Continued . . .

'Snooks' Dowd
Raymond Dowd's nickname comes without explanation, so let's speculate. Fanny Brice, who later achieved national fame with the character on a weekly radio show, created "Baby Snooks" for her vaudeville act in 1912. "Snooks" was an incorrigible youngster, based on a comic strip character called "Snookums". Perhaps this had something to do with Dowd's nickname. From all accounts, Dowd himself was often incorrigible  — he was known to abruptly leave a team when things weren't going his way.

Dowd was an infielder, who had two brief visits to the major leagues — in 1919 and 1926. He was the starting second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers on opening day in 1926 — and two days later was released.

He had just three hits in his major league career — in 26 at bats. He fared much better in the minor leagues, batting .343 for the New Haven Profs of the Eastern League in 1923. Two years later, with the Jersey City Skeeters of the International League, Dowd batted .333 with 198 hits.

You can call him "Wrong Way" Dowd
While his major league baseball career fizzled, Raymond "Snooks" Dowd was considered one of the finest athletes of his time. He also played professional basketball, such as it was during those days, and as a college football player made his mark for Lehigh University in their heated rivalry with Lafayette College

In 1918, after playing his first season as a professional baseball player with Syracuse of the International League — a team he quit because he was tired of losing — Dowd remained eligible for football, and scored a touchdown against Lafayette on perhaps the most unusual play of the season. He ran the wrong way, then circled his own goalposts — which, at the time, were on the goal line — and ran the right way 100 yards to score. How many yards he'd run the wrong way is a matter of debate.

Some newspaper at the time described it as a 200-yard run, which doesn't say much for Dowd's sense of direction. More likely he retreated 10 or 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, then tore out of his own end zone and ran the length of the field.

Snooks Dowd (standing on the right in the above photo) played basketball with the Holly Majors, a touring professional team formed by former major league baseball player Ed Holly, standing to Dowd's right. (Next to Holly on the other side is baseball player-turned-umpire Dolly Stark.)

Also on the basketball team were two former major leaguers who became famous as baseball clowns — Al Schact and Nick Altrock (kneeling in front). Both were one-time pitchers. Schact won just 14 games for the Washington Senators in three seasons (1919-21), before assuming the title, "The Clown Prince of Baseball). Altrock, however, was twice a 20-game winer for the Chicago White Sox (1905 and 1906).

As for Dowd, he jumped from the Springfield (MA) basketball team in the Inter-State League early in the 1922-23 season to join the Holly Majors. That got him suspended from the Inter-State League, but the Holly Majors kept him employed for the next three winters.

[I have not found the answer to an obvious question: Was "Snooks" Dowd related — perhaps a nephew — to a well-known player from an earlier generation, "Buttermilk Tommy" Dowd.]


'Socks' Seibold
Harry Seibold
got stuck with the nickname "Socks" while he pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1915 because, years earlier, his manager, Connie Mack, had also managed the next player on this list, the original "Socks." As a result, Seibold's name often was misspelled as "Seybold."

Seibold was primarily a pitcher, but occasionally played other positions until 1917, a disheartening season for the 21-year-old. He won only four games, lost 16, for a last place team. The next year he was a captain in the U. S. Army; when he returned to the Athletics in 1919, the team hadn't improved. After losing three of five decisions, Seibold asked for his release. He went to the Baltimore Orioles of the International League, an independent minor league team that was better than the Athletics. He won ten games, lost five.

For the next several years, Seibold's career was checkered. He played some seasons in the minors, some for semi-pro teams. In 1928, he returned, and won 22 games for Reading of the Eastern League. He was 32 years old, and just about to begin the best part of his major league career, though it was for another bad team. In 1929 he won 12 games for the Boston Braves, losing 17. A year later he had his best season, winning 15 games, losing 16. He pitched three more seasons, and in 1933 finally retired for good.


'Socks' Seybold
Ralph Orlando "Socks" Seybold
was an outfielder who, prior to 1901, had played only 22 major league games — in 1899 with the National League Chicago Orphans (later the Cubs). Seybold spent 1900 in the American League, run by Ban Johnson, a former Cincinnati sportswriter who had big plans for the league, which a year later claimed major league status. The 30-year-old Seybold became a member of Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletic, and had a 27-game hitting streak on his way to a .333 batting average.

A year later Seybold hit 16 home runs, which would remain the American League record until 1919, when Babe Ruth hit 29. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Seybold "a human freight car." He was big, but surprisingly agile. In 1908, when Seybold was 37, he suffered a knee injury in spring training and never fully recovered. He played only 48 games, batted .213 and hit no home runs. Finished in the major leagues, Seybold made unsuccessful comeback attempts in the minors, and did a bit of managing.

He was killed in December 1921 when a car he was driving flipped on a sharp curve. His five passengers escaped unharmed. Seybold was 51.


'Soup' Campbell
There were ten major league players named Campbell before outfielder Clarence Campbell came along in 1940. He was the first one to be called by the now obvious nickname, "Soup."

Clarence Campbell graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 1937, played three seasons in the minors and joined the Cleveland Indians in 1940s. He got into 139 games in two seasons, batting .246 . Then came World War Two. He enlisted in the Army, and wasn't discharged until the war was over. In 1946, at the age of 31, he resumed his professional baseball career, and played two seasons for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League before he gave up the dream of returning to the majors, and retired. In 1952, he managed the Lexington Indians of the North Carolina State League.

