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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 always welcome.

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 to Cy. 
                                    
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 Third.

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 sweatshirt."

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 throwin'."
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 ball park.

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.

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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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