Harvey Frommer / Players History
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
By Harvey Frommer
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 Parts I-V and wanted more, here is more.
As always, reactions and suggestions always welcome.
ALL-AMERICAN BOY Superstar slugger Dale Murphy had a long career with the Atlanta Braves and had many nicknames including: "Murph," "Gentle Giant," "John Boy," "Lil' Abner."
ALL-STAR GAME (BASEBALL) The idea was conceived in 1933 by Arch Ward, Chicago Tribune sports editor. To give the fans a real rooting interest, Ward suggested that they be allowed to vote for their favorite players via popular ballot. In perhaps no other game do fans have such a rooting interest, although there have been a few periods when voting by fans has been abandoned. Today it appears that Ward's original principle will remain permanently in effect. The American League won 12 of the first 16 All-Star games, but went on to lose 20 of the next 23 to the National League through 1978. Some memorable moments have taken place in the contest often referred to as the Midsummer Dream Game. In the first game ever played, Babe Ruth slugged a towering home run. The next year, New York Giants immortal Carl Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin in succession to make for some more baseball history.
AMAZIN' METS The first run they ever scored came in on a balk. They lost the first nine games they ever played. They finished last their first four seasons. Once they were losing a game, 12-1, and there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. A fan held up a sign that said "PRAY!" There was a walk, and ever hopeful, thousands of voices chanted, "Let's go Mets." They were 100-l underdogs to win the pennant in 1969 and incredibly came on to finish the year as World Champions. They picked the name of the best pitcher in their history (Tom Seaver) out of a hat on April Fools' Day. They were supposed to be the replacement for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. They could have been the New York Continentals or Burros or Skyliners or Skyscrapers or Bees or Rebels or NYB's or Avengers or even Jets (all runner-up names in a contest to tab the National League New York team that began playing ball in 1962). They've never been anything to their fans but amazing-the Amazin' New York Mets.
APOLLO OF THE BOX Hurler Tony Mullane, a tribute to his handsome appearance and playing position. Mullane was also called "The Count" or "Count."
ARKANSAS HUMMINGBIRD Lon Warneke, a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals from 1930-1945, hailed from Mt. Ida, Arkansas.
AROUND THE HORN A phrase describing a ball thrown from third base to second base to first base, generally in a double-play situation.
ASTROTURF Not all of the artificial carpets that now have taken root in ball parks and stadiums in the United States and around the world are produced by the Monsanto Chemical Company. AstroTurf was the first, however, having been installed when the Houston Astrodome opened in 1965, and that's why the term has almost become a generic one for artificial sod. There is also Tartan Turf (made by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) and Poly-Turf (a product of American Bilt-Rite). Resistant to all types of weather, more efficient to keep up than grass, better for traction than most other surfaces, synthetic "grass" has continued to "grow" throughout the world of sports, despite complaints that it results in more injuries for players. Studies focused on injuries are still in progress, while other research is under way aimed at improving the quality of the artificial carpets.
ATLANTA BRAVES The franchise began in 1871 known as the Boston Red Stockings and then by several other names including Beaneaters through 1906, Doves when the Dovey family owned the franchise, 1907-1910. In 1911, the nickname changed for new owner James Gaffney, a Tammany Hall "Brave." From 1936-1940, the team was called Rustlers, Braves, Bees. In 1941, the Braves nickname returned and has stuck with the franchise through moves to Milwaukee in 1953, Atlanta in 1966.
AWAY A pitch out of the reach of a batter. A side retired in its half of an inning.
away uniform (grays) distinctive (non-white) clothing worn by a team when playing "away" games.
B-12 SHOTS Clubhouse code for steroids.
THE BABE George Herman Ruth probably leads the list for 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. They also called him "Tarzan." 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."
His main nickname was rooted in President Grover Cleveland's Baby Ruth. Perhaps the greatest slugger of all time and also one of baseball's most colorful characters, Ruth set some 50 records in his 22 years as a player. His accomplishments, his personality, his nickname--all combined to rocket major league baseball firmly into the nation's psyche.
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 "for Ruth
BABE RUTH'S LEGS Sammy Byrd, for his stints as a pinch runner for Ruth.
BABY DOLL JACOBSON Allegedly, in Mobile (in the Southern League) in 1912, the grandstand band played "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" after Jacobson's opening day homer.
BACKSTOP Another name for the position of catcher, area behind home plate at base of stands.
back-to-back jacks two home runs hit in the same inning one after another.
BALLANTINE BLAST Expression in deference to beer sponsor that legendary Yankee announcer Mel Allen used to describe a home run.
BALK Illegal movement by a pitcher that, when executed with runner(s) on base, allows the runner(s) to advance one base; with the bases empty, a ball is added to the count of the batter.
BALTIMORE CHOP A hard-smashed ball in or just beyond the home plate area that bounces high in the air and gives the runner a good chance to beat the fielder's throw to first base.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 and a traditional Baltimore team nickname, the Orioles, named for the State bird of Maryland, was brought back. The 19th century version of the team became the New York Yankees.
BANJO HITTER A "punch and judy" or weak batter.
BANTY ROOSTER Casey Stengel's nickname for Whitey Ford because of his style and attitude.
BARBER, THE Sal Maglie had the unique distinction of pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Yankees and the New York Giants in the 1950's. A curveballing clutch pitcher, his nickname came from two sources. A swarthy 6'2" right-hander who always seemed to need a shave, he was a master at "shaving" or" barbering" the plate. His pitches would nick the corner, and he wasn't too shy about nicking a batter if the occasion demanded it.
BASEBALL CARDS About 20 years before the American League was organized in 1901, the first baseball cards appeared. Photographs were taken in an artist's studio. Action was simulated to approximate game conditions: the baseballs that players apparently were hitting were suspended from the ceiling by a string, and the bases that players were shown sliding into were actually set into a wooden floor. These early baseball cards were printed on paper with sepia tone and included in packs of cigarettes from the leading companies of that era: Old Judge, Piedmont, Sweet Caporal. Polar Bear, and Recruit. Bubblegum baseball cards originated in 1933 with cards made of heavy cardboard. Their popularity grew until World War II caused a halt in their production. In 1951 Topps entered the baseball-card field and has continued to innovate and dominate the market. The most valuable baseball card in existence is a 1910 Honus Wagner that was issued by the Sweet Caporal Tobacco Company. Wagner did not smoke and objected to the use of his name and image on a card; therefore, all the Wagner cards were removed from circulation except for the seven known to exist today. The largest collection of baseball cards is housed in New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art--over 200,000 cards make up the collection.
Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 39 of them including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) will be published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball.".
Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed.
FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in excess of one million and appears on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
(to be continued)