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Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (P-2)

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.  

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.

PENNANT A pennant-shaped banner that symbolizes the winning of a league championship (FLAG).

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.

PEPPER GAME Pregame warm-up action where a player chops the ball on the ground to teammates who field the ball and flip it back to him.

PERCENTAGE PLAYER OR MANAGER One who goes by past form or logical odds and acts on the basis of these considerations.

PERFECT GAME A no-hitter in which all 27 opposing batters in a nine-inning game, for example, do not get on base.  The most famous of them all Don Larsen’s beauty on October 8, 1956.

“I have been asked a million times about the perfect game.” Don Larsen said. “ I never dreamed about something like that happening and everybody is entitled to a good day and mine came at the right time.

"I still find it hard to believe I really pitched the perfect game," Don Larsen said. "It's almost like a dream, like something that happened to somebody else."

The image of the Yankee right-hander casually tossing the ball from a no-stretch windup to Yogi Berra remains as part of baseball lore. Larsen struck out Junior Gilliam on a breaking ball to start the game. Then the 3-2 count on Pee Wee Reese – and the strikeout. 

It all blended together - the autumn shadows and the smoke and the haze at the stadium, the World Series buntings on railings along the first and third base lines, the scoreboard and the zeroes for the Dodgers of Brooklyn mounting inning after inning.

The 6'4," 240 pound hurler threw no more than l5 pitches in any one inning against the mighty Dodgers of Campanella, Reese, Hodges, Gilliam, Robinson, Snider and Furillo.

A second inning Jackie Robinson line drive off the glove of Andy Carey at third was picked up by Gil McDougald. Out at first.  Mantle’s great jump on a fifth inning line drive by Gil Hodges positioned him for a backhand grab of the ball.   Hodges eighth inning hot shot down the third base line was converted into an out by Andy Carey. Sandy Amoros and Duke Snider of the Dodgers hit balls into the right field seats - foul but barely so.

Just two seasons before Don Larsen pitching for Baltimore had one of the worst records ever (3-21).  He became a Yankee in the fall of 1954 in a 17-player trade. “ Nobody lost more games than me in the American League that year,” Larsen said.  “ But two of my wins came against the Yankees. That's probably why I came to them.

In 1956, "Gooneybird,” his teammates called him that for his late-night behavior, posted an 11-5 record. In his next-to-last start of ‘56, Larsen unveiled his no-windup delivery. "The ghouls sent me a message," he joked explaining why.  

Larsen started Game 2 in the World Series against Brooklyn. He was atrocious walking four, allowing four runs in 1 2/3 innings. There was no one more shocked than the big right-hander when he learned when he arrived at Yankee Stadium that he be the starter in Game 5.

Now he was finishing it. "Everybody suddenly got scared we weren't playing the outfield right," Stengel said. "I never seen so many managers." The Yankee infield of first baseman Joe Collins, second baseman Billy Martin, shortstop Gil McDougald and third baseman Andy Carey were ready for any kind of play.

The Yankees were clinging to a 2-0 lead scratched out against veteran Sal Maglie, age 39. Gilliam hit a hard one-hopper to short to open the seventh inning, and was thrown out by Gil McDougald. Reese and Duke Snider flied out.  In the eighth, Jackie Robinson grounded back to Larsen. Andy Carey caught Hodges' low liner at third base. Amoros struck out.

The huge crowd of 64, the stadium cheered each out.  The game moved to the bottom of the ninth inning.  "If it was 9-0, Larsen would've been paying little attention," Berra remembered.  "It was close and he had to be  extremely disciplined.  He was. At the start of the ninth I didn't say a thing about how well he was throwing. I went to the mound and reminded him that if he walked one guy and the next guy hit one out, the game was tied."

"The last three outs were the toughest," the Indiana native recalled. "I was so weak in the knees that I thought I was going to faint. I was so nervous I almost fell down. My legs were rubbery. My fingers didn't feel like they belonged to me. I said to myself, 'Please help me somebody.'"

