Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Baseball Names and How They Got That Way! Part XX (M)
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, X and all the others and wanted more, here is more, just a sampling. As always, reactions and suggestions always welcome
M&M BOYS Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris
MAD HUNGARIAN Al Hrabosky, who arrived in the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1970, is a self-created image. Originally a clean-cut pitcher, Hrabosky allowed his hair to grow long and cultivated a beard and a moustache. He then developed a procedure on the pitching mound designed to annoy, frustrate, and sometimes anger batters. He would step off the mound, walk in the direction of second base, pound his glove, talk to himself, trot back to the mound, glower in to the catcher, and release his pitch. Pleasing to the crowds, an aid to, in Hrabosky's phrase, "psyching myself up," the image and the routine fattened the pitcher's paychecks. There are those who declare that Hrabosky may be Hungarian, but he surely isn't mad.
MAHATMA, THE Branch Rickey (1881-1965) was one of baseball's most influential personalities. Inventor of the farm system, the force responsible for Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color line, the master builder of the St. Louis Cardinal and Brooklyn Dodger organizations, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967. Sportswriter Tom Meany coined Rickey's nickname. Meany got the idea from John Gunther's phrase describing Mohandas K. Gandhi as a” combination of God, your own father, and Tammany Hall."
MAIL CARRIER Fans at Louisville in the minor where Earle Combs starred called him that because of his speed and base stealing skills.
MAN, THE (STAN THE MAN) Stanley Frank Musial, St. Louis Cardinal baseball immortal, batted .315 as a rookie in 1942, when he was 21 years old. In 1962, at the age of 41, he hit .330-one point under his lifetime batting average. Musial is the all-time Cardinal leader in games played, runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers, and total bases. His twisted, crouched, coiled stance at the plate enabled him to slash the ball with power or stroke it with finesse to any part of the playing field. Musial was an especially successful hitter in the small confines of Ebbets Field. His specialty was slamming frozen rope doubles off the outfield walls. Dodger fans had difficulty pronouncing his name, sometimes calling him "Musical." Many of the black Dodger fans simply referred to Musial as "the Man" in tribute to the power and style he displayed. Eventually fans all over the league used this nickname-a reference not only to Musial but to the respect due his power and authority.
MAN IN THE IRON HAT Yankee owner Captain Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Hutson wore the same squished derby hat over and over again.
MAN NOBODY KNOWS Catcher Bill Dickey, Yankee immortal, because of his blandness.
MAN OF A THOUSAND CURVES His nickname was a bit hyperbolic, but the major league batters who swung at his stuff and came up empty might not disagree with it. For Johnny Sain, talented star of the Boston Braves and other teams, curveball pitches were a trademark and the reason for his nickname. He allegedly had such pitching skill that his curves dropped, darted, hesitated, broke wide, broke fast, broke slow, broke twice. There may not have been a thousand curves, but there were enough variations on these curves Sain possessed that the effect on batters was the same.
MAN O’ WAR Sam Rice was a fleet-footed outfielder and was called Man O' War" after the famous racehorse of his era.
MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN During the late 1 940's and into the 1950's, Don Mueller of the New York Giants appeared to have a special gift with a bat in his hands. His lifetime batting average was a respectable .296, yet he never led the league in any hitting category. His nickname came from his expert bat-manipulation and his ability to hit the ball where he wanted it to go.
MAJOR Ralph Houk, for rank held in the Armed Forces and demeanor
MARSE JOE Hall of Fame Manager Joe McCarthy, , for his commanding style.
MARVELOUS MARV Marvin Eugene Throneberry was perhaps born to be a New York Met. His initials spelled out the name and his personality and limited skills underscored the characteristics of the 1962 New York expansion team. Throneberry, who looked like Mickey Mantle batting but did not get the same results, labored through a seven-year, four-different-team major league career- the Mets were his last team. He is a gentle, fine humored man, and sportswriters hung the nickname on him in good-natured jest.
Throneberry loved it and went along with their efforts to depict him as a clown. Once a teammate dropped an easy fly ball. Marvelous Marv smiled and shouted, "What are you trying to do anyway, steal my fans?"
MASTER BUILDER IN BASEBALL Jacob Ruppert, and that he was.
