Baseball’s Greatest Nicknames

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The Hall of Fame of baseball names:

“Babe” Ruth – George Herman Ruth (1914-35): In 1914 Jack Dunn, the owner and manager of the then minor-league Baltimore Orioles, signed Ruth to a contract for $250 a month when Ruth was only 19 years old. At that time, the age of majority was 25, so Dunn also had to become Ruth’s legal guardian. When the other players on the Orioles caught sight of Ruth, they nicknamed him “Jack’s newest babe”, which stayed with the American icon the rest of his life, as he was most commonly referred to as Babe Ruth from then on.

“Big Poison” and “Little Poison” – Paul and Lloyd Warner (1920’s-1930’s): This brother duo played in the same outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates for over 14 seasons together. They still rank as the best hitting brother combination in baseball history amassing over 5,611 career hits between them.

“Bobo” Newsom – Louis Norman Newsom (1929-1953):  Described as an eccentric and emotional personality, Newsom’s was certainly one of the strangest ways to pick up a nickname. He liked to refer to everyone, even himself, in the third person as “Bobo”.

“Boof” Bosner – John Paul Bosner(active): Bosner legally changed his name to Boof, a nickname he picked up in childhood. This automatically moves him up to our HOF list.

“Cannonball” Crane – Edward Nicholas Crane (1884-1893):  A man of uncommon strength for his time, he was described as “a giant in physical strength and proportions.” He reportedly could throw a baseball 135 yards, farther than anyone else who played the game in his era, and thus the nickname. 

“Catfish” Hunter – James Augustus Hunter(1965-1979): Said to be a name given to him by Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley.

“Chili” Davis – Charles Theodore Davis (1981-1999): The story goes that when he was 12 years old, Davis received such a horrendous haircut that it earned him the unfortunate nickname “Chili Bowl”. Later, it was shortened to “Chili”.

“Cool Papa” Bell – James Thomas Bell (Negro Leagues 1922-1950): Certainly the coolest nickname on the list, Bell was considered by many to be the fastest man to ever play the game. He reportedly could be clocked circling the bases in 12 seconds flat. 

“Cy” Young – Denton True Young (1890-1911): A name so synonymous that many people do not know that is not his real name. “Cy” refers to “Cyclone”. The catcher who warmed up Young for his first major league tryout gave him the nickname “Cyclone”, in reference to the speed of his fastball.

“Hippo” Vaughn – James Leslie Vaughn (1908-1921): The Cubs pitcher stood 6’4″ and weighed 215. He was famous for playing in a “double no-hitter” against the Reds in 1917, a game in which neither team got a hit for the first nine innings. 

“Mysterious” Walker – Frederick Mitchell Walker (1910-1915): It’s a mystery how this one time Brooklyn Dodger and Pittsburgh Rebel got his nickname. 

Napoleon Lajoie (1896-1916): Napoleon was actaully not a nickname. But his given name was quite fitting as this little general was a terror for major league pitchers at the turn of the century. In 1901 he batted .426 for the Philadelphia Athletics, still a league record. 

“Pea Ridge” Day – Henry Clyde (1899-1934): Hailing from Pea ridge, Arkansas, this right-handed hurler was also a champion hog-caller. Tragically, he committed suicide after an operation to repair his throwing turned out to be unsuccessful.

“Pie” Traynor – Harold Joseph Traynor (1920-37): Received his nickname, of course, for his tremendous fondness of eating pie. 

“Rube” Waddell – George Edward Waddell (1897-1910): Waddell earned the nickname “Rube” from teammates because he was a big, fresh kid when he first broke into the majors. 

“Sad Sam” Jones – Samuel Pond Jones (1914-1935): A member of the press gave him that nickname because Jones looked downcast on the field. Jones later told a reporter that the reason he looked downcast was because, “I would always wear my cap down real low over my eyes. And the sportswriters were more used to fellows like Waite Hoyt, who’d always wear their caps way up so they wouldn’t miss any pretty girls”.

