Friday, January 28, 2011

Baseball Names and How They Got That Way! - - S (Final Edition)

With spring training not to far away, the Hot Stove League will soon be over with and baseball talk will be in the air.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.

SPOT STARTER A pitcher called into action to start games as the team needs him, as opposed to a regular starting pitcher.

SPRAY HITTER A batter who is able to hit the ball to all fields.

SPRINGFIELD RIFLE Former star Yankee hurler Vic Raschi, after his birthplace Springfield, Massachusetts.

SPUD Nickname for Yankee star hurler Spurgeon Ferdinand Chandler, was easier for everyone.

SOUP Clarence Campbell who hit 3 home runs in the major leagues, died on Feb. 16, 2000. He played in 104 games for the Indians in 1941 and hit .250 with 3 home runs and 35 RBI.

STENGELESE The late and great Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel could say a mouthful. Herewith, a sampler:

“Butcher boy” =a chopped ground ball
“Embalmed” = sleeping
“Green pea” = rookie or unseasoned player
“He could squeeze your ear brows off” = a tough player
“Hold the gun” = I want to change pitchers
“Ned in the third reader” = naiveté
“Plumber” =a good fielder
“Road apple” = a bum
“Whiskey slick” = a playboy
“Worm killers” = low balls

A Stengelese Monologue -- Spring Training l955
"And now we come to Collins which may be an outfielder. He played centerfield at Newark and also played right field for me in the World Series. You can look it up, but he had Novikoff on one side of him and someone else whose name I have forgotten on the other but you can look it up. That should prove he's a great outfielder in order to do it with them guys on either side of him.
"There's a kid infielder named Richardson who was in our rookie camp which he doesn't look like he can play because he's as stiff as a stick--but whoosh--and the ball's there and he does it so fast it would take some of them Sunshine Park handicappers with the field glasses on to see him do it so fast does he do it. He never misses. As soon as he misses a ball, we'll send him back home
"We started out to get us a shortstop and now we got eight of them. We don't fool, we don't. I ain't yet found a way to play more than one man in each position although we can shift them around and make them maybe outfielders outa them or put 'em all at ketch like we done with Howard.
"You ask me what kind of ball club I want, one with power or one with speed, well a lot of power but not too much, and a lot of speed but not too much. The best club is the versatile club, the one that has a homer hitter here and a bunter there, a fast ball pitcher here and a change-of-pace pitcher there. That way, the other team never knows what's going to hit it next."
At the Congressional hearings on baseball's Reserve Clause, July 19, 1958:
"In Kankakee, Illinois or someplace like that, I tore my suit sitting in the stands. . . now they've got good seats.
“I got a little concern yesterday in the first three innings when I saw the three players I had gotten rid of, and I said when I lost nine what am I going to do and when I had a couple of my players I thought so great of that did not do so good up to the sixth inning I was more confused but I finally had to go and call on a young man in Baltimore that we don't own and the Yankees don't own him, and he is doing pretty good, and I would actually have to tell you that we are more the Greta Garbo type now from success.
"We are being hated, I mean from the ownership and all, we are being hated. Every sport that gets too great or one individual -- but if we made 27 cents and it pays to have a winner at home, why would you have a good winner in your own park if you were an owner?
"That is the result of baseball. An owner get most of the money at home and it’s up to him and his staff to do better or they ought to be discharged."

THE STORK Gangly George Theodore, reserve outfielder New York Mets in the early 1970s.

STRETCH (“Big Mac") Willie McCovey was a huge star for the San Francisco Giants. His size was the reason for one of his nick-names and the other was an abbreviation of his surname.

DR. STRANGELOVE First baseman Dick Stuart had some fielding issues.

SUB Former Yankee and Red Sox hurler Carl Mays, born in 1891 in Liberty, Kentucky threw to the plate with an underhanded or submarine motion.

SULTAN OF SWAT One of the nicknames given to Babe Ruth—Swat was once a principality but today is part of Pakistan (see BABE).

