Harvey Frommer / Players
Names and How They Got That Way! (Parts I - V)
Part VI Part VII Part VIII Part IX Part X Part XI Part XII Part XIII Part XV Part XVI Part XVII Part XVIII Part XIX Part XX Part XXI Part XXII
Dr. Harvey Frommer on Sports
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 welcome
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 GREENBERG GARDENS).
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 disposition.
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 louder.
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 stitches.
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 Incident."
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" by teammates.
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 1961.
HOMESTEAED GRAYS Negro League team out of Pittsburgh that played many of its games in Washington in the 1930s and 1940s.
HOME WHITES Uniform worn by a team playing in its home ballpark.
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 "Million-Dollar Outfield."
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 curve ball.
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 League park.
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 of record.
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 a game.
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.
Harvey Frommer is his 34th consecutive year of writing sports books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 40 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his classic "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball." Frommer's newest work CELEBRATING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION is next.
Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed.
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