February 29, 2008
BASEBALL: Best and Worst Names For Baseball Prospects
Having a great baseball name is important. For example, lots of people remember Drungo La Rue Hazewood (who was 0-for-5 in the major leagues) and Van Lingle Mungo, but almost nobody has heard of Bobby Wallace even though he played 25 seasons in the majors and is in the Hall of Fame. Maybe he shoulda gone by his given name of "Rhoderick."
There are many ways to have a great baseball name. Some are whimsical or lyrical, some are unique, some are straightforwardly manly, some are born puns. But you know them when you hear them. Probably the best fit for a baseball name I can remember was Darry Strawberry. His first name was perfectly chant-able ("Daaaa-relllllll...."). "Straw" reminded people of the bravado of Reggie Jackson ("the straw that stirs the drink"), who was still playing for the crosstown Yankees when the Mets drafted Strawberry; "berry" reminded Mets fans of the belovedly inept Marv Throneberry. Staw's goofily aloof public persona and career provided plenty of opportunities to make both connections. Ty Cobb is a good example of a guy who was pretty much what his name made him sound like. Foreign-sounding names can be good if they have a whiff of the exotic or an interesting mix of sounds, but bad if they are unpronounceable or poor fits for a professional athlete. Personally, I'm fascinated by the fact that the top 5 or 6 Latino players in the game today include guys named "Johan," "Vladimir," "Albert" and "David".
So here are my nominations for the best and worst baseball names among current minor league prospects (I used the list in John Sickels' book for my reference list of who counts as a prospect):
The 15 Best
15. Joe Savery (P-PHI). Move that man to the bullpen.
14. Duane Below (P-DET). Look out!
13. Deik Scram (OF-DET). Yeah, the first name is hard to spell and pronounce, but this is one of the best headline-pun names in the batch.
12. Lance Broadway (P-CHW). Swagger and style. Come back a star, kid.
10. (Tie) Homer Bailey (P-CIN) and Jay Bruce (OF-CIN). Granted, Homer is better for a non-pitcher's name, but these guys just sound cool, and bonus points because they are (1) potential superstars and (2) teammates.
9. Jacob "Jake" Wild (P-SEA). He can call on his animal friends to bail him out in a pinch.
8. Jair Jurrjens (P-ATL). The right kind of foreign name, with just the right amount of flair. Bonus Star Wars geek points if you are tempted to call him "Moff".
7. Dallas Buck (P-AZ). Sounds like a redneck, a porn star, an action hero or some combination of the three.
6. Nick Noonan (2B-SF). Admit it: you want to add "Private Eye" at the end. The streets of San Francisco are his beat.
5. Rocky Roquet (P-CHC). Just rolls off the tongue; the Ballad of Rocky Roquet.
4. Christian Colonel (3B/OF-COL). Onward, Christian Colonel, marching off to war.
3. Joba Chamberlain (P-NYY). Yeah, you know this one by now.
2. Antonio Bastardo (P-PHI). Really, you are gonna dig in against a lefthanded pitcher named "Antonio Bastardo"?
1. Terry "TJ" Large (P-BOS). Somewhere out there are rappers who would kill for the name "TJ Large".
The 10 Worst
10. Randor Bierd (P-BAL). Sounds like a George Lucas character or an Ayn Rand character. That's an intersection you don't want. Plus, the surname is from mispellings-R-Us.
9. Wilmer Font (P-TEX). Does he have a sister named "Arial"?
8. Chase Fontaine (2B-TB). The diffident boyfriend from a Lifetime Original Movie.
6. (Tie) Travis D'Arnaud (C-PHI) and Jarrett Hoffpauir (2B-STL). A ballplayer should not have a name that sounds like a Belgian diplomat. Worse for Hoffpauir (how do you pronounce that, anyway?), there are apparently four Hoffpauirs kicking around baseball at the moment.
5. Pedro Beato (P-BAL). Doubly bad name for a pitcher. It could be worse: he wasn't in the Sickels book but there's also a pitcher in the Marlins system named - I kid you not - Benito Beato. That's just cruel.
4. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (P-SEA). A hyphen and an unspellable typewriter jam at the end. Good luck getting the newspapermen on your side, son.
3. Evan Longoria (3B-TB). The name's not that bad by itself, and ten years from now it may be fine; but the Rays' young star has the misfortune to have a name that sounds like that of a teeny-tiny little actress, and one who is known to sports fans because she is married to an NBA player. A French NBA player, at that. Not the mental picture you want to project.
