Baseball Names and How They Got That Way (Part 9)
Another spring. Another baseball season.
Another time for baseball lingo to be spoken, The words and phrases are
used 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 –
VII. and wanted more, here is more. As always, reactions and
suggestions always welcome
"Wabash George" ("Big George")moniker for George
Mullin because he played semi-pro ball in Wabash, Indiana. He hurled for
the Detroit Tigers from 1902-1913 among other teams. walk-off home run
game ending home team home run in the bottom of the ninth inning or in
an extra inning wall-scraper home run when ball hits the outfield fence
above the home-run
"Wahoo Sam" Sam Crawford, Detroit Tiger star and
Hall of Famer, hailed from Wahoo, Nebraska.
"Whale" Former Brooklyn Dodger hurler Don Newcombe
was called this for his size and some would say slow manner. ("Newk")
was used too, a shortening of his
"White Rat" Former manager Whitey Herzog earned the
name for his blonde hair and scheming ways.
"The Whiz Kids" Back in the 1950's the Phillies had a
really young team that was surprisingly good.
"The Wheeze Kids" The Philadelphia Phillies had some
good teams in the 1980s that featured old timers like Steve Carlton
"The Wild Hoss of the Osage" Oklahoma bred Johnny
Leonard Roosevelt Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s
("pepper") Martin, an aggressive player, was said to play baseball like
a "wild mustang" and was given his nickname in the minor leagues.
"The Wild Thing" Mitch Williams, pitcher, would hit
and walk a lot of batters, as well as throw a lot of wild pitches. He
also had wild hair and a wild pitching motion. This nickname was also
used in the movie "Major League."
"Willie the Wonder" Hyperbolic name pinned on Willie
Horton who played for several American League teams in 1960s and 1970s
and impressed people with his
Walking Man” 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 bases- on-balls list.
"The Weatherman" Mickey Rivers had a knack for
"The Warrior" Paul O'Neill had this name pinned on
him by George Steinbrenner as a nod to the Yankee outfielder's fiery
“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
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.
Keeler opened the 1897 season with two hits in five at
bats against Boston. Then for two months the slight southpaw swinger
slapped hit after hit, game after game - from April 22 to June 18 - for
44 straight games. His record stood for 44 years until Joe DiMaggio came
along and snapped it in 1941.
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 against fate'."
In 1898, a year after Keeler batted that astonishing
.432, he set a mark for hitting that will probably never be topped,
notching 202 singles in just 128 games. He truly was hitting them where
the fielders weren't. It was a season in which the left-handed bat
magician recorded 214 hits. His batting average was .379, but the
incredible amount of singles amassed saw him register a puny .410
slugging percentage. That 1898 season Keeler came to bat 564 times in
128 games and walked only 28 times and did not strike out.
A slugger he was not. But, oh what a
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
“The Whip” 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 ten year
“Wild Horse of the Osage” 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 élan 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.
"Yo-Yo" - for small size and hyper activity, Luis
"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 it up!"
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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
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