Sloppy, Mule, Firpo, Rube or Pinky: Baseball names are iconic
Once, there were genuine big-league baseball players named Baby Doll Jacobson, Nemo Liebold and Mule Shirley. Not to mention Bubbles Hargrave, Firpo Marberry and Sloppy Thurston. Oh, and Bubbles Hargrave had a brother named Pinky Hargrave.
Bubbles and Pinky should, of course, never be confused with Mike “The Human Rain Delay” Hargrove.
One of Sloppy Thurston’s teammates with the Chicago White Sox in 1925 was an outfielder named Bibb Falk. Did Bibb clean up after Sloppy?
The names sound made up but they are real, the genuine monikers of actual, bona fide, big-league baseball players, once sweating and spitting infielders, outfielders, pitchers and catchers.
Baseball nicknames are a slice of Americana as delicious as the best apple pie grandma ever baked. And many of those delectable and delightful names belong to men who played spring training games right here in Southwest Florida, some on the home teams and some on the visiting teams.
Florida Weekly, with obviously way too much time on its hands, reviewed the rosters of the teams that trained in Fort Myers and those of teams that likely made road trips to play here from 1925 to 1962, the rough heyday of colorful nicknames.
In all hundreds of rosters were studied and other resources consulted to assemble this diverting roundup.
The Philadelphia A’s trained in Fort Myers from 1925 to 1936 and during that time their roster included pitcher Rube Walberg, outfielder Mule Haas, first baseman Dud Branom, pitcher Jing Johnson and the aforementioned outfielder Baby Doll Jacobson.
The White Sox had a pitcher named Sarge Connally but he was vastly outranked by St. Louis Browns pitcher General Crowder.
The Cleveland Indians had players named Homer Summa, Roxy Walters and Garland Buckeye.
The aforementioned Nemo Liebold, Pinky Hargrave, Firpo Marberry and Mule Shirley were with the Washington Senators in the 1920s. And don’t call us Shirley. The 1925 Senators also included players named Wid Matthew, Curly Ogden, Muddy Ruel, Goose Goslin and pitcher Win Ballou. So that team had a Wid and a Win.
Win Ballou should never be confused with Hugh “Losing Pitcher” Mulcahy, who pitched for the Phillies in the 1930s and 1940s and earned his nickname. He twice led the National League in losses in a season.
Many of the baseball names from before World War II have vanished from the landscape.
Big-league rosters in the 1920s and 1930s included players named Heine Odom, Turkey Gross, Boob Fowler, Pea Ridge Day, High Pockets Kelly and Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons.
Fat Freddie should not be confused with pitcher Jumbo Elliott or outfielder Fats Fothergill.
Fat Freddie, Fats and Jumbo likely had little in common with pitchers named Skinny O’Neal or Tiny Chaplin.
Outstanding pitchers from the era included Dazzy Vance and Dizzy Dean. Dean had a brother and teammate named Daffy Dean.
Whatever happened to ballplayers named Dazzy, Dizzy and Daffy?
Oh, the names roll on. …
Then there was Bubber Junnard, who should not be confused with the many players named Bubba in baseball history.
Did outfielders Nick Tomato Face Cullop and Billy Zitzman know each other?
Was Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Cuckoo Christensen of unsound mind?
Was St. Louis Browns outfielder Beauty McGowan very handsome or was the name ironic because he was homely?
There were actual professional baseball players then known as Bonnie
Hollingsworth, Roxie Lawson, Liz Funk, June Greene, Patsy Gharrity, Debs Garms and Dib Williams.
Between the world wars there were big-league outfielders named Smead Jolley and Showboat Fisher and a pitcher named Steamboat Struss and then there was good ol’ Icehouse Wilson, who played for the 1934 Tigers. That team also included third baseman Flea Clifton.
The 1931 Red Sox featured a third baseman with a name out of an Agatha Christie novel – Urbane Pickering.
Van Lingle Mungo was an outstanding pitcher in the 1930s for the Brooklyn Dodgers but in 1969 his name became the title of a novelty song.
The 1940 Detroit roster included the following names: Birdie Tebbetts, Pinky Higgins, Bobo Newsome, Schoolboy Rowe, Dizzy Trout and Cotton Pippin.
The White Sox that year had an outfielder named Taffy Wright. In the 1990s the cross-town Cubs boasted an outfielder named Tuffy Rhodes.
In 1940 the Reds had a player named Jimmy Ripple, who played long before shortstop Bobby Wine played for the Phillies in the 1960s.
Attending a game that year a fan might have seen players named Creepy Crespi, Sibby Sisti, Fuzz White and Emil Hill Billy Bildilli.
One could become hungry at games back in those days when there were players named Pretzel Pezzuto, Cookie Lavagetto, Peanuts Lowry and Goober Zuber
When the Pirates trained at Terry Park in the 1950s they had a pitcher named Whammy Douglas and they later added a pitcher named Vinegar Bend Mizell to their staff.
The first black player in Red Sox history was Pumpsie Green
The 1962 Mets had a catcher named Choo Choo Coleman and that same year the Washington Senators featured an infielder named Coot Veal, not to be confused with Pirates pitcher Bob Veale.
Although the golden age of great names is in the distant past, fans from the late 20th century and even today occasionally encounter outstanding nicknames, even right here in Southwest Florida during spring training.
In recent decades there have been pitchers named Oil Can Boyd, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Blue Moon Odom, Mudcat Grant and Boof Bonser.
Some may recall a fellow named Stubby Clapp, who played for the Cardinals in 2001.
From 2006 to 2008 the Red Sox had an outfielder named Coco Crisp.
The Red Sox still have Mookie Betts, who is not only blessed with a great name but is also an outstanding player.
By the way, Mookie’s real first name is Markus.
But he’s always be Mookie to fans.
But don’t call him Baby Doll. ¦