Monday, June 9, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name (‘70s Version, Polysyllabic Edition)

So, we’ve got some shorter ones and some longer ones. Did you also know, that we’ve got some from the 50s and 60s as well? What is it about ballplayers and their crazy names?

There have been a few Cy’s over the years. By the 1970s, though, it was pretty much reserved for one guy. You may have heard of him before. (And, no, I’m not talking about Senor Acosta here.)

Cecilio (“Cy”) Acosta Miranda was up for four seasons, finishing with a 13-9 record, with 109 strikeouts. His main claim to fame was being the first AL pitcher to bat after the introduction of the designated hitter.

That other Cy? I understand he had a few more wins (oh, about 500) and K’s (around 2700, if I remember right). But other than that ... 

By the by, there were actually a couple of stars nicknamed “Cy” in the early days. My favorites are Cy Williams (led the NL in homers four times in the teens and twenties) and Cy Seymour (in 1905, he led the NL in hits, average, RBIs, doubles, and triples).

Billy Champion? Great name. Sounds like a ballplayer. Do notice the signature though. Buford Billy Champion, Jr.? Sounds like the guy with no teeth manning the fireworks shack just over the state line. Billy: this is an autograph. You’re not signing a mortgage here, okay?

We’ve met Billy before, where he was looking a tad unsure of himself. I shared some stats and info about Billy there. I’ll bet, though, you didn’t know that Billy:
  • Was a two-time minor league ERA leader
  • Was a minor league pitching coach
  • Was a scout for the Cubs
  • Was 6’4”
  • Blew out his elbow and had to retire (otherwise, you might have heard of him – he wasn’t bad at all)

Butch is not having a hard time spelling Cecil here. His real name was in fact Clell. Yup, Clell ... Makes “Butch” sound downright normal.

Butch Hobson was up for eight years – all but two with the Red Sox. He had one really nice year, hitting 30 homers and batting in 112. Unfortunately, he also couldn’t field to save his life. He also had a major elbow injury that shaved a couple of years off his career. And that’s why Butch is the only major leaguer to ever hit 30 homers in a season but finish with less than 100 for his career.

Butch also managed and was, in fact, the Red Sox skipper at age 41. He was with them for almost three years, finishing a little below .500. He’s been managing in the minors ever since. A cocaine bust in 1996 pretty much made sure that most of that managing experience was in independent leagues.

I always get this guy confused with Pitt Skiplock.

Skip Pitlock was actually born Lee Patrick Thomas Pitlock. Wow, four whole names! Sounds like that should have a “III” or “IV” or something after it as well. 

Skip was up for three years, finishing with an 8-8 record and a 4.53 ERA. Sounds like he was one of those pitchers who really didn’t know how to help himself out. At the plate, he finished with an .080 average, with 18 strikeouts in 25 at bats. He wasn’t too hot as a fielder either, coming in with a lifetime fielding percentage under .900.

By the way, if you live in the Chicago area, you can get a mortgage from Skip at A and N Mortgage Services. Tell ‘em Cliff sent you.

Celerino?  Did they call him Celery for short? 

Celerino Sanchez was not a bad prospect, but basically got crowded out of the Yankee’s hot corner by Graig Nettles. He once had the highest average in all of organized baseball, batting .448 in a Mexican League in 1966. This is his only card.

By the way, that patch on Celerino’s arm? It’s for the 50th anniversary of Yankee Stadium.
God, I hope this guy can steal a base …

Well …  Horace Speed did steal a couple of bases – four in three years and 131 games, to be exact. Unfortunately, he also got caught six times. He also has a little trouble “stealing first” – Horace finished his career with a .207 average.

And, yes, his nickname was indeed “Truth.”  

Gary Serum’s career was positively Pitlockian. Gary finished 10-12, with a 4.72 ERA, over three years. I have no idea how bad his batting and fielding were though.

Gary was actually a local boy. In fact, he was signed out of one of the Twins’ local tryout camps. And Gary stayed in the area after retirement as well. In fact, if you’re in the Anoka area, you can get a beer and some wings from Gary at Serum’s Good Time Emporium. Tell ‘em Cliff sent you.

I have no idea how this is pronounced.  Honestly, I think somebody must have just hit the keyboard with their elbow.  

Paul Thormodsgard is basically Gary Serum’s identical twin … at least stats-wise. Paul was up for three years [spooky noise], with the Twins the whole time [spooky noise], finishing with a 4.74 ERA [repeat noise]. 

So, what the heck is a “wockenfuss”?  Does it mean “frog stomper” in German?  Did John’s ancestors make wooden socks? Where could this one possibly come from?

John’s been here before, looking a little less well-kempt. I shared some stats there, but didn’t mention his unique batting stance. He basically turned his back to the pitcher, putting his feet very close together and pointing his lead foot back at the umpire. You can check it out right here.

Take one of those cringingly WASPy nicknames, like Kip or Poppy or Trey or Buffy.  Add strange ethnic surname.  Shake and pour.  Result?  Biff Pocoroba. 

Okay … So, the first thing we have to establish about Biff is that that is his actual name. “Biff” is not a nickname. The poor fellow was actually born “Biff Benedict Pocoroba.”

His stats? They were just okay (largely due to a fair amount of injuries). I’m talking ten years, 1500 or so at bats, a .257 average, and a mere 21 homers. He did make the All Star squad (albeit simply to catch Phil Niekro’s knuckleball).

By the way, if you live in the Altanta area, you can get a kielbasa or bratwurst from Biff at Sausage World, in Lilburn. Tell ‘em Cliff sent you.

I'm hoping Rusty doesn't run his own small business, ya know?

Rusty Kuntz just made it into this post, getting in five games in 1979. He would play six more years, getting 441 at bats total (and finishing with a .238 average and five homers). 

He has quite the entry on Wikipedia. It goes on for almost 1,800 words, somehow avoiding addressing the elephant in the room until the very last sentence.

Oh, his first name was actually Russell. Too bad they didn't call him Skip or Biff or Butch. Actually, nix that last one. Yeah, anything but that last one.


  1. Hey! You forgot Shooty Babbitt, Skeeter Barnes, and Razor Shines (who I think were all contemporaries).

  2. All 80s guys. If I ever get around to doing cards for the 80s, they'd definitely go to the front of the queue. By the way, I actually never heard of Shooty before. Good to know.