Dr. Strangeglove: Nicknames

Posted by Michael Baumann, Fri, December 16, 2011 12:40 PM | Comments: 43
Dr. Strangeglove, Posts, Whimsy

Oil Can Boyd

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:

  1. No designated hitter
  2. No Atlanta Braves (though I admit that if they were from Boston I might hate them even more)
  3. No New York Mets
  4. Nicknames

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:

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.

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.

Michael Baumann writes the weekly Dr. Strangeglove column, which appears every Friday on Phillies Nation. You can follow him on Twitter at @atomicruckus

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

  • Posts: 0 KB

    Hamels – Hollywood – NO CHANGE
    Victorino – Pineapple Express – Love it
    Worley – no change
    Howard – my friend refers to him as “Gravy” when we text during the game I still don’t know why.
    Lee – Widow Maker – the best one I heard

    do not like “sandbox’ for Pence but I am not clever enough to come with anything yet.
    if and when Contreras comes back “Old man summer” that used to belong to Jamie Moyer [miss him]

    Paplebon – need to see what shape he is then decide
    How about “Professor” for Mayberry – Stanford grads are smart

    that’s all I got. Love your blog. Cannot wait until February, actually April 1st as I will be near Orlando and I am hoping to score tix to Phils/Braves!!!

  • Posts: 0 Mike Dagney

    Hunter Pence: “Slides” Remember the uncessary one at 3rd?
    John Mayberry Jr.: “Opie….think RFD
    Jonathan Papelbon: “Jo Pa……Well no maybe not…..
    Cliff Lee: I like “The Widowmaker” or maybe “the Executioner”…
    Placido Polanco‘s “Pepe”

  • Posts: 0 Adam

    My friends and I call Bastardo “Donk” because of his feminine looking booty.

    We also call Ryan Howard “Big Chocolate.”

    I think sticking with simplicity is good, so we could call Papelbon “Paps.”

    Cliff Lee needs no nickname. His first name is badass enough. He is Cliff.

    Cole Hamels’ nickname should harken to his looks. I mean, the guy looks like somebody who could just have his way with any woman he wants, but it’s more because of cuteness than George Clooney-esque good looks. I think “Baby Blue” because of his blue eyes and that he looks and sounds like he’s 12, or “The Ladykiller.”

  • Posts: 0 frank riccard

    Ok, new name suggestions:

    I know the guy from Crossing Broad is always calling Cliff Lee complimentary horse related names. Referring to him as “our magical steed” and the like. He also talks a lot about him pissing excellence all over the mound. So Cliff “Liquid Excellence” Lee works for me. Although I’ve seen people just calling him “Arkansas Cliff.”

    My brother refers to Joe Blanton as “Officer” Joe Blanton, because he looks like a standard fat local cop.

    I think Pence would be surved well by some kind of odd one word nickname that conveys the fact that he’s a giant ball of awkward looking energy.

    I think JMJr. being called “Stanford” or John “the Mermaid” Mayberry works well.

    Polanco could just me “Mr. Potatohead.”

    There are some existing names you missed though:

    Jim Thome is already “Gentleman Jim.” Which I like.

    Papelbon already calls himself “Cinco Ocho.”

    “Vanimal” is a better nickname than you think. It’s solid the way it is.

    Also, according to Wikipedia, people have often called Ty Wigginton “Chief Wiggumton,” because of his resemblance to Chief Wiggum of “The Simpsons.” If he gets any fatter, we can take it further and call him “Chief Piggumton.” Also, just “Wiggy” works. And if he loses weight, we can go w/ “Twiggy.”

    That’s all I’ve got (for now).

  • Posts: 0 Axle13

    Michael “David” Schwimer – Ross
    Justin DeFratus – Rachel

  • Posts: 0 Bryan

    Pence looks like a tarsier. So I call him Tar-Tar Binks.

  • Posts: 0 Troy Vincent

    When playing MLB 2K I always use “Over the Fence” Hunter Pence. It works well when I get that Homer in with him haha, or rob one. This is more of a joke thing, doesn’t really flow that well.

    Chase Utley, I call Face, or Faceman because he reminds me of Face from the A-Team.

  • Posts: 5381 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    I only have one, for the awkward guy we acquired at the deadline. Watching him in the on- deck circle brought this to mind. I doubt it will stick because it’s not overall complimentary, but for whatever reason, it’s what I’ve been calling him since he got here.

    The Fantastic Spastic


    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      hey Lefty how about just plain spaz, or spazoid?

  • Posts: 1110 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    Pence reminds of Hammy, the energy-drinking hyper squirrel from Over the Hedge.

    I know, I’m a kid.


  • Posts: 0 Pete

    This is only marginally related, but I’ve always though we should be calling Citizens’ Bank Park, The Cuff. Across the street we have the The Linc, and Cuff and Link were the names of Rocky’s turtles. Anyone with me on this?

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      mr pete i like that!

  • Posts: 2896 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    “Tony No- Dad” is actually an incorrect description since a bastard is a child born to parents that aren’t married. I would assume that Bastardo has/had a father because….well it’s sort of required in order to actually be born. Still kind of funny, though.

    • Posts: 0 Pete

      “Tony Born-out-of-wedlock” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  • Posts: 0 MICAH

    Kyle Kendrick = Special K

    • Posts: 0 SavannahPhilliesPhan

      Micah …..I like “Special K” for Kendrick. Chase is ever so serious how about “Chairman of the board” or just “the Chairman”

  • Posts: 0 Mike

    I always just refer to Worley as Vee Dub. Volkswagen already made a sign for it


  • Posts: 0 Corinne

    @frank — I’ve called Polanco “Mr. Potato Head” for years.

