MLB All-Time Nickname Team
Nicknames and baseball players go together like bats and balls. Throughout history, some MLB players have been known by their nicknames only. The name could describe the players themselves, where they come from or a striking physical feature. Not all MLB nicknames are created equal, so the goal is to put together a team of the greatest nicknames in MLB history. We’ll have nicknames for each position on the field as well as an honorable mention for each position. Not all players listed will necessarily be Hall of Famers or household names, but their nicknames are too fun to pass up. Let’s put together MLB’s All-Time Nickname Team.
Oil Can Boyd
Apparently, Dennis Boyd liked to drink a few. In his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, beer was known as ”oil.” The name stuck throughout his entire 10-year MLB career with the Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers.
The Big Unit
Randy Johnson earned the nickname ”The Big Unit” due to his immense stature. Standing six-foot-ten and throwing one of the nastiest sliders in MLB history, Johnson used his intimidating style to win over 300 games on the way to a Hall of Fame career and is second on the all-time strikeout list with 4,875.
Mordecai Brown, also known as ”Three Finger,” was injured in a farm-machinery accident in his youth. As a result, he lost parts of two fingers on his right hand, but his grip allowed him to throw what is now known as a knuckle curve. Playing primarily for the Chicago Cubs, he is one of the most dominant pitchers of the Dead Ball Era and is a Hall of Famer.
How Leroy Paige came upon the nickname ”Satchel” is up for debate. Some say he earned it as a boy carrying satchels at railroad stations for passengers. Others believe it came from Paige being caught stealing a bag and teased about it afterwards. Either way, Satchel Paige goes down as one of the greatest and most flamboyant pitchers in history.
Mariano Rivera‘s nickname ”Sandman” comes from the song ”Enter Sandman” by the rock band Metallica. He even entered games to the song blaring on the Yankee Stadium speakers. It was assumed when Rivera entered the game, it was game over. Rivera’s career-record 652 saves speak to the validity of his nickname.
The Big Train
Sportswriter Grantland Rice gave Walter Johnson the nickname ”The Big Train.” At the time, trains were the fastest means of transportation, so it was fitting for Johnson. The great Ty Cobb described Johnson’s fastball as “Just speed, raw speed, blinding speed, too much speed.”
Jay Dean is one of the most colorful personalities in all of baseball history. His eccentric behavior, practical jokes, and unwavering confidence led to his nickname of ”Dizzy.”
The fun-loving Lawrence Berra was given the nickname ”Yogi” as a teenager. After watching a movie with a piece about India, a friend noticed how Berra resembled a ”yogi” or a person who practices yoga. The name stuck throughout the rest of Berra’s career. Despite popular belief, Berra’s nickname has nothing to do with the cartoon bear.
The Human Rain Delay
”The Human Rain Delay” is not an endearing nickname for first baseman Mike Hargrove. He earned the name from his many time-consuming and aggravating adjustments between pitches. The 1974 AL Rookie of the Year played for the Rangers, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians.
Poosh Em Up
Tony Lazzeri‘s nickname ”Poosh Em Up” is actually a mistranslation of an Italian phrase ”to hit it out.” The name originates from his playing time in Salt Lake City when a fan of Italian decent yelled from the stands, ”Poosh-Em Up, Tony!” in an attempt to tell Lazzeri to hit a home run.
As a boy, Harold Traynor couldn’t get enough pie. In fact, it was a store owner who called him ”Pie Face” as Traynor was always asking for pie. Later, the nickname was shortened to just ”Pie” by his friends.
Ozzie Smith‘s acrobatic skill and defensive prowess gives him the nickname ”The Wizard.” Also, with his first name being Ozzie, ”The Wizard” is in reference to the movie The Wizard of Oz. Capable of dazzling infield play and athleticism, his 13 consecutive Gold Gloves speak for themselves and represent the nickname well.
Double Duty Radcliffe
Ted Radcliffe got his name from a 1932 Negro Leagues World Series doubleheader. Radcliffe Caught the first game, then threw a shutout the next. Writer Damon Runyon wrote that Radcliffe ”is worth the price of two admissions” and, from that point, Ted Radcliffe was known as ”Double Duty.”
Sportscaster Chris Berman is credited for Fred McGriff‘s nickname. Scruff McGruff is a crime-fighting cartoon dog telling kids to ”Take a bite out of crime.” McGruff is a play on “McGriff,” who hit 493 career home runs and won the 1995 World Series with the Atlanta Braves.
The Mechanical Man
New York Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez called Charlie Gehringer ”The Mechanical Man” due to his consistent hitting and fielding. The lifetime Detroit Tiger is a career .320 hitter, World Series champion, MVP, and Hall of Famer.
One of the most underrated players in MLB history, Ron Cey is ”The Penguin” because of his waddling gait. Los Angeles Dodgers coach Bob Brayton says Cey’s squat build and waddling running style makes him look like a penguin. Cey is a six-time All-Star who won and earned co-MVP for the 1981 World Series. Not too bad for a loping third baseman.
The Flying Dutchman
Honus Wagner‘s German heritage and excellent speed gives him ”The Flying Dutchman” nickname. “Dutchman” is actually a mispronunciation of the word ”Deutsch,” which is the German word for ”German.” Very fitting for one of the best shortstops and arguably, players ever.
George Herman Ruth has many names: ”The Great Bambino,” ”The Colossus of Clout,” ”The King of Crash,” and ”The Sultan of Swat.” Everyone, even non-baseball fans, knows him as ”Babe” Ruth, though only half may know his real name. He owns the most definitive baseball nickname and is the most influential player in the history of the game.
Reggie Jackson‘s clutch hitting in the postseason labels him as ”Mr. October.” In five World Series, Jackson hit 10 home runs with 24 RBI while batting .357. The name ”Mr. October” is an appropriate one for Jackson.
Shoeless Joe Jackson
Due to a new pair of cleats giving him blisters, Joe Jackson had no choice but to play a game in his stockings. Not only did he play, he hit a triple in his first at bat. A fan noticed the shoeless Jackson running for third and shouted ”You shoeless sonofagun you!” As a result, ”Shoeless Joe” was born.
The Secretary of Defense
Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner stated that ”two-thirds of the earth is covered by water, the other third is covered by Garry Maddox.” The former San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder is an eight-time Gold Glove winner and 1980 World Series Champion.
James Sherman Wynn‘s smaller stature at five-foot-nine, 160 pounds and big power — 291 career home runs — give him one of the coolest baseball nicknames: the ”Toy Cannon.” Playing primarily in the pitcher-friendly Astrodome, Wynn’s ”pop” at the plate makes him a Houston Astros legend.
James Bell began his career as a pitcher for the St. Louis Stars in the Negro National League. He earned the nickname “Cool” when he struck out Oscar Charleston. Bell’s manager later added ”Papa,” and the two names were combined into ”Cool Papa.” Considered one of the fastest men to ever play, Bell is a 1974 Hall of Fame inductee.
Ken Griffey Jr.‘s impact on the game cannot be disputed. He was the face of MLB for over a decade and his moniker ”The Kid” stuck with him throughout his career. Making his debut at only 19 years old, he is one of the most recognizable names in modern baseball history.
With hundreds of nicknames to choose from, limiting them to just a few is a tough proposition. Despite that, we’ve been able to list some of the strangest, coolest and best nicknames the game has to offer. Surely, as the years go by, more and more names will be added to baseball legend and lore.
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