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Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! R

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.

RAGIN’ CAJUN   Ron Guidry, for temperament and Louisiana roots.

RAGS    Dave Righetti, abbreviation for his name 

RAJAH, THE Baseball Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby had a lifetime batting average of .358 and was one of the few men in baseball history to bat .400 three times. Hornsby gained his nickname through what some  claimed was a contemptuous pronunciation of his first name—a less-than-appealing reference to his petulant personality. One of the greatest hitters of all time, Hornsby would not go to the movies or read newspapers for fear of straining his keen vision and thus marring his ability to select the right pitches to swing at. He was a regal and special talent and personality.

RAPID ROBERT Hall of Famer Bob Feller pitched for the Cleveland Indians for 18 seasons, winning 266 games. In his major league debut, on August 23, 1936, the Van Meter, lowa, farm boy, then 17 years old, struck out the first eight men to face him and then seven more, for a total of 15—one short of the then-league record. The blazing speed and power he was able to put on his fastball earned him his nickname. The 12 one-hitters and three no-hitters that Feller recorded in his career helped earn him his reputation as one of baseball's premier hurlers.

READING RIFLE, THE Carl Furillo played 15 years for the Dodgers and for most of those years was a virtual fixture in right field. He was born in Stony Creek Mills, Pennsylvania, close to Reading, and this, coupled with the power of his throwing arm, earned him his nickname. He was also known as Skoonj, a corruption of the word scungilli, which was a favorite dish of the Italian-American player.

RED ROOSTER  Doug Rader, for red hair and rooster-like behavior.

REG-GER-00  name given by Howard Cosell to Reggie Jackson, an endearing reference.

RHINO  Roy Hitt, a squat, 5-10, 200-pound pitcher for Cincinnati in the early 1900s, his shape reminded people of a rhinoceros

ROAD GRAYS   Away uniform, non white these days.

ROAD RUNNER II  Even nicknames have been protected by the law. The Atlanta Braves signed an agreement with Warner Brothers that granted the Braves the right to call one of their baseball players by this name  after the cartoon character. The agreement made it illegal for any other athlete to use the name.

ROCKET  Roger Clemens, for the speed and power of his fastball.

ROOF SHOT Home run that lands in the upper deck of a ballpark.

ROOT  Yankee owner Jake Ruppert's way of (mis)pronouncing Babe Ruth’s surname.

RUBBERARM As a starter and reliever, 1915-1919, Alan Russell never turned his back on a chance to pitch.

RUPPERT RIFLE  The Yankees in owner Jake Ruppert's tenure.

RUTHVILE   Yankee Stadium beachers in right-center where Babe Ruth hit home runs

RHUBARD    Noisy or heated argument on the field.                                                                           

ROCK  Tim Raines, for his rock-solid build and dependability.  Earl Averill earned this nickname for consistent play and a solid physical build. "Popeye," "Rockhead were other Averill nicknames for his physical appearance.       

ROLAIDS  RELIEF MAN AWARD  given to a relief pitcher in each league for outstanding performance; sponsored by Rolaids since 1976.

"ROOTING FOR THE NEW YORK YANKEES IS LIKE ROOTING FOR GENERAL MOTORS" During the 1950's the New York Yankees, powered by Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Allie Reynolds, Jerry Coleman, Yogi Berra, Eddie Lopat, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, and others, won eight World Series. They seemed to get better, to acquire more and more talent each year, to win with amazing regularity—even monotony. This line attributed to an anti-Yankee—and perhaps an anti-corporate Giant— fan, underscored the mechanical, profitable winning ways of the New York team.

RUBE  Rube Waddell earned the nickname "Rube" because he was a big, fresh kid, country kid as a rookie. That was a term  used to refer to farmboys. The lefthanded hurler went on to become a Hall of Famer. 

THE RUNNING REDBIRD  Lou Brock earned this for his base stealing skills as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. 

THE RYAN EXPRESS  Nolan Ryan, star fastballer picked up the nickname from a movie of that name in his era.  Strong fingers and wrists were part of the reason for Ryan's great success. A tremendous work ethic was another. Nolan had 992,040 votes to rank first among all pitchers on the All-Century team. He was followed by Sandy Koufax (970,434), Cy Young (867,523), Roger Clemens (601,244), Bob Gibson (582,031). That's elite company. One can only wonder what went through Nolan's mind out there on the field next to Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, and Sandy Koufax. Aaron was one of Ryan's idols in his growing up years, and Koufax was a pitcher he truly admired.                                                               

 "One Sunday between my junior and senior years in high school we went to see the Houston Colt .45's play the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sandy Koufax was pitching, and I was a big Koufax fan. It was the first time I had ever seen Sandy pitch. I was truly amazed at how fast he was and how good a curveball he had. I think he was the most overpowering pitcher I had ever seen."                   

The all time strikeout record belongs to Nolan now. But once upon a time, and for a long period, it belonged to Walter Johnson who finished in sixth-place in the voting for pitchers with 479,279 votes. 

One day early in the 1969 season, Nolan was sitting in the Mets' dugout when Jim Bunning recorded his 2,500th strikeout. He asked Tom Seaver what the all-time record for strikeouts was and was told that it was 3,508 and held by Walter Johnson.

"That Johnson record will probably stand forever," Ryan told Seaver. Baseball fans know it didn't. Nolan broke it, and is the all-time strikeout leader with 5,714. That Ryan record will probably stand forever, as will a few other records Nolan picked up along the way.                                                                        

He holds the record for most strikeouts in a major league season with 383, which he set while playing for the Angels in 1973. He struck out 100 in a season 24 times, another record. He also set the record for most consecutive seasons with 100 or more strikeouts, doing it 23 time in a row. He also holds the record for most career no-hitters with seven.                                                                                      

RYNO  Ryne Sandberg, former star of the Chicago Cubs, an abbreviation of his given name and an acknowledgment of his grit.     

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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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