While generally referred to as nicknames, the phrases on the following list seem more like titles or labels. They are decidedly old-fashioned, but memorable, leading me to suspect there were more of them that have been lost or forgotten. At the top of the list is one that has emerged as one of the favorite "nicknames" of all time:

Lucius "Luke" Appling spent his entire 20-season major league career with the Chicago White Sox, which practically guaranteed that he'd never play in a World Series. This gave him something in common with another White Sox Hall of Famer, pitcher Ted Lyons, who won 260 games in his 21 seasons with Chicago.

Appling's nickname stems from his tendency to complain about ailments, but, as far as I know, this surfaced late in his career. Until then he was known simply as Luke. Whatever his complaints, Appling seldom missed a game. By the time he retired, he had 2,749 hits and a .310 lifetime batting average. He was the American League batting champ twice — in 1936 when he hit an incredible .388, and 1943 when he batted .328. His reward in '43 was being drafted into the Army, though he was 36 years old, married, and had two children.

He lost all of the 1944 season to Army service, returning to the White Sox in September, 1945.

Appling retired after the 1950 season, managed in the minor leagues for several years, and briefly managed the Kansas City Athletics in 1969. He was back in the baseball news in 1982 after he hit a home run off Warren Spahn in an old-timers' game.

Appling had an ability to foul off pitches, reportedly doing it 12 times in a row during one game. What puzzles me a bit is why statistics guru Bill James made such a fuss over shortstop Arky Vaughan batting .385 in 1935, but skipped over Appling's .388 the next season. Vaughan, previously an underrated shortstop, is listed by James as the second best of all-time at his position, behind Honus Wagner. Vaughan's lifetime batting average is .318, eight points higher than Appling, but "Old Aches and Pains" drove in 128 runs in 1936, while Vaughan had just 99 RBIs in his big year. Appling also scored more runs (111 to 108).

I'm almost certain James "Jimmy" Bannon was not called "Foxy Grandpa" while he was playing in the outfield for the St. Louis Browns of the National League in 1893, or for the Boston Beaneaters during the next three seasons.

However, I do know he was well-known by that nickname after the turn of the century, as he continued to play in the minor leagues until 1910. I know this because I found several newspaper clippings that referred to him as "Foxy Grandpa," with some sports writers implying that everyone who followed baseball knew who "Foxy" was.

I found two explanations for his nickname, and the first one isn't convincing, though it probably holds a grain of truth. This story was that Bannon was constantly humming a popular song called "Foxy Grandpa." Well, there was a song by that name, the title song of a Broadway show — in 1902.

It was about this time that Bannon was in his early 30s, and his once-black hair turned white. I saw at least three versions of the same explanation — that he was called "Foxy Grandpa" because his hair made him look like an old man. It probably helped that "Foxy Grandpa" also was the name of a hit Broadway show and a popular song.

Bannon stood five-feet-five, had speed to burn, and could hit — batting .336 twice and .347 in his first three years in the National League. In 1894 he also had 13 home runs and 114 runs batted in. (My theory is most players who had more than the average number of home runs in those days did it through speed, not power.) Bannon slumped to .253 in his fourth and final season in the National League.

Judging by newspaper stories I found, Bannon was a big draw in the minor leagues, and was treated like a star. Where he failed — big time — was in his few efforts to pitch. St. Louis let him pitch four innings in 1893, and he allowed 18 runs, though eight of them were unearned. He had similar results in five other brief pitching performances over the next few years, even in the minors.

Bannon's older brother, Tom, played briefly with the New York Giants in 1895-96. Early in their careers. the brothers were teammates on teams in Lynn, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine, Kansas City, and Montreal. In the early 1900s there also was an outfielder named George Bannon, who may have been related to "Foxy Grandpa," and may, I suppose, be the same George Bannon who later became well known as the official timekeeper at most of the boxing matches in New York City.