SQUIRE (or KNIGHT OF KENNETT SQUARE Herb Pennock came from historic Kennett Square, PA an area of horsemen and fox hunters. Pennock himself was an expert rider and a master of hounds.

Eddie Murray who played For Baltimore Orioles (1977-1988, 1996), Los Angeles Dodgers (1989-1991, 1997), New York Mets (1992-1993), Cleveland Indians (1994-1996), before finishing his career with the Baltimore Orioles, Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers (1996-1997)

New York Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen invented this rhyming name for pitcher Eddie Lopat. A hard-working, consistent performer, Lopat led the Yankee pitching staff five years in a row in earned-run average (see JUNK MAN).

STICK Long time baseball “brain” Gene Michael when at Kent State playing basketball had a lean and long appearance.
SUBWAY SERIES The term originated for New York City baseball when players and fans traveled by subway to games. Back in 1889 the New York Times observed: "The competition between Brooklyn and New York as regards baseball is unparalleled in the history of the national game."
The competition may have been unparalleled but it was also unequal. Throughout most of their history the Dodgers of Brooklyn were a sad sack team. The Yankees were the royalty of baseball.
It was not until 1941 that the rivalry between the two franchises reached fever pitch in the first Subway Series. The results were predictable. The Yankees won. There was another Brooklyn-New York Subway Series in 1947 - same result. In 1949 - same result. In 1952, in 1953 - same results.

In 1955, it was again a Subway Series - Dodgers versus Yankees. Brooklyn had lost all seven Series it had played - five of them to the Bronx Bombers. Casey Stengel's Yankees took the first two games. Since no team had ever won a seven-game World Series after losing the first two games, Yankee fans were getting ready to celebrate. And once again Dodger fans were trotting out their poignant slogan: "Wait 'til Next Year."
But 1955 was Next Year! The Brooks pushed the Yankees to a seventh game. And Johnny Padres threw a 2-0 complete game shutout to give the Brooklyn Dodgers their first and only World Championship.

The precise moment was 3:43 P.M. on October 4, 1955. Brooklyn streets were clogged with celebrating fans. Honking car horns, clanging pots and pans, and shredded newspaper all punctuated that one singular moment. There was joy in Flatbush. The hated Yankees had been defeated.

However, all the celebrating was short-lived and bittersweet. For in 1956,the last time there was a Subway Series, it was Yanks over Dodgers in seven games. And in 1957 the Dodgers of Brooklyn moved to Los Angeles.
Pretenders to the throne of "Subway Series" have sprung up since then - - Yankees versus Los Angeles Dodgers in transcoastal World Series. Even the "Shuttle Series" - - the World Series of 1986 between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. The name derived from the two cities that were linked by commuter air-shuttle routes and shameless commercialism by shuttle operators Eastern and Pan American.

The meeting between the Yankees and Mets in October 2000 was the last real Subway Series for purists.

SUKEY Working with Branch Rickey, Clyde Sukeforth went to scout Jackie Robinson as he played for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. Robinson did not play in that game, but Sukeforth set up a meeting between Robinson and Rickey. And the rest led to the breaking of the color line in baseball.

“SUNDAY TEDDY Ted Lyons In 1939, White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes started to use Lyons, who was 38 years old, only on Sunday afternoons. This pattern was maintained through the '42 season, with the veteran starting 21, 22, 22 and 20 games each year. The veteran right-hander posted a fine 52-30 record for that span, with a 2.96 ERA (he led the AL in ERA at the age of 41 in 1942, with a 2.10 mark). Fans took to calling him "Sunday Teddy," and belying his age, Lyons completed 72 of his 85 starts over those years.

SUPERCHIEF Most major league baseball players of Indian descent somehow have been tagged with the nickname Chief. Allie Reynolds, whose glory years were 1947-54 with the New York Yankees, was no ordinary pitcher, but he was of Indian descent. Thus the man born in Bethany, Oklahoma, was nicknamed Superchief.

