Saturday, November 27, 2010

Baseball Names and How They Got That Way! - - S (Part I)

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, XV and all the others and wanted more, here is more, just a sampling. As always, reactions and suggestions always welcome. And bear in mind - - this is by no means a complete list.

SAD SAM JONES The former pitcher earned the nickname "Sad Sam" or "Sad Sam the Cemetery Man," for his somber demeanor, SAILOR BOB Bob Shawkey spent most of 1918 in the Navy as a yeoman petty officer aboard the battleship Arkansas.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Originally, during the Gay Nineties, the St. Louis National League baseball entry was known as the Browns. Then they were known as the Perfectos. That was a misnomer, for in the years 1892-99 they finished 12th three times, 11th three times, tenth once, ninth once, and eighth once. In 1899 their owner, Chris Von Der Ahe, decided that perhaps a new look in uniforms might help. The team was outfitted in flashy new fabric accentuated with red trim and red stockings. From the new look came the new name--The Cardinals.

SAN DIEGO PADRES For the Spanish word for priest, inspired by the padres of the Roman Catholic Mission San Diego de Alcala.

SANITARIES Athletic hose.

SATCHEL The immortal pitcher Leroy Paige received his nickname when he was seven years old. Back then he carried passengers' small bags, known as satchels, at the local railroad station in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. Paige was a long-time star in the Negro Leagues - there are estimates that he pitched for 33 years and won more than 2,000 games. Traveling all over the world to play baseball - by car, by bus, by train, some day also by horse and carriage - wherever there was a game the lanky hurler was there. His nick-name came from the fact that most of those years he lived out of his "satchel" or suitcase. Paige was proud of his nick-name and even wore it on his uniform.
A bone-thin 6'3" with size 12 flat feet, he billed himself as "The World's Greatest Pitcher." Paige claimed that his real secret of success stemmed from the fact that "even though I got old, my arm stayed 19." He was vigorously opposed to exercise. "I believe in training," he joked, "by rising up and down gently from the bench." Paige's rules for successful living were: 1-Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood. 2-If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts. 3-Keep your juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move. 4-Go very gently on the vices such as carrying on in society - the social ramble ain't restful. 5-Avoid running at all times. 6-Don't look back, something might be gaining on you. Through all the long and difficult years in the Negro Leagues, Paige Hungered for a shot at the majors. The Cleveland Indians needed extra pitching and their owner Bill Veeck was interested in Paige. As the story goes, Veeck wanted to test Paige's control before signing him to a contract. Allegedly Veeck placed a cigarette on the ground - a simulation of home plate. Paige took aim. Five fastballs were fired -all but one sailed directly over the cigarette. Paige got his contract! On July 9, 1948, Leroy Robert Paige arrived on the major league baseball scene as a rookie pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. He gave his official age as "42???" to owner Bill Veeck. His exact age was always clouded in mystery and rarely did he answer questions about it. And when he did, he quipped: "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter But he definitely was the oldest rookie ever to play in the majors.
On 1948, Satchel won six games lost only one, compiled a fine 2.48 earned run average and helped pitch the Indians to the pennant and World Series victory that year. Three years later Veeck was re-united with Paige this time with the St. Louis Browns. Satchel passed the time away relaxing in his own personal rocking chair in the bullpen when he was not pitching. There were appearances in the All-Star games of 1952 and 1953. And then he was done - for a time.
In 1965, a year that would have made him 59 years old based on his "official birthday" ( July 7, 1906 Mobile, Alabama) - he pitched three shutout innings for the Kansas City Athletics to become the oldest man to pitch in a major league game. It was the last time he took the mound. In 1971, on what he called the proudest day of his life, Leroy "Satchel" Paige was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the first player ever elected from the Negro Leagues.
Satchel Paige passed away on June 8, 1982 in Kansas City, Missouri. But stories of what he said and did have grown through the years, as the man has become both a myth and a legend. It is like the big fish story - the size of the fish caught grows bigger each time the teller of the tale speaks.
Nevertheless, Paige had the right stuff, hyperbole notwithstanding. Satchel reportedly began his professional career in 1926 and was an immediate gate attraction with his dazzling variety of pitches, and words for every occasion. He played baseball year round, often pitching two games a day in two different cities in the Negro Leagues. Joining the Pittsburgh Crawfords during the early 1930's, Satch was 32-7 and 31-4 in 1932 and 1933, respectively. But his time with the team was always interrupted by salary disputes. In those instances, Paige would go on barnstorming gigs for more money and compete against all levels of competition including top major league players.
He played in the Dominican Republic and then Mexico, where he developed a sore arm. In 1938, he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs and his arm was better than ever.
With the Monarchs, Paige had his complete pitching arsenal on display. He had a wide breaking curve ball, and his famous "hesitation pitch" that came out of a windup that looked like slow motion. He also had a "bee-ball," a "jump-ball," a "trouble-ball," a "long-ball" and other pitches without names that he made up as he went along. Satchel pitched the Monarchs to four-straight Negro American League pennants (1939-42), accentuated by a clean sweep of the powerful Homestead Grays in the 1942 Negro League World Series. Satchel won three of the games in that series. In 1946, he helped pitch the Monarchs to their fifth pennant during his time with the team. Satchel also pitched in five East-West Black All-Star games.
In his time he graced, and dressed up, the rosters of the Birmingham Black Barons, the Baltimore Black Sox, the Cleveland Cubs, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Kansas City Monarchs, the New York Black Yankees, the Memphis Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Stars.
His career spanned five decades. In his time he was acknowledged as the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues. It was a time when he had a string of 64 consecutive scoreless innings, and a stretch of 21 straight wins. It was also a time when some saw Paige bring his outfielders in and have them sit behind the mound while he proceeded to strike out the side, and when some commented on how he intentionally walked the bases loaded so that he could pitch to Josh Gibson, black baseball's best hitter.
It was a time when there were the "out-of-thin-air-you-had-to-be-there-" stories: Paige and his habit of striking out the first nine batters he faced in exhibition games; Paige and his firing twenty straight pitches across a chewing gum wrapper - a very mini-home plate; Paige throwing so hard that the ball disappeared before it reached the catcher's mitt.
The man they called "World's Greatest Pitcher" had a lot to say about his craft.
"I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is, once in a while I would toss one that ain't never been seen by this generation. Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don't move."
"They said I was the greatest pitcher they ever saw...I couldn't understand why they couldn't give me no justice."
Joe DiMaggio called him "the best and fastest pitcher I've ever faced."