These players were mmm mmm good

Since Clarence "Soup" Campbell (below, left) came along, there have been 13 more Campbells in the major leagues, but only three of them have been tagged with the obvious nickname. Those three more recent "Soup" Campbells are:

• Infielder Dave Campbell, who played for four teams — San Diego, Detroit,, Houston, St. Louis — from 1967-74,, and batted .213.

• Pitcher Bill Campbell, who, amazingly, won 30 games in 1976 and '77, all in relief. He appeared in 147 games in those two seasons, one with Minnesota, the other with Boston, and finished 128 of them, getting 51 saves to go along with his 30 victories. He played for five more teams — Chicago Cubs, Montreal, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis — before retiring in 1987 after his 15th season. He lifetime won-lost record: 83-68.

• Eric Campbell played third base, first base and the outfield in three seasons with the New York Mets (2014-16), batting .221. He played last season (2018) in the Pacific Coast League with the New Orleans Baby Cakes (love the nicknames of minor league teams). Late in the season he was batting over .300, and perhaps hoping to return to the majors. The Boston College alum is only 31.

Note: My favorite Campbell was Bruce (not to be confused with the actor). Baseball's Bruce Campbell was an outfielder who played in the American League from 1930-42, before joining the U. S. Army Air Force for World War Two. I noticed one baseball card tried to nickname him "Soup," but that was an aberration

With Clev3lqne, he lost parts of the 1935 and '36 seasons because of spinal meningitis. His recovery led Lou Gehrig to think a couple of years later that he, too, would beat a disease he mistakingly believed was the same as Campbell's.

Oddly, it was during this period that Campbell's hitting improved. In the 80 games he played in 1935, before he was sidelined, Campbell batted .325. After he recovered, in 1936, he was able to play 76 games, and he batted .372. For his career, Campbell hit .290.

But that has nothing to do with why Bruce is my favorite Campbell. He was included in the set of player disks that came with my first All-Star Baseball game.


'Sparky' Adams
I assume Earl John Adams was nicknamed "Sparky" because of his size — five-foot-five, about 150 pounds. Adams was 24 years old when he played his first minor league game in 1919. He made up for the late start, spending 13 seasons in the major leagues (1922-34), playing for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. He played 551 games at second base, 532 at third base, and 297 at shortstop, making him a valuable guy to have around.

He was consistent, posting a .286 lifetime average, with two seasons over .300. In 1931, he led the National League with 46 doubles. Considering his size, Adams didn't draw as many bases on ball as you might expect — never more than 64, and usually around 45 — but neither did he strike out much.


'Sparky' Anderson
George Lee Anderson
was in his third year of professional baseball, playing for the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League when an announcer called him "Sparky" because of his spirited, often combative behavior on the field. The nickname stuck, and soon people forgot his real first name.

Anderson wasn't much of a hitter, which was obvious in 1959 when he made it to the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies and batted .218. In 1964, at age 30, Anderson quit playing and began managing. After five years in the minors, he became manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and was enormously successful.

In nine seasons with Cincinnati, Anderson's teams won four National League pennants and two World Series. He moved to the American League, managing the Detroit Tigers for 17 seasons, winning one more World Series. In his 26 years as a major league manager, Anderson led his teams to 2,194 victories..


'Sparky' Lyle
Albert Lyle
claims he doesn't know how, why or when people began calling him "Sparky," though with his reputation as a prankster, the nickname seemed to fit.

The left-handed Lyle made his professional baseball debut in 1964, dividing his time between Fox Cities of the Midwest League and Bluefield of the Appalachian League, both teams in the Baltimore Orioles system. It would be the only season he was primarily a starting pitcher.

He then pitched in the Boston Red Sox farm system for three years before beginning his 16-year major league career during which he made 899 appearances, all in relief, finishing 634 of those games. His won-lost record was 99-76.

In what is an all-too-familiar story to Red Sox fans, Lyle found himself in a New York Yankees uniform in his prime, spending seven seasons with the Yanks, receiving two World Series rings, and winning the American League's Cy Young Award in 1977. Lyle would pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox before retiring after the 1982 season.

Several years later he accepted an offer to manage the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League, and did so from 1998 through the 2012 season. His teams won 1,374 games, against 1,215 losses.

Suddenly the Fenway cake
wasn't special anymore

Pitcher "Sparky" Lyle, best known for his years with the Boston Red Sox and later Boston's arch rivals, the New York Yankees, was a colorful guy known for sometime wacky behavior — such as sitting naked on cakes.

He was asked about it a few years ago when he address a dinner for the Greater Wilkes-Barred Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

“Some 50 cakes later, I’m still in therapy over that,” he said jokingly.”

He said it started with Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, who took over the clubhouse when he joined the Red Sox. Lyle said Harrelson would get cakes delivered to the clubhouse; one of them was a replica of Fenway Park.

“Hawk said he was going to freeze that cake because it was so special,” Lyle said. “But after he hit me in the face with two lemon meringue pies, I dropped my pants and sat on that Fenway Park cake. That’s where it all started.”


'Specs' Podgajny
John Sigmund "Johnny" Podgajny breezed through the minor leagues. At the end of his second season, when he won 18 games for Ottawa-Ogdensburg of the Canadian-American League, he was summoned to Philadelphia to pitch for the Phillies.

He remained with the Phillies until June 15, 1943 when he was traded to Pittsburgh. He then spent two years in the minor leagues before briefly resurfacing in the majors, this time with Cleveland in 1946.