The 64,5l9 in the stands were quiet. Four pitches were fouled off by Furillo and then he hit a fly ball out to Batter in right field. Campanella grounded out weakly to Billy Martin at second base.  Left-handed batter Dale Mitchell pinch hit for Sal Maglie.  It would be the final major league at bat for the 35-year-old lifetime .3l2 hitter.  Announcer Bob Wolff called it this way:

"Count is one and one.  And this crowd just straining forward on every pitch.  Here it comes....a swing and a miss!  Two strikes, ball one to Dale Mitchell.  Listen to this crowd! I'll guarantee that nobody - but nobody - has left this ball park. And if somebody did manage to leave early man he's missing the greatest!  Two strikes and a ball. . . Mitchell waiting, stands deep, feet close together.  Larsen  is ready, gets the sign. Two strikes, ball one, here comes the pitch.  Strike three!  A no-hitter! A perfect game for Don Larsen!"    

That final pitch - Larsen's 97th of the game that took just 2 hours and six minutes  - was the only one that elicited controversy.

"The third strike on Mitchell was absolutely positively a strike on the outside corner," Berra maintains to this day. "No question about it. People say it was a ball and that I rushed the mound to hug Larsen to make the umpire think it was a strike. Nonsense. It was a perfect strike."

Casey Stengel was asked "Was that the best game he had ever seen Larsen pitch?"

"'So far,'" was the Yankee manager’s response.

The rest of Larsen's 14-year career - with eight teams - consisted of unbroken mediocrity punctuated with flashes of competence. He finished with an 81-91 record and 3.78 ERA.

Named the MVP of the Series by Sport magazine for his epic feat, Larsen received a Corvette. He also earned about $35,000 in endorsements and appearances, including $6,000 for being on Bob Hope's TV show. He spent $1,000 for plaques  commemorating the game and gave them to his teammates, Yankee executives, the six umpires, his parents and close friends.

The man who the reached perfection also received many letters and notes including this one: 

“Dear Mr. Larsen: It is a noteworthy event when anybody achieves perfection in anything. It has been so long since anyone pitched a perfect big league game that I have to go back to my generation of ballplayers to recall such a thing – and that is truly a long time ago.

“This note brings you my very sincere congratulations on a memorable feat, one that will inspire pitchers for a long time to come. With best wishes, 


Dwight D. Eisenhower
President of the United States

“I pitched for 14 years with 8 different clubs and won only 81 games,” Larsen said. “ Hey, I gave it my best shot and I tried and I wish my record had been better but I was very pleased to get into the World Series and pitch the Perfect Game. And I guess that is what I will always be remembered for.

“I have been asked a million times about the perfect game,” Larsen mused. “I never dreamed about something like that happening. Everybody is entitled to a good day, and mine came at the right time.”

“PESKY POLE”   Right field foul pole at Fenway Park in Boston is  only 302 feet from home plate. Its name allegedly came from former Sox infielder Johnny Pesky’s proclivity in hitting dingers past the pole. The facts -  Pesky hit only 17 home runs in his entire 10-year career, and only a half dozen of those were at Fenway Park. The name “pesky Pole” is supposed to have been coined by Mel  Parnell after Pesky hit a homer there that helped Parnell win a game. But the phrase didn't become popular until the late 1980s or early 1990s.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES  The nickname derived from "Philly, an inhabitant of the city. In the early days, aso spelled Fillies. From 1943-1944, the team was known as the Blue Jays, and there was a time it was also known as the Quakers. 

PIE   Pie Traynor may have received his nickname for his favorite childhood food. 

PINE TAR GAME  (July 24, August 18, 1983) The 1983 season was an up and down one for the Yankees. But on July 24, things were on the upside. They were positioned to take over first place as they prepared to play the Royals of Kansas City at Yankee Stadium.

The game that was played that day was fairly ordinary. As it moved to the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees had a 4-3 lead. The Royals came to bat in the top of the ninth. No one could have forecast what would come next.

There were two outs. Goose Gossage was one out away from the wrap up of the Yankee victory. George Brett had other ideas.  Home run, into the stands in right field!

The Royal superstar ran out the homer that had apparently given his team a 5-4 lead.  But just seconds after crossing the plate and going into his dugout, Brett saw Yankee manager Billy Martin approach home plate rookie umpire Tim McClelland.

