Saturday, June 11, 2011

Some truly great baseball nicknames

A lot of us moan about “the good old days” of baseball, and the moans get louder the older we get. But there were some things that really were better back then. Take nicknames.

Sure, there are still a few kicking around, but in the old days nearly every ball player had a nickname, often a good one. With some, the nickname was more well known then their real names. Will hit on one with his blog posting on Tuesday. If you haven’t looked at it read all about Rube Waddell and how he got his moniker. The Jays current all-universe right fielder, José Bautista has a pretty good one. Don’t know if it will stick over time, but it’s not bad: Joey Bats. Has an Italian ring, but what the hell. José does look like a gangster.

So, with out further ado, here are some of my favourite nicknames from the recent past.

Steve “Bye, Bye” Balboni: so called because Balboni hit a lot of homers. However, I’ve also heard that is referred to the fact that seemed to be on a shuttle between the Yankees and their AAA farm team as he was sent up and down a number of time. In any event, I feel this is a classic.

Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson: he’s 7 feet tall and had a 100+ heater to match. Any other reasons needed for giving him this nickname?

Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas: Possibly the most-feared hitter of the ’90s. A big man who could put a big hurt on a baseball – and on the pitcher who threw it.

And from longer ago:

Lawrence “Yogi” Berra: You know you’ve been given a successful nickname when very few people remember what your real name is. That’s Yogi all over. He got it long before his pro baseball career began when a childhood friend said he thought Larry bore a resemblance to a Hindu holy man they’d seen in a movie. He even has a cartoon character named after him.

Jay “Dizzy” Dean: Another player whose nickname eclipsed his given name. I even had to look it up. As for its roots, well you only had to listen to some of the things Dean said to know why he got it.

“Joltin” Joe “The Yankee Clipper” DiMaggio: A great name given to a great player. Obviously, because of his hitting, Joltin’ was a natural. The “Yankee Clipper” part came from the Yank’s stadium announcer, Arch McDonald, who likened Joe’s speed and range in the outfield to the then-new Pan American airliner.

Bob “The Heater From Van Meter” or “Rapid Robert” Feller: an easy one because Feller came from Van Meter, Iowa, and could throw a baseball harder than anyone else of his era. He pitched his first major league game at the age of 17. He also is the only person to ever pitch a no-hitter on opening day. Guess he was ready for the season...

Paul “Big Poison” Waner: Yeah, he could hit home runs and he wasn’t a small man, but Waner’s nickname has a most interesting origin. Apparently, a Brooklyn Dodgers fan was actually saying “that big person’s always on first” but what came out in his heavy Brooklyn accent was “that big poison’s always on foist.”

I could go on, but why don’t our readers. Please comment below with some of your favourite nicknames!

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