SUPERJEW Born April 4, 1943, in the Bronx, New York, Mike Epstein played for five different teams in an eight-year major league baseball career. His religion and his size (6'4", 230 pounds) were the roots for his nickname.

SUPER SUB Chico Salmon spent 9 years in the Major Leagues as a utility infielder. His first four seasons were with the Indians where he played several different positions.
SWAMP BABY Charlie Wilson, born in Clinton, South Carolina, appeared in 56 games over four seasons in the major leagues. Wilson supposedly earned the nickname, after he initiated a "prank" that flooded a baseball field so that he could get a day off. This prank was immortalized in the film, "Bull Durham." In 1931, Wilson hit 1 home run and drove in 11 runs for the Boston Braves.

In 2011, Harvey Frommer entered his 36th consecutive year of writing sports books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 41 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 20111. Read all about it:
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: He is available for speaking engagements.

Monday, January 24, 2011

From the Frommer vault - The First Super Bowl Was a Thrill

The very long National Football League season is now over. The losers and their fans look to the ultimate game - - and the winners and their fans rejoice in the big compettiion. Hype, hoopla, histrionics and sometimes a great game is the result of all the activity.

The merger of the American Football League and the National Football League led to the need for a championship game. The first contest was played on January 15, 1967 The Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers squared off against the Kansas City Chiefs.

And, although the contest was officially known as the AFL-NFL World Championship, its unofficial name - the Super Bowl - was used in the media, the fans and the players, and the name stuck.
One theory for how the high flying name came about is that at an owner's meeting centered on what to call the game, one of the moguls had a "super ball" in his pocket that he had taken away from his youngster earlier in the day. The owner was not too taken with the long and ordinary sounding suggestions for what would become professional football's ultimate game.

Squeezing the ball, he suggested the name Super Bowl. His suggestion was not greeted with much enthusiasm by the assembled group. Nevertheless, he mentioned the name to a reporter who loved it and, as they say, the rest is history.

The first Super Bowl witnessed the first dual-network, color-coverage simulcast of a sports event in history, and attracted the largest viewership to ever see a sporting event up to that time. The Nielsen rating indicated that 73 million fans watched all or part of the game on one of the two networks, CBS or NBC.

In actuality, the game was a contest between the two leagues and the two networks. CBS' allegiance was to the NFL. NBC's loyalty was to the AFL - a league it had virtually created with its network dollars.
From the start there were special features to the Super Bowl including its designation with a Roman numeral rather than by a year - a move on the part of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to give the contest a sense of class.

That first Super Bowl was played at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles before 61,946. Quarterback Bart Starr was the first Most Valuable Player as he led the Packers to a 35-10 victory over Kansas City. Starr completed 16-of-23 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns.

Max McGee of the Packers became an interesting footnote to Super Bowl history.
"I knew I wouldn't play unless (Boyd) Dowler got hurt," he said in later years.
So McGee went out on the town the days (and nights) prior to the game. Curfews, it seems, were there for him to break. He stayed out until 7:30 a.m. on the day of the game. Then, the unimaginable happened. Dowler suffered a separated shoulder throwing a block on the opening series.

In came the 11-year veteran McGee who had caught only four passes all season. He snared 7 passes for 138 yards. McGee and Starr hooked up in the first quarter for a 37-yard score, and again at the end of the third quarter for a 13-yard touchdown. Elijah Pitts ran for two other scores. The Chiefs' 10 points came in the second quarter, their only touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Len Dawson to Curtis McClinton.

But Max McGee stole the show and set a pattern in that first Super Bowl that would be part of the ultimate game's history of unlikely heroes, strange twists of fate, footballs taking a wrong bounce for some teams and the right bounce for others.

Now in his 36th year of writing sports books, Harvey Frommer is a noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of hundreds of articles and 41 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. He is available for speaking engagements.

Harvey Frommer/ "Dartmouth's own Mr. Baseball" Dartmouth Alumni Magazine