"I was feeling pretty good about myself after hitting the homer," Brett said. "I was sitting in the dugout. Somebody said they were checking the pine tar, and I said, 'If they call me out for using too much pine tar, I'm going to kill one of those SOBs.'"

McClelland called to the Royal dugout and asked to see Brett's bat. Then he conferred with his umpiring crew.  Martin watched from a few feet away. Brett looked out from the bench. Then McClelland thrust his arm in the air. It was the signal that indicated George Brett was out  - - excessive use of pine tar on his bat.

McClelland had brought forth rule 1.10(b): "a bat may not be covered by such a substance more than 18 inches from the tip of the handle." The umpire ruled that Brett's bat had "heavy pine tar" 19 to 20 inches from the tip of the handle and lighter pine tar for another three or four inches.

The home run was disallowed. The game was over. The Yankees were declared 4-3 winners. Brett, enraged, raced out of the dugout. Then mayhem and fury took center stage. Brett, not your calmest player, lost it.

At one point, umpire Joe Brinkman had Brett in a choke hold. That was the easy part for the Royal superstar. The next thing that happened to him was that he was ejected from the game and went berserk. Others did, too.

Royals pitcher Gaylord Perry grabbed the bat from McClelland who tossed it to Hal McRae who passed it on to pitcher Steve Renko who was halfway up the tunnel to the team clubhouse. Then Yankee Stadium security guards grabbed him and grabbed the bat which was then impounded.

 The Royals lodged a protest of the Yankee victory. The Yankees went off to Texas where they won three games and took over first place for the first time that season.

The almost comical mess was debated by baseball fans all over the nation. The media couldn’t get enough of it.  “Why a .356 hitter like George Brett,” Time Magazine commented would lumber along with a Marv Throneberry Model (lifetime .237) is the sort of paradox  that, scientists say, has trees talking to themselves.”

Eventually American League president Lee McPhail over-turned  McClelland's decision. Acknowledging that Brett had pine tar too high on the bat, McPhail explained that it was the league's belief that "game's should be won and lost on the playing field-not through technicalities of the rules."

Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was miffed. "I wouldn't want to be Lee MacPhail living in New York!" he snapped.

The Brett home run was re-instated. The Royals' protest was upheld. The contest was declared "suspended." Both teams were told to find a mutually agreeable time,  continue playing the game and conclude it.  

The date was August 18th. Play was resumed for the last four outs of a game that had begun on July 24th.  The Yankees, strangely anxious to make a few more bucks, announced they would charge regular admission for the game’s continuation. There were fan mumblings of protest. The Yankees quietly changed the charging  admission idea. It was too late and to no avail. Only 1,200 fans showed up.

The atmosphere was bizarre. To show their rage and annoyance at the whole turn of events, the Yankees for the final out of the top of the ninth played pitcher Ron Guidry in centerfield and outfielder Don Mattingly (a lefthander) at second base. Guidry played center field because the Yankees had traded away Jerry Mumphrey, who had come into the game for defensive purposes. New York’s George Frazier struck out McRae for the third out. In the bottom of the ninth Royals' reliever Dan Quisenberry was able to retire the Yankees in order.  The “Pine tar Game(s)” belonged to history.

PISTOL PETE    Pete Reiser played only a decade of major league baseball, less than 1,000 games, but Harold Reiser exploded like a pistol on the fans and players of baseball in the early 1940's. In his second season (1941), he led the National League in batting (.343), and twice he was the stolen-base leader. Tragic collisions against the outfield walls in St. Louis and then in Brooklyn damaged him, slowed his talent, and reduced his skills. There are those who still wonder how great he might have been if not for the pounding he took against those unpadded outfield walls.

