Baseball Names - and How they Got That Way! Part 3
By Harvey Frommer
|The words and phrases are spoken and written
day after day, year after year - generally without any
wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have
a history, a story. Now with the 2013 baseball season with us
-some more language of baseball to savor, to enjoy.
For those of you who liked Part I, Part II and wrote in to offer
suggestions and ask for more - here is more - Part III. As
always, reactions and suggestions always welcome.
THE BABE George Herman Ruth probably leads the list for most
nick-names acquired. First called "Babe" by teammates on the
Baltimore Orioles, his first professional team because of his
youth, G.H.Ruth was also called "Jidge" by Yankee teammates,
short for George. They also called him "Tarzan." He called most
players "Kid," because he couldn't remember names, even of his
closest friends. Opponents called him "The Big "Monk" and
Many of Babe Ruth's nick-names came from over-reaching sports
writers who attempted to pay tribute to his slugging prowess:"
The Bambino", "the Wali of Wallop", "the Rajah of Rap", "the
Caliph of Clout", "the Wazir of Wham", and "the Sultan of Swat",
The Colossus of Clout, Maharajah of Mash, The Behemoth of Bust,
"The King of Clout."
His main nickname was rooted in President Grover Cleveland's
Baby Ruth. Perhaps the greatest slugger of all time and also one
of baseball's most colorful characters, Ruth set some 50 records
in his 22 years as a player. His accomplishments, his
personality, his nickname-all combined to rocket major league
baseball firmly into the nation's psyche.
"Babe" and "Ruth" In spring training 1927, Babe Ruth bet pitcher
Wilcy Moore $l00 that he would not get more than three hits all
season. A notoriously weak hitter, Moore somehow managed to get
six hits in 75 at bats. Ruth paid off his debt and Moore
purchased two mules for his farm. He named them "Babe" and "Ruth
CHIEF BENDER Charles Albert Bender won 210 games and compiled a
2.45 lifetime earned-run average in 16 years of pitching. He was
admitted to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1953. His nickname came
from the fact that he was a Chippewa Indian.
CLOWN PRINCE OF BASEBALL Al Schacht performed for only three
seasons as a member of the Washington Senators (1919-21), but he
still was able to make a mighty reputation on the baseball
field. Schacht was a comic and his routines centered on the
foibles and eccentricities of the National Pastime. It was said
that nobody did it better, and that's why Schacht was dubbed the
DAFFINESS BOYS Also known as Dem Brooklyn Bums, the 1926
Brooklyn Dodgers wrought havoc on friend and foe alike. The
hotshot of the team was freeswinging, slump-shouldered Babe
Herman, dubbed the Incredible Hoiman, who bragged that among his
stupendous feats was stealing second base with the bases loaded.
Once Herman was one of a troika of Dodger base runners who found
themselves all on third base at the same time. A Dodger rookie
turned to Brooklyn manager "Uncle" Wilbert Robinson on the
bench. "You call that playing baseball?" "Uncle" Robbie
responded, "Leave them alone. That's the first time they've been
together all year."
"DON'T LOOK BACK. SOMETHING MIGHT BE GAINING ON YOU" This line
of homespun wisdom formed the sixth rule of a recipe attributed
to former baseball pitching great Leroy "Satchel" Paige. The
other five rules were (1) avoid fried meats which angry up the
blood; (2) if your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it
with cool thoughts; (3) keep your juices flowing by jangling
around gently as you move; (4) go very gently on the vices, such
as carrying on in society-the social ramble ain't restful; (5)
avoid running at all times. It seems that most of us have
managed to break all of Mr. Paige's rules more than once. As for
rule 5-don't tell it to your neighborhood jogger.
DOUBLE NO HITTER It's almost a baseball cliché. A no-hitter is
tossed. And the next time that pitcher takes the mound, there is
all the talk and speculation about the possibility of a second
straight no-no taking place. And always what Johnny Vander Meer
did 62 years ago today comes back into the public consciousness.
On June 11, 1938, the Cincinnati hurler no-hit the Boston Bees,
3-0. Four nights later, he was tabbed to start against the
Brooklyn Dodgers in the first night game ever in the New York
City metropolitan area. To that point in time, only two pitchers
had ever recorded two career no-hitters. No one had ever posted
two no-hitters in a season. No one had probably even
contemplated back-to-back no-hitters.
