Over on the mothership site, Chris Mottram brought the following piece of trivia to our attention:
The Yankees and Red Sox are playing at Fenway today, just as they did on this day 100 years ago. In honor of this anniversary, we present first names of some of the players on those 1912 Boston and New York teams:
Tris, Duffy, Olaf, Pinch, Smoky, Hick, Heinie, Hack, Birdie, Dutch, Gabby, Ezra, Cozy, Klondike, Homer, Hippo, Iron, Red.
The cruel twist at the end is that the most interesting name on either team now is probably Mark. Maybe CC, because there aren't a lot of people who go by CC other than the guitar player for Poison*.
This isn't the first time that someone's lamented the death of the cool name. The folks over at NotGraphs are doing yeoman's work, matching up pre-made nicknames with current players. That's a great start. But maybe the best thing to do is analyze the names for those 1912 teams and see if there's a way to apply them to today's players.
A quick and dirty categorization of the names:
Girls you had a crush on in seventh grade
Examples from 1912 Yankees or Red Sox: Gabby, Tris
This is covered more than you think. There's a Madison on the Giants, and a few Jordans and Caseys sprinkled around the league. The Red Sox have a Kelly, and the Yankees have a Cory. These names might sound funnier to people in 100 years. Adjustments don't have to be made in this department.
Ethnic and/or Biblical
Examples from 1912 Yankees or Red Sox: Olaf, Heinie, and Ezra
Baseball already has this covered, too. If someone from 1912 could look into the future, they'd giggle at names like Hiroki and Che-Hsuan. The names were from across the ocean in 1912; it was just a different ocean. There do need to be more Olafs and Heinies in the game, though, even if only to hear Matt Vasgersian come up with a "So hot! No one can touch the Heinie!" call whenever a hitter named Heinie has an extended hitting streak.
Two categories in, and it looks like baseball is doing just fine, right? Wrong. The following categories are where baseball needs some real work:
Examples from 1912 Yankees or Red Sox: Hick, Klondike, and Dutch
There's a delightful laziness to these kinds of nicknames. You're from a rural area? Hick. From Alaska? You're Klondike. From … Dutchenstein, or wherever? You're Dutch.
But there's more to that that. Klondike was actually born in England, and the person who came up with that and made it stick was some sort of proto-dadaist. But there's probably a good reason why nicknames like this don't stick now:
Okay, leading off is Dom. Then we got Dom hitting second. Venezuela Pete hitting third, and Dom hitting fourth. Calls It Pop Instead Of Soda, That Asshole is hitting fifth today and playing left. Uses Hella is in right, hitting seventh, and Dom …
Examples from 1912 Yankees or Red Sox: Hippo, Red
We have Panda and Fat Elvis, though I'm not sure if Lance Berkman is so thrilled with that one. But there's a boldness to Hippo and Red that just isn't found anymore. Hippo Vaughn was 6'4", 215, which is the size of a utility infielder now, but back then: Hippo. Easy, but effective.
Clint Hurdle: Listen, guys. That blown call was a rough way to end the game after 18 innings, but I'm sure we'll continue to contend. In order to lift our spirits, I'm going to assign nicknames based on appearance. McCutchen? You're now "Smiles."
Andrew McCutchen: Will do, skip.
Hurdle: Let's see, Hanrahan, you're Fuzzy.
Joel Hanrahan: Cool, cool.
Hurdle: Doumit? You're Gates of Hell.
Ryan Doumit: /puffs of smoke and screams of the damned escape from tear ducts
Hurdle: And Karstens … uh, Karstens.
Jeff Karstens: …
Hurdle: Look, here's a buck. Go get yourself a soda. You don't need to be here for this.
Specific, well-defined roles or descriptions
Examples from 1912 Yankees or Red Sox: Homer, Pinch, Hack
This is the biggest gap, in my opinion. You had Leftys and Pinches back then. There's a Homer today, but he's a pitcher. How has there not been a Slappy yet? Slappy Pierre. Rolls off the tongue. Innings Buehrle. Steals Gordon. Television Contract Pujols. There's plenty of room for this in baseball.
First step: nicknaming a catcher "Squats." Going with Squats McCann on this one.
Cutesy "-ie or -y" nicknames
Examples from 1912 Yankees or Red Sox: Cozy, Duffy, Smoky, Birdie
This is the perfect way to get the revolution started. This could be anything. Blinky. Flappy. Jumpy. It could apply to any player, either for a good reason or for no reason at all. A.J. Pierzynski can be Chirpy Pierzynski or Chatty Pierzynski because of his outspokenness. Or Evan Longoria could be Skinky Longoria just because. It works either way.
So the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park reminds us that modern baseball could use some creativity in the names department. Everything was so much better back then, except for medical science, technology, transportation, and the everything. Let's hop to it, baseball fans. Start with the nicknames.