“Nicknames Weekend” is here, and we’re about to meet The Missile, Sir Didi, Kraken, Pickles, and the Toddfather, among others, as the Yankees join with the rest of baseball wearing nicknames on the backs of their jerseys during what’s officially being called, “Player’s Weekend.”
Already a blasphemy to many traditional Yankees fans, for a team which has never officially worn any sort of name on the backs of any of their jerseys, whether home or away, the controversy was averted as MLB has created a special jersey for every team that honestly looks like a softball team’s attire with different colored sleeves.
Of course it will be a mega-merchandizing weekend, and also a fun trivial exercise for those who have followed a 100-year plus history of Yankees nicknames.
Nicknames and baseball are as old as the sport, with the most famous nickname in the history of the game belonging to the most famous player in the history of the game, “Babe” Ruth. On his first professional team, baby-faced George Herman Ruth came under the wing of his first manager and was sarcastically referred to as “Jack’s baby,” which morphed into Jack’s Babe, and thus, Babe Ruth was born.
Ruth eventually was hailed as The Great Bambino and the Sultan of Swat.
His very famous teammate, Lou Gehrig, came to be known as The Iron Horse, a reference to his durability of playing every game. Born as Heinrich Louis Gehrig, the legendary first baseman first developed the nickname, Buster, and early in his career became Biscuit Pants (one can only imagine why), and also was occasionally referred to as Larrupin’ Lou.
Ruth wasn’t the only “Babe” in Yankees history. Babe Dahlgren, whose real name was Ellsworth Tenney Dahlgren, ironically replaced Gehrig at first base in 1939 when the Iron Horse voluntarily stepped down due his deteriorating physical condition, ALS. And today it is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
From Ruth and Gehrig’s era, Hall of Famer second baseman Tony Lazzeri, was “Poosh ‘Em Up” Lazzeri. The Italian-accented spelling complimented Lazzeri’s ability to move runners into scoring position (What? You mean ballplayers didn’t always try to hit home runs in every at-bat?).
By the way, Lazzeri is the answer to a uniform-related trivia question that surely can stump even the most ardent Yankees fans. Want to win a few bucks in a bar bet? Ask the question this way:
Name the Yankee Hall of Famer, who, over the course of his Yankees career, wore four different numbers, and today, all four of those numbers are retired by the Yankees, but none of them on behalf of this Yankee Hall of Famer, who has a plaque on the wall in Cooperstown.
Yes, it was Lazzeri, who, for several reasons, at times wore 5, 6, 7, and 23 as a Yankee.
That’ll be five bucks, please.
Lazzeri, of course wasn’t the only famous Italian Yankee with a colorful nickname. Joe DiMaggio will always be the Yankee Clipper, and for many, simply Joe D. And in retirement, he became, “Mr. Coffee.”
Phil Rizzuto will always be the lovable Scooter. And Lawrence Peter Berra is still known worldwide as Yogi. Boyhood friends once saw Larry sitting cross-legged on the ground and likened the image to an Indian Yogi. The baseball world will forever be grateful for the connotation. It just fit, despite having no connection to India.
Other paisans who once called Yankee Stadium home include: Rocco “Rocky” Colavito, Frankie “The Crow” Crosetti, David “Rags” Righetti, Lee “The Italian Stallion” Mazzilli, and Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni.
What do Snuffy, Stubby, Frenchy, Blondy, Dixie, Tuck, Spec, Spud, and Cuddles – yes, Cuddles – have in common? The cast of a Little Rascals reunion? Dwarfs who didn’t make the cut in Snow White? Ninja Turtles: The Next Generation? No, they’re the nicknames of one-time Yankees which were so well accepted the player’s real names were virtually unknown. And in some cases, it’s easy to see why they essentially abandoned their real names.
Ever hear of Snuffy (real name, George Henry) Stirnweiss, Stubby (Frank) Overmire, Frenchy (Stanley George) Bordergaray, Blondy (John Collins) Ryan, Dixie (Ewart Gladstone) Walker, Tuck (Geroge Tucker) Stainback, Spec (Francis Joseph) Shea, Spud (Spurgeon Ferdinand) Chandler, or Cuddles (Clarence Westly) Marshall?
There’s also a Sparky, as in Sparky (Albert Walter) Lyle, who once went from Cy Young to Sayonara when he was traded one year after winning the top pitcher award.
Yankee managers have also carried memorable nicknames, with the most widely known being Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel. The Ol’ Professor picked up his famous calling card early in his career being a native of KC – Kansas City.
Ralph Houk was known as The Major, a reference to his military rank. Buck Showalter’s given name was Nathan. Stump Merrill was really Carl Harrison Merrill. Russell Earl Dent, who managed the Yankees in 1989 and ‘90, and who has a unique nickname spoken with venom in Boston, is better known in New York as Bucky.