His best season was 1941 when he had a 9-12 record for the Phillies. His lifetime major league record was 20 wins, 37 losses. Podgajny's stay in the majors was short, but would have been even shorter if he didn't get to face the Chicago Cubs, a team he beat 10 times against only four losses.

Podgajny was well nicknamed
John "Specs" Podgajny (pronounced "poe-JOHNNY") stood six-foot-two. His weight is listed at 173, but he is often described as being almost painfully thin. That and his glasses made him the butt of many jokes.

Ah, yes, his glasses. One of his minor league managers noticed Podgajny dropped his head and looked over the tops of his specs in order to see the catcher's signals. 

"You ought to get yourself a pair of bifocals," advised the manager.

"Buy focals?" replied the pitcher. "I just bought these glasses yesterday."

It turned out he had purchased eyeglasses because they felt and looked good; they didn't help his vision at all, probably made it worse.

By the time he reached Philadelphia he was wearing proper Specs.

'Specs' Toporcer
George Toporcer was one of the first players to wear glasses on the field. He filled in at shortstop, second and third base for the St. Louis Cardinals for six seasons (1922-27), also playing briefly for the team in 1921 and 1928. He batted .324 in 116 games in his first full season. He had a .279 lifetime average, and when he left the majors, he managed for several years in the minors, including a stretch with Rochester of the International League when he also played. He was inducted into the Rochester Red Wing Hall of Fame.

'Spike' Shannon
William Porter Shannon
, who loved both baseball and football, got dubbed "Spike" as a teenager, and it stuck. He went to Grove City (Pennsylvania) College, played both sports, and in 1898 became a minor league baseball gypsy playing for eight teams in four years before finding success with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association in 1902 and 1903, batting over .300 both seasons.

In 1904, the outfielder joined the St. Louis Cardinals, and batted .280. He remained with the Cardinals until the middle of the 1906 season, when he was dealt to the New York Giants. In 1907, he batted .265 with the Giants and scored 104 runs, most on the team, but in 1908, when he was batting just .224 midway through the season, he found himself traded to Pittsburgh, where he hit .197.

He spent the next three seasons with Kansas City of the American Association, and after a year away from a recognized minor league, finished his career with the Virginia (Minnesota) Ore Diggers of the Northern League.


Don't mess with a guy nicknamed 'Spike'
"Spike" isn't an uncommon nickname, though each player who had it probably could offer a different reason. (Ty Cobb could have been called "The Man With the Flying Spikes.")

But while Cobb had the toughness to be called "Spike," the nickname usually went to people slightly more likable. (Think "Spike" Jones, the band leader, or, more recently, "Spike" Lee.)

Bill Shannon (left, above) was one of the first players to be nicknamed "Spike." Here are other baseball "Spikes," as listed on baseball-reference.com. I can offer an explanation only for the last man on this list.

Thomas “Spike” Borland was a left-handed pitcher, who went 0-4 with Boston (1960-61). He spent seven years in minors, mostly Minneapolis and Oklahoma City. As I said, "Spike" is mentioned for Borland on baseball-reference.com, but the nickname does not appear in the SABR biography that is linked to his name here.

• Michael “Spike” Brady played one game in the outfield for Cincinnati of the National Association in 1875. He had one hit — a triple — in four at bats.

• Pitcher John Joseph “Spike” Merena was 1-2 with the Boston Red Sox in 1934, completing two of three starts, and his win was a shutout. His earned run average was 2.92, but he never again pitched in the majors, perhaps because he gave up 16 walks in 24-2/3 innings. He is identified as Spike Merena on his SABR biography, but there's no explanation for the nickname.

• Harry Raymond “Spike” LaRoss was an outfielder who hit .229 with Cincinnati in 1914 in 22 games. He played 11 so-so years in the minors, and may have been been summoned to Cincinnati because of a player shortage that season, caused by the short-lived Federal League.

• Pitcher Clayton Emory Van Alstyne was known as Clay, but also was nicknamed "Spike." He pitched briefly for the Washington Senators in 1927 and '28, but had no decisions in six appearances and 24-1/3 innings. Most interesting thing about his time in Washington is that he had eight at bats in 1928, and the last one resulted in a home run. That wasn't surprising. In 1925, when he played for the Albany Senators of the Eastern League, he won 15 games, lost 15 games, and hit seven home runs, which led the team. He played 11 minor league season, won 87 games, including 17 with the Reading Keystones of the International League in 1931. He retired two years later, at the age of 33.

• Finally, Spike Owen was born with the name. His mother's maiden name was Spikes. He played 13 seasons with Montreal, Seattle, Boston, California and New York Yankees (1983-95), and was an excellent shortstop,but batted only .246.


'Splinter' Gerkin
Steve Gerkin apparently got his nickname from his slim body, spreading 160 pounds over a six-foot-one-inch frame. Perhaps it was because opportunities were greater during World War Two, but Gerkin didn't become a professional baseball player until 1943 when he was 30 years old. He made the most of it, winning 20 games for the Lancaster (PA) Red Roses of the Interstate League. One of his wins was a no-hitter. Among his his teammates was third baseman George Kell, who led with league in hitting with a .396 average.

Gerkin spent 1944 with the U. S. Army, and was back with Lancaster when the 1945 season began, but was soon summoned by Connie Mack to pitch for the Philadelphia Athletics, the last-place team in the American League. There Gerkin was reunited with Kell, who perhaps consoled his former teammate ... because "Splinter" suffered through a long summer, with no wins and 12 losses.


'Sport' McAllister
I'd guess that Lewis William McAllister was nicknamed "Sport" because he was considered a "good sport," willing to do anything for the team. He certainly proved it during his long baseball career that began in 1892 when he was 17.

