Top 10 Baseball Nicknames of the '90s
Our national pastime has had bundles of great players with one-of-a-kind nicknames.
Now, it's just too hard to have a "Top 10 List" of all-time greatest baseball pseudos, especially when there isn't a clear cut favorite on a list that includes Iron Horse, Sultan of Swat, Say Hey Kid, Shoeless, Splendid Splinter, Mr. October, and Charlie Hustle.
So I've decided to have some fun with the best alter-egos of the final decade of the century. That's right, the 1990s baby!
The '90s was a decade that showcased some of the most awe-inspiring moments in my baseball memory banks, even if I was only born in 1987.
Kirby Puckett, Joe Carter, "Slammin" Sammy Sosa and "Ironman" Cal Ripken Jr. all made the '90s memorable for myself and millions of other people, but none of them could crack the countdown for best nicknames.
To be eligible for this list, all players had to have played for at least half of the decade.
Hence, "The Ryan Express" didn't brand his name onto the list, though if he didn't pound Robin Ventura to a pulp back in '93, Nolan Ryan would definitely be a contender for the top spot.
Oh well, I think Ryan has enough career accolades, so this won't bum him out too much. But in the spirit of Texas and fastballs, my list begins with another Houston-area native and flamethrower.
Can you guess who?
10. "The Rocket" Roger Clemens
Though Clemens earned the name with the Red Sox in the '80s with performances like his 20-strikeout game, his 1986 MVP, and back-to-back Cy Young awards in 1986 and 1987.
He enhanced it (possibly with a syringe's help) exponentially during the following decade, which included stops in Boston, Toronto and New York.
Clemens won three Cy Young awards, two pitching triple crowns (led in ERA, wins, and strikeouts) and his first World Championship as a member of the star-studded New York Yankees in 1999.
9. "The Kid" Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey's nickname was hatched in the 1980s as well, being that he's the son of a two-time World Champion (Ken Sr. won back-to-back titles with the Reds in 1975 and 1976) and played with his father as a rookie on the Seattle Mariners.
Though not a World Series champion like dad, Griffey does hold the title of the best baseball player of the '90s.
His sweet, picture-perfect swing warranted him a spot on the All-Century, team as well as the 1997 MVP. He's also a 10-time Gold Glove award winner.
Another possible nickname for Griffey could be "The Natural" because he seems to play the game so effortlessly, and he makes everything he does seem so simple.
Even though Junior has spent so much time on the disabled list, he's still considered one of the best to ever play the game.
8. "WIld Thing" Mitch Williams
Williams got his nickname as a young, "let-it-fly" flamethrower that had a penchant for terrible control and a high-90s heater.
His reputation largely exceeded what he actually accomplished on the field, because in 11 big league seasons he earned 192 saves with a career high of 43 in 1993.
Unfortunately, "Wild Thing" is more well-known as the guy who blew a save after giving up a walk-off, World Series-winning home run to Blue Jays' outfielder Joe Carter that same season.
7. "Big Mac" - Mark McGwire
McGwire is the only player on this list (and maybe in history) to have an entire upper deck named after him (Big Mac Land in St. Louis). And he visited the promise land quite often.
For his career, McGwire averaged a home run once every 10.61 at bats, the lowest at bats per home run ratio in baseball history (Babe Ruth averaged 11.80).
"Big Mac" began his career as a member of "The Bash Brothers" in Oakland. He hit 49 homers, a rookie record, in 1987. Then he played in two straight World Series, winning his first and only title in the 1989 Bay Bridge Series against the Giants.
Throughout the '90s, trips to postseason were few, but trips around the bases seemed to be a daily occurrence.
He won three Sliver Slugger awards (1992, 1996, 1998), the 1992 HR Derby, the 1990 Gold Glove, and along with Sammy Sosa helped save the game of baseball in 1998.
By the end of the decade, McGwire became the most prolific slugger in baseball by belting 70 homers in '98, and ended up with an incredible total of 405 home runs in 1990s.
6. Lenny "Nails" Dykstra
Also known as "The Dude," Dykstra was as tough as God could make a baseball player.
He seemed to always have his trademark mouth full of tobacco to go along with his "Pete Rose-esque" hard-nosed way of playing every game like it's his last.
After winning a World Series with the New York Mets in 1986, Dykstra was traded to the Phillies at the start of the '90s, where he became a three time All-Star and Silver Slugger award winner (1993).
In 1998, "Nails" hammered the final nail in his career coffin, as he attempted a comeback that came up short.
Despite never coming up short of effort on the diamond, Dykstra has had an uneven life since giving up the game.
In recent years, he's been linked to steroids, fraud, and bankruptcy.
5. "The Big Unit" - Randy Johnson
Baseball people say that Randy Johnson may be the last pitcher to ever collect 300 wins in a career. This prediction is due to pitch counts, setup men, and dollar signs. You also have to maintain dominance over a long period of time.