Another former Yankee player, who has loyally served the franchise in just about every capacity, including as manager in 1981 and ‘82, is Gene “The Stick” Michael.
Long time coach Don Zimmer was known as Popeye. Not many other cartoon characters on the all-time roster, but Hall of Famer Joe Gordon was The Flash!
There have been at least three doctors in the house, The House That Ruth Built – George “Doc” Medich, Dwight “Doc” Gooden, and Howard “Doc” Edwards. And Bobby Brown really became a doctor.
There have been at least three Dukes, and we don’t mean John Wayne – Duke (Leon James) Carmel, Duke (Duane) Sims, and Duke (Duane Frederick) Maas.
There have been at least two Bubbas – Bubba (Richard Stephen) Crosby, and Bubba (Thomas) Trammell. But did you recall that Trammell’s birth certificate middle name really was Bubba?
A couple of colorful pitchers were Red (Robert Abial) Rolfe amd Red (Charles Herbert) Ruffing.
But perhaps the most “colorful” pitcher in Yankees history, certainly the greatest pitcher in Yankees history, was Edward “Whitey” Ford, the Chairman of the Board.
Whitey’s long time “running mate,” a certain outfielder from Oklahoma who made the number 7 one of the most admired designations of all time, was someone you may have heard of, Mickey Mantle, aka The Commerce Comet.
The Mick affixed the name, “Gooney Bird,” to his Perfect Game World Series teammate in 1956, Don Larsen.
Mick’s home run partner in the early ‘60s, Roger Maris, became, “The Rajah.”
Other well-known Yankees who acquired additional labels include: Virgil “Fire” Trucks, Charlie “King Kong” Keller, Tommy “Ol’ Reliable” Henrich, Allie “The Superchief” Reynolds, Vic “The Springfield Rifle” Raschi, Enos “Country” Slaughter, Tommy “Twinkletoes” Selkirk, “Sudden” Sam McDowell, Dick “Dirt” Tidrow, Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens, Bill “Mombo” Monbouquette, and Leo “The Lip” Durocher.
Sometimes spectacular moments in special games earn nicknames.
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson became “Mr. October” when he banged out three home runs against three different pitchers in one World Series game in 1977. Derek Jeter became “Mr. November” when he won a won a World Series game that lasted long enough to cross the midnight hour into the 11th month of the year.
As literally the best player in the sport for several years in the 1980s, Don Mattingly became “Donnie Baseball.”
Two Yankees often heard “Mooooooose” calls. Bill Skowron and Mike Mussina both answered to “Moose.” Hall of Famer Rich Gossage responded to another member of the animal kingdom, “Goose.” And Jim Kaat is affectionately called, “Kitty” Kaat.
Hall of Famer Jim Hunter was literally forced to have a nickname when he first pitched for Oakland A’s owner Charley Finley. The eccentric owner wanted all of his players to have marketable personalities, so Jim became “Catfish,” and the label stuck.
Apologies if we’ve left out your favorite Yankee nickname, but we’re about to embrace an entire roster’s complement. They used to say you can’t tell a player without a scorecard, and this weekend, that statement may again be true.
Shame on Brett Gardner for not playing along. He was the only Yankee who opted to simply bear his name, Gardner, on his jersey. Teammates claim that’s his sense of humor, but we’re not laughing. Even those in the clubhouse suggested Gardy, which is what manager Joe Girardi calls him, or some other variation.
We’ll just have to give him a nickname. How about “The Gardener?” Or, “The BrettMeister?” Better yet, “Gard Dog.”
Here’s your 2017 Yankees nicknames:
AROLDIS CHAPMAN – THE MISSILE
DELLIN BETANCES – D. DAWG
JACOBY ELLSBURY – CHIEF
(Did you know that Ellsbury is part navajo, hence the connection.)
TODD FRAZIER – THE TODDFATHER
JAIME GARCIA – J GAR
BRETT GARDNER – GARDNER
SONNY GRAY – PICKLES
DIDI GREGORIUS – SIR DIDI
SHANE GREEN – GREENY
CHASE HEADLEY – HEAD
AARON HICKS – A-A RON
AARON JUDGE – ALL RISE
TOMMY KAHNLE – THE KAHN
DAVE ROBERTSON – D ROB
AUSTIN ROMINE – RO
CC SABATHIA – DUB
GARY SANCHEZ – KRAKEN
LUIS SEVERINO – SEVY
CHASEN SHREVE – SHREVER
MASAHIRO TANAKA – MASA
ADAM WARREN – ROCKET
TYLER WADE – T-WADE
RONALD TORREYES – TOE