Robert Vavasour "Bob" Ferguson was one of two early day major leaguers associated with this unusual phrase. Whether Ferguson was the first to be called "Death to Flying Things," or whether that honor belongs to John Curtis "Jack" Chapman (far right), nobody knows for sure. What we do know is it has no business being used in connection with a recent major leaguer, Franklin Gutierrez, though several sources list that as his nickname. There has been a recent resurgence in baseball nicknames, though most are uninspired or, in the case of Gutierrez, recycled.

The thinking seems to be is that Chapman was the first to be called "Death to Flying Things" because (1) he was two years older than Ferguson, and (2) he played the outfield while Ferguson was an infielder. Apparently the two men were teammates on amateur teams in the 1860s, as well as the professional Brooklyn Athletics of the National Association in 1874.

Chapman's major league experience consisted of 113 games with Brooklyn and St. Louis of the National Association, and Louisville of the fledgling National League in 1876.

Ferguson played 14 seasons, starting with the New York Mutuals of the National Association. He became a baseball gypsy, usually as player-manager, for the Chicago White Stockings, Troy Trojans, Philadelphia Quakers, and Pittsburgh Alleghenys.

He is better remembered than Chapman, and apparently earned his share of the unusual label for the way he anticipated and caught line drives, whether he was at third base, second, or shortstop. Worth remembering: Ferguson and Chapman made their catches bare-handed.

James Francis Galvin was a major league pitcher for 20 seasons, winning 365 games, and in 1965 he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Everything in that sentence may be news to most people. As you can tell from the photo, Galvin was a fat-faced fellow, perhaps not so much early in his career, but certainly during the last half of it.

He had at least three nicknames, the best known was "Pud." One theory says it was short for "Pudgy"; another theory says "Pud" is short for "Pudding," because his pitching was said to turn batters knees into the soft dessert. I'd have to hear how people pronounced "Pud" to tell which theory was correct. An 'uh' sound suggests "pudgy," while 'ou" sound suggests "pudding." In Buffalo, where Galvin won 218 games for the National League Bisons from 1879-1885, newspapers referred to him as "Jim" or "Jimmy" years after he went to Pittsburgh (which, in those days, was spelled without the h), and even after Galvin had died. So the idea of identifying him as "Pud" Galvin might be another of those revised history decisions made by baseball nuts (such as referring to Grover Alexander as "Pete," a real nickname, to be sure, but not one that ever really replaced his given first name).

As for "The Little Steam Engine," that, too, actually was applied to Galvin, though I don't know when. To me, it's more of a title or description than a nickname. It supposedly referred to Galvin's tirelessness, perhaps when he won 46 games two seasons in a row for Buffalo, pitching well more than 600 innings each season.

He was said to be a soft-spoken fellow, which earned him yet another nickname — "Gentle Jeems."

As much as I've read about old-time pitchers, I can't picture them. Galvin and other pitchers of the 1870s were, for years, prohibited from using overhand deliveries. How fast could they throw underhanded? Did they snap their wrists and achieve the speed of a good softball pitcher? If so, then I'd hate to have faced them when they released their pitches only 45 feet from the batter until it was pushed back to 50 in 1880 . . . and finally 60 feet, six inches in 1893. (Galvin did almost all of his pitching from 50 feet.)

And what kind of a pick-off move did they have in the days before a pitcher's mound, when they operated within a box and could hop, skip and jump before they delivered the ball? Galvin was credited with the best pick-off move of them all, with the best demonstration taking place in 1886, after adjustments had been made to the pitcher's box and, I believe, pitching deliveries.

Pitching for Pittsburgh, he faced Brooklyn on September 23, and began the third inning by walking the first three batters — which he proceeded to pick off, getting him out of the inning without retiring a single batter. Were pitchers required to go into a stretch, then come to a complete stop before throwing to a base? Or could they begin their wind-up the way they did when no men were on base, then whirl and throw toward a base instead of making a pitch? If so, Galvin and other pitchers had a huge advantage over today's pitchers.

