The 12 Greatest True Nicknames in Major League Baseball (1985-2010)
Major League Baseball has a rich history of nicknames, but not all nicknames are created equally. The league is currently flooded with lazy, uninspired nicknames that are, more accurately, abbreviations that hold no real meaning.
Some, for instance A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) and Arm-Ram (Aramis Ramirez) are better left without meaning. Both monikers are better suited to something you would find in the adult section of the video store.
Other nicknames are stretches or just sound ridiculous. Jimmy "J-Roll" Rollins comes to mind.
To set some basic ground rules, this list is limited to players that have adopted their nicknames as their first names. This eliminates guys like "Big Hurt" Frank Thomas and "Big Unit" Randy Johnson
Our second rule is the "Topps Test". If the player in question has their nickname printed on the front of a baseball card, they pass the "Topps Test."
All players must have played the majority of their career after 1985, ruling out classics that I may touch on at a later date (maybe in a Nickname Hall of Fame).
All nicknames that are variations of a given players actual name are ruled out. This rule prohibits the new standard nickname, as well as Trot Nixon (his real name is Christopher Trotman Nixon).
Without further ado, here are the greatest true nicknames in baseball over the past 25 years.
Proper Name: Timothy Raines
Years Played: 1979-2002
Origin of Nickname: Though Tim would have you believe that "Rock" was a reference to his stocky build, the truth is that teammates gave him the name in his rookie year because he had hands like rocks.
Notes: A seven-time MLB All-Star and two-time World Champion (1996, 1998 with the Yankees), Rock Raines was one of the most prolific base-stealers in MLB history. Raines was also nifty with the bat, winning the Silver Slugger Award in 1986.
In 1999, Rock was diagnosed with lupus and spent the year receiving treatment and recovering. After his playing career, Raines went on to be the first-base coach for the World Champion Chicago White Sox. He is currently making a run at the Hall of Fame.
Proper Name: William Hayward Wilson
Years Played: 1980-1991
Origin of Nickname: As a child, William had trouble saying milk, instead opting for "mook". His mother thought his troubles were funny and started calling him Mookie.
Notes: Mets and Red Sox fans remember Mookie Wilson for his performance in Game 5 of the 1986 World Series. Mookie avoided a wild pitch that allowed the game tying run to score.
In that same at bat, Mookie hit a one of the most infamous ground balls in MLB history. The routine ground out trickled through the legs of Bill Buckner, allowing the game winning run to score.
The Mets won the World Series while the Red Sox were left to wonder if they really were cursed.
Proper Name: Charles Theodore Davis
Years Played: 1981-1999
Origin of Nickname: Poor Chili was on the wrong end of a bad haircut as a child. Other kids started mocking his "chili bowl" hairdo. That was shortened to "Chili" and it stuck.
Notes: Chili Davis was the first Jamaican player in MLB history and remains the best baseball has seen. The switch-hitting Davis spent most of his career playing DH due to persistent back problems.
Chili was named an MLB All-Star on three occasions and has won three World Series rings, one with Minnesota (1991) and two with the Yankees (1998, 1999), before retiring.
Davis finished behind only Eddie Murray, Mickey Mantle, and Chipper Jones in home runs for a switch hitter with 350 dingers.
Oil Can Boyd
Proper Name: Dennis Ray Boyd
Years Played: 1982-1991
Origin of Nickname: In Dennis' hometown of Meridian, Miss., beer was often referred to as "oil." Oil Can is a nod to his heavy drinking days.
Notes: Oil Can Boyd was mostly notable for his outstanding nickname, off-kilter quotes, and fiery temper. His father was a baseball player in the Negro Leagues.
A blood clot in Boyd's shoulder cut his career short in 1991, though he attempted to make a comeback in 2009.
In November 2005, a federal grand jury in Mississippi indicted Oil Can for threatening his girlfriend and son.
Proper Name: Dwight Eugene Gooden
Years Played: 1984-2000
Origin of Nickname: Dwight's dad called him "Doc D" as a child. As he developed the uncanny ability to strike batters out at will, the name was tweaked to "Dr. K" and later, simply Doc.
Notes: Doc Gooden is probably as well known for his legal troubles and squandered talent as he is for his career achievements.
Gooden was able to earn a Cy Young Award, Silver Slugger Award, Rookie of the Year Award, and four All-Star selections before things went awry for Doc.
To be truthful, the troubles for Gooden started with his 1986 arrest and positive test for cocaine in 1987. Doc spiraled downward from there, coming to a head with his 2006 incarceration for incidents related to drug and alcohol abuse.