More than 40,000 (Fire Department rules notwithstanding) jammed
into Ebbets Field to see the first night game in that tiny ball
park's history and also bear witness to Vander Meer questing
after his second straight no-hitter. Utilizing a
one-two-three-four pitching rhythm that saw him cock his right
leg in the air before he delivered the ball to the plate, "Vandy"
featured a fast ball that was always moving and a curve ball
that broke ever so sharply. Inning after inning, the Dodgers
went down hitless. In the seventh inning, Vander Meer walked two
batters. But the fans of "Dem Bums" cheered the Cincinnati
pitcher on, sensing they were witnessing baseball history. The
ninth inning began with Cincinnati holding a 6-0 lead. Buddy
Hasset was retired on a grounder. Then suddenly, Vander Meer
lost control of the situation. He loaded the bases on walks.
Reds manager Bill McKechnie came out to the mound to talk to his
"Take it easy, Johnny," he said, "but get the no-hitter." Vander
Meer got Ernie Koy to hit a grounder to infielder Lou Riggs, who
conservatively elected to go to the plate for the force-out for
the second out. The bases were still loaded, though. Leo "Lippy"
Durocher, the Dodger player-manager and a veteran of many wars,
stepped into the batter's box.
Only the "Lip" stood between Vander Meer and the double
no-hitter. Durocher took a lunging swing and smashed the ball
down the right-field line. But it went foul into the upper deck.
Bedlam and tension intermingled at Ebbets Field as Vander Meer's
left arm came around and delivered the pitch to Durocher, who
swung and popped up the ball into short center field. Harry
Craft clutched the ball. Johnny Vander Meer had made baseball
Fans leaped out onto the playing field, but Vander Meer's
Cincinnati teammates had formed a protective shield around the
exhausted hurler as he scurried into the relative calm of the
dugout. His mother and father, who had come to see their son
pitch with about 500 others from their hometown, were not as
lucky. Swarms of well wishers and autograph-hunters milled about
Vandy's parents. It took about half an hour before they could be
extricated from the mob of admirers. The event remains in memory
as the miracle of 1938, consecutive no-hitters spun by John
Samuel Vander Meer, the man they called the "Dutch Master."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent congratulations. Newspapers
and magazines featured every detail of the event for months. For
Vander Meer, the double no-hitters were especially sweet coming
against Boston and Brooklyn - teams he tried out for and been
Vander Meer performed for 13 big-league seasons, winning 119
games and losing 121. He perhaps would be remembered as a
southpaw pitcher who never totally fulfilled his promise if it
had not been for the epic moments of June 11 and June 15, 1938.
HITLESS WONDERS The 1906 Chicago White Sox had a team batting
average of .230, the most anemic of all the clubs in baseball
that year. The team's pitching, however, more than made up for
its lack of hitting. The White Sox staff recorded shutouts in 32
of the team's 93 victories. The "Hitless Wonders" copped the
American League pennant and faced the Chicago Cubs in the World
Series. The Cubs of 1906 are regarded as one of the greatest
baseball teams of all time; they won 116 games that year,
setting the all-time major league mark for victories in a season
and for winning percentage. The White Sox continued their
winning ways in the World Series, however, trimming their cross
town rivals in six games.
"hitting for the cycle" Hit a single, double, triple and home
run in the same game, not necessarily in that order.
HORSE COLLAR Describes a situation when a player gets no hits in
KLU Ted Kluszewski played 15 years in the major leagues. He
pounded out 279 homers, recorded a lifetime slugging average of
nearly .500 and a career batting average of nearly . 300. He was
a favorite of the Cincinnati fans; at 6'2" and 225 pounds, his
bulging biceps were too huge to be contained by ordinary
shirt-sleeves. Kluszewski cut off the sleeves and started a new
fashion in baseball uniforms-just as fans and sportswriters cut
off part of his name to make for a nickname more easily
pronounced and printed.
LONSOME GEORGE Former legendary Yankee General Manager George
Weiss, for his aloof ways.
MAHATMA Branch Rickey (1881-1965) was one of baseball's most
influential personalities. Inventor of the farm system, the
force responsible for Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color
line, the master builder of the St. Louis Cardinal and Brooklyn
Dodger organizations, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in
1967. Sportswriter Tom Meany coined Rickey's nickname. Meany got
the idea from John Gunther's phrase describing Mohandas K.
Gandhi as a" combination of God, your own father, and Tammany
NICKEL SERIES Refers to old days when New York City teams played
against each other and the tariff was a five cents subway ride.
NUMBER l/8 On August 19, 1951, Eddie Gaedel, wearing number l/8,
came to bat for the St. Louis Browns against the Detroit Tigers.
Gaedel, who was signed by Browns owner Bill Veeck, walked on
four straight pitches and was then replaced by a pinch runner.
The next day the American League banned Gaedel, despite Veeck's
protests. Gaedel was a midget, only three feet, seven inches