SAY HEY Both a greeting and a nickname--and also a condition--this term belonged to Willie Mays. Regarded by many as the greatest player baseball has ever known (and in 1979, voted into the Hall of Fame), Mays pounded 660 homers and over 3,000 hits (better than a hit a game), scored over 2,000 runs, drew nearly 1,500 walks, drove in nearly 2,000 runs, and compiled a lifetime batting average of .302. The image of Mays in a Giants uniform stealing a base, hitting the ball out of the park, racing back to make a sensational catch running out from under his cap--all underscore the verve of the man they called the Say Hey Kid. (Say Hey Kid) Willie Howard Mays was born on May 6, 1931 in Westfield, Alabama. The New York Giants called him up on the 15th of May in 1951 from Minneapolis in the American Association. He was bating .477 after 35 games.
Garry Schumacher, publicist for the Giants at that time, recalled the first time he ever saw Mays. "The Giants were on their way from Chicago to Philadelphia to conclude the last three games of a road trip," Schumacher said. "I was by the front door of the Giants' office on Times Square. Suddenly, this kid comes in. There were always a lot of kids coming around; some of them wanted tickets and some wanted tryouts. He was carrying a few bats in one hand and a bag in the other that contained his glove and spikes. He was wearing the most unusual cap I ever saw, plaid colored. When I found out who he was, we bought him some clothes and then sent him to Philadelphia to join the club. He was wearing the new clothes when he left, but funny thing - he refused to take off that funny cap.
He made his major league debut with the Giants on May 25, 1951. But his start in the majors after just 116 minor leagues games was a shaky one. He was hitless in his first 12 at-bats, cried in the dugout and said, "I am not ready for this". He begged manager Leo Durocher to send him back down to the minors.
But "Leo the Lip" refused to listen to the pleas of the rookie center fielder just as another Giant manager John J. McGraw had refused to send a youthful Mel Ott to the minors.
"You're my center fielder as long as I am the manager of this team," Durocher said. "You're the best center fielder I have ever seen."
Mays' first home run was off the great Warren Spahn. He hit it over the roof of the Polo Grounds.
"We had a meeting of the pitchers," Spahn recalls. "We knew Mays was having trouble. I'll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I'd only struck him out."
In Pittsburgh's old Forbes Field, Rocky Nelson blasted a drive 457 feet to deep dead center. Galloping back, Mays realized as his feet hit the warning track that the ball was hooking to his right side. The ball was sinking and Mays could not reach across his body to glove the drive. So just as the ball got to his level, Mays stuck out his bare hand and made the catch. It was an incredible feat.
Durocher told all the Giants to give Mays the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout. But Pittsburgh's General Manager Branch Ricky sent the Giant rookie a hastily written note: "That was the finest catch I have ever seen ... and the finest I ever expect to see".
There is that catch and so many others. There are also the images of Mays playing stickball in the streets of Harlem with neighborhood kids, running out from under his cap pursuing a fly ball, pounding one of his 660 career home runs, playing the game with a verve, a gusto, and an attitude that awed those who were around him.
"Willie could do everything from the day he joined the Giants," Durocher recalled.
"Everybody loved him," notes his former teammate Monte Irvin. "He was a rare talent. Having him on your team playing center field gave us confidence. We figured that if a ball stayed in the park, he could catch it."
Mays was The Natural. He led the NL in slugging percentage five times. He won the home run crown four times. Twice, he won the NL MVP Award. "He lit up a room when he came in," Durocher said. The superstar of superstars, the man they called the "Say Hey Kid" was on the scene for 22 major-league seasons. He is all over the record book and in the memory of so many baseball fans.

SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE This often-repeated question, used frequently in song and story, had its origins in the emotions of a little boy. After the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" World Series scandal, a lad walked up to Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the accused players. The boy posed the above question to his idol (see BLACK SOX and SHOELESS JOE).

SCHONOZZ His given name was Ernesto Natali Lombardi, but all knew him as. Ernie. The Hall of Fame catcher had a big nose and liked to play bocci.

SCHOOLBOY WONDER Waite Hoyt made his major league debut in 1918 when he was a teenager. He struck out two of the three batters he faced.

SCOOTER, THE Phil Rizzuto pedaled about at shortstop for 13 years as a member of the New York Yankees. His small stature (5'6", 150 pounds) and his agile ways in the field earned him his nickname coined by Mel Allen the first time he saw the little man run he said, "Man, you're not running, your scootin'." (see "HOLY COW" ).

SCRAP IRON Former Houston player and current manager, Phil Garner, for his feisty ways.

SCRATCH FOR RUNS To have difficulty in scoring.

SCRATCH HIT A questionable hit that barely enables a runner to reach base safely.

SCREWBALL A seemingly straight pitch which unexpectedly swerves to the right (when thrown by a right-handed pitcher) or to the left (when thrown by a left-handed pitcher) (SCROOGIE)., Also oddball player.

SEATTLE MARINERS The franchise name reflects the nautical heritage of Washington State.

SECOND PLACE JOE Joe McCarthy's three straight second-place finishes prompted the nickname before the Yanks won four consecutive world championships, 936-39. The name was also used when he was manager of the Cubs and had some disappointing second place finishes.

SENATOR Steve Garvey projected his Mr. Clean image to the nation in a TV interview before the 1974 World Series when he explained that his nickname, Senator, referred to his post-baseball political aspirations.

In 2011, Harvey Frommer will be in his 36th 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 was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his classic "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball." Frommer's newest work REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION (Abrams) is set for March 2011.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.

FOLLOW Harvey on Twitter:

No comments: