Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: The Nickname Doctor: Greetings!

The Nickname Doctor: Greetings!

by One More Dying Quail

One of my first baseball-related research projects began when I was about eleven and realized that Total Baseball (the post-Baseball Encyclopedia and pre-Baseball-Reference.com resource for any and all statistical information) included nicknames along with the other biographical information. Lefty…Daffy…Pepper…Hammerin’ Hank…the Say Hey Kid…just a handful of the many colorful names that greeted me every time I popped open that book.

Lately, however, baseball nicknames (and sports nicknames in general) have hit a rough patch. We are currently living in an era in which “Gonzo” and “insert initial here”-Rod are accepted without question. This is unacceptable. Clearly, work needs to be done.

I have no doubt that Coley Ward and his minions at Ump Bump will continue to fight the good fight and nickname as many players as possible, starting with the fattest. But they can’t do it alone…which is why I’m joining the fray and starting what will hopefully be a regular feature here on Epic Carnival: choosing a player, evaluating the various facts of his life and career, and attempting to come up with a decent nickname.

Some of these may be good enough to catch on and make me world famous as “the guy who came up with so-and-so’s nickname”; the majority will probably suck so badly that Scrap will eventually forbid me from posting on this topic every again. Either way, everyone wins.

Three quick notes before we get this party started right: one, if a player already has a perfectly good nickname (i.e. Boomer or Pronk), he is exempt from this project (unless somebody knocks my socks off with a suggestion); two, anything remotely resembling a Bermanism gives you the reader the right to beat the poo out of me in the comments; and three, we’re going for names that roll off the tongue here, so they’ll probably be simple. Okay? Okay.

Now, for today’s candidate, I am proud to present…San Diego Padres starting pitcher Chris Young.

Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 2000, Young passed through two organizations before the January 2006 deal that shipped him, Adrian Gonzalez and Terrmel Sledge from Texas for Akinori Otsuka, Adam Eaton and minor leaguer Billy Killian. Considering Eaton is now in Philadelphia and Otsuka is 35 (compared to 28 for Young and 25 for Gonzalez) while Young leads the National League in ERA and Gonzalez is one of the Padres best offensive threats, San Diego might have gotten the better end of that deal.

So for starters, Young is good – 8-3, 1.97 ERA, 107 strikeouts in 18 starts. Talent always helps (although it didn’t stop me from christening Alex Cora, “Uncle Joey,” but that is a story for another day), but it doesn’t give a clue as to what his name should be. Keep digging…

That was easy: at 6’10” and 250 pounds, Young is a veritable giant who is tied with Randy Johnson, Eric Hillman and Andrew Sisco for the title of second-tallest players in major league history (darn you, Jon Rauch!). Also, he was born in Texas and majored in politics at Princeton, where he was the first player to be named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in baseball and basketball.

Young is one of the most talented Ivy League products in baseball history (there’s another post right there): his appearance in the 2007 All-Star Game made him just the sixth player from an Ivy League school to play in the mid-summer classic (Lou Gehrig, Red Rolfe, Ron Darling, Brad Ausmus, and Mike Remlinger were the others). He made it extra super special by allowing the first inside-the-park homerun in All-Star history to Ichiro Suzuki.

Also pertinent to the discussion: Young is a fighter, not a lover. In mid-June, he hit Chicago’s Derek Lee with a pitch and exchanged swings with the 6’5” first baseman in a fight might have featured the two biggest combatants in baseball history.

There – I think we have enough. To review briefly:

Born in Texas…enormously tall…a very, very good pitcher…very, very, very smart…majored in politics at Princeton…willing to mix it up with a big dude like Derek Lee…

The first possibility I considered took into account Young’s size and birthplace. What’s big and often associated with cowboys (who are often associated with Texas, I think)? Ten gallon hats. Hence, the name “Ten Gallon”. Not the greatest, not the worst. Sort of an average nickname.

After discovering Young’s major, however, I knew that his time at Princeton had to somehow be a part of this. Given his obvious interest in the political realm, his school and the way he spoke about a visit to the Oval Office in 2006, there is one name that seems perfect: Senator. It took far too many words, but that's what I'm going with.

Go ahead...say it once or twice. Roll it around. Spit it out if you don’t like it. Leave comments below with your thoughts.

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