After Galvin retired at age 35, things did not go well for him. Well, not immediately. He opened a bar in Pittsburgh, and it seemed to be doing a thriving business, except the former pitcher was an inept businessman, and the bar went bankrupt. Galvin was broke when he died in 1902, at the age of 47, leaving a widow and six children. Five others had already passed on.

Performance enhancer? Galvin was lucky
the elixir didn't make him very sick

If you look online for more stories about Jim Galvin, you're sure to find a few that incorrectly label him the first known baseball player to take a performance enhancing drug. That may have been his intention on August 12, 1889, but the effects of the injection he received were strictly psychological. However, a day later, pitching for the sixth place Pittsburgh Alleghenys, he shut out the second place Boston Beaneaters on five hits, and, uncharacteristically, was the game's hitting star, with a double and a triple in the 9-0 win.

Galvin received his injection at the Western Pennsylvania Medical College in Pittsburgh during one of the craziest months in American medical history. Dr. Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, called "the great French specialist in nervous diseases", had, a month earlier, in a speech before the Biological Society of Paris, declared that he had discovered a true elixir of life, a substance that would rejuvenate the old and make strong the feeble.

That's how it was reported in the St. Louis Republic in a story published by several other newspapers. Whether Dr. Brown-Séquard was misquoted became a major issue over the next several months.

The immediate effect was that doctors throughout the United States began experimenting with the mixture of animal parts of mineral water used in this elixir. Dr. Brown-Séquard reportedly used guinea pigs and dogs; many of the doctors quoted in stories that appeared in August said they used sheep. How careful they were to insure the purity and cleanliness of their mixture no one knew for sure.

What happened was truly amazing — and appalling, something you'd expect to see in a science fiction horror film, such as "The Fly." This was something that hadn't been scientifically tested, yet doctors were injecting themselves, selected patients, and, occasionally, people who simply wanted to try the elixir for various reasons. For example, two curious Philadelphia reporters subjected themselves to injections at a facility known as the Medico-Chilurgical Hospital. Both became painfully ill. A few deaths were reported.

Dr. Brown-Séquard may have intended his elixir to contain testosterone, but his method of reducing animal parts to a pulp in a mortar with distilled water didn't produce this result. A St. Louis doctor, in testing the elixir. claimed if contained bacilli tuberculosis, and therefore was highly dangerous.

Dr. John B. Hamilton, the U. S. surgeon general, was one of the harshest critics of the elixir, saying it could poison those who received it. He also said that if the St. Louis Republic article had quoted Brown-Séquard accurately, then the remarks of the 72-year-old doctor-scientist were "the wandering fancies of an old man in his dotage."

By October, the elixir was dismissed as a bad idea, though Dr. Brown-Séquard continued to test it. He'd claimed that it had made him 10 years younger, but he died five years later.

As for Jim Galvin, there's no evidence he had more than one dose, or that it would have been available even if he'd wanted one. He won 23 games that season. The New York World account of the Pittsburgh win over Boston referred to the pitcher as "Old Man" Galvin. He was 32 years old. He had his best seasons with the Buffalo Bisons of the National League in 1883 and 1884, when he was in his mid-20s. In those two seasons he pitched 1,293 innings, so it was no wonder if his arm aged faster than the rest of his body.

He kept pitching until 1892, but in those last three seasons won only 37 games, losing 39.


Hall of Fame pitcher Burleigh Grimes got his nickname the expected way — he didn't shave on days he was scheduled to pitch. He said it protected his face against the irritating effects of the slippery elm he always chewed while on the mound.

Grimes was the last pitcher to legally throw a spitball. When the pitch was outlawed, several men were allowed to continue its use until they retired. Grimes remained active in the major leagues until 1934, winning 270 games, most of them for Brooklyn.

The image of Grimes is an overweight, sloppy fellow, but his appearance was deceiving. He was an excellent athlete, and one of the best hitting pitchers of all time, twice hitting over .300.

George Hemming was a pitcher in the short-lived Players League and for several years in the National League, peaking with the fabled Baltimore Orioles in 1895 and '96. He was 20-13 that first year, 15-6 the next. He probably had arm trouble at that point, because while he remained active into the early 1900s, in the minor leagues by this time, he played other positions, securing employment with his good hitting.

