Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! Part VIII
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
Parts I thru VII and wanted more, here is more.
WALKING MAN THE Eddie Yost
played nearly two decades in the major leagues. His lifetime batting
average was only .254, but that didn't keep him off the bases. Yost
coaxed pitchers into yielding I,614 walks to him—almost a walk a
game through his long career—which places him fifth on the all-time
“The Weatherman" Mickey
Rivers had a knack for predicting weather.
WEE WILLIE He was born March 3, 1872, in
Brooklyn, New York. He died on January 1, 1923, in Brooklyn, New
York. William Henry Keeler made his debut at the Polo Grounds as a
member of the New York Giants on September 30, 1892. He singled off
the Phillies' Tim Keefe for the first of his 2,926 career hits. The
son of a Brooklyn trolley switchman, Keeler Two years later became a
member of the famed Baltimore
A lefty all the way, he weighed only 140 pounds
and was a shade over 5'4". His tiny physical stature earned him his
nickname, but pound for pound he was one of the greatest hitters
baseball ever produced. Keeler played for 19 years and recorded a
lifetime batting average of .345, fifth on the all-time list. He
collected 2,962 hits in 2,124 games, spraying the ball to all
fields. Wee Willie's greatest year was 1897, a season in which he
batted .432, recorded 243 hits and 64 stolen bases, and scored 145
runs. He swung a bat that weighed only 30 ounces, but as he said,
he "hit 'em where they ain't" — and that was more than good enough
to gain Keeler entry into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1939.
In 1897, Keeler batted an incredible .432. A
reporter asked the diminutive batter, "Mr. Keeler, how can a man
your size hit .432?"
The reply to that question has become a rallying
cry for all kinds of baseball players in all kinds of leagues:
"Simple," Keeler smiled. "I keep my eyes clear and I hit 'em where
That he did.
The Sporting News offered this mangled prose about
Keeler as a fielder. "He swears by the teeth of his mask-carved
horse chestnut, that he always carries with him as a talisman that
he inevitably dreams of it in the night before when he is going to
boot one - muff an easy fly ball, that is to say, in the meadow on
the morrow. 'All of us fellows in the outworks have got just so many
of them in a season to drop and there's no use trying to buck
William Henry Keeler played 19 years in the major
leagues and finished his career with a .345 lifetime batting
average. Quite justifiably the little man was one of the first to be
enshrined in the National Baseball Hal of Fame in
WHIP, THE A 6'6" right-hander, Ewell Blackwell had
a sidearm motion and a crackling fastball that terrorized National
League batters in the 1940's and 1950's. The former Cincinnati
star's right arm seemed to "whip" the ball in at the batter, and
that's how his nickname came to be. Winner of sixteen straight games
in 1947, he struck out almost a batter an inning during his tenyear
WHIZ KIDS There is no clear explanation as to how
the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies baseball team earned its nickname.
Some ascribe the name's derivation to the club's youth and newness:
only one regular on that team that won the National League pennant
was over 30 years of age. Some claim the nickname was a spinoff from
the phrase "gee whiz," since the Phillies of that year seemingly
came from nowhere to challenge and defeat the great Brooklyn Dodgers
for the pennant. It was a team that because of its youth, its
underdog role, and its past history of failure, attracted national
attention and fused its personality to its nickname.
WILD HORSE OF THE OSAGE THE
Johnny Leonard Roosevelt Martin, better known as Pepper Martin,
starred for 13 seasons with the National League's St. Louis
Cardinals. He could hit, he could run, he could field, he could
throw, he could win—and he did all of these things with wild
abandon, with an elan and a verve that earned him his nickname. If
he couldn't stop a hard smash down to his third-base position with
his glove, he would stop the ball with his chest. If he could not
get into a base feet-first, he would leap into the air and
belly-flop his way there. Martin took the extra base, risked the
daring chance, played with fire and fury. Three times in the
mid-1930's he led the league in stolen bases, and throughout that
decade he functioned as the horse that led the Cardinal "Gashouse
Gang" (see GASHOUSE GANG).
“Wizard of Oz” An
abbreviation of his first name and tip of the cap to Ozzie Smith for
his peerless fielding skills. No other shortstop could get to the
ball as fast as, and utilize the fielders around him like Ozzie.
WORLD SERIES In 1903 the
Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League won their third
consecutive pennant. Owner Barney Dreyfuss was instrumental in
arranging for a set of postseason games with the American League
champion Boston Somersets (later Red Sox). The teams played a
nine-game series, with Boston winning five of the games (one of
their pitchers was Cy Young) and the World Championship. There was a
one-year interruption in the competition, because the 1904 National
League pennant-winner was the New York Giants, whose owner, John T.
Bush, refused to allow his team to oppose an American League entry.