McAllister was born in Austin, Mississippi, but would later settle near Detroit where he'd spent four seasons playing with the Tigers. Before he finished his 23-year playing career, most of them in the minors, the versatile, five-foot-11-inch McAllister would play every position on the field. It was this ability that kept him going, because the one thing he wasn't too good at was hitting, although he did manage to bat .301 (in 90 games) for the Tigers in 1901, after hitting .306 the year before when the American League was considered a Class A minor league. But overall, McAllister's major league batting average was .247.

He split the 1903 season between Detroit and Buffalo of the Eastern League, and from 1904-1909 spent remained with Buffalo, and played for several other minor league teams until 1915. He also coached the University of Michigan baseball team. Many years later McAllister became one of those crusty old timers who had critical things to say about how the game had changed. He was 87 years old when he died in Wyandotte, Michigan, in 1962.


'Steamboat' Williams
Rees Gephardt Williams
came out of Cascade, Montana, to reach the major leagues in 1914 and lost his only decision that season for the St. Louis Cardinals. He remained with the team in 1915, posting a 6-7 record, but would be more impressive in the minors, particularly with the St. Paul Saints, a power in the American Association. Williams was 22-14 with St. Paul in 1917, 20-6 in 1920. However, he slipped to a record of 6-14 in 1921. His only appearances after that were as a pinch hitter, or playing another position, which indicates arm trouble.

The origin of his nickname seems to be his mode of travel to reach his minor league team in Great Falls, Montana, when he rode a steamboat on the Missouri River. If this story is true, it's more proof of the random nature of nicknames.

Other players nicknamed "Steamboat" — Clemens "Clem" Dresiswerd, Clarence Struss, and Gene Tenace. Bill Otey was called "Steamboat Bill."


'Steamer' Flanagan
Outfielder James Paul Flanagan reportedly was a favorite of the ladies. He got his name from the way he ran — he moved like a steam engine, someone said. He was six-foot-one, 185 pounds, and very athletic. Judging from clippings in New York State newspapers — Flanagan played in Rochester and Buffalo along the way — he was a highly regarded ball player.

In 1907, he led the Rochester Bronchos of the Eastern League in hitting (.305), and his 25 doubles were 10 more than anyone else on the team, and his five home runs accounted for half of the team total.

But this was two years after his brief trial in the National League with Pittsburgh. He played seven games in the outfield, fielded flawlessly, and had seven hits in 25 at bats, including a double and a triple. But his .280 batting average wasn't impressive enough for the Pirates.

I did notice that despite glowing comments in newspapers, Flanagan moved around a lot, and at age 29, was headed backward, to the Class B Connecticut State League. He retired in 1913, and became a policeman in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, near Pringle, where he was born.


'Stonewall' Jackson
It was inevitable that someone named Jackson would be given the nickname of the famous Confederate general. That fell to Travis Calvin Jackson, a native of (Where's) Waldo, Arkansas, who went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career as shortstop for the New York Giants from 1922 to 1936. The excuse for the nickname, of course, was the idea that ground balls just couldn't get through Jackson, who was like a stone wall on the left side of the infield. However, I believe he was always much better known by his first name.

Jackson was considered the National League's best fielding shortstop, but in his prime (1924-31) he put up good figures at bat, with an average of .304 during those eight seasons. The figures are a bit skewed by the era in which he played. For example, in 1930, he batted .339, a career high, which tied him for fourth best on the Giants, who had a team batting average of .319 (and if pitchers were excluded, the average was .329). Jackson had decent power, hitting a career high 21 home runs in 1929. Unfortunately for Jackson, illness and injury put him in a downward spiral while he was still in his 20s, and his playing career ended when he was 32. After that he managed in the minor leagues for several years.

Even considering the apparent benefit of being a major leaguer in the 1920s and early '30s, I believe Jackson was much underrated by Bill James in his "Historical Baseball Abstract," when he listed Jackson as the 40th best shortstop of all-times. Ahead of him on James' lists were Jim Fregosi (.265), Maury Wills (.281), Bert Campaneris (.258). Dave Concepcion (.267), Jay Bell (.269), Rico Petrocelli (.251). Joe Tinker (.262), and Johnny Logan (.268). Get serious!

While I appreciate the effort James has made with his statistical formulas to create a flavorful soup from apples and oranges, the fact is then was then,, now is now. We have no idea who today's players would have performed 75 years ago, nor how players from that era would have performed today.


'Stoney' McGlynn
Born Ulysses Simpson Grant McGlynn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. his major league career consisted of three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals (1906-08).

He pitched a no-hitter in 1906, but it was not officially recognized as such since the game was called after seven innings. In 1907 he won 14 games, lost 25.

McGlynn returned to the minor leagues and, in 1909, worked overtime for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. He won 27 games, lost 21, appeared in 64 games and pitched 446 innings. He also threw 14 shutouts, which remains the single season AA record. 


'Stormy' Weatherly
As you might expect, outfielder Cyril Roy Weatherly — better known by his middle name — was called "Stormy" as a play on his last name. According to "The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia," that wasn't the only reason. Weatherly had a volcanic temper, and was tossed out of so many games that the team owner promised the player a $500 bonus in 1940 if he could complete the season without further incident.

Weatherly's personality and his size (five-foot-seven) gave him an alternate nickname, "Little Thunder."

