Baseball Names - and
How They Got That Way! Part XI
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
CHOO-CHOO COLEMAN A catcher for the New York Mets during
their early struggling years, Coleman is a case in
point of the fact that not all things can be traced back
to their origins. Once during a television interview,
Coleman was asked how he got his nickname. He responded,
"I don't know." He followed this up some time later with
another gem. Casey Stengel, a bit frustrated by the
ineptitude of the Mets, decided to return to basics. He
held up a baseball during a locker-room meeting and
said, "This is a baseball." Coleman interrupted, "Wait,
you're going too fast."
CLOWN PRINCE OF BASEBALL Al Schacht performed for only
three seasons as a member of the Washington Senators
(1919-21), but he still was able to make a mighty
reputation on the baseball field. Schacht was a comic
and his routines centered on the foibles and
eccentricities of the National Pastime. It was said that
nobody did it better, and that's why Schacht was dubbed
the Clown Prince.
"THE COUNT" -
Sparky Lyle, handlebar mustache and lordy ways
contributed to his look and nickname.
CRAB, THE The middle man in the famed Tinker to Evers to
Chance double-play combination, Johnny Evers was a
pugnacious and combative ball player and manager.
Admitted to the Hall of Fame in 1946, Evers had an
18-year playing career and managed for three other
years. His ingoing personality and bench-jockeying
ability gave him his nickname on merit.
Pitcher Jesse Burkett earned the name for his surly
disposition and also the peculiar manner of his stride.
"CRIME DOG" Fred McGriff was given this name by ESPN
sportscaster Chris Berman, a play on McGruff, a cartoon
dog developed for American police to raise children's
awareness on crime prevention.
CROW, THE A fairly little man with a screechy voice,
Frank Crosetti fit his nickname. He played shortstop for
the New York Yankees for 17 years and then had a long
stint as a coach with the team.
"CY" His full name was Denton True Young. His
nickname was given to him by a young catcher helping to
warm him up. The backstop reported that Young pitched
as fast as a "cyclone." Reporters shortened the nickname
Young was still in great pitching shape
until he was 44 years old. He credited his daily chores
and farm work for giving him strength.
CY THE SECOND Irving Melrose Young pitched for six years
in the major leagues concurrently with Denton True
Young--the storied "Cy" Young who won 508 games in his
career. Irving Young only won 62, while losing 94, but
the fact that he had the same last name and pitched at
the same time as the great Cy Young earned Irving his
nickname (see CY YOUNG AWARD).
CY THE THIRD In 1908, a year in which Cy Young won 21
games and compiled a 1.26 earned-run average, Harley E.
Young made it to the major leagues. He pitched only 752
plus innings, losing three games and winning none. But
because his last name and the time he played reminded
fans of the great Cy Young, Harley was called Cy the
CY YOUNG AWARD Baseball's award to the top pitcher in
each league originated in 1956. The rationale was that
pitchers were at a disadvantage in Most Valuable Player
balloting. The award gets its name from the Hall of
Famer who pitched for 22 years, winning more games than
any other performer in baseball history (508). Young
also started more games, completed more games, pitched
more innings than any other pitcher in history. He is
fourth on the all-time list in strikeouts and shutouts.
His career accomplishments personified the value of a
pitcher to a team and underlined the reason for naming
the award for the top pitcher after him.
DAFFINESS BOYS Also known as Dem Brooklyn Bums, the 1926
Brooklyn Dodgers wrought havoc on friend and foe alike.
The hotshot of the team was freeswinging,
slump-shouldered Babe Herman, dubbed the Incredible
Hoiman, who bragged that among his stupendous feats was
stealing second base with the bases loaded. Once Herman
was one of a troika of Dodger base runners who found
themselves all on third base at the same time. A Dodger
rookie turned to Brooklyn manager "Uncle" Wilbert
Robinson on the bench. "You call that playing baseball?"
