Baseball Names - and
How They Got That Way! Part XV (H)
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, X and all the
others and wanted more, here is more, just a sampling of the all
the "G's out there. As always, reactions and suggestions always
HACK WILSON A short, red-faced, gorilla-shaped man, Hack Wilson
played for the Chicago Cubs from 1926 to 1931. In those years he
was an American folk hero--the million-dollar slugger from the
five- and ten-cent store. In those years he drove in more runs
than any other player except for Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He
set National League records that still stand for the most home
runs and most total bases in a season and the major league
record for runs batted in. The stock market crashed in 1929, but
the Li'l Round Man soared in 1930: he smashed 56 homers, drove
in 190 runs, and batted .356.
The Cubs purchased Robert Lewis Wilson in 1926 from Toledo for
$5,000. Dubbed Hackenschmidt, after a famous wrestler of the
time, he ripped by day and nipped by night. The Hacker was
called the poor man's Babe Ruth because of the $40,000 he earned
in 1931--a salary second only to the Babe's. Wilson's batting
trademarks were parallel knuckles on a no nub bat handle, and a
booming voice that declared when rival players taunted him, "Let
'em yowl. I used to be a boilermaker and noise doesn't bother
me." In 1932 Hack became a Brooklyn Dodger and finished out his
career as a member of the so-called Daffiness Boys. It was a
perfect climate for the man with so many nicknames, and with the
Dodgers he was called the Hacker. With all his accomplishments,
with all the verve he exhibited, with all the fame he had--Hack
Wilson was not admitted to the Hall of Fame until 1979.
HAMMERIN' HANK Four times he led the American League in home run
hitting. In 1938 he blasted 58--and no man had hit more in a
season up to that point in time except Babe Ruth. His name was
Henry Benjamin Greenberg, but he was better known as Hank
Greenberg. He played a dozen years for the Detroit Tigers and
finished his career in 1947 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Greenberg was admitted to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1956 (see
HAPPY JACK Former major league pitcher Jack Chesbro spent
time before he hit the majors as an attendant at the state
mental hospital in Middletown, New York where he pitched for the
hospital team and showed off a very pleasant
THE HARMONICA INCIDENT Despite a string of four straight
pennants, the Bronx Bombers were a bust throughout much of the
1964 season. Yogi Berra had succeeded Ralph Houk as skipper;
there were reports that he got more laughs than lauds from his
players. It was getting to be late August; the Yankees were in
third place behind Baltimore and Chicago. The Yankees were on
the team bus heading to O'Hare Airport on August 20, 1964,
losers of four straight to the White Sox, winless in 10 of their
last 15 games. A 5-0 shutout at the hands of Chicago's John
Buzhardt had totally demoralized them.
Phil Linz, #34, reserve infielder, a career .235 hitter was a
tough, aggressive player who loved being a Yankee. But he was
regarded by some to be un-Yankee like along with teammates Joe
Pepitone and Jim Bouton.
I sat in the back of the bus," Linz recalled. The bus was stuck
in heavy traffic. It was a sticky humid Chicago summer day. "I
was bored. I pulled out my harmonica. I had the Learner's Sheet
for 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.' So I started fiddling. You blow
in. You blow out."
An angry Berra snapped from the front of the bus: "Knock it
off!" But Linz barely heard him. When asked what their manager
had said, Mickey Mantle said, "Play it louder." Linz played
Berra stormed to the back of the bus and told Linz to "shove
that thing." "I told Yogi that I didn't lose that game," Linz
related." Berra smacked the harmonica out of Linz's hands. The
harmonica flew into Joe Pepitone's knee and Pepitone jokingly
winced in pain. Soon the entire bus - except for Berra - was in
Another version has it that Linz flipped the harmonica at the
angered Berra and screamed: "What are you getting on me for? I
give a hundred per cent. Why don't you get on some of the guys
who don't hustle?"
Linz was fined $200 - but as the story goes received $20,000
for an endorsement from a harmonica company. "The next day,"
Linz gives his version, "the Hohner Company called and I got a
contract for $5,000 to endorse their harmonica. The whole thing
became a big joke."
Actually, the whole thing changed things around for the Yankees.
The summer of 1964 was Linz's most productive season. Injuries
to Tony Kubek made the "supersub" a regular: Linz started the
majority of the games down the stretch, and every World Series
game at short. New respect for Yogi propelled the Yanks to a
22-6 record in September and a win in a close pennant race over
the White Sox. A loss in the World Series to the St. Louis
Cardinals in seven games cost Berra his job. But there were
those who said he was on his way out the day of the "Harmonica
HARRY THE HAT Harry William Walker of St. Louis Cardinal
outfielding fame was in the habit of adjusting his baseball cap
between pitches and annoying those around him.
