Red Sox Nicknames

Sam Killay, writer for the Devil Rays, is also a Red Sox fan. Here he writes down the nicknames of the Red Sox that we have given.
Taking a leisurely tour of Bill James’ gigantic Historical Baseball Abstract, I’ve found myself especially interested in and amused by baseball’s time-honored infatuation with nicknames. The book follows baseball’s decade-to-decade evolution from the 1870’s to the present, including a small dose of nicknaming from every decade. Some of my favorites: Sureshot, Dandelion, The Tabasco Kid, Little All Right, Yip, Earache, Shoeless Joe, Firebrand (!), Deacon, The Splendid Splinter, Turkeyfoot, Losing Pitcher Mulcahy, Line Drive Nelson (for a pitcher, mind you), Suitcase, Babe Ruth’s Legs, Cool Papa, Boojum, Ankleball, Sparkplug, Jewbaby, The Little Professor, Beartracks, The Baby Bull, Superjew, Daddy Wags, Dr. Strangeglove, Old Penitentiary Face, Rocket, and The Big Hurt.
Some real classics in there. But it’s kind of a lost art: in the last 20 years, there have been too few good ones. I wouldn’t mind seeing it make a comeback.
There are no “rules” in nicknaming: lots of trends, but no rules. In some eras, nicknames were often sarcastic: Losing Pitcher Mulcahy and Line Drive Nelson, for example, or Dr. Strangeglove. In other eras, they fell into categories: animal nicknames have been popular, as have geographic nicknames (The Georgia Peach, The Mississippi Mudcat, Wabash George) and modified proper names (Shoeless Joe, Prince Hal). Linguistic forms play a part: alliteration (Splendid Splinter), one word portmanteaus (Firebrand, Sparkplug, Jewbaby), and the ever-popular form “The ____ ____” (The Sultan of Swat, The Reading Rifle, The Baby Bull).
So, basically, nicknaming is all about having fun. And enduring the ups and downs of this just-your-typical, go-for-it-all Red Sox season, I’ve thought Red Sox Nation could use a little fun. You know, a little levity during the agony of our June Swoon. So how ’bout a review of a few of the nicknames we’ve given the 2004 version of our beloved Sox? I’ll start at the top and work my way down:
Pedro Martinez: no true nickname, but he’s known universally in the baseball world as “Pedro.” No second name needed (and that’s saying something). Sox fans also affectionately call him “Petey” from time to time. But there aren’t too many Sox fans referring to him with any sort of affection these days. It’s sad, though, that a guy of his stature (as a sure future Hall of Famer) has never been given a better nickname than that. Ideas?
Manny Ramirez: also known across baseball by first name only. Again, says a lot. Being spoken with a lot more affection these days than it was in days past. The Fenway Faithful ask much: Manny delivers. Just your average, friendly, lovable, cuddly fearsome RBI machine.
Nomar Garciaparra: also known across baseball by first name only, but with a slight twist. “Nomahhhhh!” Emphasizing the accent, of course. I didn’t know how prevalent this was until a couple of weeks ago when, watching the ESPN day game, I heard the announcers refer to him as “Nomah,” no other name given. And it wasn’t a Red Sox game that I was watching. Wasn’t even an AL East game. Might have been a National League game. So why were they talking about “Nomah,” you ask? I forget. But they were. Also, there’s my personal nickname for him, Nitwit Grouchyaparra. But that’s just me.
Jason Varitek: just “Tek,” in Red Sox Nation. Spoken fondly.
Tim Wakefield: just “Wake,” in RSN. Also spoken fondly.
David Ortiz: I don’t know where it came from, but Jerry Remy has taken to calling him “Big Papi.” No idea where it came from. But I hate it. Why? Don’t know, really. It’s not a bad nickname, from a technical standpoint. It highlights his large physical size. It indicates his cultural background. It implies his reputation as a heavy hitter. And I assume it’s Ortiz-Approved. But I hate it. Not my taste. But it doesn’t matter, really. Anybody who hits .294 with a .349 OBP, 15 HR, and 63 RBI in just 265 AB’s can be called whatever he wants.
Derek Lowe: no nickname. Called “D-Lowe” occasionally, but his name is just “Mud” right now, although Evan might have been a bit hasty about deeming Lowe the absolute worst starting pitcher in the major leagues. We’ll see.
Trot Nixon: with a name like that, who needs a nickname? Hitting the ball hard since his return, too. Nice to see him back.
Pokey Reese: same as Trot. Hey, every bit of offense we get out of him is a bonus. And the defense, of course, has been stellar. Say hello to the newest dirt dog!
Mark Bellhorn: same as Trot and Pokey. You can’t invent names like that (unless maybe you’re Charles Dickens).
Kevin Millar: called the “Rally Karaoke Guy” because of his Springsteen-imitating antics made famous during last year’s stretch run. Personally, he’s been such a no-show so far this year that I’ve taken to calling him the “Rally-Killer Hokey Guy,” but again, that’s just me. Clubhouse pranks wear on our patience when you’re not clubbing the ball during the game, big guy. Even that homer he hit over Bonds two days ago was a cheapie. Get with it, Millah.
Kevin Youkilis: dubbed “Kevin Euclis, the Greek god of walks” by Billy Beane long before he ever stepped onto a big league field, Youkilis has taken over Lou Merloni’s spot in the Faithful’s affection. “Yoooooooooooouk,” comes the low rumble as the kid steps to the plate. A breath of fresh air, really, this kid. And he’s hit the ball hard these last couple of days in San Fran. Not much to show for it, but he’s hitting it with authority. I still predict we’ll be calling him ROY by the time the year’s over.
Scott Williamson: “Swillie.” I hope he’s not much of a drinker, that’s all I have to say.
Bronson Arroyo: still new, so no nickname yet, although has been calling him “Arroyo-No!” a lot lately, which oddly coincides with 3 consecutive lousy starts. Me? I call him “The Mean Skinny.” Because he has such an imposing mound presence? Not exactly. Well, the “skinny” part is obvious, but I call him “mean” because I’ve used the term “reversion to the mean” a lot when discussing him. Basically, I think he was over-achieving when he flourished with Boston late in ’03 and early in ’04. I expected a slump, and here it is. Can he regain that earlier form, or is he a dud like I said? But I like the kid: I hope he can recover (although Jason Schmidt tonight is a tough, tough opponent). If not, we’ll be thinking up nicknames for Freddy Garcia pretty soon . . . [Evan’s Note: I was at the Arroyo/Schmidt game, good pitching on both sides that was marred by an incredibly bad call by the 2nd base umpire when I return from vacation and can get back on my personal computer…]
Fun stuff. Go Sox!
Sam Killay
June 22, 2004

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