Boston Sports Day

Lazzari: Baseball Nicknames Part 2

(Andy Esposito/NYSD)

As promised, a continuation of the last column–some memorable nicknames I’ve been privy to since I began following baseball……

*Don “Stan the Man Unusual” Stanhouse: Used mostly as a reliever in the 70’s and 80’s with four different teams. Was an All-Star in ’79 while with the AL-champ O’s and picked up 64 saves in his career. Was VERY flaky–hence the nickname (did pre-game wacky antics to entertain fans, clubhouse pranks, etc.) Also had a hairstyle that reminded one of a full-grown poodle whenever he donned a hat. Finally, was also called “FULL PACK” by Earl Weaver due to the amount of cigarettes Weaver would smoke while watching Stanhouse walk batters he wasn’t fond of facing……….

*Steve “Psycho” Lyons: Had three stints with the Red Sox between 1985 and 1993–a utility guy who could play every position; was actually traded for Tom Seaver in 1986. Supposedly was coined the nickname by former teammate Marc Sullivan–who was SPOT ON. Remember when he slid headfirst into first base in 1990–then dropped his drawers on national TV in order get the dirt out? Funniest part was when females then started waving dollar bills at him as he left the field. Another major prankster–who had a LOTTA fun playing the game. The man possesses some good broadcasting ability, as well……….

*Jim “Mudcat” Grant: Pitched 14 seasons between 1958 and 1971–one of the few guys in history who both WON 20 games in a season (1965) and SAVED 20 games in a season (1970). Also won TWO games in the ’65 World Series as a member of the Twins; was a two-time All-Star who completed 89 games in his career while spending time with seven teams. Earned the nickname during a spring training in the 60’s from a guy who thought he resembled an ugly catfish (NOT in a flattering way–a Mississippi Mudcat); was soon shortened to “Mudcat”–a nickname he ultimately came to embrace. A friend of mine knew a guy who called him “Wildcat Muddy” Grant–a great nickname, as well……….

*John “T-Bone” Shelby: An outfielder who played 11 seasons with the O’s, Dodgers, and Tigers between 1981 and ’91; solid defensively. Has two WS rings (’83 O’s/’88 Dodgers). Shelby once went 0-for-10 in an extra-inning game vs. Houston–yes, very difficult to do! Some thought he was nicknamed “T-Bone” due to his slight frame; Shelby says that he grew up being known as “T” (his middle initial)–but a teammate started calling him “T-Bone” at one point and it stuck. Hated it at first–grew to love it……….

*Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd: Was listed at 6’1″ tall and about 150 pounds (maybe after a couple of HUGE meals); pitched 10 seasons between ’82 and ’91–mostly for the Red Sox. Won a combined 31 games for the Sox in ’85 and ’86 while pitching almost 500 innings; was never the same pitcher after that. Most people think he received the nickname because he liked to drink beer (“oil”) during his younger days in Mississippi. Truth is he preferred WHISKEY, and was once caught drinking some “moonshine” out of an oil can–hence the nickname. The man basically NEVER retired–playing in the minors, Puerto Rico, Mexico–you name it; even considered a major league comeback just a few years ago. Admitted being high on drugs very often while pitching; yes–a “loose cannon” if there ever was one……….

Ron “The Penguin” Cey: A member of many good Dodgers teams in the 70’s; played 17 seasons for three different teams and hit over 300 home runs. Was an All-Star yearly from ’74-’79 and was as durable as they come–averaging an impressive 154 games per season between 1973 and 1980. Many people believe Tommy Lasorda coined the nickname due to his ALWAYS yelling out, “C’mon, Penguin!” during Dodgers games. Actually, Cey was given the nickname by his college coach as a freshman–due to his unique body-type and the waddling nature of his running/walking style. Couldn’t run, of course–stealing a TOTAL of 24 bases over the 17-year span……….

*Phil “The Vulture” Regan: Pitched 13 seasons between 1960 and 1972 for four different teams; used mainly in relief during the second half of his career. Received the nickname from the great Sandy Koufax in 1966–a year in which Regan went 14-1 out of the bullpen. Regan had an uncanny ability that season to enter games late–with either his team tied or behind–and somehow come away with the victory. Yes, he snatched wins like a “vulture.” Had a TON of coaching jobs since retirement (college, MLB, winter ball etc.), and is given credit for the development of many of the NY Mets’ young arms as the pitching coach for the St. Lucie Mets……….

