Nationals Baseball: On Nicknames

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

On Nicknames

Back in 05/06 some of us internet followers of the Nationals had what we thought was a great idea. Saddened by the seeming lack of modern nicknames in the vein of those of old, we would try to bring them back by giving a new young star player a nickname reminiscent of one he'd receive in the pre-war era.  So Ryan Zimmerman, he of the German last name, was christened "Dutch" Zimmerman.

Now it is not surprising at all that this didn't take off. A few dozen people on the internet (at best) are going to have a tough time making something like this into an on-the-field reality. However, what was surprising was the unearthing of a group of people who found the idea of fans giving a player a nickname extremely offensive. "NO!" they said "He already has a nickname! It is ZIMM! and it was given to him in the CLUBHOUSE! How dare YOU think you can name him!" Honestly I still don't know what to make of it.

That is the truth though. Most players do get their nicknames through the clubhouse and since writers don't stand between us and them nearly as much as they used to, the "Sultan of Swat"s and "Sey Hey Kid"s of old have been replaced by "Mac"s and "Jonesy"s   They are utilitarian unimaginative nicknames much like, well regular nicknames. Thomas becoming Tom or Tommy isn't the height of inspiration.

A weekend in late August we'll see the Nats featuring a bunch of nicknames on the back of their jerseys and it gives us a good cross-section of the different types of nicknames around a baseball team.

The most common is the last name shortening. This usually takes one of three forms; the "straight-shorten", the "shorten and add an s", and the "shorten and add a y sound".  You see two of these types for the Nats

Daniel "Murph" Murphy
Stephen "Stras" Strasburg
Ryan (ed note - sigh) "Zim" Zimmerman 
Sean "Dooooooooo" Doolittle* 
Chris "Heis" Heisey

Shorten and add a y sound  
Matt "Wiety" Wieters
Jose "Lobi" Lobaton
Matt "Albie" Albers
Matt "Gracey" Grace - case where your last name is only one syllable thus can't be shortened

Another popular nickname derivation is combining the first initial with a shortening of the last name. Think A-Rod. The Nats have their share of these as well.

First Initial - Shorten Last name 
Brian "B Good" Goodwin
Edwin "E Jax" Jackson
Tanner "T Ro" Roark
Others name and initial plays are seen as well. The shortening of the first name, like the last one. Basically your traditional nickname.
Anthony "Ant" Rendon
Oliver "Ollie" Perez

The use of the last initial or both initials
Joe "Joe B" Blanton
Joe "JR" Ross
Gio "Double G" Gonzalez
Jayson "Dub" Werth

Or both first name shortening and an initial!
Michael "Mikey T" Taylor

All of this is very standard and typical. We also have simple nicknames based on some physical attribute, like "Shorty". This can be a bit more creative but a lot of times it's putting the adjective "little" or "big" in front of things. Nats are a little better here though with an actual comparison for a nickname from their injured CF.
 Max "Blue Eye" Scherzer
Adam "Mouse" Eaton

Last we get to a group of standard nicknames that are around the game. For baseball some are limited to Little League ages, like "Slugger" while some carry on.  Drew's one of these guys
Stephen "Dirt" Drew.

Finally we get the interesting ones. Ones that come from somewhere other than the obvious derivations.

Bryce "Big Kid" Harper - I've never heard this before, but actually it's been out there  Here's Ian using it in 2015. There's a Span tweet with it too. Seems like it caught on in clubhouse around that time.

Trea "Triple T" Turner - This isn't an initial thing (His middle name is Vance). It could be as simple as "He hits triples" (led the team last year despite playing only 73 games - still leads team this year)

Koda "Bear" Glover - Koda is a Cherokee word for "bear" or so they say.

Shawn "BAK PAK" Kelley - no clue

Adam "Donnie" Lind - also no clue

Ryan "Blest" Madson - Near as I figure this is not a nickname but a religious call out.

Enny "Hernandez" Romero - So you guys know how Hispanic surnames work, right? No? Read this a little ways in. Anyway Enny's full surname would be Romero-Hernandez so this is a shout out to his mother's side.

Wilmer "El Lindo" Difo - Translates to something like "The Good Looking Guy"

Ryan "Bobby" Raburn - This is the most involved one as it is a reference to THE FAN, a baseball movie from about 20 years ago. It was trash but the baseball star played by Wesley Snipes was named Bobby Rayburn.  So there you go - obscure pop culture reference for you, but probably a pretty familiar one inside baseball where I imagine they watch nearly every baseball related movie.

Also I'd be remiss to not acknowledge, some people don't have a nickname. Or don't want to use their nickname. So we end with that guy
Howie "Kendrick" Kendrick

My guess is that if he has one, it's not a name-based one. Howie is a good informal sounding name to use in a clubhouse and "Kendry" or "Kends" or stuff like that doesn't sound all that good.

*It's more imaginative in the spelling but guys just call him "Doo" I'm sure.


JE34 said...

Apparently Doolittle wanted as many Os as would fit on his back.

Anonymous said...

Soooo should we address you as "Harpy", Harp", "Harpo" or "Fancy Stat Pants"

Matt said...

^Clearly, Harper is The Soulless Automaton.

If you go with Harpo, it should be as part of a Marx Brothers reference.

Josh Higham said...

Of course, there is no rule that a guy can have only one nickname. See Bryce "Harp" "Big Kid" Harper.

And although this is a last-year throwback, I'd like to note a top quality nickname for a bottom quality player: Jonathan "The Strangler" Papelbon.

Anonymous said...

Stephen "Stras" Strasburg

I guess that's better than "Princess" or "China Doll" or "Dainty Orchid".

Wolly and the Teev said...

I still wish we had called Jordan Zimmermann "The Telegram"

PotomacFan said...

Mad Max: is that a media name, or clubhouse name?
Fat Albert: perfect nickname for Matt Albers
The Orchid: Tony Kornheiser's apt name for Strasburg
Tony "Two Bags": Anthony Rendon
DFA: Joe Blanton

Alan Wiecking said...

Story a couple of days ago on a nickname really caught how this happens. A rookie, getting his first call-up for Spring Training tells the local paper before he leaves that "if I'm in my groove I can hit major league pitching". Finds his locker and the stack of newspapers in front of it, every one open to the article and hi-lighting the phrase. Don "Groove" Baylor. The guy that did the newspapers? Frank Robinson.

RIP Groove

BornInDC said...

I remember when Bryce was referred to as "Bam Bam" in his early years with the Nats. A nickname referencing both his power and his unique abilities at a young age.

Anonymous said...

If we're going to be honest. Rendon does have a nickname, and it's one of the best in the league. It might not be on the back of his jersey but America knows his real nick name is Tony Two Bags

Robot said...

There was Roger "The Shark" Bernadina, a fan-bestowed nickname of bygone days

John C. said...

I have never heard any fan refer to Jayson Werth as "Dub." Not one. I've heard a bunch of them call him "WereWerth" (obviously due to his hirstute visage). Which Werth or at least someone is aware of, because he occasionally used the Warren Zevon tune "Werewolves of London" as his walk up music.

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