Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Baseball Nicknames

These are the next three of my Top 9 favorite baseball nicknames.

  "Death to Flying Things" - Bob Ferguson
     They had some ornate nicknames in the early days of baseball, and Bob Ferguson's was one of them.  It was Ferguson's prowess as an infielder that led to his nickname.  As a member of the New York Mutuals in 1871, he was one of the leading instigators in the organization of the first fully professional baseball league, The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, and became its President from 1872 to 1875 even while remaining a player for the Brooklyn Atlantics.

     When the National Association folded after the 1875 season he joined the new National League as a Director and player-manager for the Hartford (CT) Dark Blues, later taking the same role with the Troy (NY) Trojans (1879-82).

     In an age where baseball was tainted with gambling and drinking, Ferguson was known for his honesty and integrity, becoming an umpire after his playing career ended.  He was also bad-tempered (he was also called tactless) which contributed to his lack of longevity in any of his roles.         

"Shoeless Joe" Jackson
     One of the saddest of baseball stories.  Banned from baseball after the 1920 season for his role in the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal as one of eight players accused of consorting with gamblers to throw the World Series (although he hit .375 in the games), Jackson came back into the general public's consciousness with the 1982 publication of Shoeless Joe, Shoeless Joe (novel).jpgW.P. Kinsella's novel and then the hit movie based on the book, Field Of Dreams (1989).  The truth about his role in the scandal remains murky.  He admitted to agreeing to become part of the conspiracy for a $10,000 payment but whether he actively did anything to affect the outcome of the games remains unclear.

     As a rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 1911 he hit .408 and had a lifetime average of .356 (second only to Ty Cobb) in his shortened career, including .382 in his last season.  With the advent of the "live-ball" era in 1920 who knows what his career would have been like if it had lasted another few years. Babe Ruth called him the greatest hitter he'd ever seen and modeled his swing on Joe.

     Joe Jackson was an illiterate mill hand from Greenville, SC.  He received his nickname when after playing a minor league game in spikes which he was not used to wearing his feet blistered and he played the next game in his stocking feet.  When he got to the majors, the nickname stayed with him because the sportswriters felt it fit his image as a country bumpkin. 

      Of course, this gives me an excuse to insert the final scene from Field Of Dreams which has its unique power - every guy knows what I'm talking about.

Sal "The Barber" Maglie
"He scares you to death. He's scowling and gnashing his teeth, and if you try to dig in on him, there goes your Adam's apple. He's gonna win if it kills you and him both." 
- the Cincinnati Reds' Danny Litwhiler  SABR Bio Project
"On the mound, Maglie had a gaunt look, a grim expression, a stubble beard, a great curveball -- and a high, hard one that earned him the nickname Sal the Barber."
- from the New York Times obituary (1992)
Salvatore Maglie didn't need multiple razor blades to give you a close shave if you were facing him.  While he reveled in his on-field reputation, off the field Sal was known to be a genial and easy going guy.(as Giant)

Between WWII and then his banning from major league baseball due to his jumping to the Mexican League in 1946, Maglie didn't make his major league debut until he was 33 (other than a very brief 1945 stint).  He started the 1950 season as a rookie reliever for Leo Durocher's New York Giants.  Mid-season, Leo inserted him into the starting rotation and he went 18-4, at one point throwing four shutouts in a row.  In 1951, he had his greatest season going 23-6 and playing a key role in the Giants miracle comeback from 13 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers

As his career wound down he had one more time of glory when mid-season in 1956 he signed with the Dodgers, going 13-5, throwing his only no-hitter and leading the team to the pennant.(as Dodger)

After retiring as a player, Sal remained in baseball for several years and was the pitching coach for the 1967 Boston Red Sox "Impossible Dream" team.


  1. For someone who loves baseball nicknames and baseball in general, a strange and powerful book:

    1. Had forgotten that book. Read it many years ago and only remember that it started off weird and got stranger from there. Will have to give it a reread. Thanks. Mark