Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What's in a Nickname? Sometimes a lot...

Orel even signs now with the "Bulldog" inscription

There is nothing like Baseball Nicknames.  No sport identifies its players with them like the grand old game.  Often these aliases pinned on a player identify him for his career.  I find it interesting how they occasionally develop.  Sometimes they are just a passing fancy and the names just stick, (i.e. Penguin, Killer, Red, Rocket).  Other times they slowly develop over time as a player grinds out a career and fans get to see a personality or side of him that brings the nickname forward, (Mr. Clean, the Iron Horse, Sarge, Captain Video, Full Pack, the Human Vacuum Cleaner).  I have seen fans try too hard to make a nickname stick.  Look at the attempts of bloggers to drop “Bison” on Matt Kemp for instance.
Now I know that on Dodgerthoughts.com, the origin of Kemp’s nickname has been discussed at length.  If I recall correctly, it was Don Sutton announcing a game for Atlanta and he made a reference to Kemp comparing him to a Buffalo as he ran the bases.  After that, bloggers ran with it and amended it to “The Bison,” the more correct version of that animal that roams the North American continent.  With Kemp originally from Oklahoma, a plain state that is known for Bison, it appeared to be a perfect fit.   Over the years, dodgerthoughts posters have proudly made periodic references to the use of Kemp’s nickname when it appeared on the air or when he answered to it at one of his public appearances or in national publications.  They love the fact that they got the ball rolling on that one.  Perhaps that’s why baseball is such a great fan sport, because they play a part in identifying a player for his career with a moniker.

"The Bison"
When Orel Hershiser hit the scene in ‘83-84, Bud Furrillo who then hosted the Dodgertalk radio talk show, made an attempt to label him as “Dr. O.”  I thought it was a real clever nickname.  First off, Hershier was known for putting O’s up on the scoreboard, and it went well with his unusual first name.  If you look at the career that Orel subsequently had, “Dr. O” would have been an accurate fit with the consecutive shutout innings streak and all.  Unfortunately for Bud, his efforts to pin that name on him died a quick death when Tommy Lasorda had a say in it.

I’ll never forget that interview that Furillo had with Tommy when Lasorda said something along the lines of “No way, he’s bulldog!”  “Bulldog?” Furillo questioned, “You’re kidding, right Tommy?  Dr. O is perfect for him,”  To which Lasorda replied, “Nope, Bulldog it is.  I want him to have the confidence out there that he’s a tough pitcher, a bulldog, a guy that doesn’t give in, a loyal player that fights, that’s as tough as nails.”  And I got it.  Here was Orel Hershiser, a pencil necked geeky looking guy, that threw a nasty sinker.  His physical appearance made him look like he should be in one of the leading roles of “Revenge of the Nerds.”  
Lasorda, in his master motivator role, was attempting to raise up Hershiser’s self esteem.  He also wanted to build his reputation around the league, as a tough competitor.  A fighter, a guy that would pitch inside, a hurler with confidence.  Any title, (such as “Dr. O”), that could conjure up the images of a player that was scholarly or cerebral in a sense, would dismantle the image that Tommy wanted the league to have of Hershiser, that of a tough competitor that wouldn’t hesitate to send you some chin music now and then.  And I have to hand it to Tommy...it worked.
Now I know there are some good nicknames in other sports.  I won't deny that, but I would argue that baseball has the best and most clever ones.  It sometimes gets to the point that a player is so identified with his nickname, that many don't know their real name.   How many baseball fans know that Pee Wee’s first name is Harold or that the Babe's first name is George?

Below I have categorized many baseball nicknames that have been popular over the years.  I know there are many more, but I provide this list to just give the reader an idea of the vast expanse of handles that have been dropped on so many ballplayers over the years.  Some have negative connotations, some positive, some are obscure references, others very creative and clever inventions.  It's remarkable to see how many have been identified with an animal or food (but Is there a more perfect nickname for Ron Cey than “Penguin?”).   See how many you can identify with a certain player or those that should be added.  

Anarachy references: The Riot, Wild Thing
Animals: Penguin, Cobra, Catfish,Crazy Horse, Goose, Big Cat, Rooster, Moose, Rabbit, The Hawk, the Silver Fox, the Gerbil, Fat Toad, the Vulture, Kangaroo, Big Bird, Bid Donkey, Bison, The Flea, the Rat, Big Puma, Bull, the Goat, Mudcat, the Iron Horse, Turtle, Crab, the grey Eagle, Turkey, Eagle Eye, Baby Bull, Chicken Man, Fly, Ducky, Rhino, Octopus, Black Cat, Roadrunner, Rooster, Gnat, the Shark

Zimmer has a few nicknames, one of them happened to be "The Gerbil"
Automobiles: Cadillac
Body Parts: The Lip, Schnozz, Three Finger, Tomato Face, Bug Eyes, Foots, Legs, No Neck
It's easy top see why Walt Williams was known as "No Neck"