His odd nickname is a mystery; one online page suggests it was due to Hemming's supposed resemblance to a wax figure. Photographs suggest Hemming was a poser, but that explanation seems too simple. I'm a bit skeptical about the whole thing because I found no mention of this nickname in any newspaper articles from the 1890s.

"Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900, Volume 1," by David Nemec, says Hemming was discovered in Columbus, Ohio, while pitching for an amateur team when he wasn't working as a cook at the state mental hospital.

A trivia notes from his career — while pitching for Brooklyn of the National League in 1891, he gave up 27 hits in a 28-5 loss to Chicago, and on September 7, 1896, while playing for Baltimore, he did put his name in the record books by becoming the first major league pitcher to win the third game of a triple-header the Orioles had with Louisville. I have no idea how many triple-headers were played after that one. Apparently there were a few more until 1900, plus one more in 1920 between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. I'd guess all of them were played in September and October as a way of making up earlier games that were rained out.

According to statistics guru Bill James, who has tried to devise formulas to rate baseball players objectively no matter when they played the game, Charley Jones was the 67th best left fielder of all time. Jones played from 1875 (in the National Association) through 1888 (in the National League and American Association). Schedules were shorter in those days, so Jones played only 894 games in 12 seasons, so statistics that accompany his .298 lifetime batting average are modest.

Whether James has revised his formulas — or his thinking, I don't know; my copy of his "Historical Baseball Abstract" is the 2001 edition. which rates Charley Jones better than Joe Rudi, Tommy Davis, Bob Meusel and Bibb Falk. What I found most interesting about Jones were his nicknames — "Baby," "The Big Baby," "Long Charley," but especially "The Knight of the Limitless Linen," referring to his large wardrobe. As the photo above suggests, Jones was considered a dandy. He also was considered baseball's first slugger, and when he hit nine home runs for the Boston Red Stockings in 1879, that was the most home runs anyone had hit in one season.

Like many players in professional baseball's early years, there's a lot we don't know about Charley Jones, and, frankly, people didn't much care until the 1970s — about the time of the National League's 100th anniversary. Since then, baseball historians have researched everyone who ever participated in a major league game. Jones has proven to be a most difficult subject, from his actual birth date, to his real name, to when and where he died.

On this page I am only concerned with his being called "The Knight of the Limitless Linen," which is more of a title than a nickname. For more about Jones, at least, my take on him, see "Charley, We Hardly Knew You."

Walter Arlington Latham clearly earned this title through his mischievous behavior; but the nickname borrowed the title from a popular song.

Some say Latham is the reason baseball created coaching boxes. He was often used as the third base coach. In those days coaches could wander as they pleased. Latham took matters too far and did a lot of in-your-face heckling of opposing batters.

Apparently Latham would do almost anything for a laugh. Not everyone appreciated his humor, such as umpires who in the late afternoon glanced at the dugout and saw candles Latham had lit, his way of complaining it was too dark to continue playing.

Sometimes he did cartwheels while running the bases, sometimes he'd turn and address the crowd. He celebrated one July 4 by setting off a firecracker he had hidden under third base.

Not surprisingly, he spent his off-seasons performing a song-and-dance act on the vaudeville circuit where he met his wife, Katherine Conway. He also played in a semi-professional league for something called roller polo, described as hockey on roller skates.

Latham was impressed with his foot speed, and was drawn into a race with another player, future evangelist Billy Sunday, who won the race rather easily. On another occasion, Latham and a teammate, Doc Bushsong, had a contest to prove who had the better arm. Latham won, much to the delight of his manager, Charlie Comiskey who had bet $100 on his third baseman. Unfortunately, Latham injured his arm making his throw, and the injury bothered him for the rest of his career.

He played 17 seasons, most of them with St. Louis of the American Association and Cincinnati of the National League. His lifetime batting average was .269. He may not have been as fast as Billy Sunday, but Latham did have speed and stole a lot of bases. Granted, it was relatively easy to steal a base in those days. but Latham usually was among league leaders, as he was in runs scored.