*Bill “Spaceman” Lee: Rumor has it that former teammate John Kennedy coined him with the nickname after hearing Lee talk about the space program with reporters; the nickname stuck and became TOTALLY APPROPRIATE due to this guy’s eccentric personality. Need proof? He once threatened to bite off an umpire’s ear and also ran for U.S. President as a member of the Rhinoceros Party; yeah–the man is flat out NUTS. Recently, he also said he doesn’t own a watch, PC, or cell phone, either. But the guy could pitch, too. Won 17 games THREE years in a row for the Red Sox (’73-’75) and threw 72 complete games over a 14-year career with Boston and Montreal. Also came up with his own version of the famed “eeephus pitch” which he called the “Leephus pitch”–lobbed highly in the air to batters. Still appears at Red Sox fantasy camps and has pitched in various celebrity/charity games at a VERY advanced age–and still offers a ton of zaniness wherever he goes. Seriously, does that SURPRISE you? One of a kind–certifiably crazy………

*George “The Stork” Theodore: Another “flaky” kinda guy (y’know–a free spirit), he spent only two years in the “bigs” with the Mets–hitting just .219 in almost 200 at-bats. Best known for a BRUTAL outfield collision with fellow outfielder Don Hahn in 1973 in which Theodore dislocated a hip. Supposedly received the nickname from Tidewater teammate Jim Gosger due to Theodore’s gangly frame/appearance (he was 6’4″); yes–all arms and legs while wearing glasses. Received a Masters degree in the 70’s and then went into the social work field for a very long time. I remember watching the Hahn/Theodore collision live at the time; my OWN hip still hurts when I watch replays to this day……….

*John “The Duke” Wathan: No, he did NOT get the nickname because his hitting exploits reminded people of Duke Snider (Wathan hit .262 lifetime with just 21 HR’s). Supposedly, he did an AMAZING impersonation of John Wayne which left teammates spellbound each and every time he mimicked “The Duke”; the nickname was inevitable for this guy. Dealt with some major tragedy when his mother was stabbed to death in 1979 by his step-brother; amazingly, Wathan somehow bounced back and hit .305 in 1980–maybe his best year in the majors. Wathan’s claim to fame? He stole 36 bases in 1982–breaking the single-season record for catchers set by Ray Schalk way back in 1916. Later, he managed the Twins and Angels for parts of six seasons and had many other jobs in baseball; also had two sons who played professionally……….

*Lenny “Nails” Dykstra: People believe he received the nickname because he was “tough as nails” on the baseball field (which he WAS), but it originated from Dykstra throwing strikes at a bowling alley when he was young; a friend simply said he was throwing “nails” at the time. In any case, ’twas the PERFECT nickname as he was intense as anyone and never donned a clean uniform. Led the NL in hits TWICE as a member of the Phils (’90 and ’93) and hit .285 lifetime over a 12-year career with the Mets and Philadelphia. Sadly, he was named in the Mitchell Report regarding steroid use and later would have HUGE problems legally: allegations of sexual assault, bankruptcy fraud, grand theft auto, identity theft, and more (did some jail time along the way). Career just fizzled out once he reached 30; very sad story regarding a guy who had tons of talent……….

Finally, *”Wild Bill” Hagy: No, he didn’t play the game, but those who remember this Oriole legend won’t forget him–and probably will smile a lot, too. A beer-guzzling taxi driver, he would spell out O-R-I-O-L-E-S with his body at games during the 70’s/80’s in the upper deck at Memorial Stadium; he soon grew to be such a cult legend at games that the stadium personnel allowed him to do it on top of the DUGOUT. Scruffy beard, cowboy hat, beer-belly–there was NO mistaking “Wild Bill.” So much fun to watch–and the team seemed to rally behind this guy at times! Reportedly, he later became disillusioned with the Orioles because they wouldn’t let him bring his own beer into the stadium; he also despised the “new-breed” of uppity fan that Camden Yards catered to in the early 90’s. Died in the summer of 2007 after being found unresponsive by a roommate. In the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame–and well-deserved; an unforgettable character who contributed greatly to the FUN of the game–which is sadly lacking at the present time.

Perhaps even more great nicknames to come down the road, folks; thanks for reading……….

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