Friday, May 4, 2007

I Tinker, as Ever, with the Chance of a great baseball name

Sports just ain't sports without nicknames. I don't know what happened exactly, but somewhere in the 70s I think the players decided they had too much dignity for nicknames. So suddenly all the Leftys and Whiteys and Big Trains were fading away and all that remained was Dave and Tom and Jeff. It's not the same, my friends, not the same.

You have your good boxing and football nicknames, but baseball was the game that seemed to make them mandatory. Dizzy, Daffy, Ducky, Dazzy, Bump, Cookie, Goose, Rusty, Red, Pepper, Scooter, Babe, Yogi - these from the great era of nicknames when a guy's real name would disappear completely. And then you have your great descriptors -Catfish, Mudcat, the Big Cat, the Big Hurt, the Big Unit, the Baby Bull, Shoeless Joe, the Iron Horse, the Yankee Clipper, the Splendid Splinter, the Rocket, Charlie Hustle, the Georgia Peach, the Spaceman, the Mad Hungarian, and my all-time fave, Three-Finger Mordecai Brown. (That's him in the picture.) Why is it that today we come up with so few great new nicknames? Granted there are a few good ones now and then - El Duque is nice - but in general, the best we get lately is something like A-Rod - wow, that's clever. Who's to blame here? A generation of lazy sportswriters? (And by the way, the stupid names that Chris Berman hangs on people don't count - that's just a bunch of meaningless wordplay. How is "the crime dog" a good descriptive name for Fred McGriff? It's a "funny-once" thing, not a great nickname.)

With all this as preface, I have established my love of the great baseball nicknames. Now I must take issue with one current player and his name, which does not pass the sniff test - Coco Crisp. Are you kidding me? This guy's real name is Covelli Crisp, so I can see how they got there, but everytime I hear an announcer saying "Coco Crisp at the plate" I am expecting some kind of comedy routine. ("And Cream of Wheat's on third.") It all just makes me hungry.

So give me the descriptive baseball nickname any day, but let's go easy on the breakfast cererals, ok?


Bryce said...

Bob "Death to Flying Things" Ferguson became my favorite all-time baseball nickname after discovering it by accident a few years ago. I still cherish the poetic sibilance of "Sultan of Swat" and reserve it as my favorite again if I so choose.
Here's Ferguson in Wikipedia:

Robert Vavasour Ferguson (January 31, 1845 – May 3, 1894), nicknamed "Death to Flying Things," was an American infielder and manager in the early days of baseball, playing both before and after baseball became professional.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Ferguson played for two of New York's most fabled semi-professional clubs in the early 1870s: the New York Mutuals and the Brooklyn Atlantics. He was a key participant in the NL's inaugural 1876 season as player-manager of the Hartford club, and also played for Chicago, Troy and Philadelphia before finishing his playing career with Pittsburgh of the then-major league American Association in 1884. Ferguson appeared in 562 games and batted .271. He is credited with being the first known batter to switch-hit. He did so against baseball's first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, and got a game-winning hit, thereby bringing to an end the Red Stockings' astounding streak of 81 consecutive wins on June 14, 1870.

In addition to Hartford (1876-77), Ferguson managed Chicago (1878) and Troy (1879-82). In 1883, he was the first manager in the history of the Phillies (then known as the Quakers), but was relieved of command when the team won only four of its first 17 games. He later managed Pittsburgh and New York of the American Association. Overall, his teams won 299 and lost 373, for a winning percentage of .445, and never finished higher than third place.

After leaving the major leagues, he served as an umpire and coached a women's team. Ferguson died in Brooklyn of apoplexy at the age of 49. His nickname apparently was derived from his acumen as a defensive player.

[edit] External link

* Bob Ferguson's record at

[edit] References

* The Baseball Encyclopedia

Scott said...

Mike 'Nova' Scioscia...yeah that was a funny one....(pause) NOT!

How about Bert "be home" Blyleven? Oh, wait you said Berman-isms don't count.

I got nothing.