HAWK Ken Harrelson baseball's "bad boy" in the 1960s and
provided fans with a colorful character on and off the field. He
wore long blond hair, love beads, bell-bottoms and Nehru jackets
and his own "Hawk" medallion.
HESITATION PITCH A specialty of Leroy "Satchel" Paige, this
pitch came out of a slow windup that had a hitch in it. The ball
would came at the hitter at various speeds, causing problems in
the timing of a swing and helping Satchel to win many games.
HIGHLANDERS The team began in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles and
then moved to New York in 1903. Originally called the
Highlanders for its Hilltop Park location, in 1914, Jim Price of
the New York Press is credited with coming up with a new name
for the team - the New York Yankees.
HIGHPOCKETS George Kelly played for the New York Giants in the
1920s. A 6-4, 190-pound first baseman, he earned his main
nickname for the way his uniform pants hung on his spindly
build. He was also called "Long George" by the press, and "Kell"
HIT 'EM WHERE THEY AIN'T William Henry Keeler played 19 years
in the major leagues and finished his career with a .345
lifetime batting average. In 1897 Keeler batted an incredible
.432. A reporter asked the diminutive batter, "Mr. Keeler, how
can a man your size hit four-thirty-two?" The reply to that
question has become a rallying cry for all kinds of baseball
players in all types of leagues. "Simple," Keeler smiled, "I
keep my eyes clear and I hit'em where they ain't."
HITLESS WONDERS The 1906 Chicago White Sox had a team batting
average of .230, the most anemic of all the clubs in baseball
that year. The team's pitching, however, more than made up for
its lack of hitting. The White Sox staff recorded shutouts in 32
of the team's 93 victories. The "Hitless Wonders" copped the
American League pennant and faced the Chicago Cubs in the World
Series. The Cubs of 1906 are regarded as one of the greatest
baseball teams of all time; they won 116 games that year,
setting the all-time major league mark for victories in a season
and for winning percentage. The White Sox continued their
winning ways in the World Series, however, trimming their cross
town rivals in six games.
HIYA KID! Babe Ruth had a great deal of difficulty in
remembering names, and "Hiya Kid!" was his traditional greeting
to make up for this shortcoming. However, he once was introduced
to President Calvin Coolidge and improved on his traditional
greeting by shouting, "Hiya Prez!"
HOLY COW Former New York Yankee broadcaster Phil Rizzuto was an
exuberant and excitable individual. Some accused him of rooting
for the home team, but most everyone admitted that the Scooter
watched and described baseball through the eyes of a fan. The
phrase associated with Rizzuto underscored his amazement at the
happenings on a baseball field and is generally his "last word."
(see SCOOTER, THE).
HOME RUN BAKER If there ever was a baseball player who became a
legend because of a nickname, it had to be John Franklin Baker.
Admitted to the Hall of Fame in 1955, he had a powerful image
but not much in the way of home runs. Baker played 13 years and
collected a grand total of 93 homers. His best homerun year was
1913, when he popped 12 round-trippers. Baker's lifetime
home-run percentage was 1.6, as compared to Babe Ruth's 8.5,
Hank Aaron's 6.3, and Rocky Colavito's 5.8. Powerful press
agentry or key home runs in crucial situations have to be the
explanations for Baker's nickname. His home-run hitting did not
make him deserving of it.
But to be fair - -there were some moments: For
his day he was a good home run hitter. In the Dead Ball Era,
Baker led or tied for the league lead in homers four straight
seasons (1911-14), including winning the home run title in 1913
with 12. In the 1911 World Series, he hit game-winning home
runs on successive days against the Giants' future Hall of Fame
pitchers Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson
HOME RUN TWINS Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, phrase coined in
HOMESTEAED GRAYS Negro League team out of Pittsburgh that
played many of its games in Washington in the 1930s and
HOME WHITES Uniform worn by a team playing in its home
HONDO HURRICANE, THE He was 6'5" and weighed 210 pounds. He came
up from the minor leagues to the New York Giants in 1947 with a
"can't miss" label. Clint Hartung batted .309 that first year
and this meshed with his Hondo, Texas, birthplace to earn him
his nickname. Unfortunately, the hurricane blew itself out.
Hartung batted only .179 in 1948 and .190 in 1949. His major
league career lasted but six years, and Hartung left with a .238
career batting average, just 14 big league homers and thoughts
of what might have been.
HOOP A shortening of Harry Hooper's surname who
with Duffy Lewis and Tris Speaker formed Boston's famous
THE HOOSIER THUNDERBOLT Amos Rusie Played For
Indianapolis Hoosiers (1889), New York Giants (1890-1895,
1897-1898), Cincinnati Reds (1901)
HORSE NOSE Given to catcher Pat Collins by Babe Ruth, a
reference to a facial feature.