Pitching symbols:

Avg A  Batting Average Against (Hitter's batting average against that pitcher) H/AB

BB  Bases on Balls (Walks)

BF  Batters Faced

BF/9  Batters Faced Per Nine Innings

BK  Balks

CG  Complete Games

ERA  Earned Run Average (Earned Runs/Innings Times Nine)

G  Games

GB  Ground Balls

GF  Games Finished

GS  Games Started

H  Hits

HBP  Hit By Pitch

HR  Home Runs Allowed

IBB  Intentional Bases on Balls

IP  Innings Pitched

K  Strikeouts

L  Losses

R  Runs

Sho  Shutouts

Sv  Saves

W  Wins

WP  Wild Pitches

PITTSBURGH PIRATES  Pittsburgh entered the National League in 1887, assuming the Kansas City, Missouri, franchise. Regaled in garish, striped baseball uniforms at the start, the team was called the Potato Bugs, Zulus, Smoked Italians, and Alleghenies. The franchise was called the Innocents until 1891 when it signed second baseman Lou Bierbatter. His old club, the Philadelphia Athletics, and its fans weren't at all happy about the way Bierbatter was "obtained" and dubbed his new club the Pirates because they "pirated" the star player away from them. Not much happened after that as far as Bierbatter was concerned—he hit .206 that year—but he was the "loot" that earned the Pittsburgh franchise the name Pirates.

PITCHER The player who is positioned on the pitcher's mound who throws the ball to the plate (HURLER;  MOUNDSMAN; CHUCKER; TWIRLER).

          Language and Symbols



Bases on Balls (Walks)



Batters Faced



Batters Faced Per Nine Innings






Complete Games



Earned Runs



Earned Run Average (Earned Runs/Innings Times Nine)



Fly Balls






Ground Balls



Games Finished



Games Started






Hit By Pitch



Home Runs Allowed



Intentional Bases on Balls



Innings Pitched


















Shut Outs












Wild Pitches

Pitcher’s Toe   Attachment to the front of a pitcher's shoe on the pivot foot, used to protect the top of the shoe and made of leather or plastic.

PNC Park   Ceremonial groundbreaking for PNC Park took place on April 7, 1999 and opening day took place just two years later on April 9, 2001 with a sellout crowd of 36,954 at the new home of the Pirates named after PNC Bank, who paid in excess of $30 million for the naming rights.                                                                  

POLO GROUNDS  During the 1880's, the National League baseball team was known as the New Yorkers. There was another team in town, the New York Metropolitans of the fledgling American Association. Both teams played their season-opening games on a field across from Central Park's northeastern corner at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. The land on which they played was owned by New York Herald Tribune publisher James Gordon Bennett. Bennett and his society friends had played polo on that field and that's how the baseball field came to be known as the Polo Grounds. In 1889 the New York National League team moved its games to a new location at 157th Street and Eighth Avenue. The site was dubbed the new Polo Grounds and eventually was simply called the Polo Grounds. Polo was never played there.

POPS  Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Stargell led Pittsburgh Pirate family for 21 years.

PORKY Former slabman Half Reniff, a bit on that side

POP   Eddie Popowski didn't take the field in Major League as a player, but "Pop" spent 65 years as a member of the Boston Red Sox franchise.  He first joined the Red Sox organization in 1937, spending time as a player.

POPS  Willie Stargell  led Pirate family - 21 years as  a player.

PRIDE OF PENACOOK Yankee third baseman and Dartmouth graduate Robert Abial “Red” Rolfe's nickname came from the little town he hailed from in New Hampshire.

PRINCE OF THE CITY    Derek Jeter, for his good lucks and almost elegant bearing.     

 PRIDE OF THE YANKEEES  Lou Gehrig, and he was.

PRINCE HAL  Charismatic, elegant, Hal Chase had a royal quality about him.

THE PRINCIPAL OWNER  George Steinbrenner, no doubt here.

PRIDE OF THE YANKEES  Lou Gehrig was that.             

PUD was also known as "The Little Steam Engine," and "Gentle Jeems." "Pud" was short for "pudding."

PUDGE  Hall of fame catcher Carlton Fisk was called by this nickname for his chunky physique as a youngster and teenager.

PUDGE ("I-Rod") Ivan Rodriguez as a youth earned the nickname not due to comparisons with catching great Carlton Fisk, but in reference to his weight.

PUSH BUTTON MANAGER  Joe McCarthy, for his by the book ways.

  #   #   #

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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