11/4/07 Pete Rose by Any Other Name. Sports Nicknames.
Colorful sports nicknames have been around probably as long as there's been sports. Their origins vary, some follow the athlete from childhood, some are applied by teammates, some are coined by the press, and some, like many boxing nicknames, are promotional gimmicks.
I'm breaking it into three basic types. First is a substitute for the name like Joe DiMaggio being called The Yankee Clipper. The second is a nickname that flows into their real name as in Mark "The Bird" Fydrich. Sometimes this second type loses the quote marks producing a third variety where an athlete is known only by the nickname as if it were a given name, much like Satchel Page.
Just for fun, see if you know the given names for these nicknames:
Type One: The Big Unit, The Big Train, The Manassas Mauler, The Splendid Splinter, The Big Hurt, Charlie Hustle, Sweetness, The Iron Horse, Mr. October, The Galloping Ghost.
Type Two: _____ "Crazy Legs" Hersh, _____ "Night Train" Lane, "Three Finger" ______ Brown, _____ "Oil Can" Boyd, _____ "Rocket" Richard, _____ "Catfish" Hunter, _____ "Spaceman" Lee.
Type Three: Dizzy Dean, Pele, Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson, Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Babe Ruth, Deacon Jones, Yogi Berra, Bubba Smith, Satchel Page.
Type One: Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson, Jack Dempsy, Ted Williams, Frank Thomas, Pete Rose, Walter Payton, Lou Gherig, Reggie Jackson, Red Grange. (Though Red Grange isn't his given name, see type three below.)
Type Two: Elroy Hersh, Richard (Dick) Lane, Mortacai Brown, Dennis Boyd, Maurice Richard, James (Jim) Hunter, William (Bill) Lee.
Type Three: Jerome Dean, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Eldrick Woods, Ervin Johnson, Harold Grange, Branislau Nagurski, George Herman Ruth, David Jones, Lawrence Peter Berra, Charles Aaron Smith, Leroy Page.
This is not even close to a comprehensive list, and you might argue about where to draw the line between type two and three. Still, I imagine most sports fans have their own favorite players nicknames, pseudonyms, aliases and AKAs. For my money I really like Dick "Night Train" Lane for the mystery and power it evokes, as well as Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hersh as an inventive and slightly loopy description of the man in action.
One of my other favorites is bicycle racer Eddie Merckx who was called "The Cannibal." But I think he deserves an entry of his own. Which I'll get to some other time.