Johnson, 45, is in the middle of his 21st major league season, but it's the fear he struck into hitters that makes this nickname so fitting and original.
During the 90's (and into the new century), Johnson was the ultimate intimidator with a supersonic fastball, devastating slider; a wiry, tall build, mustache, and a wild mullet.
Plus, he showcased an angry, energetic demeanor on the mound, which didn't make for a comfortable at-bat against him.
Definitely in the conversation for pitcher of the '90s, "The Big Unit" opened the decade with a no-hitter and never looked back.
He became a two-time Cy Young winner (1995 and 1999) and a six-time All-Star (1990, 1993-1995, 1997 and 1999).
Plus, he posted a league best in strikeouts (1992-1995, 1999), ERA (1995 and 1999), innings pitched (1999).
4. Larry "Chipper" Jones
Growing up in Deland, FL, Larry Jones Jr. reminded his grandmother so much of her son, Larry Sr., that one day she proclaimed, "Ain't he just a chip off the old block."
His name became "Chipper" and the nickname stuck with Larry Jr. Forever.
Jones has been and will probably be a lifetime Brave.
He came into the big leagues in 1993, three years after being drafted No. 1 overall, and he's been a fixture in the middle of Bobby Cox's lineup ever since.
Although he missed the entire '94 season with a torn ACL, "Chipper" came back even stronger, while helping lead the team of the '90s to their only championship of the decade in 1995.
After winning his World Series ring, the man who sported the high pants and stir-ups began punishing NL pitching.
Jones ended the 1999 season with a lot of good hardware, including the year's NL MVP trophy and Silver Slugger award—without even making the All-Star team that season.
Jones was a three-time All-Star during the '90s (1996-1998) though, and won his first batting title in 2008.
3. "The Wizard Oz" - Ozzie Smith
It's quite possible that "The Wizard" was the best shortstop for two consecutive decades until his retirement in October 1996.
Smith had the softest hands and smoothest style of any middle infielder throughout the '80s. He had nine Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances each, plus the World Series title in 1982.
Minus the championships, he carried on with grace and humility into the twilight of his playing days.
From 1990-1996, Smith continued to rack up awards and accolades by going to six more All-Star games, winning three more Gold Gloves, and receiving honors like the 1994 Branch Rickey Award and 1995 Roberto Clemente Award.
Never known for his hitting, "The Wizard" accumulated 2,460 hits in his career, which he would go onto say was one of his crowning achievements on a ball field.
Ozzie was always a joy to watch on defense, whether he was entertaining fans with his trademark back flip, bare-handing line drives up the middle or performing magic moments that will live on in baseball infamy.
2. "The Big Hurt" - Frank Thomas
Seemingly overnight, Frank Thomas became one of the game's biggest stars once he made his Major league debut in 1990 with the White Sox.
"The Big Hurt" was given his nickname by the team's broadcaster "The Hawk" Ken Harrelson, because he swung the bat with such force that when he connected he was sure to put a hurtin' on the baseball—and anything in its path.
Thomas is great example of someone with menacing home run power, but someone who used all fields and hit for average.
For the entire decade, he was among the ranks in numerous offensive categories, including home runs (301) and RBI (1,040). He also hit over .300 every year from 1990-1997.
His averages during that stretch go as followed .330, .318, .323, .317, .353, .308, .349 and .347 (which led the American League in 1997).
Swinging a rusted iron pipe (reportedly found during a renovation project at Comiskey Park) in the on-deck circle struck fear into Thomas' competition. And honestly, after looking at his body of work, I don't think it matters too much.
Also, Thomas is part of an elite group as one of only four players in baseball history to have at least a .300 average, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 runs and 1,500 walks in a career.
The others are Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams.
1. "The Crime Dog" - Fred McGriff
Judging by the damage he did in the middle of the vaunted Braves lineups of the '90s, Fred McGriff should promote his own instructional video instead of swearing by baseball guru Tom Emanski's methods.
"The Crime Dog" began his career journey in the '80s as a member of the Blue Jays, even winning a Silver Slugger award in 1989. But his name wasn't nationally well-known till he moved to the National League in 1990 with the Padres.
McGriff might be the most undervalued and under-appreciated first basemen of my time.
He led both the American League (1989) and the National League (1992) in home runs (first player to do so since the Dead-Ball Era), and he won two more Sliver Sluggers in 1992 and 1993.
On top of that, he made four All-Star appearances in the '90s (1992, 1994-1996) and was named the game's MVP in 1994.
Throughout his career, McGriff moved around a lot.
He played for seven teams over his 17 year career, but his one moment that stands in time is the 1995 World Series. Playing in his first and only World Series, McGriff hit two home runs and fielded flawlessly at first base, to earn a championship ring.
Just how good a ballplayer was McGriff?
Well, he finished with 493 career home runs, which tied him with "The Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig (best nickname in all of sports, period).