There’s a lot not to like about baseball in the 1930s and 1940s–no television, racial segregation, and an offensive explosion that would make the Steroid Era look like the Bronze Age, thanks to joke ballparks (258 feet to the right field foul pole at the Polo Grounds!) and a set of strategic norms still adjusting to the live ball era.
But there were some things I wish hadn’t changed from then. Four, to be precise:
- No designated hitter
- No Atlanta Braves (though I admit that if they were from Boston I might hate them even more)
- No New York Mets
Sure, we have nicknames on the Phillies, and while some of them are pretty good (J-Roll, assuming he comes back, Doc, Chooch), others are pretty awful, like “Polly” or “J-Bone,” which is what Steven De Fratus wants us to call his brother, Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus. Intending no undue disrespect to either De Fratus brother, J-Bone is the stupidest goddamn idea for a nickname that I’ve ever heard in my life. We can come up with something better.
That’s what was so great about the interwar years–they put thought into their nicknames, which is how we wound up with The Splendid Splinter, Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons, Goose Goslin, and a litany of awesome sobriquets for Babe Ruth. And because we weren’t afraid of hurting people’s feelings, nicknames weren’t limited to things you might call your golden retriever or the third-line center on the squirt hockey team you coach on the weekend–you couldn’t really be mean, but you didn’t have to be complimentary, either. You could call someone “Losing Pitcher Mulcahy” or “Three Finger Brown” and no one would accuse you of being an insensitive pig. We need to think outside the box here, which is why I’ve been trying so hard to get “Exxon” and “Tony No-Dad” to stick.
It’s also why I need your help.
It should go without saying that several people working together on a problem have the capacity to solve it more efficiently than merely one. And I know that y’all have the capacity to come up with more than the occasional bon mot (I know this, incidentally, because that predilection for sharp language has been used on more than one occasion to question my parentage). In case you haven’t put this together by now, we’re crowdsourcing nicknames, ideally for the entire Phillies’ 40-man roster, though if you’d like to take a stab at a non-Phillie–particularly if you want to stick a nickname like “The Pimple” on an someone from Atlanta or New York–those submissions are welcome as well.
It’s not just quantity we need, but quality. “Doc” fits Roy Halladay not just because it harkens back to Wild West gunslinger (and dentist, incidentally) Doc Holliday, but because, like Halladay himself, it connotes an understated coolness and surgical precision. Likewise, “J-Roll” stands above the rest of the “first letter of first name, first syllable of last name” genre of celebrity nomenclature made famous by Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez around the turn of the century. This is so because the “Roll” connotes a kinetic energy that accurately captures Rollins’ style of play, to say nothing of (and here I’m going to sound profoundly out-of-touch and white) recalling, again, the detached coolness of “rollin’ on dubs” or “pimp roll.”
That’s the level of nickname to which we should aspire.
We should do this not just because it’s fun, or it’s a way to kill time and keep baseball on one’s mind when the alternative is listening to Christmas music, but because of a class of people who suffers when nicknames fall by the wayside: the writers. When you’re writing about baseball year-round, particularly when your focus is only on one team, writing “Utley” over and over gets so repetitive and boring that it becomes almost literally painful to refer to him by the same moniker over and over and over. It’s why I’ve tried and failed to adopt the nickname of the Spanish national soccer team–”la furia roja” or “the red fury”–to the Phillies. Writing “the Phillies” or “Philadelphia” 50,000 times a year has made me into a tortured, twisted shell of the man I once was. We need creativity. We need variety. We need your help.
Here’s a list of Phillies who already have acceptable nicknames, though if, in any case, you think you can do better, knock yourself out:
- Roy Halladay: “Doc”
- Jimmy Rollins (assuming he comes back): “J-Roll”
- Shane Victorino: “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” (though I prefer “Pineapple Express”)
- Carlos Ruiz: “Chooch”
- Dontrelle Willis: “D-Train”
- Antonio Bastardo: “Tony No-Dad”
- Wilson Valdez: “Exxon”
- Michael Martinez: “Mini-Mart”
The following Phillies have nicknames that are okay, but ought to be improved:
- Ryan Howard: “The Big Piece”
- Vance Worley: “Vanimal”
- Cole Hamels: “Hollywood”
- Michael Schwimer: “The Bear Jew” (@FuquaManuel of The Good Phight calls him this, in reference to Eli Roth’s character in Inglourious Basterds, and it’s hilarious, but as a gentile of German extraction I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable calling him that in print)
So that leaves quite a few players, including several with personalities, appearances, or playing styles interesting enough to warrant appropriate nicknames. Here’s a couple ideas to get started. Now go to town.
- Hunter Pence: “Sandbox” in reference to his childlike disposition. Or maybe “Penceypants” because it’s fun to say.
- John Mayberry Jr.: “Stanford” or anything having to do with mermaids.
- Jonathan Papelbon: “Jackie Goodpope” using the same technique that gave us “Tony No-Dad”
- Cliff Lee: “The Widowmaker” just because
- Placido Polanco‘s head looks exactly like a beluga whale’s head. We can do something with this, I’m sure of it.
Anyway, go to town, commenters, because it’s winter, we’re bored, and I’m sick of calling Kyle Kendrick “KK”. If we get enough good responses, we’ll post them on the site.