MASTER MELVIN Mel Ott was a power-armed right fielder for 22 years with the New York Giants. He smashed 511 home runs in a fabled career that saw him average better than a hit a game while compiling a lifetime batting average of .304. Ott became a Giant at the age of 16-and that's how his nickname came about. Ott's Hollywood-type beginning was recalled by Eddie Logan, Giants equipment manager, who was about the same age as Ott at the time and was sent to pick up the youth: "We had the 9th Avenue El at the time. Mr. McGraw had told him to ride the El to the last stop, which was the Polo Grounds. He took the El the wrong way and wound up at the Battery. I looked for the straw suitcase. I found him. I said, 'C'mon boy, let's go.' He got the biggest thrill riding back on the train." Labeled "McGraw's baby," Ott was in only 35 games in 1926, then 82 in 1927. "He's too young to play big-league ball," McGraw said, "but I am afraid to send him to the minors and have a manager there tinker with his unorthodox batting style. The style is natural with him. He'll get results as soon as he learns about big-league pitching." And he did.
MEAL TICKET, THE Through the long Depression years, one of the great constants in the fortunes of the New York Giants was pitcher Carl Hubbell. The Hall of Famer possessed a left-handed screwball that he threw at different speeds and blended with a dazzling change of pace. He could make the ball almost disappear, so sophisticated was his pitching style. Hubbell won 253 games for the Giants in a 1 6-year career and notched a 2.97 earned-run average. His nickname came from his value to the Giants. He was a selfless performer. "In a close game, he'd go down to the bullpen and start warming up. He wanted to show that he was willing and ready, and he'd defy the manager not to put him in," recalled former Giant owner Horace Stoneham.
THE MECHANICAL MAN A Tiger superstar in the 1930s, Charlie Gehringer was given that nickname by Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez who said he was automatic.
MENDOZA LINE Batters hitting below .215 are referred to as below the Mendoza line, a reference to Mario Mendoza, lifetime batting average - .215.
MERRY Mortician Waite Hoyt was a cheery soul and worked off-season as a mortician.
MICK THE QUICK Mickey Rivers, for his speed.
MICKEY MOUTH Mickey Rivers, for his motor mouth.
MIGHTY MITE Hall of Famer Miller Huggins played 13 years in the major leagues and managed for 17 more with the Cardinals and Yankees. A 5'6", 140-pounder, his small physical stature and his outstanding playing and managing ability merged into the qualities that produced his nickname.
MILKMAN Former Yankee pitcher Jim Turner because of his off-season job delivering milk
MILWAUKEE BREWERS The franchise began as the Seattle Pilots in 1969, then moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and picked up its nickname for the famous breweries in the City.
MINNESOTA TWINS Named for the "Twin Cities" where the team is located, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Franchise moved from Washington DC, as the Senators (from 1901-1960), then to Bloomington, Minnesota as the Twins (1961-81) then to Minneapolis in 1982.
MINNIE MINOSO His real name was Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Armas Minoso, but everyone knew him as Minnie, which made it easier for typesetters, reporters, and fans. Born November 29, 1922, in Havana, Cuba, Minoso played 15 years in the majors, from 1949 to 1964 (he also appeared in one game in 1977, while a coach with the Chicago White Sox).
MIRACLE AT COOGANS BLUFF Throughout the long history of baseball there have been poignant, exciting, dramatic moments. But very few can compare to what happened on October 3, 1951 at the old Polo Grounds in New York City. Some refer to that time as "The Miracle at Coogan's Bluff." Others, especially in Brooklyn, call it "Dat Day." But no matter what label is applied it was a time to remember. It was a time when the Giants played out of the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and the Dodgers entertained millions in their tiny Brooklyn ballpark, Ebbets Field. It was a time of tremendous fan devotion to each team.
In July Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen had bragged, "The Giants is dead." It seemed to aptly describe the plight of Leo Durocher's team. For on August 12 the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13 l/2 games in the standings.
Then, incredibly, the Giants locked into what has been called "The Miracle Run." They won 37 of their final 44 games - 16 of them in one frenetic stretch - and closed the gap.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime situation," recalls Monte Irvin, who batted .312 that year for the Giants. "We kept on winning. The Dodgers kept on losing. It seemed like we beat everybody in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning.
The Giants and Dodgers finished the season in a flat-footed tie for first-place and met on the first day of October in the first game of the first play-off in the history of the National League. The teams split the first two games setting the stage for the third and final game.
Don Newcombe of the Dodgers was pitted against Sal Maglie of the Giants. Both hurlers had won 23 games during the regular season.
The game began under overcast skies and a threat of rain. Radio play-by-play filtered into schoolrooms, factories, office buildings, city prisons, barbershops.
