Early 50’s Nicknames

'51 Berra

Even if you weren’t around in the early 1950’s, the chances are that your baseball legacy as a fan traces back to your Dad or Grandfather. In recent years, the Old Duck has had the privilege of dealing with some vintage collections that include Bowman cards from that era. In addition to the obvious statistical history on these cardboard gems, the stories on the backs of the cards are fascinating. Let’s see who might have been on the list of great nicknames that crossed paths with you or your ancestors. The values of the cards are based on “Excellent” (EX 5) condition.

 

1951 Bowman

 

> #2 Larry “Yogi” Berra, $190 – Your kids probably think he was named after Yogi Bear, but the cartoon character didn’t debut until 1958.

 

> #21 George “Snuffy” Stirnweiss, $15 – Won the AL Batting Championship with the Yankees in 1945.

 

> #23 Walter “Hoot” Evers, $15 – He got the nickname as a teenager by imitating cowboy movie hero Hoot Gibson and Tiger fans would yell “H—o—o—o—o—t” when he came to the plate.

 

> #58 Enos “Country” Slaughter, $30 – This country boy from Roxboro, North Carolina was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

 

> #60 Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel, $15 – One of the first great players from Venezuela, he made four All-Star teams in the 50’s.

 

> #72 Lloyd “Citation” Merriman, $15 – The nickname gives you a hint of his great speed on the base paths, as he swiped 44 bases for Columbia in the Sally League in 1948.

 

> #80 Harold “Pee Wee” Reese, $70 – Not named for his diminutive frame, he became “Pee Wee” as a kid when he was a marble champion…elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.

 

> #86 Harry “The Cat” Brecheen, $15 – Won three games in the 1946 World Series for the Cardinals.

 

> #92 Vern “Junior” Stephens, $15 – Vernon Decatur Stephens Jr. made his last of seven All-Star appearances in ’51.

 

> #102 Emil “Dutch” Leonard, $15 – Spent 20 years in the majors with 191 victories…his first season was 1933.

 

> #104 Virgil “Fire” Trucks, $15 – Won 177 games in his career with a 3.39 ERA.

 

> #118 Elwin “Preacher” Roe, $25 – He had as many stories about the roots of his nickname as he did ways to throw a spitball…the year this card came out, he was 22-3 for the Dodgers.

 

> #149 Emory “Bubba” Church, $15 – Hard to believe that someone born in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1920’s could be named “Bubba”.

 

> #170 Sebastian “Sibby” Sisti, $15 – A major-leaguer for 13 years (interrupted by three years serving in World War II), he was also the technical advisor for “The Natural” and played the Pirates Manager who came to the mound and brought in the fireballing reliever to pitch to Roy Hobbs just before the famous home run.

 

> #187 Al “Flip” Rosen, $15 – Was the AL MVP in 1953, leading the league in Runs, HR’s RBI’s & OPS.

 

> #194 Harry “Peanuts” Lowrey, $15 – At 5′ 8″, he played 13 seasons in the big leagues.

 

> #235 Jack “Lucky” Lohrke, $15 – According to the back of his card, this Giants utility infielder got his nickname “because he missed both a plane crash and a bus accident”.

 

> #252 Homer “Dixie” Howell, $15 – There were two players named Dixie Howell during this era…this one was the Catcher while the other was a Pitcher. Amazingly, they were teammates on the 1949 Reds.

 

> #257 George “Birdie” Tebbetts, $20 – This was a childhood nickname given by his Aunt who thought his voice sounded like a bird chirping. Played for 14 seasons before becoming a big-league Manager.

 

> #317 Forrest “Smokey” Burgess, $40 – You shouldn’t have any difficulty figuring out this nickname…he was a Catcher for 18 seasons and made six All-Star teams.

 

1952 Bowman

 

> #5 Orestes “Minnie” Minoso, $45 – From Cuba, he was one of the most popular players in White Sox history.

 

> #16 Omar “Turk” Lown, $15 – Got his nickname because of his fondness for turkey…led the AL in Saves for the pennant-winning White Sox in ’59.

 

> #20 Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones, $15 – Can you imagine a modern ballplayer having this nickname? He was an All-Star in both ’50 & ’51.

 

> #66 Sal “The Barber” Maglie, $15 – This Pitcher’s nickname came from his fastball, which would come so close to the batter’s head that it seemed to shave his chin…he was coming off a 23-6 season for the Giants in ’51.

 

> #116 Edwin “Duke” Snider, $85 – Given the nickname by his Father for his self-assured swagger as a youngster, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

 

> #223 Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, $25 – When you play for five major league teams in only eight seasons (including the Athletics twice), you pack a lot of bags.

 

#242 Everett “Skeeter” Kell, $25 – The younger brother of Hall of Famer George Kell, ’52 was his only big-league campaign.

 

In a future visit, we’ll look at the iconic first issue of Topps baseball cards from 1952 to see what kind of nicknames and back-stories come to the surface.

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