Latham's career trickled to an end in the late 1890s. He played his last full season, with Cincinnati, in 1895, but the following year appeared in eight games for the St. Louis Browns, as the National League team was then known. In 1899 he made six appearances with the Washington Senators. Later he was a coach for John McGraw and the New York Giants. It was with the Giants, in 1909, that he played four games, even stealing a base – at age 49.

He moved to England for a while, running a nightclub. When he returned to the United States about 1930, he settled in New York. McGraw, still managing the Giants, offered Latham a job as a press box attendant. This was in keeping with a McGraw habit of providing work for old players. Former first baseman Dan Brouthers and pitcher Amos Rusie became watchmen at the Polo Grounds, thanks to McGraw.

Anthony John "Tony" Mullane, a native of Ireland, was a leading pitcher in the early days of professional baseball and his good looks earned him the nickname, "The Apollo of the Box."He also was called "The Count" His story continues on another page.

For weirdness, this one may be number one. Charles "Charlie" Pabor was a pitcher and outfielder on amateur and semi-pro teams in the 1860s, but also played five years (1871-75) in the first professional league, the National Association.

By then he was mostly in the outfield, for Cleveland, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and New Haven, batting .285. He also did some managing. He still holds one record — he pitched the most innings in major league history without recording a single strike out, though it's a bit unfair to have that on his record. Strikeouts, while not rare at the time, were not expected when the batter was allowed to instruct the pitcher where to throw the ball.

In 1875, while Pabor managed the Brooklyn Athletics, they won only two games and lost 40. One of his pitchers, Hugh O'Neil, failed to strike out anyone in 34 innings, and his "best" pitcher, John Cassidy, had only nine strike outs in 213 innings on his way to a 1-21 record. (Cassidy learned his lesson, and became an outfielder; in 1877 he batted .378 for Hartford, then of the National League.)

Pabor's goofy nickname came from his long red hair and bushy sideburns, that, from a distance, made him look like a woman.

Herbert Rodney Perdue was a man of several nicknames, including three that reflected where he was born, lived and would eventually die — "The Untamed Son of Sumner County," "The Tennessee Cyclone," and my favorite, "The Gallatin Squash." (Some sources say he died in Gallatin, Texas, but I'm sure it was Gallatin, Tennessee, only a few miles from his Sumner County birthplace, a village called Bethpage.)

This item could have been placed with other geographic nicknames, but I'm more intrigued by the "Squash" than I am its reference to Gallatin. I don't see anything flattering in the nickname — it's like being called "The Punxsutawney Potato," or "The Zanesville Zucchini."

John Simpson, who wrote the fine, linked article on Perdue for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), says Perdue was mostly called "Hub," though there were a couple of variations — "Rub-Dub-Hub" and "Hurling Hub." (I expect that first one actually was "Rub-a-Dub Hub," but why quibble.) Simpson, who also wrote a book about the pitcher, "Hub Perdue: Clown Prince of the Mound," also says Perdue was called by some "the man with a million-dollar arm and a two-cent brain." The reason? The pitcher apparently had a world of talent, but tended to clown around. (There's a hint of swagger in the photo, above.) But nothing accounts for why the man was called a squash, from Gallatin ... or anywhere, unless he started packing too much weight on his five-foot-ten frame.

He played a lot of amateur baseball before getting serious about making it his career. He spent four years with the Nashville Volunteers of the Southern Association, and didn't reach the majors until 1911, when he was 29 years old. He pitched for the Boston Braves, and had his best season in 1913 when he won 16 games. That was a year too soon. The Braves dealt him to St. Louis in 1914, before they made their "miracle" run to the World Series.

After going 6-12 with the Cardinals in 1915, Perdue returned to the minors, and remained active until he was 41 years old. While he won just 51 games in the major leagues, he tripled that in the minor leagues, where his lifetime record was 153-105.

