky" Davis
"Strawberry Bill" Bernhard

"Sudden Sam" McDowell
Harry "Suitcase" Simpson
"Sunny Jim" Bottomley
"Sunset Jimmy" Burke
"Superchief" Allie Reynolds