Cleveland summoned him in 1936 after he'd played 35 games for New Orleans of the Southern Association, batting .368. He did almost as well with the Indians, playing 84 games and batting .335. However, the left-handed hitter went into a slump in 1937, and was sent back to New Orleans, but returned to Cleveland in 1939, and remained with the Indians through 1942, twice batting over .300.

He was traded to the New York Yankees in 1943, but spent 1944 and '45 in the service. Returning to civilian life in 1946, he got only two at bats with the Yankees before winding up with Indianapolis of the American Association. He remained with Indianapolis until he was demoted to New Orleans during the 1949 season. He hit well enough to interest the New York Giants, who gave him his last shot at the majors in 1950, mostly as a pinch hitter.

He kept playing until 1958, when he was 43 years old. Four of those seasons were spent in the independent Manitoba-Dakota League, about as far from the majors as a player could get.


'Stretch' Schultz
At six-foot-six, first baseman Howard Henry "Howie" Schultz was a natural to be nicknamed "Stretch." He also had another "S" nickname — "Steeple."

Schultz was a first baseman who spent time in the major leagues during six of his eight professional seasons (1941-48), before he retired from baseball at age 25 and switched to basketball, playing three seasons in the National Basketball Association, the last two as a reserve on the Minneapolis Lakers team led by George Mikan.

His numbers in both sports were modest. Despite his size, Schultz did not hit for power. His best home run season was 1944 when he hit 11 of them in 138 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He had just 24 in 470 games in the National League, also playing for Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

"Stretch" has been a nickname for at least seven major league players, all of them either first basemen or pitchers. Perhaps the first was six-foot-five-inch pitcher Harry Boyles, who surfaced briefly in 1938 and 1939 for the Chicago White Sox.

Other players nicknamed "Stretch," according to baseball-reference.com, are pitcher Al Grunwald, Ron Tomkins and Mark Melancon, first baseman Jack Phillips, and Hall of Fame first baseman (and occasional outfielder) Willie McCovey. Back in the 1940s, when I watched the Syracuse Chiefs play, several of us nicknamed the team's first baseman "Stretch," not because of his height — Eddie Shokes was "only" six-feet tall — but for the way he did a split to catch throws from the other infielders, making those throws as short as possible. Shokes was one of the slickest-fielding first basemen ever, and because he drew a lot of walks, his on-base percentage was high, but he flunked his only trial in the majors when he batted just .120 in 83 at bats for Cincinnati in 1946.


'Stubby' Clapp
Richard Clapp
stands five-foot-eight, but apparently would have been called Stubby even if he were six inches taller. Stubby is a nickname handed down from his father and his grandfather. To differentiate the men in the family, the guy who played 23 games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001 ought to be known as Stubby Clapp III. In any event, people who judge baseball players by their names agree that Stubby Clapp is one of the greats. 

As for the man who carries it, he returned to the minor leagues after his brief fling in the bigs.


'Stubby' Overmire
Frank Overmire was called "Stubby" because of his size. He was listed at five-foot-seven, but one player who had Overmire for a manager in the minor leagues claims the former pitcher was barely five-foot-two.

Overmire was a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns and New York Yankees (1943-52). His lifetime record was 58-67, with his best season coming in 1947 when he won 11 games, losing just five. He started one game of the 1945 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, and took the loss, though the Tigers went on to win the series.

When he quit playing, Overmire managed for several years in the Detroit minor league system.


'Stuffy McInnis
The only explanation I've seen for the nickname given John Phalen McInnis — and it seems a bit iffy to me — is people in his hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, watched young McInnis and said he had "the stuff." Which makes sense, I guess, since our first astronauts were said to have 'the right stuff."

McInnis played first base in what was dubbed "The $100,000 Infield" (1911-1914) that helped make the Philadelphia Athletics the American League pennant winners three times during that period. The other members were Eddie Collins at second base, Jack Barry at shortstop and Frank "Home Run" Baker at third base.

Later McInnis played with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Boston Braves, and Pittsburgh Pirates, then managed the Philadelphia Phils in 1927, finishing in last place.


'Stump' Weidman
George Edward Weidman was listed at five-foot-seven, but in the full-length photo (right, above) looks even shorter. In any event, his height is the reason for his nickname. He pitched for nine season in the major leagues, winning 101 games, losing 156.

Also nicknamed "Stump" was five-foot-eight-inch Jacob Frank Edington, a left-hander who began his professional career as a pitcher, but whose hitting ability led him to play the outfield and first base more of his career. He played 15 games for Pittsburgh in 1912 and batted .302. Despite his timely hitting — he drove in 14 runs in those 15 games — Edington returned to the minor leagues and stayed there for 16 years. When he retired in 1928, he had more than 1,600 hits in the minors and a lifetime batting average of .305. In 1922, while playing for Beaumont of the Texas League, he was called upon to solve a catcher shortage that occurred during a game. It was one of the very few times a left-handed catcher was used.

You might say Weidman
got off to a slow start

Pitcher George Edward Weidman, a native of Rochester, New York, was listed at five-foot-seven, but looked smaller. Yet he persisted in his efforts to be a major leaguer.

However, he had a rough introduction in 1880 with the Buffalo Bisons of the National League, losing all nine of his decisions. The team won just 24 times in 80 games, and pitcher Jim Galvin won 20 of them (losing 35 times).

The next season saw Weidman pitching for the Detroit Wolverines, winning eight, losing five. In 1882, he won 25 games, losing 20. Highlight of the season came in a losing effort against the Providence Greys. Weidman found himself in a pitching duel with John Montgomery Ward, who was in the game because the usual Providence starter, Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn was "rsesting" in right field.