It was a bit ironic that a guy nicknamed Doc had such a problem with drugs. Through all the dark times, Gooden did manage to acquire three World Series rings (1986 with the Mets and 1996, 2000 with the Yankees).
I guess it wasn't all bad for Doc.
Proper Name: Leon Joseph Roberts
Years Played: 1986-1998
Origin of Nickname: Leon had a slight speech impediment as a child. Whenever he finished dinner, Leon always asked for "a little bip more."
Notes: Bip Roberts spent much of his early career with the San Diego Padres, where he was considered a speedster with a good all-around game. Bip was named an All-Star in 1992.
Proper Name: Thomas Gordon
Years Played: 1988-current
Origin of Nickname: Tom's nickname is refers to 1960's Sci-Fi TV show Flash Gordon.
Notes: Flash Gordon is the only MLB player to accumulate 100 wins, saves, and holds. The three-time All-Star helped the 2008 Phillies win the World Series as a set-up pitcher.
Flash is the originator of the point to the sky after striking out a batter, a move later adopted by Pedro Martinez and other MLB pitchers.
Be on the lookout for Gordon's son, Devaris Strange-Gordon, who was selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB Draft as a shortstop prospect.
Proper Name: Steven John Wendell
Years Played: 1993-2004
Origin of Nickname: Wendell got his nickname from his grandfather referring to how he would hurl himself out of the window into snow mounds as a toddler. I'm not really sure that makes sense, but that's the story.
Notes: There are far too many interesting quirks about Turk Wendell to cover here. Instead i will refer you first to another Bleacher Report article about Turk for a bit of insight.
I must also note that Turk called out Barry Bonds for "obviously" being on steroids in 2004. He said that if Vlad Guerrero didn't like getting hit by pitches, "he can freakin' go back to the Dominican and find another line of work."
Add all that with the fact that Turk once hit 9.4 G-Forces in a F16 Fighter Jet, the most hit by anyone other than a pilot and the fact that he donned a mullet for most of his life, and it can be said that Turk Wendell is the most eccentric baseball player of all time.
Proper Name: Larry Wayne Jones Jr.
Years Played: 1993-current
Origin of Nickname: Larry Wayne Jones Sr. saw a lot of himself in his son, calling him Chipper because he was a "chip off the old block."
Notes: Chipper Jones is the prototype for a great baseball player with one of the most solid swings in baseball today. Chipper has earned NL MVP honors in 1999, a World Series ring (1995 with the Atlanta Braves), two Silver Slugger Awards, six All-Star nods, and was the 2008 NL Batting Champion.
A surefire Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper is under contract with the Braves through 2012, though some have speculated that he may retire at the end of this season.
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox has announced that this will be his last season as the manager and may factor into Chipper's decision.
Proper Name: Calvin Reese Jr.
Years Played: 1997-2004
Origin of Nickname: Calvin was quite chubby as an infant, to the point that his grandmother called him "Porky." The moniker morphed into Pokey and stayed with him as an adult.
Notes: Odd as it may be, Pokey lived his life being anything but a slowpoke. Reese's quickness at shortstop earned him two Gold Gloves and a spot on the 2004 World Champion Red Sox.
A proficient base-stealer, Reese had only one thing holding him back offensively, his hitting. Pokey was an impatient hitter, eventually forcing him back to the Minor Leagues and, ultimately, into early retirement.
Proper Name: Covelli Loyce Crisp
Years Played: 2002-current
Origin of Nickname: As a child, Crisp's grandmother called him "Co" and, soon after, his sister started calling him Coco. I am making an exception to the rule against variations of first names due to the similarity to Cocoa Krispies cereal.
Notes: Coco Crisp was brought on to the Red Sox in 2005 to replace the departed center fielder Johnny Damon.
Crisp was great in the field and on the base-paths, but struggled at the plate. Before the 2007 Red Sox World Series victory, Crisp lost starting duties to Jacoby Ellsbury.
In June 2008, Crisp was suspended seven games for applying a beat down on Rays pitcher James Shields after getting plunked by a pitch. Coco is currently with the Oakland A's.
Proper Name: John Paul Bonser*
Years Played: 2006-current
Origin of Nickname: Origin unknown. Bonser picked up the nickname as a child, but the root of the moniker remains a mystery.
If you care to look up the term on Urban Dictionary, you will encounter 102 colorful definitions, but be forewarned, many are NSFW.
Notes: I had to put and asterisk next to Boof Bonser's "proper" name because, in 2001, he legally changed his name to Boof. After struggling with the Twins, Boof dropped 30 pounds. The weight loss did nothing to improve his pitching.
In 2009, Boof underwent surgery to repair his injured labrum and rotator cuff. Bonser is hoping to make a comeback after being traded to the Red Sox in December.