Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Baseball Names and How They Got That Way, Part XVII (J and K)
The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day, year after year - generally without any wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have a history, a story. For those of you who liked Part I, Part II, Part III, Part X and all the others and wanted more, here is more, just a sampling. As always, reactions and suggestions always welcome
JARRY PARK The Montreal Expos ended their baseball history in the 2004 season in the 70,000-seat Olympique Stadium, a futuristic leftover from the Montreal Olympics. The roots of the team reach back, however, to Jarry Park, their first home. Months before the Expos played their first baseball game, in 1969, a site for the team had not been determined. National League President Warren Giles, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, and Montreal Expos President John McHale came to Jarry Park "as the last thing to look at as a possibility," according to McHale. He continued, "There was an amateur basebal1 game going on. There was great enthusiasm. As we walked into the park, the people recognized Warren Giles, and they stood up. They cried out: 'Le grand patron. Le grand patron!' Giles said, 'This is the place. This is the place. This is the only place I've seen where we can play baseball in Montreal.'" The Expos expanded the amateur ball park from the 2,000 seats that existed behind home plate to a facility that accommodated 28,000. In the ninth year of their existence, the Expos left Jarry Park and its tonjours un beau coup ("a hit every time") basebal1 for something new. The old park remains for the people of Montreal une aJ7aire du cocur ("an affair of the heart").
"Jet" Sam Jethroe, for his tremendous speed on the bases. He was one of the first Negro League players to break through baseball's color barrier, the first black athlete to play for the Boston Braves.
""Joltin' Joe" Joe DiMaggio, for the jolting shots he hit.
JUG-HANDLE CURVE A wide-breaking curveball.
JUNK PITCHER A hurler who throws slow and deceptively breaking pitches, or "junk."
“Juan Gone” Juan Gonzalez got this nickname for his home run skills.
"Jumping Joe" Joe Dugan earned his nickname for being AWOL from his first big league club as a youngster
“JUNIOR” The Los Angeles Dodgers dedicated the 1978 World Series to James Gilliam, who died at the age of 49 just before the Series began, a victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. There have been many athletes over the years who have been called Junior, but Gilliam seemed to have a lock on the name as he had a lock on the emotions of all of those associated with baseball. He was given the name when he performed as the youngest player on the Baltimore Elite Giants, a black baseball team. There were attempts to retire the name when Gilliam played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers and then coached the L.A. team, but the name endured. In the 1978 World Series, all the Dodgers wore on their uniform sleeve a round black patch with Gilliam's number 19 on it. In the eulogy for the man who was proud he was a Dodger, it was said, "He went through al1 of his life without ever once getting his signals crossed." Gilliam was "Junior," but he was a big man. Also Ken Griffey and countless others.
JUNK MAN, THE Eddie Lopat was the premier left-handed pitcher for the New York Yankees in the late 1940's and through most of the 1950's. He recalls how he obtained his nickname: "Ben Epstein was a writer for the New York Daily Mirror and a friend of mine from my Little Rock minor league baseball days. He told me in 1948 that he wanted to give me a name that would stay with me forever. 'I want to see what you think of it—the junk man?' In those days the writers had more consideration. They checked with players before they called them names. I told him I didn't care what they called me just as long as I could get the batters out and get paid for it." Epstein then wrote an article called "The Junkman Cometh," and as Lopat says, "The rest was history." The nickname derived from Lopat's ability to be a successful pitcher by tantalizing the hitters with an assortment of offspeed pitches. This writer and thousands of other baseball fans who saw Lopat pitch bragged more than once that if given a chance, they could hit the "junk" he threw (see STEADY EDDIE).
K The scorecard symbol for a strikeout. A backwards K is denotes a strikeout looking while a forwards K indicates a strikeout swinging.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS The name Royals was chosen by the team's fans in 1969 after the home of the "American Royal", one of the largest livestock shows and parades in the USA. The name also in honor of the old Negro League team in Kansas City the Monarchs.
Kauffman Stadium The Kansas City Stadium was originally named Royals Stadium, but changed to Kauffman Stadium after original owner, Ewing Kauffman.
KEYSTONE Second base.
KEYSTONE COMBINATION The second baseman and the shortstop.
KNOCK OUT OF THE BOX To score runs against a pitcher in such a way that he is removed from the game.
KNUCKLEBALL An unusual pitch that flutters as it comes to the batter (FLUTTERBALL; KNUCKLER).
KNUCKLE CURVE A combination knuckleball and curveball.
"Killer" Harmon Kleberg played for the Washington Senators (1954-1960), Minnesota Twins 1961-1974). His nickname was a play on his surname and a tribute to his hitting skills.
KENESAW MOUNTAIN LANDIS Judge Landis was baseball's first commissioner. He ruled the sport with supreme authority until 1946. The first part of his name came from the place where his father had been wounded during the Civil War.
"Kentucky Colonel" Earl Combs came from Kentucky
"King and the Crown Prince" Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
KING KONG Charlie Keller played major league baseball for 13 years, all but two of those years with the New York Yankees. Keller was a solid ball player with a lifetime batting average of .286. He was a muscular 5'10", 185-pounder, and his nickname came from the main character of the movie of the same name. Keller's given names were Charles Ernest, but there were many pitchers who believed it was King Kong who was hitting against them.
"Kitty" Hurler Jim Kaat played for quite a few teams 1950s through 1970s. Nickname was a play on his surname.
KLU Ted Kluszewski played 15 years in the major leagues. He pounded out 279 homers, recorded a lifetime slugging average of nearly .500 and a career batting average of nearly . 300. He was a favorite of the Cincinnati fans; at 6'2" and 225 pounds, his bulging biceps were too huge to be contained by ordinary shirt-sleeves. Kluszewski cut off the sleeves and started a new fashion in baseball uniforms-just as fans and sportswriters cut off part of his name to make for a nickname more easily pronounced and printed.
"Knight of Kennett Square" Pitcher Herb Pennock because he raised thoroughbreds and hosted fox hunts in his home town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
“Knucksie" Phil Niekro used his knuckleball to last 24-years and win 318 games with 121 of those victories coming after he turned 40.
Harvey Frommer is in his 34th consecutive year of writing sports books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 40 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his classic "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball." Frommer's newest work CELEBRATING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION is next.