HORSEWHIPS Sam Jones earned this because of his sharp-breaking
HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT On April 18, 1923 - that
"The House That Ruth Built" opened for business. The New York
Yankees' first home opponent was the Boston Red Sox. No one back
then was bold enough to predict the fabulous and outstanding
moments the future held in store for the brand new American
The press release first announcing the new
stadium indicated it would be shaped like the Yale Bowl and that
it would contain towering battlements enclosing the entire park
so that those lacking tickets would not even be able to get a
glimpse of the action.
Built at a cost of $2.5 million, "The Yankee
Stadium", as it was originally named, had a brick-lined vault
with electronic equipment under second base, making it possible
to have a boxing ring and press area on the infield. Yankee
Stadium was the first ballpark to be called a stadium, the last
privately financed major league park. It was a gigantic
horseshoe shaped by triple-decked grandstands. Huge wooden
bleachers circled the park. The 10,712 upper-grandstand seats
and 14,543 lower grandstand seats were fixed in place by 135,000
individual steel castings on which 400,000 pieces of maple
lumber were fastened by more than a million screws.
A massive crowd showed up for the proudest moment
in the history of the South Bronx. Many in the huge assemblage
wore heavy sweaters, coats and hats. Some sported dinner
jackets. The announced attendance was 74,217, later changed to
60,000. More than 25,000 were turned away. They would linger
outside in the cold listening to the sounds of music and the
roar of the crowd inside the stadium.
At game time, the temperature was a nippy 49
degrees. Wind whipped the two Yankee pennants and blew dust from
the dirt road that led to the stadium. The dominant sound of the
day was the march beat played by the Seventh Regiment Band,
directed by John Phillip Sousa. Seated in the celebrity box were
Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, New York State
Governor Al Smith and Yankee owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert.
At 3:25 in the afternoon, Babe Ruth was presented
with an oversized bat handsomely laid out in a glass case. At
3:30, Governor Smith threw out the first ball to Yankee catcher
Wally Schang. At 3:35, home plate umpire Tommy Connolly
bellowed: "Play ball!"
Babe Ruth said: "I'd give a year of my life if I
can hit a home run in the first game in this new park". His wish
and that of the tens of thousands in attendance came true. The
Babe came to bat in the third inning. There were two Yankee base
runners. Boston pitcher Howard Ehmke tried to fool Ruth with a
slow pitch. The Sultan of Swat turned it into a fast pitch,
hammering it on a line into the right-field bleachers. It was
the first home run in Yankee Stadium history; Ruth got his wish.
The huge crowd was on its feet roaring as Ruth crossed the
plate, removed his cap, extended it at arm's length in front of
him, and waved to the ecstatic assemblage - witnesses to
baseball history. The game played out into the lengthening
afternoon shadows. "Sailor Bob" Shawkey, sporting a red
sweatshirt under his jersey, pitched the Yankees to a 4-1
victory, making the first Opening Day at Yankee Stadium a matter
THE HOOSIER THUNDERBOLT Hall of Fame Amos Rusie,
out of Indiana, played For Indianapolis Hoosiers (1889), New
York Giants (1890-1895, 1897-1898), Cincinnati Reds (1901). He
paced the league in strikeouts five times passed the
300-strikeout mark three straight seasons.
HORSE COLLAR Describes a situation when a player gets no hits in
HOT STOVE LEAGUE Winter-time baseball doings and gossip.
HUMAN VACUUM CLEANER Brooks Robinson made a
name for himself with Baltimore as one of the top fielding third
basemen of all time.
THE HUMAN RAIN DELAY Mike Hargrove, as a player, took a long
time to bat, stepping in and out of the box to adjust stuff
HOW ABOUT THAT Former New York Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen must
have uttered that phrase thousands of times in noting the
spectacular fielding plays, long home runs, and superb pitching
performances that he viewed during his long career. It was a
phrase expressed in an excited Southern accent that almost made
those who heard it want to respond to Allen and given their
opinion of what he had described.
HOWDY DOODY Darrell Evans was called this or "Howdy" by his
Braves' teammates because of his resemblance to Howdy Doody. The
nicknames were encouraged by Atlanta team owner Ted Turner.
HURRICANE For Bob Hazle after the storm that hit the South
Carolina coast in 1954. The Milwaukee Braves, locked in the
1957 pennant race, lost outfielder Bill Bruton to a knee
injury. Hazle replaced him he responded to the chance. He joined
the starting lineup on Aug. 4, 1957 helping the Braves win the
pennant as he batted .403 over the end of that season.