1951 Bowman Nicknames

'51 Klu

Spending lots of time over the years with vintage (pre-1975) baseball cards has helped me define many of the differences in today’s modern game. From visual aspects such as uniforms and gloves to social issues like players of color being limited, our cherished game has certainly come a long way. It seems, however, that one area where the sport has gone backwards is in the category of nicknames.

 

In 2019, as the game has become richer and more corporate, original and appropriate nicknames have begun to disappear. Of the top players in the game, is there a decent nickname among them? Looking at baseball-reference.com, it appears that many of them have nicknames, but even the most ardent fan might not recognize them. Have you ever heard of the “Millville Meteor” or “Bigfoot”? Those are the nicknames listed for Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton. And Clayton Kershaw is “The Claw”? Add this to the weak efforts of “Miggy” for Miguel Cabrera and “Goldy” for Paul Goldschmidt and you can see that the new era of baseball is a wasteland for nicknames. Max Scherzer is “Blue Eye”, Justin Verlander is “JV”, Bryce Harper has three nicknames and they are all boring…”Bam-Bam”, “Mondo” & “Harp”. Maybe you like “Votto-matic” for the Reds 1B?

 

Thanks to a very large baseball card collection that has taken over significant areas of my house, we can look into the rear-view mirror, travel back to almost 70 years ago and see what kind of nicknames we find for the players in the 1951 Bowman set. This was the 4th issue of the post-war era and had no real competition, as Topps didn’t produce cards until 1952. At 324 cards, it was a treasure trove for fans because almost every major leaguer was represented. If you wanted to add this set to your collection, bring your checkbook and 401K…today’s price would be over $20,000!

 

Let’s look at some players you’ll recognize and others you won’t. The values are based on a card in “EX 5” condition.

 

> #1 Edward “Whitey” Ford ($500) – This is the rookie card of the Yankees Hall of Fame Pitcher. Once he became a star of the Bombers dynasty, he was also called “Chairman of the Board”…long before Sinatra.

 

> #2 Lawrence “Yogi” Berra ($190) – This was long before Yogi Bear and came from childhood friends commenting on the way he sat with his legs crossed.

 

> #10 Al “Red” Schoendienst ($30) – A mainstay of the Cardinals organization for decades and the good friend of Stan Musial.

 

> #21 George “Snuffy” Stirnweiss ($12) – While most players were off fighting in World War II, he led the AL with a .309 BA in 1945.

 

> #23 Walter “Hoot” Evers ($12) – A two-time All-Star while playing in the OF for the Tigers.

 

> #24 Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell ($14) – This nickname referred to his pitching motion which was almost sidearm. Made six consecutive NL All-Star teams from 1946-51.

 

> #26 Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto ($65) – All that needs to be said is “Holy Cow”.

 

> #30 Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller ($70) – This Hall of Famer had the best fastball in the game.

 

> #32 Edwin “Duke” Snider ($100) – The Duke of Flatbush.

 

> #50 Johnny “The Big Cat” Mize ($35) – Hit 51 HR’s in 1947.

 

> #58 Enos “Country” Slaughter ($30) – This HOF member is a Cardinals legend thanks to the 1946 World Series.

 

> #60 Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel ($25) – This White Sox SS was one of the first stars from Venezuela.

 

> #80 Harold “Pee Wee” Reese ($70) – The Dodger Captain was also known as “The Little Colonel”.

 

> #86 Harry “The Cat” Brecheen ($12) – The slim Cardinals left-hander won 20 games in 1948 and led the NL with a 2.24 ERA.

 

> #102 Emil “Dutch” Leonard ($12) – Pitched in the Majors from 1933 – 1953 and won 191 games.

 

> #104 Virgil “Fire” Trucks ($12) – How often do you see a 20-game winner who pitched for two teams in that season…in 1953, he was 5-4 with the Browns and 15-6 after being traded to the White Sox.

 

> #109 Allie “Superchief” Reynolds ($25) – A mainstay of the Yankees rotation in the 50’s, the nickname came from his Native American roots.

 

> #112 Willie “Puddin Head” Jones ($12) – Rumor has it that the genesis of the nickname was a Rudy Vallee song from 1933.

 

> #118 Elwin “Preacher” Roe ($25) – ’51 was his best season as he went 22-3 for the Dodgers…most fans didn’t even know his given name.

 

> #127 Sal “The Barber” Maglie ($25) – If you’re guessing that he was known for pitching inside, you’re correct.

 

> #143 Ted “Big Klu” Kluszewski ($35) – Had three 40+ HR seasons in the mid-50’s.

 

> #170 Sebastian “Sibby” Sisti ($12) – A utility infielder who played in three decades, he also portrayed the opposing Manager who calls in a reliever in the climatic scene of “The Natural”.

 

> #187 Al “Flip” Rosen ($20) – Won the AL MVP in ’53 with 43 HR’s & 145 RBI’s.

 

> #194 Harry “Peanuts” Lowrey ($12) – At 5′ 8″, he had a 13 year big league career.

 

> Monford “Monte” Irvin ($65) – This is the rookie card of the Negro League legend who didn’t get a major league at-bat until he was in his 30’s…in ’51, he led the NL with 121 RBI’s.

 

> #233 Leo “The Lip” Durocher ($30) – This argumentative Manager earned this nickname while leading his teams to over 2,000 wins.

 

> #257 George “Birdie” Tebbetts ($30) – Spent over 30 years in the game as a player and manager. The nickname came from a family member who thought his high-pitched voice sounded like a bird chirping.

 

> #275 Stanley “Bucky” Harris ($32) – This HOF Manager was the skipper of five different teams from 1924-1956.

 

> #317 Forrest “Smoky” Burgess ($40) – A big league Catcher for 18 seasons with six All-Star appearances.

 

There were a few more nickname scattered throughout the set, but the players were somewhat obscure. Included are “Teddy Ballgame”, “The Mick” and “Say Hey Kid”.

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