We believe it was Shakespeare who once said, “What’s in a name?” And we believe it was “Ugly” Johnny Dickshot who said, “Mind your own @#%&ing business.” Colorful names have been a part of the game for as long as peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and now the MLB Player’s Association is officially joining the fun by allowing players to display their nicknames on their jerseys during the inaugural, three-day “Players Weekend” (August 25th-27th).
Houston closer Ken Giles is going with “100 Miles Giles,” Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano is sticking with “Don’t You Know,” and Boston starter David Price has chosen “Astro’s Dad” in honor of his French bulldog.
We love the flair and creativity of the handles, but they don’t hold a candle to some of the greatest nicknames of all time. Need proof? We’ve got it! Below is a list of the greatest MLB monikers along with a note or two about how they earned them. We’ve also listed the odds on which current player will have the best-selling nickname jersey this year. Here’s a hint: He’s 6’7” and plays in the Bronx.
10. THE BIG UNIT (RANDY JOHNSON)
We’re suckers for a good double entendre (see what we did there?) so naturally we had to add Randy Johnson to our list. The 6’10” lefty got his nickname during his brief tenure with the Montreal Expos when fellow Hall of Famer Tim Raines bumped into him in the locker room and said, “You’re a big unit.” Broadcasters soon picked up on the story and the nickname stuck with Johnson through the remainder of his 22-year career.
9. COUNTRY BREAKFAST (BILLY BUTLER)
Billy Butler was known for two things during his ten-year career: big home runs, and an even bigger appetite. The latter earned him the nickname “Country Breakfast” years ago when former St. Joseph News-Press sports editor Ross Martin tweeted about Butler’s proclivity for eating anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down. The name stuck like a lamb chop in an esophagus and Butler wore it with pride during stops with the Royals, A’s, and Yanks.
8. VINCENT VAN GO (VINCE COLEMAN)
Ideally, a good nickname should be evocative, clever, and catchy. Vince Coleman’s is all three. The former Cardinals All-Star was a true artist on the base path, and his “Vincent Van Go” moniker perfectly captures his essence in a fun and playful way. Plus it didn’t cost him an ear, so he has that going for him too.
7. UGLY (JOHNNY DICKSHOT)
It isn’t often that someone’s actual name is more colorful than their nickname, but that was definitely the case for Johnny Dickshot. The Waukegan, Illinois-born left fielder happily touted himself as “the ugliest man in baseball” during brief stints with Pittsburgh, New York, and Chicago. In reality, the ugliest thing about Dickshot was his swing, and he was drummed out of the Majors after just 322 games.
6. MAN OF STEAL (RICKEY HENDERSON)
Baseball has had plenty of prolific base stealers over the years, but none of them have had the first step, timing, and instincts of Rickey Henderson. The ten-time All-Star swiped 1,406 bags during his Hall of Fame career (nearly 500 more than the second man on the list, Lou Brock) and will likely never be supplanted as MLB’s Man of Steal.
5. HUMAN RAIN DELAY (MIKE HARGROVE)
Make no mistake, “Human Rain Delay” is not a compliment. Mike Hargrove earned his handle because of the painfully obsessive routine he would employ before each and every pitch. He would clean his cleats, dig in, adjust his helmet, adjust his batting gloves, pull up his sleeves, tug at his rear pocket, take a couple of practice swings, floss, and watch an episode of The Bachelorette without fast-forwarding through the commercials. Okay, we made up the last two, but the rest are totally legit. Is it any wonder why Hargrove got beaned 53 times during his career?
4. CHARLIE HUSTLE (PETE ROSE)
The only place you’re likely to see Pete Rose hustling these days is the craps table, but back in the day the all-time hits leader had some serious spring in his step. Rose picked up his nickname during his rookie season in 1963 when he drew a walk against the Yankees in a meaningless spring training game and promptly sprinted to first. Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle immediately took notice (which is saying something considering how much Mantle used to drink) and shouted, “There goes Charlie Hustle!” He kept hustling in effectively meaningless situations later in life, too, fracturing Ray Fosse’s shoulder in a violent home-plate collision during the 1970 All-Star Game.
3. SHOELESS JOE (JOE JACKSON)
One of baseball’s most tragic figures also has one of its coolest nicknames. Joseph Jefferson Jackson received his handle during a minor-league game in Greenville, South Carolina, when he took to the field in his stocking feet after his new spikes had given him blisters the previous day. The name stuck, even though Jackson’s practice of playing sans footwear did not. (Playing the World Series without shoes would have made it a little too obvious that he wasn’t trying to win.)
2. BABE (GEORGE HERMAN RUTH)
When most baseball fans think of George Herman Ruth, they think of a rotund Sultan of Swat with a bulging waistline and mustard stains on his jersey. That was certainly true in the latter stages of his career, but back in 1914, Ruth was just a gangly 19-year-old with dreams of making it big. Baltimore Orioles owner Jack Dunn was suitably impressed with the youngster and, when he invited him to join the team, players started referring to him as “Jack’s newest babe.”
1. MR. OCTOBER (REGGIE JACKSON)
Anyone can flourish in April or May, but it takes balls the size of King Kong to elevate your game on baseball’s biggest stage over and over again. Reggie earned his title in the 1977 World Series when he hit .450 with five home runs and eight RBIs in a paltry 20 at bats. He followed that up with four dingers and 14 RBIs in the 1978 playoffs as the Yankees won back-to-back titles.
Forty years later, he’s still in the top ten all-time in World Series home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, and runs scored.
ODDS ON THE BEST SELLING NICKNAME JERSEY (2017)
All Rise – Aaron Judge (Yankees): 3/1
Big Kid – Bryce Harper (Nationals): 4/1
Dat Dude – Brandon Phillips (Braves): 5/1
Bringer of Rain – Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): 5/1
Kersh – Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 7/1