What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to baseball, nicknames are an honored tradition that go back to the early days of America's national pastime. There was "The Splendid Splinter," Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams or "The Yankee Clipper," the nickname given to Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio.
Nicknames are as much a part of baseball as the suicide squeeze or the sacrifice fly. Now a good nickname is one that stands the test of time, one a player can't shake no matter how hard they may try.
The Philadelphia Phillies have had their share of nicknames during their long and storied history. So here is an All-Star Nickname Team, the best Phillies nicknames position by position. And these are names you won't find in any box score.
Although Pete Rose’s nickname, "Charlie Hustle," is certainly iconic, since he is really most associated with the Cincinnati Reds that one's out of the running. The winner at first is Dick Allen who got his nickname "Crash" when he started wearing a a batting helmet. What's so unusual about that? Well he wore it while playing defense to protect himself from objects fans were throwing from the stands.
Runner-up is Ryan Howard’s "The Big Piece," the nickname Phillies manager Charlie Manuel coined for his slugger.
And in the special category of "the nickname was better than the career" is Dick Stuart who only played first base for the Phillies for one season, 1965, but because of his poor fielding he was nicknamed, "Dr. Strangeglove." Now that's a nickname!
The winner here is Octavio Victor Rojas Rivas. Never heard of him? How about "Cookie" Rojas? Yep. That’s the full name of the popular second baseman who played for the Phillies from 1963-1969. The name Cookie comes from the Spanish word “Cuqui," a popular nickname in Cuba which was anglicized to "Cookie."
Runner-up is Chase Utley called simply "The Man" as popularized by Phillies famed broadcaster Harry Kalas with his oft-repeated phrase, “Chase Utley, you are the man.”
And in "the nickname was better than the career" category, is Bob Ferguson who only played second base for the then Philadelphia Quakers for one year, 1883. His nickname? "Death to Flying Things" because teammates said that when Ferguson was playing second base, no ball could get past him.
Picking a winner at third was easy. It’s Willie "Puddin’ Head" Jones who played for the Phillies from 1947-1959 including a strong year for the 1950 Whiz Kids team that won the NL pennant. The nickname came from a song that was popular in the 1930’s called “Wooden Head, Puddin' Head Jones."
Coming in a distant second might be Mike Schmidt but not for his common nickname "Schmitty." That one's not original enough. Better is the name Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas always called him, "Michael Jack Schmidt." Although it was actually his full name, Kalas turned it into his special nickname for the greatest third baseman in Phillies history.
Jimmy Rollins’ "J-Roll," takes home the prize for shortstop. Although maybe not the most original nickname ever it fits the times and the man perfectly. Jimmy is the little guy with a lot of energy who really makes this team go.
Second place goes to another little guy whose nickname makes reference to just that. Larry Bowa, who played for the Phillies from 1970-1981 including the 1980 World Series winning team, was nicknamed "The Gnat" by his teammates because of his diminutive stature.
Greg Luzinski, better known as "The Bull," is the choice for left field. He was one of the most feared sluggers in the game when he played for the Phillies from 1970-1980. Nicknamed "The Bull" for his hulking 225 pound frame and enormous strength, ironically he was a gentle soft-spoken man off the field. The nickname has served him well over the years as today he serves up ribs and chicken from Bull’s Barbecue, his eatery at Citizens Bank Park.
Runner-up goes to Pat "The Bat" Burrell. Not much explanation needed here although Phillies fans are quick to point out that he didn't always live up to his nickname.
The "nickname was better than the career" award for left field goes to Lonnie Smith, nicknamed Skates because of all the slipping and sliding he did both while playing the outfield and on the basepaths. His footwork was so comical that he often fell down while chasing fly balls.
Now this is a tough one. There are several players that had memorable careers with the Phillies and equally memorable nicknames to match. So this one is a draw between the current center fielder and a long-legged predecessor.
Shane Victorino’s nickname, "The Flyin’ Hawaiian," is easy to figure out. Shane hails proudly from Hawaii and is one of the few major league position players from our 50th state. His speed on the bases and in the outfield accounts for the rest of his popular nickname.
Tied with Shane is "The Secretary Of Defense," Garry Maddox. Maddox played for the Phillies from 1975-1986 and during that time won eight Gold Gloves in a row. Harry Kalas coined the nickname which characterized Maddox’s sparkling defense perfectly.
