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Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (P)

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. For those of you who liked Part I, Part II, Part III, X, XV and all the others and wanted more, here is more, just a sampling. As always, reactions and suggestions always welcome. And bear in mind - - this is by no means a complete list.


PAPA  (“Steady Edgar”)  Edgar Martinez was the  Seattle Mariners’ family man and father figure in the clubhouse.    

BIG PAPI  David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox, sign of respect for a Hispanic person who leads.

PEBBLE PLAY In the 12th inning of the final game of the 1924 World Series between the New York Giants and the Washington Senators, a ground ball that bounced over the head of Giant infielder Freddy Lindstrom led to a score for Washington that gave it the World Championship. It was claimed that the batted ball hit a pebble. "It was never written up the way I looked at it," observed former Giant and Hall of Famer George Kelly. "Now it did hit a pebble, but Fred backed up on it, inexperience. It was his rookie year. This gave the ball an extra hop—the ball played Fred, he didn't play it."

PEERLESS LEADER, THE Frank Leroy Chance, the first baseman in the famous Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance Chicago Cub infield trio, was aptly nicknamed. In the years 1906-191 1, he led the Cubs to four pennants and two second-place finishes. Functioning as both a player and a manager, Chance recorded 405 career stolen bases—a Cub record—and his clutch hitting and  spirited play served as examples of his leadership.

PEE WEE Harold Henry Reese was also known as the Little Colonel, for he hailed from colonel country in Kentucky, but most everyone called him Pee Wee. Various reasons have been advanced for his nickname—he liked playing marbles as a kid; he was small (5'10", 160 pounds); he came up at the same time as Harold "Pistol Pete" Reiser, and writers sought to have the two paired with alliterative nicknames. Whatever the derivation, Reese was anything but small in his influence on the fortunes of the Dodgers, with whom he played for 15 years in Brooklyn and a final year in Los Angeles. He could run, hit, bunt, field, steal, throw, inspire—and most of all win, and influence his team's winning.

Reese was anything but "Pee Wee" in his influence on the Dodgers in over 16 seasons. He could run, hit, bunt, field, steal, throw, inspire and most of all win. And he was especially instrumental in easing the way for Jackie Robinson to break the color line in major league baseball.

When the 1947 season started, some opposing National League players gave Jackie Robinson a hard time. In Boston one day, Reese made a gesture of acceptance for all the world to see. He went over to Robinson and simply put his arm around Jackie. This was at a time when even Robinson's own teammates staged a short-lived protest against having him on the team.

"I get a lot of credit and I appreciate it," Reese said. "But after a while, I thought of him as I would Duke Snider or Gil Hodges or anyone else. We never thought of this as a big deal. We were just playing ball and having fun."

Reese spent his entire 16-year career with the Dodgers, appearing in seven World Series. He played 15 years in Brooklyn and followed the team to Los Angeles for one more season before retiring in 1958. His uniform Number 1 was retired by Los Angeles on July 1, 1984.

One of the magical moments in Reese's career took place on June 22, 1955. It was a day after he had recorded his 2,000th hit. "Pee Wee" was given a birthday party at Ebbets Field. It was the first and only night dedicated to a player up to that time when fans were asked not to contribute anything.

All they were asked to bring was cigars, cigarettes, lighters, candles - - anything they could light up for Pee Wee who remembered, "When I came to Brooklyn in 1940 I was a scared kid. To tell the truth I was twice as scared on my birthday night at Ebbets Field."

And then the moment arrived. Fans at that old Brooklyn ballpark watched the lights dim, lit up whatever they had brought and sang Happy Birthday to Pee Wee with varying levels of competency:

There are those of a certain age who still remember Pee Wee Reese bringing the lineup card out to home plate, raising the right arm, leading the Dodgers onto the playing field.

"Being Captain of the Dodgers," Reese recalled, "meant representing an organization committed to winning and trying to keep it going. We could have won every year if the breaks had gone right."

PENGUIN, THE A Tacoma, Washington, native, Ron Cey of the Los Angeles Dodgers is one of major league baseball's top third basemen. His awkward movements when walking and, especially, when running have resulted in his nickname.

PEOPLE'S CHERCE, THE Fred "Dixie" Walker compiled a .306 batting average in an 18-year major league baseball career, with five different teams. From 1940 to 1947 he starred in the outfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers and won the affection of the fans at Ebbets Field. The team had bigger stars, more proficient players, but Walker somehow had a rapport with the fans that made him their favorite and earned for him his "Brooklynese" nickname.

PEPI   Short for Joe Pepitone out of Brooklyn, New York, of brief major league fame with the Yankees and other teams.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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