"Uncle" Robbie responded, "Leave them alone. That's the
first time they've been together all year."
DEM BUMS When the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1957, they
left the "bums" behind. A beloved nickname in Flatbush,
Gowns, Bensonhurst, and Williamsburg, "Bums" was deemed
not quite appropriate for the Dodgers of Los Angeles.
The nickname originated during the Depression. There was
an excitable Brooklyn fan who used to scratch and claw
at the chicken wire screen behind home plate at Ebbets
Field. One day he was moved to anger at what he
perceived as the inadequacies of the home team. "Ya,
bum, ya, yez, bums, yez!" he bellowed. From that moment
on, "Bums" meant Brooklyn Dodgers. The term was
pictorialized by such cartoonists as Willard Mullin,
used in newspaper headlines and stories, and capitalized
on by the Dodger organization in its image-making for
the Brooklyn team.
DIZZY and DAFFY DEAN Perhaps the most famous of all
brother acts in the history of sports was "Me and Paul,"
the dazzling Dean brothers of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jerome Hannah Dean, also known as Jay Hannah Dean and
best known as Dizzy, and his kid brother Paul, also
known as Daffy, beguiled National League batters in the
1930's and at times drove their own teammates to despair
with their madcap antics.
The brothers were born in a rickety shack on a plot of
Arkansas ground that their destitute sharecropper
parents worked. Dizzy picked cotton for 50 cents a day,
and although he later bragged that he learned how to
pitch while attending Oklahoma State Teachers College,
he only went as far as the second grade in school. In
Dizzy, and to a lesser extent Paul, was the sadness and
brashness of the American Depression experience. "Some
of the things I seen in this here life," Dizzy recalled,
"almost cause my ol' heart to bust right through my
Dizzy grew to be a 6'2", slope-shouldered right hander,
a little bigger than his younger brother. Both of them
had arms and hands toughened and shaped by the cotton
fields. "I never bothered what those guys could hit and
couldn't hit," he said. "All I knowed is that they
weren't gonna get a-holt of that ball ol' Diz was
In 1934, Dizzy and Daffy won 49 games between them.
Dizzy won 30--more than any Cardinal pitcher ever. In a
doubleheader against Brooklyn, Diz one-hit the Dodgers
in the first game and Paul no-hit them in the second
game. "If I'd a knowed Paul was gonna do that," Diz
said, "I'd a done the same."
Dizzy was actually the zanier brother. Paul went along
with his antics and thus was labeled Daffy. Dizzy once
wrapped himself in a blanket and made a fire in front of
the Cardinal dugout on a day when the temperature was
over 100 degrees. Dizzy once led Daffy and a couple of
other Cardinals into a staid hotel and announced to the
manager that he was under orders to redecorate the
place. Armed with ladders, buckets of paint, and
brushes, the baseball players proceeded to splash red
paint with wild abandon all over the walls of the hotel
lobby. Dizzy also once made more than a mild commotion
when he told scouts and newspapermen that there was a
third Dean "who was throwin' real good at Tulsa." When
the tip was checked out, it turned out that the third
Dean brother who was "throwing real good" was throwing
bags of peanuts--he was a peanut vendor at the Tulsa
The Deans had bright but relatively brief careers.
Paul won 19 games in both 1934 and 1935 and then lapsed
into a journeyman pitcher role, the victim of arm
trouble. In the 1937 All-Star Game, Dizzy had a line
shot off the bat of Earl Averill carom off his right
foot. They found out later that his toe was broken. Diz
pitched again and again during the 1937 season, but he
was not what he was; the fluid, cotton picking pitching
motion was gone. He finished the year with a 13-10
record, and in 1938 he was sent to the Cubs for two
pitchers and $200,000. He won seven, lost one, and had
an ERA of 1.81, but that was his last year of pitching
effectiveness. They were Dizzy and Daffy, but in their
time they beguiled baseball fans and intimidated
National League hitters.