Both pitchers remained in the game, which was scoreless until the bottom of the 18th inning when Radbourn, who'd have 33 victories that season, won this one for Ward, hitting the home run that finally ended the contest.

Weidman won 20 games again in 1883, but lost 24, which prepared him for a miserable season in 1884, not only for the pitcher, but the entire Detroit team which had a won-lost record of 28-84. Weidman won only four games, lost 21. He lost 24 more games in 1885. With the Kansas City Cowboys of the National League in 1886, Weidman had a 12-36 record.

Back with Detroit in 1887, he won 13 games, lost only 7, as the vastly improved Wolverines won the National League pennant. "Pretzels" Getzein had 29 victories, pacing the team, which also got 13 wins from "Lady" Baldwin. Left fielder Larry Twitchell also pitched, and had a fine 11-1 record.

A year later, Weidman was with the New York Giants briefly, then retired. Like Radbourn, Weidman often played the outfield. Unlike Radbourn, who was a pretty good hitter (.235), Weidman's lifetime batting average was .177.

Weidman went home to Rochester and opened a bar. He also did some umpiring. According to "The Baseball Hall of Shame 2," by Bruce Nash, Weidman was one of the worst umpires ever.

"Stump" Weidman died in 1905 at the age of 44.


'Suitcase' Seeds
"Suitcase" Simpson is better remembered (and profiled elsewhere), but it was outfielder Robert Ira "Bob" Seeds who really owed his nickname to changing teams so often, in the majors and the minors. (Simpson's nickname stemmed from childhood; he owed it to a comic strip character.)

"Suitcase" Seeds played for five teams during his nine-year major league career, with two stops in Cleveland. However, he is best remembered for an incredible hitting performance with the Newark Bears during the 1938 International League season. Playing only 59 games before he was sold to the New York Giants, Seeds hit 28 home runs, scored 75 runs and drove in 95.

During a two-game outburst in early May, Seeds hit seven home runs in 10 at bats, driving in 17 runs. His first four home runs were hit in four consecutive innings. He did this while using another player's bat, one that was longer and heavier than the bat Seeds preferred. Naturally, Seeds quickly changed his preference. (Those 28 home runs matched the figure Seeds would put up in the major leagues — except it took him 615 games to do it against big league pitching.)

Before joining Newark, Seeds had never hit more than 13 home runs in a season. He played a full season with the Bears in 1937 and hit 20 home runs. Then, departing Newark after his blazing start in '38, Seeds hit nine home runs for the Giants in 81 games, batting .291 along the way.

Seeds returned to his home state of Texas after he finished his major league career in 1940, and played minor league baseball for a few years, eventually taking over as owner of the Amarillo Gold Sox of the West Texas-New Mexico League.

Poultry plucker one year,
baseball basher the next
When "Suitcase" Bob Seeds retired as a player and became owner of the Amarillo Gold Sox of the West Texas-New Mexico League, he recruited a local poultry plucker who had pitched a few years previously in the low minor leagues.

But Seeds didn't want Bob Crues to pitch; he wanted him to play the outfield, because he'd heard Crues was a good hitter.

It was a brilliant move on Seeds' part. In Crues' first season, 1946, he hit .341 with 29 home runs and 120 runs batted in. He was just getting warmed up. In 1947 Crues batted .380 with 52 home runs and 178 runs batted in over a 140-game schedule.

How could Crues top himself? Easy. In 1948, he batted .404, scored 185 runs, hit 69 home runs and had 254 runs batted in. The 254 RBIs remains the single-season record for organized baseball. It would have been 255 except for an umpire's blown call on a Crues hit that bounced off the scoreboard. He was given a triple when he should have been awarded a home run that would have made him the first professional baseball player to hit 70 homers in a single season.

By then, Crues was 30 years old. He spent 1949 in the Longhorn League and hit 28 home runs, then returned to the West Texas-New Mexico League in 1950, his numbers dwindling each season until he retired in 1953 after 11 games.


'Sun' Daly
James J. Daly was an outfielder who sandwiched a 13-game appearance with the Baltimore Orioles of the National League between several years in the minor leagues. Daly had 12 hits in 48 at bats with the Orioles in 1892 — a .250 average  — but his best seasons came later in the Eastern League with Buffalo and Rochester. From 1893-95, Daly hit .333, .307 and .337.

Daly stood five-feet-eight-1/2 inches, and batted left-handed. In his obituary (May 4, 1933), the Albany Times-Union said:

"While Daly was playing with Buffalo (in 1892) he won the nickname of 'Sun' because he tried wearing sun glasses in the outfield. Daly said he could never get used to them, so he gave up the idea, but the nickname clung to him."


'Sundown' Yowell
On October 1, 1923, it was reported that the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association were giving a tryout to Carl Yowell, who pitched for an independent team at Marion, North Carolina, and in a recent nine-inning game had struck out 37 men, which was possible only because so many third strikes had gotten past his catcher that ten of the batters had reached first base.

Yowell was a six-foot-four left hander who apparently was a forerunner to Ewell "The Whip" Blackwell a right-hander who would come along many years later. Yowell's sidearm, crossfire delivery was so exaggerated he seemed to throw the ball underhanded.

For no reason I've yet to discover, Carl Columbus Yowell was nicknamed "Sundown." He made seven relief appearances for Chattanooga in 1924, spending most of the season with the Tyler Trojans of the East Texas League, winning 13 games, losing three. He was impressive enough that the Cleveland Indians called him up, but American League hitters had little trouble with him in his two starts, though he did win one of he games, despite a 6.67 earned run average.