Runner-up is also a tie. First there’s Lenny Dykstra who had two common nicknames, "The Dude" and "Nails" for his fearless tough-as-nails personality on the field.
Second and probably lesser known is Harry “The Hat” Walker. He only played for the Phillies for part of one year 1947-1948 but he won the batting title that year. He was called "The Hat" because during his at-bats he constantly adjusted his cap between pitches. (There were no batting helmets in those days.)
Hands down winner in right is Arnold Ray “Bake” McBride. He played for the Phillies from 1977-1981. Although the origins are sketchy on this one, it seems he got the nickname "Bake" as a kid. From there it was an easy leap to "Shake ‘n Bake." Cool guy, cool nickname. That‘s the best I got on this one.
Runner-up is Chuck Klein. He played three stints with the Phillies between 1928 and 1944. He was called the "Hoosier Hammerer" for his Indiana roots and his propensity for the long ball. He hit 300 of them in his Hall of Fame career. Perhaps a bit less PC was his other nickname the "Clouting Krout." This one, of course also refers to his many home runs combined with his German heritage.
It's hard to beat the nickname of the current catcher of the Phillies. Carlos Ruiz is called "Chooch" and every time he gets a hit the stadium fills with chants of “Choooooch, Choooooch” which to the uninitiated can often sound like boos. A little harder to pin down is exactly why his teammates coined the name.
Most attribute its origin to Phillies reliever Antonio Alfonseca (we’ll get to his nickname later) who referred to his catcher in a post game interview as “Chucha” which is Columbian slang for “under arm odor.” Others say it’s slang for "dummy" so take your pick. Neither too flattering, both used in jest, and apparently Chooch just loves to hear the fans chanting for him no matter what the meaning.
Runner-up is Darren “Dutch" Daulton. No one seems to know the origin of the nickname and his Phillies teammates actually called him “Bubba.” But the name "Dutch" has certainly stood the test of time, even today fans refer to the popular former catcher as "Dutch" Daulton.
Since a starting rotation usually consists of four or five pitchers so does this category. First there’s current Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. When Ryan Howard was an unknown minor leaguer he saw a teammate entering the locker room. He was wearing surfer shorts and flip flops. Howard took one look at him and gave him the nickname "Hollywood" and the now Phillies ace has been known as "Hollywood" Hamels ever since.
A lesser known lefty is pitcher Chris Short. He pitched for the Phillies from 1959-1972 and had a very successful career retiring with 135 wins. His was ironically nicknamed "Styles" for his limited wardrobe. Short was known for bringing the same out-dated suit on every road trip.
Runners-up are two Phillies superstars with succinct and to-the-point nicknames. Steve “Lefty” Carlton played for the Phillies from 1972-1986. He was a four time Cy Young winner, 10 time All-Star and finished his Hall of Fame career with 4,136 strikeouts. There have been many southpaws in baseball but only one "Lefty."
Finally there’s Roy “Doc” Halladay. His nickname was coined by late Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek in reference to the Wild West gunslinger, Doc Holliday. And this baseball "Doc" sure slings 'em from the mound.
Now baseball’s relievers are generally known to be some of the quirkiest characters on a team so it’s not surprising that some of the more colorful nicknames belong to the men of the pen. Again, there are several worth highlighting.
First place honors go to Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. He earned the name with his oversized wind-up and release, not to mention his frequent wild pitches. He played for the Phillies from 1991-1993 and often gave managers gray hairs by walking the bases load before striking out the side. When he came in from the bullpen The Troggs song "Wild Thing" would blare from the stadium speakers and the fans would go, well, wild.
Then there’s Brad “Light’s Out” Lidge. He joined the Phillies in 2008 and unquestionably earned his nickname going a perfect 41-for-41 in saves for the regular season and 7-for-7 in the postseason ending with the save that sealed the World Series for the Phillies. It was a season and a "Light's Out" performance for the ages.
Runner-up goes to Steve Bedrosian nicknamed "Bedrock." Some say it was a reference to the 1960’s cartoon "The Flinstones" but it was definitely a reflection of his solid dependability. He played for the Phillies from 1986-1989 and was the rock of the bullpen even winning the Cy Young Award in 1987, an unusual feat for a reliever.
And our "nickname was better than the career" winner is Antonio Alfonseco. His nickname was "El Pulpo," "The Octopus" because he had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Try to beat that one sports fans!
So there you have it, the All-Star Team of Phillies nicknames. I wonder how they’d do against the Yankees or Red Sox All-Nickname Teams.