“Satchel” Paige – Leroy Robert Paige (1948-53): According to legend, Leroy Paige got the nickname “Satchel” from a childhood friend. The two would go down to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad station and carry bags for the passengers for money. His friend supposedly gave Paige the nickname after he was caught trying to steal one of the bags that he was carrying.

“Spaceman” Bill Lee – William Lee (1969-1982): Lee got a reputation for a personality that was so “out there” he was nicknamed the “Spaceman”. Although he was very popular with fellow players, he was even more popular with the press as he was always ready with a printable quote. Lee also had a pitch that had a nickname: he coined his version of the Eephus pitch the Spaceball.

“Three Finger” Brown – Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown (1903-1916): Involved in a farming accident when he was young, Brown lost parts of two fingers. The resulting nickname “Three Finger” was mostly the invention of the writers. Brown turned this seeming disadvantage into an advantage because of the way he gripped the ball. This grip allowed him to throw a ball with an unusual amount of spin. The topspin was so effective that it caused the opposing batters to hit into a innordiante amount of ground balls. If you remeber the famous baseball phrase “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” you would be citing the famous three person doubleplay combonation that played behind Brown. 

The “Tabasco Kid” – Norman Arthur Elberfeld(1898-1914): So how does one acquire a nickname like the “Tabasco Kid”? For an affinity for a certain hotsauce? No, Elberfeld was given his nickname because of his fiery temper.  He was known for his ferocious verbal, and even physical, assaults on umpires. One memorable example had him throwing a lump of mud into the umpire’s open mouth.

“Turkey” Tyson – Cecil Washington Tyson(1944): Don’t remember him? Well that has to be because this 6’5″ 225 pound, 29-year-old rookie had only one major league at bat, resulting in an out. Tyson was one of the many palyer who only appeared in the majors while World War II was ongoing. 

“Vinegar Bend” Mizell – Wilmer David Mizell (1949-1963): Originally from Leakesville, Mississippi, Mizell gained his sobriquet playing baseball in nearby Vinegar Bend, Alabama. 

“Yogi” Berra – Lawrence Peter Berra (1946-1965): He picked up his famous nickname from his friend Bobby Hofman, who said he resembled a Hindu holy man (yogi) they he had seen in a movie, whenever Berra sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat, or while looking sad after a losing game.

Some more all-time name all-stars: 

“Blue Moon” Odom – Johnny Lee Odom (1964-1976)

“Boog” Powell – John Wesley Powell (1961-1977)

“Bombo” Rivera – Jesus Manuel Rivera (1975-1982)

“Bullfrog” Dietrich – William John Dietrich (1933-1948)

“Bump” Wills – Elliot Taylor Wills (1977-1982)

“Chicken” Stanley – Fred Blair Stanley (1969-1982)

“Choo Choo” Coleman – Clarence Coleman (1961-1966)

Coco Crisp – Covelli Loyce Crisp (active)

“Dizzy” Dean – Jerome Hanna Dean (1930-1947)

Early Wynn (1939-1963)

“Goose” Gossage – Richard Michael Gossage (1972-1994)

“Jocko” Conlon – John Bertrand Conlon (1934-1935 also an umpire)

Lafayette Currence (1975)

“Muddy” Ruel – Herold Dominic Ruel (1915-1934)

“Oil Can” Boyd – Dennis Ray Boyd (1982-1991)

“Oyster” Burns – Thomas P. Burns (1884-1895)

“Pinky” May – Merrill Glend May, (1939-1943)

“Preacher” Roe – Elwin Charles Roe (1938-1954)

“Pretzel” Pezzullo – John Pezzulo (1935-1936)

“Pumpsie” Green – Elijah Jerry Green (1959-1963)

Razor Shines (1983-1987)

“Rabbit” Maranville – Walter James Vincent Marranville (1912-1935)

“Rip” Repulski – Eldon John Repulski (1953-1961)

Scipio Spinks (1969-1973)

“Shooty” Babitt – Mack Neal Babitt (1981)

Sixto Lezcano (1974-1985)

“Spider” Jorgensen – John Donald Jorgensen (1947-1951)

Urban Shocker (1916-1928)

Van Lingle Mundo (1931-1945)

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