Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Baseball Names – How They Came To Be By Harvey Frommer

Baseball Names –How They Came To Be - By Harvey Frommer

The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day, year after year -

generally without any wonderment as to how they became part of the language.

All have a history, a story.

With the 2017 edition of spring training to beging and another season to follow, a

brief sampler follows of some of the singular baseball names follow:

AMAZIN' METS The first run they ever scored came in on a balk. They lost the

first nine games they ever played. They finished last their first four seasons. Once

they were losing a game, 12-1, and there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth

inning. A fan held up a sign that said "PRAY!" There was a walk, and ever

hopeful, thousands of voices chanted, "Let's go Mets." They were 100-l underdogs

to win the pennant in 1969 and incredibly came on to finish the year as World

Champions. They picked the name of the best pitcher in their history (Tom

Seaver) out of a hat on April Fools' Day. They were supposed to be the

replacement for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. They could have

been the New York Continentals or Burros or Skyliners or Skyscrapers or Bees or

Rebels or NYB's or Avengers or even Jets (all  runner-up names in a contest to tab

the National League New York team that began playing ball in 1962). They've

never been anything to their fans but amazing-the Amazin' New York Mets.

BIG POISON and LITTLE POISON Paul Waner's rookie year with the Pittsburgh

Pirates was 1926, when he batted .336 and led the league in triples. In one game

he cracked out six hits using six different bats. In 1927 the second Waner arrived,

brother Lloyd. For 14 years, the Waners formed a potent brother combination in

the Pittsburgh lineup. Paul was 5'8l/2'' and weighed 153 pounds. Lloyd was 5'9"

and weighed 150 pounds.

Paul was dubbed Big Poison even though he was smaller than Lloyd, who was

called Little Poison. An older brother even then had privileges. But both players

were pure poison for National League pitchers. Slashing left-handed line-drive

hitters, the Waners collected 5,611 hits between them. Paul's lifetime batting

average was .333, and he recorded three batting titles. Lloyd posted a career

average of .316. They played a combined total of 38 years in the major leagues.

BONEHEAD MERKLE The phrase "pulling a bonehead play," or "pulling a

boner," is not only part of the language of baseball, but of all sports and in fact, of

the language in general. Its most dramatic derivation goes back to September 9,

1908. Frederick Charles Merkle, a.k.a. George Merkle, was playing his first full

game at first base for the New York Giants. It was his second season in the

majors; the year before, he had appeared in 15 games. The Giants were in first

place and the Cubs were challenging them. The two teams were tied, 1-1, in the

bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs, the Giants' Moose McCormick was on

third base and Merkle was on first. Al Bridwell slashed a single to center field, and

McCormick crossed the plate with what was apparently the winning run. Merkle,

eager to avoid the Polo Grounds crowd that surged onto the playing field, raced

directly to the clubhouse instead of following through on the play and touching

second base. Amid the pandemonium, Johnny Evers of the Cubs screamed for the

baseball, obtained it somehow, stepped on second base, and claimed a forceout on

Merkle. When things subsided, umpire Hank O'Day agreed with Evers. The

National League upheld O'Day, Evers and the Cubs, so the run was nullified and

the game not counted. Both teams played out their schedules and completed the

season tied for first place  with 98 wins and 55 losses. A replay of the game was

scheduled, and Christy Mathewson, seeking his 38th victory of the season, lost, 4-

2, to Three-Finger Brown (q.v.). The Cubs won the pennant. Although Merkle

played 16 years in the majors and had a lifetime batting average of .273, he will

forever be rooted in sports lore as the man who made the "bonehead" play that lost

the 1908 pennant for the Giants, for had he touched second base there would have

been no replayed game and the Giants would have won the pennant by one game.

"B0O” Name for a day in 1979 of Giants shortstop Johnnie LeMaster, who heard

the boo-birds in San Fran. He took his field position wearing "Boo" on his back.

LeMaster switched back to his regular jersey after one game.

"CHILI"  When he was about 12 years old, Charles Davis was given a not too

attractive haircut which led to his getting the nickname "Chili Bowl," later

shortened to "Chili" as the boy became the man and the baseball player "Chili"


GIANTS  One sultry summer's day in 1885, Jim Mutrie, the

saber-mustached manager of the New York Gothams, was enjoying himself

watching his team winning an important game. Mutrie screamed out with

affection, "My big fellows, my giants." Many of his players were big fellows, and

they came to be Giants. For that was how the nickname Giants came to be. And

when the New York team left for San Francisco in 1958, Giants, Mutrie's

endearing nickname, went along with it.

SPLENDID SPLINTER He was also nicknamed the Thumper, because of the

power with which he hit the ball, and the Kid, because of his tempestuous attitude-

but his main nickname was perhaps the most appropriate. Ted Williams was one

of the most splendid players who ever lived, and he could really "splinter" the ball.

The handsome slugger compiled a lifetime batting average of .344 and a slugging

percentage of .634.

Williams blasted 521 career home runs, scored nearly 1,800 runs, and drove in

over 1,800 runs. So keen was his batting eye that he walked over 2,000 times

while striking out only 709 times. In 1941 he batted .406 - the last time any player

hit .400 or better. One of the most celebrated moments in the career of the Boston

Red Sox slugger took place in the 1946 All-Star Game. Williams came to bat

against Rip Sewell and his celebrated "eephus" (blooper) pitch. Williams had

already walked in the game and hit a home run. Sewell's pitch came to the plate in

a high arc, and Williams actually trotted out to the pitch, bashing it into the right-

field bullpen for a home run. "That was the first homer ever hit off the pitch,"

Sewell said later.

"The ball came to the plate in a twenty-foot arc," recalled Williams. "I didn't know

whether I'd be able to get enough power into that kind of a pitch for a  home run."

There was no kind of pitch Williams couldn't hit for a home run.


Coming this fall from your favorite author: (Pre-order)

https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Yankee- Book-Beginning-


Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, is in his 4ist year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 43 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl was published last fall.

A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at:   http://frommerbooks.com/

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