2. Kasey Kiker (P-TEX). Thank God his middle initial is "W," not "K".
1. Billy Buckner (P-KC). Might as well legally add "no relation" to the end of his name.
Dick Pole and J.J. Putz each have very unfortunate names. I pity them both. I always thought that Sterling Hitchcock had a great name, something out of a great novel. I was disappointed when he did not become a star. Harmen Killebrew is one guy whose talents lived up to his name.
I, uh, happen to agree with you about Straw. One game, when he hit a shot off Lee Smith, bottom of the tenth, on the first or second pitch, it ran out of the park in a microsecond to beat the Cards, with a crowd of maybe 52,000, 51,999 chanted "Daaahhhh-Rrelllll" over and over. What did that last fan chant?: "Meeeeeee....meeeeee!!!"
Not to forget Derrell Harrelson.
Wierd fact: in grad school (Penn, 1978), we had three Daryl's (of varied spelling--only I spelled it correctly), and one Darl. As I said then, "We led the league in Daryls."
I don't know... if I were a pitcher, two of the last words I would want associated with me are "Homer" and "Wild." Although, Jake Wild would be a living homage to Major League.
You could do worse than be linked to Bill Buckner. Jeez, he had a 22 year career, hit .289 and was a dynamite first baseman. I don't know a Sox fan who hasn't forgiven the man and sympathized with his plight even if they killed him for nearly 20 years. Did you know, in 1985 (one year before "the incident") that the lead-footed, hobbled Billy Buck led the Sox with 18 stolen bases at age 35? I loved BB in his 2+ years with the Sox. He deserved better from history. I hope the nex Billy Buck plays for the Sox and has an historic career.
Another great name for a pitcher: Rollie Fingers.
If "Urban Shocker" is Crank's # 16, he can be forgiven. Barely.
Current prospects, ah yes, not all time. Apologies to Crank. Urban's forever #1.
Probably my favorite baseball name is Mickey Mantle. It just sounds so regal and down-to-earth at the same time. And he quite lived up to his name.
How about Pork Chop Pough? I remember when he was with the Paw-Sox. There was also an outfielder for the Braves named Wonderful Terrific Monds III.
Wonderful Monds is pantheon-level stuff. I cherished his baseball card.
My all-time favorite baseball names? Mackey Sasser, Chet Lemon and Jim Walewander.
Oh, also Mark Gubicza. Awesome name.
I think most people would agree that Wonderful Terrific Monds III had the greatest name in the history of the game. Pity he never actually made the majors. Although apparently WT Monds II did play in the NFL.
Catfish Hunter, even if the nickname was conceived in a lie.
The Dodgers and Expos had a guy in the late 60's named Jim Fairey. Given his marginal talent, I always thought he made it to the bigs because he tried extra hard to overcome a horrible last name.
I don't know if this is one of the best or one of the worst (probably depends on how juvenile I'm feeling at the moment) but I think Jimmy Gobble might have belonged on one of those lists at some point.
I'd have to say the unfortunately named Rusty Kuntz certainly belongs on the JJ Putz all stars.
Coco Crisp and Milton Bradley are both A list names in my opinion. Angel Pagan is also a nice composition. And while the thought of seeing the real Randy Johnson in porn is disturbuing, to say the least, he probably should get a spot on the JJ Putz all stars as well.
Don Drysdale is a great baseball name. Alliterative, invokes a majestic horse without being too obvious, has that one-syllable, manly first name. One of the best, and the fact that he was a big, strong, handsome guy throwing heat in southern California makes it even better.
I'm also with Alex. Mickey Mantle is great. Willie Mays ain't too shabby a name either.
Fielder Jones (his given birth name) is obviously great.
I always like the name Scipio Spinks who was a pitcher for the Cardinals in the early 70's. Before he hurt his knee as a pinch runner he appeared to be on his way to a decent career.
BTW, Billy Buckner was traded over the winter to the D-Backs.
an announcer's dream, a manager's... not so much
Hoffpauir is a great baseball name. It's spelled funny, but it's pronounced Hoff-Power. Not only does it make him sound strong, the Germans go crazy over him.
What, no Madison Bumgarner? COME ON!
Bombo Rivera, Johnny Wockenfuss, Garth and Dane Iorg, Rance Mullinicks, and Dave Heaverlo (who was indeed a sinkerballer)
There's actually a second Iorg generation on the way, at least two of them.
I'd like to chime in: relief pitcher Grant Balfour, who has walked 58 batters in 92.7 innings
Madison Bumgarner vs Taylor Teagarden is.... a ripe field.
I always thought Al Kaline should have his own line of batteries
Bake McBride? Crazy hair, crazy name!