An Indian by any other name is still a ... Guardian?

Harold "Gomer" Hodge

I must say I was quite taken aback recently when researching the MLB record books for some of the great nicknames in MLB history (starting with Cleveland, of course). The source of my surprise was that nowhere in the record books are the Indians – at least the ones I searched (as well as the players I searched for) – referenced anymore.

Bet you didn’t know that unforgettable catch Willie Mays made in the 1954 World Series was against the Guardians, did you?

Nor were you aware that the 4 homers Jason Kipnis belted in the 2016 playoffs came as a member of the Guardians, were you?

Silly fan. Do I have to clue you in on everything?

The only place the Indians are referenced are in the photos of the pre-Guardian Cleveland players who still sport the Indians unis – at least for now. The smart money says that before long, the Tribe gear will all be erased or simply have black tape over the offending name and/or logos. Cool, huh?

Anyway, as I said earlier, I went on a hunt for great baseball nicknames of years gone by, and my favorite is a guy who most of the baseball world outside of Cleveland will not remember, but I do.

It was spring of 1971, I was desperately trying to graduate from high school, and the Indians stunk (as they were destined to do for almost another quarter-century), but with me, Indians optimism sprung eternal (hey, it beat studying).

Virtually the last guy to make the opening day roster was a guy named Harold Hodge. He instantly acquired the nickname “Gomer” because he sounded just like Gomer Pyle (played by Jim Nabors) and also bore a resemblance to Gomer Pyle (if the room wasn’t well-lit and you had to squint a lot). But Gomer Hodge could belt out Gomer Pyle’s famous “G-o-o-o-l-l-l-l-y!” perfectly.

As I recall, Gomer became an instant legend (again, given the state of Indians baseball, it didn’t take much to achieve “legend” status). He pinch-hit a couple of times, won a couple of games (which usually took a couple of weeks for the entire team to accomplish), and was 4-for-4 after his first few games.

Of course, Gomer should have had the good sense to hang ‘em up right then and there and call it a career. If memory serves, he had less than 100 plate appearances in the bigs and hit either side of .200 for his career. But, much like me getting a “C” in English, it was great while it lasted.

There’s another guy who, like Gomer Hodge, had a career that was short-lived. The difference was Joe Charboneau did possess some talent, but a plethora of injuries did a number on his career.

“Super” Joe Charboneau actually won Rookie of the Year honors in the American League in 1980 after hitting 23 dingers with 87 RBI in only 131 games. What really made him ”Super” however, was his ability to open beer bottles with his teeth – and I think he may have consumed a couple of lightbulbs as well – which, like Joe’s common sense – were very low-wattage.

Until next time…

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 8:16 AM, 04.18.2023