Do you have a nickname? No, not the one relegated to private moments with your significant other. One that would be acceptable in a public setting. For me, it started in High School when friends got tired of people mispronouncing my last name and shortened their greeting to “Drook”. Their logic was that even teenagers could figure out it rhymed with brook, crook or even schnook. To this day, the closest people in my life call me by that name and it has graced the personalized license plate on a parade of vehicles since 1972.
Once Rotisserie Baseball became part of the landscape in the mid-80’s, naming my first team “Donald’s Ducks” created nicknames galore. “The Duck” was obvious but being the Commissioner of the league also added “Bowie Duck” (after Bowie Kuhn) and “CFL Duck” (Commissioner For Life). Over the last 30 years, many other variations have appeared including one coined by my adopted Sister, who lovingly refers to me as “The Quacker”.
A few years ago, a wonderful Sports Illustrated column by Steve Rushin on the mystical qualities of baseball names (did you know there was a Phillies player in 1915 named Bud Weiser?) got the wheels turning regarding the legacy of great baseball nicknames. So, today’s exercise will be to update a column from 2013 that creates a baseball card collection of the players whose nicknames endure within our National Pastime. We’re not talking about the obvious ones like “The Splendid Splinter”, “The Yankee Clipper” or “Stan The Man”. No Hall-of-Famers here, just the ones embraced by real fans who read the backs of baseball cards and remember the aroma of bubble gum in the packs. We’ll stick with the post-World War II era, in order for the actual Rookie Cards to be accessible in the general marketplace. As always, the value of the individual cards is based on “Near Mint” (NM) condition.
> Ron Cey, “The Penguin” – Not sure how much he enjoyed the moniker based on his awkward running style, but it fit perfectly. The back story is that Tommy Lasorda came up with the name when he was Cey’s Minor League Manager. His Rookie Card is from 1972 Topps (#761) and is worth about $15.
> Fred McGriff, “The Crime Dog” – This one is credited to Chris Berman and is based on McGruff, the cartoon Crime Dog. His 1986 Donruss card (#28) books for around $5.
> Mike Hargrove, “The Human Rain Delay” – You’d have time to get a hot dog from the concession stand before he got back in the batter’s box. His 1975 Topps issue (#106) is $2.
> Dennis Boyd, “Oil Can” – In his native Mississippi, beer was sometimes referred to as oil. $1 will get you his 1984 Donruss card (#457).
> Don Mossi, “Ears” – Jim Bouton said, “he looked like a cab going down the street with its doors open”. His 1955 Topps card (#85) will set you back $15.
> Jim Grant, “Mudcat” – Supposedly, his boyhood idol Larry Doby gave him the nickname when they were roommates on the Indians. The 1958 Topps Rookie Card (#394) books for $5.
> Mark Fidrych, “The Bird” – One of the great characters of the game, he talked to the baseball and looked like Big Bird from Sesame Street. His 1977 Topps card (#265) is $3.
> Jimmy Wynn, “The Toy Cannon” – A 5′ 10″ Centerfielder, he hit 291 career Home Runs. His 1964 Topps card (#38) is about $5.
> Steve Balboni, “Bye Bye” – At 6′ 3″ & 225 lbs. he hit 36 Home Runs for the Royals in 1985. Of course, he also led the AL with 166 Strikeouts. You’ll get change from your dollar when you purchase his 1982 Topps card (#83).
> Carl Pavano, “American Idle” – You get stuck with this type of derisive name when you sign a 4-year, $38 Million contract and only make nine starts. His 1996 Bowman card (#259) will cost you a buck.
> Vince Coleman, “Vincent Van Go” – For Fantasy players in the 80’s, his Stolen Base artistry dominated the category. $1 will buy his 1985 Topps Traded issue (#24T)
> Rusty Staub, “Le Grand Orange” – Getting traded to a city where they speak French created this memorable entry. His 1963 Topps card (#544) will cost at least $20 because it is from the scarce high-number series.
> Al Hrabowsky, “The Mad Hungarian” – His angry demeanor on the mound was meant to intimidate batters and the facial hair added to the image. His Rookie Card is from 1971 Topps (#594) and is valued at $4.
> Dick Stuart, “Dr. Strangeglove” – In 1963, this slugger hit 42 Home Runs and led the AL with 118 RBI’s as a member of the Red Sox. All that was forgotten when the movie “Dr. Strangelove” debuted in ’64 and people focused on his 29 errors at 1B. You can get his 1959 Topps card (#357) for around $4.
> Joe Medwick, “Ducky” – We’ll make an exception for this Hall-of-Famer who was the 1937 NL MVP. His 1935 Rookie Card from Batter Up (#145) will set you back $425. A very expensive Duck, indeed. Of course, “Goose” Goslin’s card was also in this set and costs $100 less.
> For a more affordable fowl, there’s the 1954 Topps card (#191) of Dick “Ducky” Schofield which can be had for $45.
We’ve only touched the surface of this endless topic. Do you have a favorite nickname that wasn’t on this initial list? Send it along and we’ll visit the subject again.