Part of the reason behind Bush's refusal was the existence of a
rival American League team in New York City. By 1905 Bush had
changed his mind and even helped shape the new format for the World
Series—a best-of-seven competition—and behind Christy Mathewson, who
pitched three shutouts, the Giants defeated the Philadelphia
Athletics in five games. Dubbed the Fall Classic, the World Series
year in and year out has become an integral, appealing part of the
American sports scene.
"YA GOTTA BELIEVE" In 1973
the New York Mets bolted from last place on August 30 to win the
National League Eastern Division title on the final day of the
season. Pitcher Tug McGraw had coined a slogan, "Ya gotta believe,"
which acted as the team's battle cry and motivation. Lacking a .300
hitter, a 20-game winner, a 100-RBI man, the "believing" Mets swept
by Cincinnati in the play-offs and battled Oakland to the seventh
game of the World Series before finally losing (see AMAZIN' METS).
“YANKEE CLIPPER” Joseph Paul
DiMaggio was one of nine children of a fisherman father who had
emigrated from Sicily. It was all planned for Joe to become a
fisherman like his father, but Joe could not abide the smell of fish
and he often got seasick. His real passion was playing
In 1934, he was playing baseball
about as well as it could be played when his contract with the San
Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League was purchased by the
Yankees. The deal contained the clause that the graceful outfielder
be allowed to play one more season for the seals. His 1935 season
gave the people of San Francisco something to remember - he batted
.398, recorded 270 hits, and drove in 154
Permission was granted for DiMag
in 1936 to drive cross-country with fellow San Franciscans Tony
Lazzeri and Frank Crosetti to the Yankee spring training camp in St.
Petersburg, Florida. Lazzeri turned to DiMaggio after the trio had
concluded one day of driving and said, "You take over,
"I don't drive," DiMaggio
It was reported that these were
the only words he uttered during the entire three-day automobile
trek. As a Yankee he didn't do much talking either. His abilities on
the playing field said it all.
He would step into the batter's
box and stub his right toe into the dirt in back of his left heel.
It was almost a dance step. His feet were spaced approximately four
feet apart, with the weight of his frame on his left leg. Erect,
almost in a military position, Joe Dee would hold his bat at the end
and poise it on his right shoulder - a rifle at the ready. He would
look at the pitcher from deep in the batter's box and assume a
stance that almost crowded the plate. He was ready.
In DiMaggio's time - 13 seasons
with the Yankees - they won 10 pennants. In 1951, the man they
called the Yankee Clipper, retired at age 36. Management attempted
to get him to perform in pinstripes for one more season. But he had
too much pride, and too much pain. He knew it was over.
Joseph Paul DiMaggio left behind
the memory of a player who moved about in the vast centerfield of
Yankee Stadium with an almost poetical grace. He had played when he
was fatigued, when he was hurt, when it mattered a great deal, and
when it didn't matter at all.
"Joe was the complete player in
everything he did," said his former manager Joe McCarthy. "They'd
hit the ball to center field and Joe would stretch out those long
legs of his and run the ball down. He never made a mistake on the
bases and in Yankee Stadium, a tough park for a right-hander, he was
a great hitter, one of the best." DiMag had a career average of
.325, 361 home runs, eight World Series home runs, and two batting
championships. He also won three MVP's and hold the record of 56
straight games with a hit. "Those statistics don't
even tell half the story," said DiMag's former teammate pitcher
Eddie Lopat. "What he meant to the Yankees, you'll never find in the
statistics. He was the real leader of our team. He was the best."
Like the famed Yankee clipper ships that sailed the oceans riding
the winds and the tides, DiMaggio moved across the reaches of the
center-field pastureland of Yankee Stadium flawlessly playing his
kind of game—steady, stoical, dependable. His nickname accentuated
his role and style. DiMaggio was also known as Jolting Joe because
of his power, and Joe Di, an affectionate abbreviation of his
"The Yankee Clipper" - a slap at
George Steinbrenner who always has had a longing to see his players
"Yo-Yo" - for small size and
hyper activity, Luis Arroyo "YOU COULD LOOK IT UP" Casey Stengel
began his major league playing career in 1912, his managing career
in 1934. He played for 14 years, managed for 25 years. His baseball
career ended in 1965 after stints with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston
Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants,
New York Yankees, New York Mets. Casey could talk for hours about
baseball and life. And sometimes in the midst of animated
conversation about a utility outfielder on the old Boston Braves, or
a balk by a forgotten pitcher on the Pittsburgh Pirates—to emphasize
that he was not relating fiction he would exclaim: "You could look
YOUTH OF AMERICA Casey
Stengel's beginning years as manager of the New York Mets were a
time of trial and frustration for many. Afflicted with over-the-hill
players and has-beens, Casey delighted in the potential of some of
the younger Mets. Although not quite ready for prime-time baseball,
they had promise and Stengel's feeling for them was revealed in this
phrase, which he pronounced, "The yuth of America" (see "CAN'T
ANYBODY HERE PLAY THIS GAME?").