Abran Harding"Hardy" Richardson, who divided his time between the second base and the outfield and second base, but played every other position in at least five games, should be in the Hall of Fame. He played major league baseball for 14 seasons (1879-1892), and had a lifetime batting average of .299, and I assume from his nickname that Richardson was regarded as a loyal fellow.

The Clarksboro, New Jersey, native spent his first seven seasons in the National League with the Buffalo Bisons. His teammates included future Hall of Famers outfielder Jim O'Rourke, pitcher Jim Galvin, first baseman Dan Brouthers and third baseman-catcher Deacon White. You'd think Buffalo should have been a powerhouse, but the team never finished better than third during its brief stay in the National League.

When the team folded after the 1885 season, Richardson was sold to the Detroit Wolverines along with Brouthers, White and shortstop-catcher Jack Rowe. This group became known as "The Big Four." A year later, they helped Detroit to a strong second place finish in the National League, and Richardson batted .351, Brouthers .370. They had some outstanding new teammates, as well, slugging outfielder Sam Thompson (.319) and pitchers "Lady" Baldwin and "Pretzels" Getzein, who combined to win 72 games.

In 1887, the Wolverines won the National League pennant and the World Series, defeating American Association champs, the St. Louis Browns. But Detroit finished fifth in 1888, and the team was dissolved. Richardson spent the next three seasons in Boston, playing for two teams, the National League Beaneaters in 1889, and the Players League Reds in 1890. When that league folded, the Reds joined the American Association, then a major league.

Richardson peaked in 1890. The Players League, put together by the players, as the name suggests, had many of the game's biggest stars. I counted 15 future Hall of Famers on various rosters. Richardson led the league in home runs (16) and in runs batted in (152). That RBI total seems amazing, even considering that Boston scored 1,031 runs in 133 games. (In 2018, the World Champion Boston Red Sox scored 876 runs in 162 games.)

Though the Players League teams outdrew their National League counterparts, the players failed to press their advantage, and most of them were talked into returning to the fold in 1891, though several had to settle for teams in the American Association.

So it was with Richardson,, who turned 36 years old in 1891, and came crashing down to earth. His batting average tumbled to .255 and he drove in exactly 100 runs less than he had the year before. He returned to the National League in 1892, batted just .200 in 74 games, and retired. He took with him a perfect pitching record — three wins and no defeats as a relief pitcher for Detroit in 1886.

Richardson moved to Utica, New York, and for awhile ran a hotel. Later he became a traveling salesman for Utica Stained Glass Works, then moved his family a few miles east to Ilion, where he worked for Remington Typewriter Works. He loved the outdoors, and was an avid fisherman and an expert trap shooter. He died in 1931 at the age of 76.

This is an unusual nickname, for sure, but unlike a lot of nicknames, this one has a simple explanation.

Clarence Ossie Smith was born in Newport, Tennessee, in 1892, but during childhood, his family moved to Birmingham, Alabama. According to his page on findagrave.com, young Smith took a job selling sodas in the bleachers of the stadium that was the home of the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association. Such employees were called Pop Boys.

As Smith got older, he sometimes pitched during practice, and in 1911, when he was 19, Smith impressed the team so much they signed him to a contract for the 1912 season. He responded by winning 15 games, losing only eight, and in 1913 joined the Chicago White Sox of the American League. He started two games for Chicago, and was used in relief 13 times. He was a closer before the term had been invented, finishing 12 games. His only decision was a loss.

Either statistics are missing for 1914, or he was injured most of the summer because all that shows up is one win, one loss for Venice (California) of the Pacific Coast League. But in 1915 he was a workhorse for the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association, winning 20 games, losing 12, and making several relief appearances. One of his teammates was pitcher Jim Bagby. They both joined the Cleveland Indians in 1916. Along the way, Bagby married Smith's sister, Mabel.

