Baseball Names - and How
They Got That Way! Part X
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 and all the others
and wanted more, here is more.
As always, reactions and
suggestions always welcome.
MAN, THE (STAN THE MAN) Stanley Frank Musial, St. Louis
Cardinal baseball immortal, batted .315 as a rookie in 1942,
when he was 21 years old. In 1962, at the age of 41, he hit
.330-one point under his lifetime batting average. Musial is
the all-time Cardinal leader in games played, runs, hits,
doubles, triples, homers, and total bases. His twisted,
crouched, coiled stance at the plate enabled him to slash
the ball with power or stroke it with finesse to any part of
the playing field. Musial was an especially successful
hitter in the small confines of Ebbets Field. His specialty
was slamming frozen rope doubles off the outfield walls.
Dodger fans had difficulty pronouncing his name, sometimes
calling him "Musical." Many of the black Dodger fans simply
referred to Musial as "the Man" in tribute to the power and
style he displayed. Eventually fans all over the league used
this nickname-a reference not only to Musial but to the
respect due his power and authority.
MAN IN THE IRON HAT Yankee owner Captain Tillinghast
L'Hommedieu Hutson wore the same squished derby hat over and
MAN NOBODY KNOWS Catcher Bill Dickey, Yankee immortal,
because of his blandness.
MAN OF A THOUSAND CURVES His nickname was a bit hyperbolic,
but the major league batters who swung at his stuff and came
up empty might not disagree with it. For Johnny Sain,
talented star of the Boston Braves and other teams,
curveball pitches were a trademark and the reason for his
nickname. He allegedly had such pitching skill that his
curves dropped, darted, hesitated, broke wide, broke fast,
broke slow, broke twice. There may not have been a thousand
curves, but there were enough variations on these curves
Sain possessed that the effect on batters was the same (see
"SPAHN AND SAIN AND PRAY FOR RAIN").
MAN O' WAR Sam Rice was a fleet-footed outfielder and was
called Man O' War" after the famous racehorse of his era.
MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN During the late 1 940's and into the
1950's, Don Mueller of the New York Giants appeared to have
a special gift with a bat in his hands. His lifetime batting
average was a respectable .296, yet he never led the league
in any hitting category. His nickname came from his expert
bat-manipulation and his ability to hit the ball where he
wanted it to go.
MAJOR Ralph Houk, for rank held in the Armed Forces and
MARSE JOE Hall of Fame Manager Joe McCarthy, , for his
MARVELOUS MARV Marvin Eugene Throneberry was perhaps born to
be a New York Met. His initials spelled out the name and his
personality and limited skills underscored the
characteristics of the 1962 New York expansion team.
Throneberry, who looked like Mickey Mantle batting but did
not get the same results, labored through a seven-year,
four-different-team major league career- the Mets were his
last team. He is a gentle, fine humored man, and
sportswriters hung the nickname on him in good-natured jest.
Throneberry loved it and went along with their efforts to
depict him as a clown. Once a teammate dropped an easy fly
ball. Marvelous Marv smiled and shouted, "What are you
trying to do anyway, steal my fans?"
"MASTER Builder IN BASEBALL Jacob Ruppert,
and that he was.
MASTER MELVIN Mel Ott was a power-armed right fielder for 22
years with the New York Giants. He smashed 511 home runs in
a fabled career that saw him average better than a hit a
game while compiling a lifetime batting average of .304. Ott
became a Giant at the age of 16-and that's how his nickname
came about. Ott's Hollywood-type beginning was recalled by
Eddie Logan, Giants equipment manager, who was about the
same age as Ott at the time and was sent to pick up the
youth: "We had the 9th Avenue El at the time. Mr. McGraw had
told him to ride the El to the last stop, which was the Polo
Grounds. He took the El the wrong way and wound up at the
Battery. I looked for the straw suitcase. I found him. I
said, 'C'mon boy, let's go.' He got the biggest thrill
riding back on the train." Labeled "McGraw's baby," Ott was
in only 35 games in 1926, then 82 in 1927. "He's too young
to play big-league ball," McGraw said, "but I am afraid to
send him to the minors and have a manager there tinker with
his unorthodox batting style. The style is natural with him.
He'll get results as soon as he learns about big-league
pitching." And he did.
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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
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,
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