The Wall Street teletype intermingled stock quotations with play-by-play details of the Giant-Dodger battle. The game was tied 1-1 after seven innings. Then Brooklyn scored three times in the top of the eighth. Many of the Dodger fans at the Polo Grounds and the multitude listening to the game on the radio thought that the Giants would not come back. Durocher and the Giants never gave up. "We knew that Newcombe would make the wrong pitch," said Monte Irvin. "That was his history."
The Giants came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning - only three outs remained in their miracle season.
Alvin Dark led off with a single through the right side of the infield. Don Mueller slapped the ball past Dodger first baseman Gil Hodges. Irvin fouled out. Whitey Lockman doubled down the left field line. Dark scored.
With runners on second and third Ralph Branca came in to relieve Newcombe. Bobby Thomson waited to bat. Durocher said, "I did not know whether they would pitch to Thomson or not. First base was open. Willie Mays, just a rookie, was on deck."
Veteran New York Giant announcer Russ Hodges described the moment to millions mesmerized at their radios that October afternoon:
"Bobby Thomson up there swinging.... Bobby batting at .292. Branca pitches and Bobby takes a strike call on the inside corner. Lockman without too big of a lead at second but he'll be running like the wind if Thomson hits one. "Branca throws ... there's a long drive...it's gonna be, I believe. . .'
The precise moment was 3:58 P.M., October 3, 1951.
"... the Giants win the pennant!" Hodges screamed the words at the top of his voice, all semblance of journalistic objectivity gone. "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"
Hodges bellowed it out eight times - and then overcome by the moment and voiceless, he had to yield the microphone.
Pandemonium was on parade at the Polo Grounds for hours after the game. For almost half an hour after the epic home run, there were so many phone calls placed by people in Manhattan and Brooklyn that the New York Telephone Company reported service almost broke down.
Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca would play out their major league careers. But the moment they shared - as hero and goat that October day at the Polo Grounds - would link them forever.
MIRACLE BRAVES The year was 1914, the year World War I began. The Boston Braves marched from last place in July to the National League pennant by winning 61 of their last 77 games. That accomplishment was only a part of what earned the Braves their reputation as a "miracle" team. In the World Series, the Braves were given no chance to defeat a powerful Philadelphia Athletics team that boasted such pitching stars as Chief Bender, Bullet Joe Bush, Eddie Plank, Jack Coombs, and what was referred to as the "$100,000 infield" of Baker, Barry, McInnis, and Collins. Boston manager George Stallings was confident. "We'll stop them. We're coming and they're going."
Behind their powerful pitching trio of George Tyler, Dick Rudolph, and Bill James, the Braves won the first game, shocking the baseball world, then the next three, to demolish a dynasty and become the first team in the history of baseball to win four straight World Series games.
MIRACLE MAN The manager of the "Miracle Braves," George Stallings, piloted four different teams in a 13year managing career. He won only a single pennant in all those years-with the 1914"Miracle Braves"-but the accomplishment was good enough to earn him his nickname.
MR. AUTOMATIC Mariano Rivera, for his unflappable behavior and skills as a Yankee stopper.
MR. MAY George Steinbrenner's sarcastic jibe at Dave Winfield because of his postseason struggles as compared to Reggie Jackson's successes. It was a taunt from the Yankee principal owner that Winfield did well in the month of way when there was no real pressure.
MR. OCTOBER In Game Five of the 1977 ALCS Billy Martin benched Reggie Jackson. In a comeback win against Kansas City Jackson retuned to slap a single. Thurman Munson sarcastically called Jackson "Mr. October." The nick-name would have taken on a different meaning but Jackson fitted the nick-name to his persona.
MR. NOVEMBER Derek Jeter, for his World Series home run, the first of November, 2001.
MONSTER, THE His size (6'6" and 230 pounds) and his pitching efficiency during his seven-year stint for the Boston Red Sox in the 1960's earned Dick Radatz his nickname.
MONTREAL EXPOS Nickname derived from the 1967 World Exposition staged in Montreal. It was held two years before the team's inaugural game. The fair ran for the entire year and drew approximately 50 million people.
MOOKIE Willie Wilson was given this nickname by his family because of the funny way he said “milk” when he was a child.
MOON SHOT Home run hit high and far. See Wally Moon and LA Dodgers.
MOOSE Bill Skowron's, grandfather as a joke called him Mussolini, but his family shortened the nickname to Moose. This is another version - that he was named "Moose" because of his resemblance to Mussolini.
Pitcher Mike Mussina earned this name for size: Baltimore Orioles ( 1991-2000), New York Yankees 2001-present.
MY WRITERS Casey Stengel's phrase for journalists he was close to.
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.FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.