The days when nicknames ruled baseball
I was having a heated discussion with a friend the other day about the merits of the 2019 Indians. He was ranting on and on about how good the Indians were, but – now don’t get me wrong, I’m excited at the level they’ve played with all the injuries, too – I was trying to be ever-so-realistic in pointing out that the competition hasn’t exactly been “world class” the last month or so.
Not to be swayed, he continued babbling about our pitching and the “potent” Tribe offense. Seriously, when a marginal (at best) hitter like Roberto Perez goes Johnny Bench and has 16 dingers at the All-Star break, that’s great – but let’s not anoint him MVP just yet, okay?
When it became apparent that my “Mr. Doom and Gloom” logic wasn’t going to cool his jets, I let him have it with a statement I just knew would quiet him down. I said, “They don’t even have any guys with great nicknames. How great can they be?”
Clearly, my friend – now more accurately referred to as “ex-friend” – didn’t see that coming. Frankly, neither did I – but he didn’t need to know that. Usually, when someone is out of control when talking sports, I typically come up with something even more ludicrous to shut ‘em up. And this one worked like a charm. He was stunned.
While he was reeling, I started to rattle off some of my favorites from the sixties:
George “Woody” Held: an infielder who has some power; also played some outfield. He was a personal favorite.
Ruthford Eduardo "Chico" Salmon: Chico gained more notoriety from his fear of ghosts, and the need to sleep with the lights on at night, than for his baseball playing ability. Of course, given the quality of teams the Indians usually had, that was not so unusual.
Rocky “The Rock” Colavito: The Rock was a power hitter and a huge fan favorite in Cleveland. Unfortunately, Rocky was not blessed with great speed. I remember reading that a scout – after watching Rocky run a “sprint” – said Rocky could be clocked with a calendar.
"Sudden Sam" McDowell: The Sudden One, as he was also often called, had a fastball that was in the high 90s – hence his nickname. He also liked to party, which didn’t do his career any favors. He was good, but should have been great.
Jim “Mudcat” Grant: “Mud,” as he was also known (which, ironically, was my nickname throughout most of my teenage years) got the nickname as a kid growing up in Louisiana. Awesome, huh?
Gary “Ding-Dong” Bell: I’ll let you figure this one out. Has a nice ring to it, no?
Dick “The Monster” Radatz: A relief pitcher who was 6’6” and looked like an NFL linebacker. I think you can do the math on this nickname, too.
“Immortal Joe” Azcue: Also known as “The Immortal One,” Joe was rather unique in that he nicknamed himself! Later in his career, he was primarily used as a pinch-hitter and had a nice little run of game-winning hits. He felt that streak would keep the fans talking about him for generations; effectively “immortalizing” him forever in the minds of Tribe fans. He began calling himself, "Immortal Joe."
Which begs the question: Since I’ve written a stunning number of good columns – consecutively – how do you feel about "Immortal Jeff"?
Strange … the silence is deafening.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!