He began the 1925 season with Cleveland, but in late June was shipped to Rochester of the International League where he won 11 games with just one loss, and was recalled by the Indians.

Yowell was expected to make the Indians in 1926, but before the '25 season ended, his fell, landing on his left elbow, and his arm never fully recovered. His two attempts at comebacks were unsuccessful.

One pitch, one win
During his stay with Cleveland in 1925, Carl "Sundown" Yowell won two games, lost three. One of the wins was most unusual because he threw only one pitch and did not retire a single batter.

It happened June 4 when he was summoned from the bullpen with two outs in the top of the ninth against the St. Louis Browns, who had rallied from an 8-3 deficit to take a 10-8 lead against Indian starter George Uhle.

A runner on third base tried to steal home on Yowell's first pitch, and was called out.

Cleveland rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 11-10, and since Yowell was the pitcher of record when the winning run was scored, he was credited with the victory.


'Sure Shot' Dunlap
Second baseman Fred Dunlap spent 12 seasons in what were considered the major leagues between 1880-1891. Thanks to playing one game in 1890 with the New York team in the Players League, and eight games with a hapless Washington team in the last season of the American Association, he could say that he had been in four major leagues.

Dunlap was at his best in what, unfortunately, was considered the worst major league of them all — the Union Association, which lasted one season (1884). Playing for the first place (94-19) St. Louis Maroons, the only decent team in the league, Dunlap batted .412, scored 160 runs, had 185 hits, and 13 home runs. All four figures were the best in the league.

A year later, the Maroons joined the National League, and Dunlap's batting average dropped to .270. Earlier in his career he had batted over .300 twice in the National League, both times with the Cleveland Blues. Dunlap's career batting average was .292, but if you subtract his numbers from the Union Association, which included several players who were never heard from again, his average drops to .276.

On the other hand, he was regarded as a fine defensive second baseman, with a strong, accurate arm that earned him his nickname. Tragically, Dunlap died in 1902 at the age of 43.


'Swamp Baby' Wilson
Charles Woodrow Wilson, nicknamed "Swamp Baby" and "Two-Gun,"was an infielder who played in just 57 major league games spread out over a brief visit with the Boston Braves and three with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1931 to 1935.

He was a good defensive player, but so-so at the plate. I found him an interesting subject for other reasons (see right).

Despite the fog and smoke,
Wilson appreciated swamps

While researching the unusual nickname for Charles Woodrow Wilson, I encountered one of those situations wherein most of what I discovered was at odds with what I read in what obviously was a better-researched SABR article on Wilson by Nancy Snell Griffith. (It's the biography linked under Wilson's name.)

Ms. Griffith admits the first time she found a reference to "Swamp Baby" was in a Rochester (NY) newspaper. Wilson, an infielder who divided his time almost equally between second base, shortstop and third base during his nine-year professional baseball career, spent huge chunks of five seasons with the Rochester Red Wings of the International League, and apparently settled in Rochester after he retired. (Wilson participated in just 57 major league games, but played 500 games for the Rochester Red Wings.)

The Rochester newspapers I read spelled Wilson's first name "Charley"; Ms. Griffith and baseball-reference.com spell it "Charlie." I'm not sure which is correct, though I suspect the spelling is optional, but I did notice baseball-reference.com does feature a Negro Leagues pitcher named Charley Wilson. I hope the spelling of 'Swamp Baby's' first name wasn't done arbitrarily to avoid duplication.

The SABR article says Charlie Wilson was born in Clinton, South Carolina, and grew up there, later attending Presbyterian College, which is located in Clinton, where, as far as I know, there are no swamps. Ms. Griffith suggests the player's nickname may stem from a prank — supposedly he once flooded a baseball field in order to cancel a scheduled practice. This incident may have inspired a scene in the movie, "Bull Durham"

The Rochester Times-Union repeated referred to Charley Wilson as a native of Summerton, South Carolina, which is located near a few swamps. That newspaper says Wilson also was nicknamed "Two Gun," but offers no explanation, though it could refer to hunting, one of Wilson's favorite activities.

Jack Burgess, in his December 16, 1931 column in the Rochester Times-Union, said this about Wilson, who'd spent the 1930 and '31 seasons playing for the Red Wings:

"Charley Wilson, familiarly spoken of as "Two-Gun" Charley," native of Summerton, S. C., went down thataway a fortnight ago to hunt. He bagged noting at all. In disgust, he came back north. 'Nothing but fawg down there,' exclaimed Wilson. 'We'all went to the swamps and everything was smoke. Trees were burning, game was driven away and the heat was just terrible. Hadn't had any rain since last July and everything was burned up.'

" 'Why not let it burn and then drain the swamps and provide fertile soil for the farmers?' was asked.

" 'My gosh,, no," exclaimed Charley in amazement. 'What would become of the hunting. We'all down in C'lina must have our huntin' and must have swamps."

Though he spent much of his career in Rochester, Wilson did his best hitting in the 186 games he played for the Columbus Red Birds, the Cardinals farm team in the American Association. He batted .356 in 41 games in 1933, and the next season hit .323 in 145 games.

Wilson apparently was well-loved in Rochester, where he died in 1970.


'Swampy' Donald
It's assumed that pitcher Richard Atley Donald, who usually went by mis middle name, was nicknamed "Swampy" because he grew up and went to college in Louisiana. Such is the state's image. Donald actually was born in Mississippi, but his family moved to Downsville, just outside of Monroe, Louisiana, when the boy was about 18 months old.

