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The Nicknames of Major League Baseball 2021

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About the Book

Think “Babe.” Who will you associate that with? Most people will say, “Babe Ruth.” But there are 32 players whose nickname is Babe. And that is not the most prolific nickname.

There  are 42 BUDs, 46 BUCKs, and 35 WHITEYs.

Most popular is the nickname of LEFTY. Nearly 190 players were nicknamed LEFTY, most of them pitchers. Position players tend not to carry that moniker.

RED appears as a nickname more than 140 times, presumably when the player had hair. DOC or similar names appeared 100 times; some of those players were actually doctors.

This book explores nicknames for players who performed on the major league level.  For those who like food, there is everything from BUTTERMILK to YAMS. Whether your taste runs to breakfast, dinner, snacks or treats, a nickname is here to describe it.

There are animals from ANT to WEASEL; birds from BIRD to WARBLER; fantasy characters from DRAGON to WEREWOLF.

The law is amply represented from CAPTAIN to COLONEL, even to the LONE RANGER.

No matter which player or which nickname, the reader is sure to enjoy the look into the pastime of the game and the names bestowed on those who have played the game at the highest level.

 

About the Authors

Joseph Ross is the owner of Rosstrum Publishing and its chief editor. He has been involved in sports for many years, serving as an official in basketball and soccer and has served in baseball as an official scorer, scoreboard operator and color commentator for game broadcasts. Joe also prepares and distributes a daily email feature, “ Today in Baseball History,” which is distributed every day of the year to subscribers across the continent.

He is also a member of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). He never anticipated that this book would be as long and as involved as it became. Joe is already planning his next book which promises to be at least as cumbersome and involved as this one.

 

Richard M. “Boog” Renneboog resides in southwestern Ontario, Canada, about midway between the home of the Detroit Tigers and Canada’s back-to-back World Series champions, the Toronto Blue Jays, and not far from Beachville, home of the first documented game of base ball’ in North America (1837). He has been a lifelong fan and player of the great sport of baseball in its many forms since being introduced to the sport in the 1950s. Now in his late 60’s, he continues to be a powerful force with a bat from both sides of the plate and an adept player in any position on the field, although the speed of his game has decreased somewhat. The game has kept him young and win or lose, a day playing baseball is better than any other day... unless the championship game suddenly gets rained out and can’t be played.

“Boog” also serves as an editor for many environmental and scientific books as well as fiction works of other authors.

Sample pages

 This book is dedicated to the millions of baseball fans, players, and officials who have made the game of baseball our National Pasttime.

Introduction

 This book was designed as a reference tool. The authors have included as many nicknames as we could possibly find. When possible, the origins of those nicknames are included. Many players had more nicknames than years of major league experience, some even more than Major League games played. Some of the names were gained at birth for a variety of reasons. Others were acquired during their playing careers. Some make sense. Some make no sense.

In addition to serving as a general reference, the book will also provide enjoyable reading and a guidebook for some baseball-related word games. Try making a menu for dinner using only baseball nicknames from Major League players. That is fairly easy because there are so many choices, from breakfast cereal to after-dinner cookies or nuts.

Here is a word game for baseball fans. If we say “BABE,” what is the first name that comes to mind? Most fans will say “Ruth.” But there are at least 30 other Babes listed in this book who played in the Major Leagues.

“Babe” is not the most common nickname. That unimaginative moniker belongs to “Lefty.” The authors found nearly 200 instances where a player, pitchers for the most part, were called “Lefty.” Following that were more than 170 players who were big: Big Stan, Big Bill, Big whatever or whomever. Some were called big because they were, at least in size, sometimes in stature. Others were called big because they were extremely short for the major leagues.

Another category was based on hair color: 145 were Red; only 35 were Whitey. The 13 players referred to as Baldy or Bald [anything] were probably underrepresenting that particular group.

There were at least 83 players referred to as “Doc” and another 10 as “Dr.” or “Doctor.” Some of these actually were doctors, either before, during, or after their baseball careers.

Other more popular nicknames included, in no particular order, Buck, Bud, Cy, and Rube. Twenty-one players were referred to as the “Franchise.” “Kid” may sometimes have referred to a player whose coach or manager could not pronounce or remember his name.

Some players were referred to by a location. For instance, Casey Stengel got his nickname because he was from Kansas City, which became KC, which in turn became Casey. Nearly 100 players had a nickname including a reference to a location, either a city, state, or region.

Many players used their middle names. We tried to ignore these. More than 50 players chose to be known simply by their initials, either first and last or first and middle, occasionally all three.

Species of bird were considerably under-represented. We found Warbler, Vulture, Sparrow, Robin, and just plain Bird.

