Monday, May 29, 2006
"El Duque" joins Mets all-nickname team
Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez has been with the Mets for a week, and he’s already assumed a valuable spot.
Of course, I’m talking about the Mets’ All-Nickname team.
Nicknames are an important part of baseball, the Mets have had some of the best, especially in those early years.
But first the ground rules: No one makes the team with a lame Chris Berman name. By and large, I think they’re dopey and not something an average fan would throw out there.
A proper nickname has to roll off the tongue and be universally recognized and even stand on it’s own. When you say "The Franchise," everybody knows who you are talking about.
Another rule: Shortened last names don’t count. Sorry "Straw" and "Maz." There's one near exception, and we'll get to that in a minute.
First Base: “Marvelous Marv" Throneberry
If there was ever a man destined to be a Met, it was Marvin Eugene Throneberry. His play left something to be desried. OK, a lot to be desired. But Marv was a colorful guy, and all we had in those early years was color. The other option was Dave "Kong" Kingman, but I just don't like him very much.
Second base: Elijah Jerry “Pumpsie” Green
Green is famous for integrating the Red Sox, but he closed out his career by appearing in 17 games for the 1963 Mets, hitting .278 with one homer. He came in a trade with Tracy Stallard for Felix Mantilla, a trifecta of unusual names. The Sox later restored blandness by adding a guy named Al Moran as the player to be named later.
Third base: Howard “HoJo” Johnson
As you have no doubt guessed, this is the near exception to the no shortened last name rule. In this case, we get the shortened first and last names. This guy was so good they named a restaurant after him. Seriously, what were his parents thinking? And once the Mets had a guy in their minor league system named Ronald McDonald. Imagine if HoJo and Mickey D were ever on the same team?
Shortstop: Derrel McKinley “Bud” Harrelson
Truth is, shortstop is the weak spot in the lineup. I love Buddy, don't get me wrong. It's not just the strongest nickname out there.
Daniel Joseph “Rusty” Staub, "Le Grande Orange"
Mr. Staub was such a good player that he needed two nicknames, one in French. I’m guessing the names stem from his red hair, but we should never assume too much. Rusty of course had two runs with the Mets, the second of which inspired a third name, “Guy who doesn’t run or play in the field.”
Roger “You Suck” Cedeno
I confess I am perplexed by this one. But it seemed like every time mild-mannered Roger was introduced, I’d hear “You Suck Cedeno!” which seems like an unusual nickname. Perhaps it comes from Cedeno’s magical power to turn opponent's routine flyball outs into triples.
Lenny "Nails" Dykstra and William Hayward "Mookie" Wilson
They were platooned on the Mets, so they share that fate here as well. Dykstra liked to think he was tough as nails. I met at a card show once and asked him to sign the glorious Mets book. As he was signing I asked him if he could write "Nails" there as well. He misspelled it, looked up and sheepishly said "Oops" and tried to fix it. So that goes to show you that while Dykstra might have been tough as nails, he was not sharp as a tack. Mookie, who had no trouble spelling his name, has transcended sports with a name that has since been bestowed to countless pets.
Back-up outfielder: George Basil “Stork” Theodore
Stork was a monster in the minors but his time at Shea is probably best remembered by his horrific collision with Don Hahn in 1973 that broke his hip. Stork ended up hitting just .219 with two homers in his career, but was fondly remembered a colorful character. And as the cartoon on the back of his 1974 Topps card says, “George likes marshmallow mikeshakes.”
Catcher: Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman
“Choo Choo” was a bit of a mystery. He called everyone “Bub.” There’s a famous story about Coleman appearing on Kiner’s Korner, and Ralph, frustrated by the short non-answers he was getting, tried to lighten Coleman up by asking “Choo Choo, what is your wife’s name, and what’s she like?” His response: “Her name is Mrs. Coleman, and she likes me, Bub.” The real mystery is how Coleman got on the show in the first place, since it was reserved for the stars of that day’s game. Coleman appeared in 106 games in 1963 despite hitting a whopping .178. And it’s not like he was any good in the field, he had 15 errors. But his name was good enough to beat Don Robert "Duffy" Dyer.
George Thomas Seaver "The Franchise"
Any Mets rotation begins with Seaver, of course! He was probably called "Tom Terriffic" more often.
Wilmer David "Vinegar Bend" Mizell
I assume he is called that because he was born in Vinegar Bend, Alabama. Mizell had some nice years with the Pirates, but like the rest of the 1962 team, there was very little left in the tank and he was released after 17 games and a nasty 7.34 ERA. He later went on to join an even more suspect group of misfits -- the U.S. Congress!
Dwight "Dr. K," "Doc" Gooden
Gooden's nickname became so oft-mentioned that Topps actually replaced Dwight with Doc on baseball cards. Gooden for a time wanted another nickname, "Uptown." No kidding. There was a story in the program and everything. Thankfully, that ended in a hurry. But in hindsight it shows that Doc was more messed up than we ever suspected at the time.
Frank "Sweet Music" Viola
I suppose that when your last name matches a stringed instrument, this is about as good of a nickname as you are going to get. But Frank was a Long Islander, so that makes him A-OK with us. Some might say that Kenny "The Gambler" deserves a spot in the rotation, but I'm still not forgiving him for the infamous walk to Andruw Jones.
Bullpen: Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw
My cat is named after Tug McGraw. It's true. My wife decided that she would get final say over names given to children, and I'd get final say over names bestowed on pets. She might have made this rule after I wanted to name our first-born "Mookie." My goldfish is named "Costco."
Manager: Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra
Yogi's suffering at the hands of the Yankees is well-documented, and he didn't get the respect he deserved as manager of the Mets, either. But he gets on this team, well ahead the colorless group of manager names we've trotted out there, from Wes to Joe to Davey to Art.
There you go! Let me know if I've missed anybody.
In other words...
Fellow out-of-state Mets fan Dan Ziegler has moved his site to a new place. You can find him at www.lonestarmets.com