Cartoon Characters: Popeye. Wimpy, Kung Fu Panda, Captain Hook, Goofy, Baby Huey,  Mighty Mouse, Woody
John "the Count" Montefusco poses for a photo at Dodger Stadium

Criminals, Monsters and Villians: Killer, the Hit Man, Billy the Kid, Vlad the Impaler, Ivan the Terrible, Eric the Red, Jack the Ripper, Murderer’s Row, Hackman, the Beast, Mugsy, Mr. Murder, Zombie, the Freak, Werewolf, the Count, the Terminator
Dance Steps and Music Genres: Cha-Cha, Disco, Salsa
Dates: Mr. October, Mr. November, Mr. May
Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey with his known as "God"  on the diamond.
Diety: God
Dog related: Mad Dog, O-Dog, 3-Dog, Crime Dog, Hit Dog, Bull Dog, Mutt
Bill Madlock was with the Dodgers in '85-86.  Known as Mad Dog
Ethnicity and Geography related: Frenchie, the Mad Hungarian, Louisiana Lightning, the Flyin’ Hawaiin, Dutch, the Flying Dutchman, the Georgia Peach, the Old Roman, Giambino, Hollywood
Fictional Characters: the Joker, Godzilla, the Killer Tomato, Candyman, Uncle Fester, Mr. Clean
Foods: Peanuts, Cookie, Big Mac, Candy, Soup, Lasagna, the Georgia Peach, Pie, Cakes, Cracker, Taffy, Spud, Shake n Bake, Fruit Loops, Lettuce
Cookie wore some very stylist glasses in 1975.
Footwear or lack of footwear: Boots, Shoeless Joe, Spikes
Geology: Bedrock, Rock, Rocky
Hair Color and hair style: Whitey, Red, Rusty, mullet
Little Rascals characters: Spanky, Butch, Pudge, Dewey
Military Titles or Law Enforcement Titles: the General, Crime Dog, Sarge, the Captain, Chief, Sheriff, the little Colonel, Little Sarge, Major
Moods and mannerisms: Happy, Slow
The often forgotten Alejandro Peña, a solid Dodger pitcher from '81-'89.  He led the league in ERA (2.48) in 1983.  He was referred to as "Slow" by his teammates because it adequately described how fast he moved from place to place.  His fastball was anything but slow though.
Occupations: The Gravedigger, the Professor, the Gambler, the Barber, Cowboy, Pizza Man, Doc, the Chief Justice, Miner
Parcel Delivery Companies: Fed Ex, UPS
Plants/Trees: Cactus, Sycamore, Redwood
Politicians, Monarchs, Rulers: the Mayor, el Presidente, the Sultan of Swat, Chairman of the Board, Little Napoleon, King Carl, the Wizard, Prince Hal, King Felix, El Duque, Senator
Religious Occupation: Preacher, Deacon, Reverand, the Evangelist, Parson
Known as "Deacon," Vernon Law was a fine pitcher for the Pirates from 1950-67
Short People and youthful looks: Pee Wee, Wee Willie, Schoolboy, Kid, Tiny 
Space Related and aviation: the Jet, Rocket, the Spaceman, Blue Moon
Spanish: El Caballo, El Presidente, El Enano, El Toro, El Guapo, El Duque, Papi, El Pulpo, Arriba, Manito, Matador

"El Presidente," Dennis Martinez

Speed and Velocity related: Rapid Robert, Bullet, Express
Super Heroes: Batman, Mr. Incredible, Flash, Zorro, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk
Three Stooges Characters: Chipper, Moe, Curly 
Tools, cleaning or construction materials: Hammer, Scrap Iron, The Human Vacuum Cleaner, Hoover, Ropes, Oil Can, Nails, Black and Decker
The Human Vacuum Cleaner, Brooks Robinson
Toys: Scooter, Toy Cannon, Skates, Cabbage Patch
Transportation, Means of: The Yankee Clipper, Tug, Big Train, “D” Train

"Big Train," Walter Johnson, the first Hall of Famer with Southern California roots
TV Show Personalities and Celebrities: Fonzie, Fat Elvis,
Vices: Full Pack, Smokey Joe, Smokey
Weather related: the Tornado, Hurricane, the Human Rain Delay, Storm, Cyclone
Others:  Boomer, Pops,  The Big Hurt, Ballgame, Charlie Hustle, Stretch, Gonzo, The Unit, Dusty, Murph, Toothpick,Tom Terrific, Lefty, Tank,, Junior, T-Rex, Inky, Sweet Lou, Sparky, , Eye Chart, Caveman, Wally World, Straw Man, Country, Shooter, Woody, Cool Papa, Dizzy, Knucksie, Little Poison, Big Poison, Devil,  Bonehead, Captain Video

Tony Gwynn, known as "Captain Video"

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