For those interested in food, there are 43 mentions of various foods from Buttermilk to Yams. That does not include animals that provide food, such as chicken, various varieties of seafood, and beef. That list has names from Ant to Weasel. There are birds, real and imagined, along with some non-existent creatures like Unicorn, Werewolf, Dragon, or Ghost.

Many players have adopted names of people. Some were given these names at birth. Why their parents did not give those players their nicknames as actual names is something we will probably never know. Others received them in honor or memory of a favorite player, someone to strive to emulate. Most interesting in that category is Mickey Mantle. He was named after Mickey Cochrane. Mantle was said to be very happy that his parents did not know that Cochrane was really named Gordon. Mantle hated the thought of being named Gordan Mantle.

Some players were called Pat, Bill, Marty, or almost anything else. Some had female names, like Mary or Liz. Others were named after cartoon characters.

For readers who crave their childhood memories of cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians, good news awaits: there is only one Outlaw and three Killers. They have only eight Bullets and five Shotguns. They would undoubtedly lose to the 18 Sheriffs, one member of the Police, and two Officers . The good guys report to 14 Captains, 35 Chiefs, 6 Colonels, 3 Generals, 4 Majors, and The Lone Ranger.

Mention the King of Swing: baseball fans again think of Babe Ruth. Many older folks think of Benny Goodman. Benny did not play baseball, but that’s all right. Ruth didn’t play the clarinet. Many of the older readers may have liked Ike, but that is not referring to the 17 Major League baseball players with that nickname.

We hope you enjoy this book as much as we enjoyed preparing it. We relied on information available from hundreds of sources and hundreds of writers. We remain eternally grateful for their efforts.

All errors are ours.

The authors

A Note About Certain Nicknames

A number of nicknames are very common. Every player, primarily pitchers, who bats and throws left-handed is going to be nicknamed “Lefty” at some point. Every player with red hair or a reddish complexion is eventually going to get stuck with the nickname “Red” or “'Reddy”. The nickname of “Whitey” generally refers to light or white hair. We leave off those explanations. In less politically correct times, almost every player who came to the big leagues from a country or foreign background, often uneducated, was nicknamed something akin to “'Rube”' or “Dutch” by his “more worldly” colleagues. Similarly, a lot of players who bore a dark complexion were called “Nig” or “Niggy,” the origin of the term requiring no further explanation.

            Many players have a familiar name that is just a shortened version of one of their given names or a name with a ‘y’ or ‘ie’ added, while some prefer to be known just by their initials or a middle name instead of an actual nickname. The former can't be considered actual nicknames by any standards and are often not included in this list. It is debatable whether the latter should be properly considered nicknames, but they are included here for the unique manner in which they identify the individual. Also not necessarily included in this list are interchangeable names such as 'Jack' for 'John' and 'Hal' for 'Harold', etc.

            Some players are given nicknames by their peers that recall another player who was highly regarded, because they seem to have a certain respected quality that characterized that other player. The context in which such a nickname is given is important, since the two players will have also played the same positions. A pitcher might be nicknamed “Cy” or “Rube” in this way, in reference to Cy Young or Rube Waddell; a power hitter might be tagged with 'Babe', for Babe Ruth, and so on.

            In many cases, it isn't at all clear why the player got his unique nickname – “Wagon Tongue” and “Dorf”, for example - and in other cases it is all too obvious – “Three-Fingered” and “One-Armed” being the prime examples of that situation. Who first gave a nickname may also be a mystery that may be lost in time, unless someone who actually knows first-hand can fill in the blanks and provide that information for baseball historians.

 

NOTES:

            For this book, we have accepted the definition of a “Major League” and of team names from Baseball-Reference.com, even when the MLB website may disagree, especially for those teams which played in the early days of the sport. For that reason, we also do not include the Negro Leagues, although some great players played in that venue and, based on recent MLB action, will surely be included in the next edition of this book.

            We have used parentheses to indicate middle names, even if only an initial or two middle names: (James, Billy John). For first and middle names that do not match the listed name, brackets: [John David]. For pronunciation, we use braces: {MAR-tell}. Some pronunciations are not listed exactly as editors may like but are listed as the authors deem easiest for broadcasters.

            Some names may not appear as they do on Baseball-Reference.com. That has more to do with the quirks of putting together this tome than for any other reason. Please do not attempt to insert any importance to that ocurrence.

            In the index, many nicknames have names attached (for instance, Uncle Tom, Miltie, etc.; or Happy Jack, Bill, etc.). These may be referenced only by the adjective (Honest, Home Run, Rowdy) but are listed completely by player.

 

The Players

Aardsma David (Allan)

            The DA

             Giants, Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees, Mets, Braves, 2004-2015

Aaron, Henry (Louis)

         Hammer;

             Hammerin’ Hank

                      From teammates for his  power.

