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?