What's In A (Middle) Name?

Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants watches from the dugout against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Some baseball players are better known by their middle names than their given first names. What if other players did that? Would their names still sound like they belonged to a ballplayer?

Our names don't just identify us; they define us. I'm sure you've looked at someone named "Dave" and thought, "He doesn't look like a Dave."

It's the same for baseball players. Some baseball names just sound like we imagine a ballplayer's name should. Derek Jeter is a great baseball name (and not only that, but named after a star hockey player). On the other hand, Darwin Barney -- cross between an evolutionist and a purple dinosaur. Felix Doubront? Candidate for president of France, not a baseball name.

But did you know that some ballplayers don't identify themselves by their given first names? That's the case for three Hall of Famers: Hoyt Wilhelm, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. All of those are names we are familiar with, and at least to me, they sound like the names of great athletes. All three are commonly known by their middle names, not their given first name.

Would "Jim Wilhelm" seem as much of a Hall of Fame name to you as "Hoyt Wilhelm"? Wilhelm's actual first name is James. "Jim Wilhelm" sounds like the name of a sixth-grade science teacher.

How about "Lynn Ryan"? Yes, the all-time strikeout leader and president of the Rangers has an actual first name that's usually female.

Or "George Seaver"? Tom Terrific's real first name makes him sound like a sitcom dad.

There's one current player who does this and really shouldn't. The Marlins' Mike Stanton goes by his middle name; there have been two other fairly recent players with that name, an early 1980s righthanded pitcher and a 1990s-2000s lefthanded pitcher.

Instead of Mike Stanton, to make him stand out from the crowd the Marlins slugger could have called himself Giancarlo Stanton, because his full given name is Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton. Now that is a great name.

Another current star who goes by his middle name is Miguel Cabrera, whose given first name is "Jose". That one would likely work either way.

Being known by his true first name would probably not suit Lance Berkman, who is also commonly known by his middle name. His first name? William. "Bill Berkman" or "Billy Berkman" or "Will Berkman"? Not such great baseball names.

This note isn't about middle names, but I must mention 1980s shortstop Jose Uribe, a player who was literally "named later" when he was traded. He came up to St. Louis on a September call-up in 1984 as "Jose Gonzalez", only to switch to his matronymic surname (Latin American players have both, for cultural reasons) after being traded from the Cardinals to the Giants, because he felt "Gonzalez" was too common a baseball name. (Uribe is a cousin of current Dodgers infielder Juan Uribe, who has not changed his name since entering the major leagues.)

What if other current major leaguers were known by their middle names? What would the resulting player name sound like, and what would a likely occupation be for such a name? Here are some possibilities. (I've used shortened versions of middle names in some cases; in other words, "Edward" becomes "Ed" and so on.)

Troy Dunn (Adam Dunn): 1950s era movie heartthrob

Andy Pence (Hunter Pence): drummer for up-and-coming rock band

LeRoy Lincecum (Tim Lincecum): the guy who runs the gas station on the corner

Luis Pedroia (Dustin Pedroia): Lincecum's chief mechanic at the gas station

Ed Kershaw (Clayton Kershaw): State Farm agent

Andy Vogelsong (Ryan Vogelsong): Folk-rock singer

D'Vaughn Pierre (Juan Pierre): Executive chef at elegant New Orleans French restaurant

Guilleard Soriano (Alfonso Soriano): Maitre'd at Pierre's restaurant

Stefan McCutchen (Andrew McCutchen): Professor of chemistry at Michigan State

Augusto Andrus (Elvis Andrus): Military general, leader of a small Latin American country

Michael Kinsler (Ian Kinsler): Rabbi of a large Jewish congregation in Baltimore

McCabe Ellsbury (Jacoby Ellsbury): Owner of the largest ranch in north Texas

Ivan Beltran (Carlos Beltran): Scientist working on secret intergalactic space-probe project

Thompson Swisher (Nick Swisher): Chairman of large bank holding company (probably known as Thompson Swisher III)

Then there are the poor guys without middle names: Curtis Granderson, Yovani Gallardo, Adrian Gonzalez and Johnny Cueto, among others, must get along with just a first and last name. Finally, there are a couple of middle names of current stars that would work just fine as "baseball player's names":

Trever Tulowitzki (Troy Tulowitzki); Brooks Verlander (Justin Verlander). No wonder those guys are All-Stars. They're completely covered.

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