       Bad Henry

               Given by opposing pitchers.

      Pork Chops

          First nickname ( minor leagues), given because “it was the only thing I knew to order off the menu.”

        Braves, Brewers, 1954-1976

Abad, Fausto (Andres)

     Andy

            Athletics, Red Sox, Reds, 2001-2006

Abbaticchio, Ed [Edward James]

      Batty

              A shortened version of his name and not because of his mental actions.

        Beaneaters, Pirates, Doves, Phillies, 1897-1910

Abbott, Dan [Leander Franklin]

       Big Dan

                Inspired by his size (5’11”, 190 lbs.).

        Maumees, 1890

Aber, Al [Albert Julius]

         Lefty

         Indians, Tigers, Athletics, 1950-1957

Abernathy, Talmadge (Lafayette)

         Ted

                An easier nickname than Tal.

        Athletics, 1942-1944

Aberson, Clifford (Alexander)

       Kif

        Cubs, 1947-1949

Ables, Harry (Terrell)

      Hans

        Browns, Naps, Highlanders, 1905-1911

Abrams, Cal [Calvin Ross]

       Abie

       Dodgers, Reds, Pirates, 1949-1954

Abreu, Bobby [Bob Kelly] {ah-BRAY-oo}

            El Come Dulce

             La Leche

            Astros, Phillies, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Mets, 1996-2014

Abreu, Jos (Dariel) {ah-BRAY-oo}

            Oso

            Yogi

            Mal Tiempo

            White Sox, 2014-

Abstein, William (Henry)

          Big Bill

                  Six foot, 185, he was big for the time.

           Pirates, Browns, 1906-1910

 

 

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Advance Praise for
The Nicknames of Major League Baseball
2021

For times when the SABR-brain gets numbed by statistical data analysis, here's a sweet diversion. A tip of the cap to Joe Ross and Richard M. Renneboog for putting this together.

David Daniel, co-author, “Murder at the Baseball Hall of Fame,”

Creator of the prize-winning Alex Rasmussen mystery series. 

 

~~~

 

I have been a baseball fan ever since I started listening on a short-wave radio night after night as “Diamond Jim” Gentile blasted 46 homers with 141 RBIs and batted .302 for the Baltimore Orioles in 1961. In 1973, my 40-year career as a beat writer covering the Red Sox coincided with the first MLB game in history featuring designated hitters Ron “Boomer” Bloomberg of the New York Yankees and Boston’s Orlando “Cha-Cha” Cepeda. How did they get those nicknames? How did any ballplayer get his nickname? Many might be obvious and some I might take a guess, but I didn’t know for certain until I read Joe Ross’s and Richard M. Renneboog’s painstakingly researched, encyclopedic, and intriguing book of baseball nicknames.

Why was John Martin, already nicknamed “Pepper,” also called “The Wild Horse of the Osage?” Why were the Hall of Fame Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, nicknamed “Big Poison” and “Little Poison?” How did Jim “Toy Cannon” Wynn and Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd get their nicknames?

These and a thousand more questions are answered here, and you will be surprised to learn many of the obvious nicknames were not as obvious as you thought. If you were under the impression, as was I, that the most colorful nicknames disappeared with the players of the distant past, and that modern players are too corporate and colorless for nicknames, think again.

Baseball may change slowly, but some things never change.

Chaz Scoggins, Author of:

“Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of Boston Red Sox Baseball,”

“Tales from the Impossible Dream Red Sox,”

“Bricks and Bats: Professional Baseball in Lowell, Massachusetts”

 (with Rico Petrocelli),

Official Scorer, Boston Red Sox and three All-Star games.

 

I have been an avid follower of the game since the age of seven, the year the Red Sox played the “Big Red Machine” in the 1975 World Series.  What a way to begin my lifelong pursuit of baseball!  I will forever be thankful for my Dad letting me stay up to watch those pivotal games.  If he hadn’t, I never would have seen Carlton “Pudge” Fisk willing his home run inside the foul pole in Game 6!

Nicknames have long been synonymous with the game of baseball. From “Three Finger” Brown to the Splendid Splinter and Hammerin’ Hank, to more recently Big Papi and The Wild Horse, followers of America’s national pastime have been treated to some of the most colorful descriptions of our greatest heroes. In “The Nicknames of Major League Baseball,” Joe Ross and Richard Renneboog take readers on a fascinating journey through some of the stranger monikers that have attached themselves to some of baseball’s greatest heroes.

Chris Carpenter, co-author, “Murder at the Baseball Hall of Fame,”

Journalist, The Christian Broadcasting Network.

 

 

 

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