    • Posts: 0 brooks

      We’ve called him just “Head”

  • Posts: 0 Fuhs

    I’ve always called Howard “Da Temp” in reference to the Office. Add the irony of calling him a temp worker in light of his unpopular 5 year contract….

    Vanimal does not need to change. Hell, he’d have to change his twitter.

    I often call Blanton “Kentucky Joe” and “Babyface Killah”.

    If Stutes makes the team again, I go with Stutebaker.

    And one that only seems funny to my family, “Hunnahunna Pence, ya’ll”

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Nobody calls Bastardo “Tony No-Dad”. That’s like “Joe Table” for Mesa, which didn’t take offer either.

    Papelbon – “Papsmear”
    Bastardo – “Inglorious”
    Mayberry – “Junior” is fine. His dad was good enough.
    Ryan Howard – “The Big Check”
    Vance Worley – “Worleybird”
    Cliff Lee – “Spike” (named after his curve).
    Polanco – “The Hindenburg”
    Hunter “The Moon And Six” Pence, or, if you’re into the whole brevity thing, “Moon”.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I always like “Hoagie Joe” Blanton….

  • Posts: 1048 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    I read somewhere that Blanton’s nickname was “Cupcakes” which I think is just fine for him.

  • Posts: 0 Herb M

    Instead of “KK” for Kyle Kendrick how about “K squared”

  • Posts: 0 Joey Baps

    Polly has always been “Mellon Head”,
    Pence has been “Hunnie-poo” or “Hunnie-Pot” since speculation of his bringing his amazing boyish charm to Philly first arose.

    I like to refer to Kendrick simply as Kid K. We get down like that.
    Tony Bastard, not Tony No-dad.
    Hollywood is still “Princess Cole”, and probably always will be.
    Jimmy will forever be J-Hole, so long as he lives and continues to swing at first pitches in the leadoff spot, especially after a pitcher runs out a grounder.

    Simply take the G out of Ross’ surname. Call his new Benchmate Wigg-wam.
    Ruby Red, Chuckie-Poo, Dubes…

    And, I’m spent.

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      in my housr we call j-roll jimmy babs, or just babs. ( for bad at bats)

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    Mayberry is Junior.
    Howard is (was?) the Howitzer (the Big Check?)
    Papelbon is JP
    Kendrick is KK
    Worley is the Vanimal
    Blanton is Cheeseburger Joe
    Polanco – Head
    Pence – Goofy (sorry)

  • Posts: 0 Chris

    I’ve been calling Polanco Chrome Dome since his first stint with the Phillies. The dude needed help getting his helmet on, his head is so big. As for Bastardo I go with ODB or Ol Dirty for obvious reasons.

    I don’t really like any nicknames for Howard. They all center around “Big”. I’ve always called him Big Man but I’ve seen people call him Ryno and that isn’t too bad.

  • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

    polanco–peanut head

  • Posts: 0 PennJerseySigns

    I think calling Bastardo “Bastardo” is fun enough, no change needed.

  • Posts: 0 Cory

    Like professor for john Mayberry. Ryan Howard should be the big sexy. Johnathan papelbon should be pappy.

  • Posts: 0 the ghost of luis aguayo

    Blanton is Joe Baby, cuz he looks like a toddler.

    Polanco looks like a weird Brando.

  • Posts: 578 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    We’ve embarked on the nickname journey a few times in Phillies Nation history. Have a look:


  • Posts: 0 Mike M.

    Polanco – I thought he had Polly? But Bobble-head would also work, going back to when he had his bobble-head doll…it just fits.

    Pence – should be something to do with his awkward tall lanky white-boy style… the Green-Giant, Stretch…

    Mayberry – should have some nickname referencing The Andy Griffith show…or would that be too inappropriate?

  • Posts: 0 PreTraumatic

    At our house, we call Pence “Sasquatch” because his feet are so gigantic.

    • Posts: 0 PreTraumatic

      Forgot to add that Howard = Ryanosaurus.

  • Posts: 0 joe

    Hunter Pence should just be called Underpants because if you say his name fast enough, that is what it sounds like!

  • Posts: 0 SavannahPhilliesPhan

    What about “the big easy” for Ryan Howard…..I couldn’t find another player with that nickname.

  • Posts: 0 Wolf

    lets call pence sandlot, because he looks and plays like someone out of the sandlot.

  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    I’ve always liked Big Brown for Howard… it’s a little edgy and references UPS (what can Brown do for you) as well as the champion thoroughbred (who coincidentally retired after injuring his hind hoof).

    Polly… I also like Melon Head or Melo-Dome.

    Vanimal, Widow-maker (excellent), Hollywood, Pineapple Express (a nice alternative).

    I actually don’t like Tony No-Dad or Exxon… too easy.

    JMJ… it’s probably kind of lame but it has a cool ring to it.

    I think that the best nicknames have nothing to do with a person’s name. Here’s a link to the FBJ post for all-time NL nicknames by team – enjoy!

  • Posts: 0 Ben (Lives in DC Now)

    I like Joey “Bag-of-Donuts” Blanton.

    I know Dontrelle Willis already has “D-Train,” but I was kind of hoping he’d be “Whatchu,” as in “Whatchutalkinbout.”

    Chief Wiggumton is hilarious.

    “Van-the-Man” Worley?

    If Ryan Howard is “Big Brown,” then Domonic has to be “Little Brown.”

    Been trying to come up with a mermaid reference for Mayberry. “Prince Eric,” “Lonely Island,” (I f***ed a mermaid) or even just “Merman” come to mind.

    Sometimes I call Cliff Lee “The Adverb.”

  • Posts: 0 Becky

    I know i’m late on this bandwagon and this post is old news now BUT….

    while i like “Mini-Mart” i also call him Predator or PRED from 80′s night when his jumbo-tron picture was…well you know….

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