Bagby made the team, winning 16 games, losing 17, but Smith was soon sent back to New Orleans where he had a 23-13 record. On April 13, 1917, just as the American League season was beginning, Smith was back with the Indians, and this item appeared in the Duluth Herald and other newspapers:

"Pop-Boy" Smith, pitcher of the Cleveland Americans, believes he's a better twirler than his brother-in-law, Jim Bagby, who also is with Cleveland. "I have just as much stuff as he has, and I don't care whether he thinks so or not," Smith said.

Alas, after pitching just nine innings in six games, losing one game, Smith again was returned to New Orleans, where he had a 15-13 record. Bagby went on to win 23 games for the Indians.

Smith retired at the end of the 1918 season, at age 26. He died only six years later.

As for Bagby, he went on to be a 31-game winner in 1920, helping the Indians win the American League pennant. He won game five in the World Series as Cleveland defeated Brooklyn, five games to two, also becoming the first pitcher to hit a home run in a World Series game.

Over the years, there has been much speculation over the origin of the nickname "White Wings" for George Tebeau, an outfielder in the late 1800s, who became wealthy as the owner of some minor league teams.

For a long time, the reason rested on a little-known piece of trivia — that in the late 1800s, garbage men were known as "White Wings." I think it was because there was a trash-hauling company by that name. It became a popular theory that Tebeau had spent an off-season (or two or three) as a garbageman.

Bill Lamb, who wrote the linked article for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), finally came up with a more likely reason for the nickname, because it sounds so much like the way these things happen. Lamb says when Tebeau joined the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association in 1887, he had a peculiar way of moving his arms when he ran to and from the outfield between innings. As a result, the sleeves of his bright white uniform looked as though they were flapping, like wings.

Tebeau was no great shakes as a player, at least, not in his early years. He stole a lot of bases, but in three years with Cincinnati his batting average was .256, falling as low as .228 in 1888. He made 78 outfield errors during those three seasons.

After one season with Toledo, also of the American Association, Tebeau spent three years in the minor leagues before he joined the Washington Senators of the National League in 1894, but was let go after hitting only .225 in 61 games. Folks were surprised when he was signed by Cleveland of the National League, thinking the only reason had to be that the Spiders' manager was his brother, Oliver Wendell "Patsy" Tebeau (left).

But White Wings came through for his younger brother, batting .313 in 40 games, and in 1895, he and Patsy alternated at first base, and suddenly White Wings was a decent fielder, and had his best year at the plate, posting a .326 average. (The 1895 Cleveland team also included — briefly — a third Tebeau, an outfielder named Charles, and nicknamed Pussy. Shades of "The Sopranos." However, Pussy was not related to the Tebeau brothers.)

White Wings Tebeau quit the major leagues while he was ahead, and returned to the minor leagues in 1896 — as a manager of the Fort Wayne Farmers of the Interstate League, and for several years thereafter remained a manager, sometimes putting himself in the line-up. He left Fort Wayne for Columbus, then moved to Denver, then Kansas City. Within a few years he owned the Denver and Kansas City teams, as well as the minor league team in Louisville. George Tebeau became one of the richest men in baseball.

If there is validity to the latest explanation for "White Wings," then "Angel Sleeves" might well refer to the way the sleeves on Uriah Louis Jones' uniform looked when the shortstop went about his business in the 1880s.

Also called "Ryerson," but mostly "Ri," Jones played for the Louisville Eclipse of the American Association in 1883, and the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds of the Union Association in 1884, batting .254.

The spirit lives on — sort of
This style of nickname — or whatever you choose to call it — quickly went out of fashion, particularly anything akin to "The Knight of the Limitless Linen" and "The Old Woman in the Red Cap." However, I did come upon two modem equivalents — "Sweet Swingin' Billy from Whistler" and "The Greek God of Walks."

The first applied to Hall of Fame outfielder Billy Williams, who was born in Whistler, Alabama. The second refers to first baseman-third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who drew a lot of bases on balls, but actually was of Romanian heritage, not Greek.

Both nicknames would also be at home on a page that presents a sampling of geographic and ethnic references, such as "The Reading Rifle," "The Goshen Schoolmaster," and "The Mad Russian."