Donald, at six-foot-one, had a very good fast ball — clocked at 95 m.p.h. — but also had some control problems. However, after winning 24 games and losing 23 in his first two minor league seasons, Donald put up impressive won-lost figures from then on, partly because he was playing in the New York Yankee farm system. He was 19-9 with Binghamton of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1936, then 19-2 and 16-7 the next two years with excellent Newark teams in the International League.

He made two appearances with the Yankees in 1938, but was unimpressive, losing his only decision However, in 1939, he won his first 12 games for the Yanks, and finished the season 13-3. He had arm problems most of his major league career, and never had more than 13 wins, but also never had a losing season. He retired after the 1945 season with a lifetime won-lost record of 65-33. Afterward he was a scout for the Yankees. He returned to Louisiana and died in West Monroe in 1992, at the age of 82.


'Swat' McCabe
James Arthur McCabe, born in 1881, never hit more than eight home runs in a season during the deadball era, so the source of his nickname is a mystery. It took three straight .300-plus seasons in the Connecticut State League to get a nibble from a major league team. After batting .366 with the New Britain Perfectos in 1909, McCabe played three games for the Cincinnati Reds, responding with six hits — a double and five singles — in 11 at bats, for a gaudy .545 average. But he made three outfield errors, giving him an abysmal .625 fielding percentage.

He reversed things in 1910 — he played errorless ball, but batted just .257 in 13 games, but Cincinnati sold him to the Buffalo Bisons, then of the Eastern League, and McCabe remained in the minor leagues until 1915, when he retired at the age of 34. But he could legitimately claim his lifetime major league batting average was .326, and not bother to mention his .875 fielding percentage. He returned home to Bristol, Connecticut, where he died in 1944.

'Sweetbread' Bailey
Abraham Lincoln Bailey was so named because he was born on Lincoln's birthday, February 12, 1895. So he could have been called Abe or Honest Abe. Instead, one theory says his nickname comes from Bailey's tendency to throw inside pitches, hitting many batters in their stomachs. "Sweetbread" can refer to the pancreas (or stomach). We're asked to believe someone noticed Bailey's pitches often hit batters in their "sweetbread." It's a stretch, but it's as good a reason as any.

His enduring fame rests solely on his unusual nickname. His major league career (1919-21) includes 52 appearances as a relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Robins, with four wins and seven losses. He died at the age of 44 in his hometown of Joliet, Illinois, of cancer of his pituitary gland. 

'Swish' Nicholson
Chicago Cubs outfielder Bill Nicholson had the habit of taking wicked practice swings whenever he stepped up to bat. Some jokers began yelling, "Swish! Swish! Swish!" when Nicholson did this.

Nicholson also was known as "Big Bill," because he was six-feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds, fairly routine measurements these days, but considered big at the time. Nicholson joined the Cubs in 1939 and played through World War Two, which kept him from perhaps getting all the credit he was due for leading the National League in home runs in 1943 and '44. Again, by today's standards his totals were modest — 29 in 1943; 33 the following season — but compared with the baseballs in use today, the ones Nicholson hit were like sponges.

Mel Ott paid 'Swish' Nicholson
the ultimate hitter's compliment

Bill "Swish" Nicholson had a memorable day on July 23, 1944. Not only did he hit four home runs in a double-header against the New York Giants, but he became one of a handful of major league players to receive an intentional pass with the bases loaded.

The four home runs in a double-header tied a major league record. The first three came in the opening game during his first three at bats. Combined with a home run he had hit in his last time at bat the day before, this tied another big league record for home runs on consecutive at bats.

The Cubs won the first game, 7-4, with Nicholson having four runs batted in. He hit another home run in the second game, and the Cubs were ahead 5-0 in the top of the third inning before the Giants erupted with five runs in the bottom of the inning, four more in the fifth inning.

The bases loaded walk occurred with two outs in the eighth inning with the Giants ahead, 10-8. The strategy by player-manager Mel Ott didn't work, because after Nicholson's walk made it 10-9, the Cubs tied the game when the next batter drove in a run. But the Giants then scored two runs in the bottom of the inning and held the Cubs scoreless in the ninth to win, 12-10.

At the time, Nicholson and Ott were way ahead of the pack in the race for home run leadership. Ott entered the game with 20 home runs, Nicholson 17, which left them tied at 21 at the end of the day. Nicholson was coming out of a home run slump blamed on an injured hand, but he did not miss any games that season.

He wound up leading the league in home runs (33) and runs batted in (122) for the second year in a row, the first National League player to do that. Ott ended the season with 26 home runs, but played far fewer games than Nicholson. (Ott was on pace to his 38 home runs if he'd had an equal number of at bats.)

How unusual was that intentional walk with the bases loaded? It depends on your source. It happened to Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie in 1901, to first baseman Del Bissonette of the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) in 1928, and years later to Barry Bonds (1998) and Josh Hamilton (2008). Some claim Ott himself was similarly walked by the Philadelphia in 1929 to insure he wouldn't hit a home run that would tie Phillies outfielder Chuck Klein for the home run title, but this, apparently, is in dispute, as are stories that Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and a few mother players received a free pass with the sacks full.

Finally, that 1944 double-header between the Cubs and Giants broke a record that I'm sure has since been turned into sawdust. The teams each used seven pitchers in that wild second game, which broke the National League record of 12 pitchers used by both teams in one game, and that record was set in an 18-inning game in 1942.