There’s nothing better than a good nickname. Unless you’re blessed with an accommodating legal name (Shout out to all you Smittys and Sullys of the world!), you have to either do something very special or very embarrassing to earn a good moniker. One realm that has traditionally been a breeding ground for good nicknames is professional baseball. Its landscape is littered by men who ceased to go by the names their mothers gave them because they became well known as something else.
Baseball nicknames have gradually declined in terms of quality and quantity. They mostly currently range from the bland (Miggy) to the uninspired (ARod). However, there are many that should go down in history quite literally for their cleverness and uniqueness. Here are some of my favorites:
Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd: A native of Mississippi, where cans of beer are called oil cans, the right-handed pitcher had an old-time nickname that hearkened to a different time. Ironically, his flamboyant style and gritty pitching during his 10-year career (1982-1991) also made him seem like a holdover from a previous era.
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown: Not the most sensitive choice, the Hall-of-Fame pitcher got his nickname after losing two fingers in a childhood farming accident. Instead of it being an impediment, it assisted him in his pitching, to the tune of 239 wins and a 2.06 ERA in 14 seasons.
Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson: The 19th-century outfielder was known as a temperamental but solid player during his 14 year career. He was also a prolific defender, who gained a reputation of being a real stopper with his glove, which in his time would have been little more than a leather covering for his hand.
Nick “Tomato Face” Cullop: The beefy outfielder hit .249 in parts of five major league seasons from 1926-1931, unable to match the success he had in the minors (.311 batting average and 398 home runs in 22 years). Through no fault of his own, the slugger got his nickname not because of his looks but because his face would turn deep crimson whenever he was angry or embarrassed.
Marc “Scrabble” Rzepcyzynski: The left-handed pitcher is still active and the owner of a 9-20 record with a 3.77 ERA in parts of six major league seasons. Little explanation is needed to explain the origins of his nickname.
Doug “Eyechart” Gwosdz: A backup catcher for the San Diego Padres in the early 1980s, he earned a similarly styled pseudonym as Rzepczynski for obvious reasons.
James “Cool Papa” Bell: The Hall-of-Famer was legendary for his speed. Rumor has it he was so fast he could turn off the lights in his room and get under the covers before the room got dark. This is the kind of nickname you pray to get instead of something like “Stinky.”
Carl “Meal Ticket” Hubbell: There’s no big mystery what earned the southpaw this name. During his 16 years with the New York Giants (1928-1943), he won 253 games with a 2.98 ERA and was consistently one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League. Naturally, he was ultimately enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1947.
Rich “El Guapo” Garces: Spanish for “The Handsome One,” this nickname became iconic for the portly right-handed reliever. Pitching primarily for the Boston Red Sox, his image likely didn’t adorn too many walls. However, he became so popular with fans that he came to be simply referred to as “Guapo.”
Dmitri “Da Meathook” Young: During his 13-year major league career, the big hitter was no stranger to the 300-pound range. That didn’t stop him from mashing 171 home runs to go along with a .292 batting average. However, since his playing days ended, Young has put his health in a stranglehold and gotten himself into tremendous shape.
Carl “American Idle” Pavano: Once a top pitching prospect, the right-hander went on to win 108 games with a 4.39 ERA over 14 seasons. Still, he will always be a classic case of “what might have been,” as injuries caused him to miss a significant portion of his career, and his frequent trips to the disabled list helped create his unfortunate nickname.
Garry “The Secretary of Defense” Maddox: An explanation of how the fleet-footed outfielder got his nickname is probably not needed. Patrolling center field for the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies for 15 years (1972-1986), Maddox was well known for his mastery with the leather.
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson: If it wasn’t for that whole 1919 Black Sox scandal thing, the sweet-swinging left-handed outfielder would have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. His .356 career batting average still ranks third all-time, and he was a well-rounded five-tool player. Whether or not the story is true, he got his nickname for the time he supposedly played in a minor league game in his stocking feet because his baseball cleats were too tight.
Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart: The former first baseman could hit a baseball a long way, clubbing 228 home runs in his 10 seasons in the majors. On the downside, he had great difficulty stopping balls hit in his direction, once famously earning a standing ovation for catching a wind-swept hot dog wrapper on the fly during a game. His leaden glove bought him his nickname, which is a play on a famous character in an eponymous Stanley Kubrick film.
These are some of the best baseball nicknames of all time. Are there any that you think are missing?
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