With the announcement of MLB’s Players Weekend, it reminded me once again why I love baseball. Nicknames. Nicknames are nothing new to sports, they have been around for years and have forever changed the way we remember players and their names. On Player's Weekend, we will get to see those nicknames across the back of jerseys all over MLB. I suspect we will see a lot of smiles and good baseball.
As a coach, if there is an easy way to connect to your team, it might be giving them nicknames. I love giving nicknames to the kids I used to coach. It makes them smile, laugh and enjoy the game. It keeps them coming back and having fun.
So as we talk about nicknames, I went through and picked out some of my all-time favorite MLB nicknames.
15. Mr. October (Reggie Jackson)
Reggie got his nickname for his performance during postseason play. It was during the 1977 World Series when his teammate was asked for a post-game interview who then suggested for a better interview to, “Go ask Mister October.” The name would stick.
14. Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
This one is not a nickname everyone knows, but I thought it to be a good one. His nickname is pretty straight forward. Brown lost a finger in his youth, but that didn’t stop him from learning to throw. He was an effective pitcher and threw a nasty curve. Ty Cobb once said it was one of the most devastating pitches he saw.
13. Big Papi (David Ortiz)
His clutch hitting and big personality may have made him one of the best RedSox in history. David Ortiz was fun to watch and you knew he loved the game. Ortiz’s nickname “Big Papi” supposedly came from his habit of calling people whose names he couldn’t remember “Papi”. The nickname was given to him by Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy.
12. Big Unit (Randy Johnson)
If you know who Randy Johnson is, then you know how tall he stood and how intense he was on the mound. Johnson’s former teammate Tim Raines collided with him at practice then looked up and said, “You’re a big unit.” The name stuck.
11. The Say Hey Kid (Willie Mays)
Willie Mays played the game with heart and some say he played like a kid who loved the game. It’s not for sure on how he got his nickname, but it is probably one of the most well known.
10. The Iron Man (Cal Ripken Jr)
Cal Ripken Jr may have been one of the greatest third basemen to play the game. He has a list of awards and accolades to fill his shelves but it was his 2,632 consecutive games played that earned him his nickname.
9. Big Hurt (Frank Thomas)
Frank Thomas could not be missed in the batter’s box and was known for wanting to make a dent in baseball. He put the hurt on American League pitching during his career.
8. The Wizard (Ozzie Smith)
One of the great defensive shortstops to play the game, Ozzie would continually make dazzling plays which he was then dubbed “The Wizard”.
7. Charlie Hustle (Pete Rose)
Pete Rose may be surrounded by controversy but one thing we can all agree on was his hustle on the field. He holds a handful of MLB records and a load of awards, a truly great player. Whitey Ford gave Rose his nickname after Rose sprinted to first on a walk during a spring training game.
6. Shoeless Joe (Joe Jackson)
Known for his part in the controversial Black Sox Scandal, Joe Jackson got his nickname early on when his new cleats gave him blisters during a game and decided to take them off and play the rest of it shoeless.
5. Stan The Man (Stan Musial)
Stan Musial, one of baseball’s most overlooked greatest players was simply the man. It wasn't his home crowd that came up with his nickname. It was, in fact, a crowd of Dodger fans that began to chant, “Here comes the man.” Reporters put it in the column the next day and Stan the Man was born.
4. The Kid (Ken Griffey Jr)
The entrance Ken Griffey Jr made on baseball was no subtle thing. A number 1 draft pick and son of a baseball player, Griffey did not disappoint. He was fun to watch and put up some big numbers during his career. At the time he made it to the MLB his dad was also still playing, so with his hat backward and smile on his face, he was simply known as “The Kid”.
3. Hammerin’ Hank (Hank Aaron)
One of baseball’s greats and one of baseball’s most fitting nicknames. Hammerin’ Hank did just that, hammered the baseball. A quiet and reserved man, Aaron let his bat do all the talking with the massive numbers he put up.
2. Cy Young (Denton Young)
Not many people know that Cy is actually a nickname. Known for setting the bar for pitching records Cy Young is a household name, due mostly in part because of the Cy Young Award that is named after him. It was during a tryout that Young got his nickname. It was said that his fastball destroyed the fences in the grandstand, it looked like a cyclone had hit them. Reporters shortened it to Cy and the rest is history.
1. Babe (George Herman Ruth)
An obvious choice for the best nickname of all-time, Babe Ruth had a handful of them. Babe, The Great Bambino, The Sultan of Swat, just to name a few of his nicknames. Ruth got his first nickname, “Babe”, when Jack Dunn signed him to a contract to play baseball. At the time Ruth was only 19 and living in an orphanage and due to the laws at the time Dunn had to become Ruth’s legal guardian in order to sign him. When news of this spread the other players quickly referred to Ruth as Jack Dunn’s new babe.
So there you have it… some of baseball’s greatest nicknames and there are so many not even mentioned! What is your favorite player’s nickname or maybe you have a nickname yourself?