September 26, 2015

With baseball drawing to a close...

From the estimable New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, completely revised in 2003, still available in fine bookstores and also here:
Nicknames in the thirties got nasty. There have always been a few less-than-complimentary nicknames around, sometimes more than a few. In the thirties, under the pressure of economic catastrophe on the one hand and hero-worship journalism on the other, nicknames emerged as a way of accenting limitations. Harry Davis was called “Stinky.” Frankie Hayes was called “Blimp,” Red Lucas was “The Nashville Narcissus,” Ernie Lombardi “Schnozz,” and Eric McNair “Boob.” Hugh Mulcahy, who lost seventy-six games in four years, was therefore called “Losing Pitcher Mulcahy” (from the box scores: Losing Pitcher— Mulcahy), and Lynn Nelson was called “Line Drive Nelson” because everything he threw up there came rocketing back at him. Walter Beck, a pitcher with a career record of 38– 69, was called “Boom Boom.” George Grantham, who led National League second basemen in errors whenever they let him play second base, was called “Boots”; that actually began in the twenties.  
You didn’t want to be fat in this climate, or it became part of your name. Freddie Fitzsimmons, a fine pitcher, was called “Fat Freddie.” Babe Phelps was also called “Blimp,” Walter Brown was called “Jumbo,” and Alfred Dean was called “Chubby” Dean although he actually wasn’t chubby at all. Bob Fothergill was called “Fatty,” and a couple of players were called “Porky.” Johnny Riddle was called “Mutt,” and Bob Seeds was called “Suitcase” either because of his huge shoes or because he changed teams so often. Nicknames tended to call attention not to the player’s strengths, but to his weaknesses. Leo Durocher was not “The Peerless Leader” or “The Little General” but “The Lip.” Nick Cullop, whose face was beet red, was called “Old Tomato Face.” Harvey Hendrick was called “Gink.” Sammy Byrd, a defensive replacement for the Bambino, was called “Babe Ruth’s Legs,” Dom Dallessandro was called “Dim Dom,” and Bill Zuber was called “Goober Zuber.”  
In this context, even nicknames that were intended to be complimentary, or at least innocent, start to sound suspicious. Morris Arnovich was “Snooker.” Harry Danning was “Harry the Horse.” Marv Breuer was “Baby Face.” Odell Hale was “Bad News.” Dick Bartell was “Rowdy Richard”; actually, at the time he was called “Rowdy Dick,” but that’s been dropped from the encyclopedias for reasons of taste. George Selkirk was called “Twinkletoes”; try hanging that one on a majorleague player today. Merrill May was called “Pinky,” according to his son, because “he had the red ass.” I’m sure no harm was intended, but would you want the nicknames assigned to Vernon Gomez (Goofy), Dick Porter (Twitchy), Lloyd Brown (Gimpy), Atley Donald (Swampy), Link Blakely (Blinky), or Mel Harder (Wimpy)? It sounds like the Seven Dwarfs against Popeye the Sailor Man. Roy Mahaffey, by the way, was called “Popeye.” Bill Dietrich, who wore glasses and was slightly pop-eyed, was called “Bullfrog Bill.” Alan Strange was called “Inky,” but got even by tagging his teammate Harlond Clift with the nickname “Darkie.” Hazen Shirley Cuyler, who stuttered as a youth, was called “Kiki” because that was what he would say when attempting to pronounce his last name; at any odds, I’m sure he preferred that to being called Hazen Shirley. Another player, Johnny Tyler, was called “Ty Ty,” but I don’t know why.


Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

I particularly like Losing Pitcher Mulcahy.

September 26, 2015 at 7:50 PM  

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