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What's In A Yankee Name?

New York Yankees nick-names have run the gamut from complimentary to embarrassing, from hero worshipping to amusing from over-reaching to on target. In recent years, the name game for the players on the team known as the Bronx Bombers has not been as vital as in times past. But we always have the history to go back to and enjoy. Herewith, a sampler

"The Babe" - George Herman Ruth leads off the list and paces the list in most nick-names acquired. First called "Babe" by teammates on the Baltimore Orioles, his first professional team because of his youth, G.H.Ruth was also called "Jidge" by Yankee teammates, short for George. He called most players "Kid," because he couldn't remember names, even of his closest friends.  Opponents called him "The Big Monk" and "Monkey."

Many of Babe Ruth's nick-names came from over-reaching sports writers who attempted to pay tribute to his slugging prowess:   

"The Bambino", "the Wali of Wallop", "the Rajah of Rap", "the Caliph of Clout", "the Wazir of Wham", and "the Sultan of Swat",  The Colossus of Clout,  Maharajah of Mash,  The Behemoth of Bust, "The King of Clout."

Other Yankee nick-names, expressions, bon mots of note for "Babe" and "Ruth."   In spring training 1927, Babe Ruth bet pitcher Wilcy Moore $l00 that he would not get more than three hits all season. A notoriously weak hitter, Moore somehow managed to get six hits in 75 at bats.  Ruth paid off his debt and Moore purchased two mules for his farm. He named them "Babe" and "Ruth."

"Babe Ruth's Legs" - Sammy Byrd, used as a pinch runner for Ruth

"Bam-Bam" - Hensley Meulens could speak about five languages and had a difficult name to pronounce.

"Banty rooster" - Casey Stengel nickname for Whitey Ford because of his style and attitude.
 
"Biscuit Pants" - A reference to the well filled out trousers of Lou Gehrig.

"Billyball" - the aggressive style of play utilized by Billy Martin
 
"Blind Ryne" - Ryne Duren because of his very poor vision, uncorrected -20/70 and 20/200.
 
"Bob the Gob" - Bob Shawkey spent most of 1918 in the Navy as a yeoman petty officer aboard the battleship Arkansas. 
 
"Broadway" - Shortstop Lyn Lary was married to Broadway star Mary Lawler.
 
"Brooklyn Schoolboy" was what they called Waite Hoyt for his time as a star pitcher at Erasmus High School.
 
"Bulldog" - Jim Bouton, for his tenacity.
 
"Bullet Bob" - Bob Turley, for the pop on his fastball.
 
"Bye-Bye"- Steve Balboni, the primary DH of the 1990 Yankees had 17 homers but hit just .192.
 
''Carnesville Plowboy'' - Spud Chandler for his hometown of Carnesville,
 
"Deacon" - Everett Scott, for his not too friendly look.
 

"Chairman of the Board" - Elston Howard came up with the phrase in tribute to Whitey Ford and his commanding and take charge manner on the mound.
 
"Clutch versus Clutch" - qualitative commentary about Yankee-Red Sox competition.
 
"Columbia Lou" - Lou Gehrig because of his collegiate roots.
 
"Commerce Comet" - Mickey Mantle

 

"Georgia Catfish" - Jim Hunter, name given to him by Oakland owner Charles Finley
 
""the CAT-a-lyst" - name given to Mickey Rivers by Howard Cosell for his ability to trigger Yankee team offense.
 
"The Count" - John Montefusco, to rhyme with Monte Cricsco

"The Count" - Sparky Lyle, handlebar mustache and lordy ways
 
"The Crow" - Frank Crosetti loud voice and chirpy ways

"Danish Viking" - George Pipgras, for his size and roots.
 
"Daddy Longlegs" - Dave Winfield, for his size and long legs.
 
"Death Valley" - the old deep centerfield in Yankee Stadium - a
home run here was a mighty poke.
 
"Dial-a-Deal - Gabe Paul earned this one for his telephone trading habits.
 
"Donnie Baseball" - Don Mattingly was the only player in any sport to have a nickname with the actual name of his or her sport in it. Some say it was coined by Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay; others say it came from Kirby Pucket. Kay takes the credit; Mattingly gives the credit to Puckett.
 
"El Duque" - Orlando Hernandez

"El Duquecito" -ADRIAN HERNANDEZ because of a pitching style similar to Orlando

"El Duque" Hernandez, the younger Cuban is of no relation to his elder countryman.

"Ellie"   - affectionate abbreviation of Elston Howard's first name     

"Father of the Emory Ball" Rookie right-hander Russ Ford posted a 26-6 record with 8 shutouts, 1910

Fireman" - The first to have this nick-name was Johnny Murphy, the first great relief pitcher who put out fires.  Joe Page picked up this nick-name for his top relief work later on.      

Flash" - Joe Gordon earned this nick-name because of his fast, slick fielding and hot line drives.

Four hour manager" - Bucky Harris, who put his time in at the game and was finished.

"Fordham Johnny" - for the college Johnny Murphy attended.

"Gator" - Ron Guidry, who came from Louisiana alligator country.

"Gay Caballero" - Lefty Gomez for his Mexican roots and fun loving ways.

"Gay Reliever" -   Joe Page for his night owl activity.

" Gehrigville." Bleachers in right-center at Yankee Stadium.

"The Godfather" - Joe Torre, for his Italian roots and his leadership skills on the baseball field.

"Gooneybird" - Don Larsen's teammates called him that for his late-night behavior.

"Goofy" or "El Goofo" - earned by Lefty Gomez for his wild antics

"Goose" - Gossage   

"The Great Agitator" - for Billy Martin, self explanatory.

"Grandma" - it was not a nick-name Johnny Murphy liked, but he was called that for his pitching motion, rocking chair style. Another story is that fellow Yankee Pat Malone gave him the name because of his complaining nature especially as regards food and lodgings.

"Happy Jack" - Jack Chesbro's time as an attendant at the state mental hospital in Middletown, New York where he pitched for the where he pitched for the hospital team and showed off a very pleasant disposition won him the nickname.

"Horse Nose" - a nick-name given catcher Pat Collins by Babe Ruth, a reference to a facial feature.


 

(to be continued)


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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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