This may not be hard-hitting analysis, but hey -- it's the weekend, so let's have some fun, now that we're only about two weeks away from actual baseball.
Last week, our SB Nation mothership posted this look at some of the greatest names in baseball history. Not "greatest players", but great names, either funny, unusual, interesting nicknames, or whatever. In the comments to that post (to which I contributed), there was a link to this post at the SBN Tigers site "Bless You Boys", in which they named an all-time Tigers team of interesting names.
Which led to this post. I decided to use the same format BYB did -- divide the history of the Cubs up into eras, then choose eight hitters (one per position) and eight pitchers (not broken down by starter/reliever) who had what I thought were the most interesting names. Some of them didn't have very long careers with the Cubs; others weren't very good players, but there are other players with great "names" who were All-Stars or Hall of Famers.
After the jump, my choices. You might have others. If you do, leave them in the comments. And vote in the poll for the Greatest Name In Cubs History; I've nominated one per "era", as you'll see below, for that honor.
19th Century: The Primordial Cubs
C Malachi Jeddidah Kittridge 1B Adrian Constantine "Cap" Anson 2B William Frederick "Pop" Schriver SS Joe Quest 3B Walter Edward "Jiggs" Parrott OF Bob "Death To Flying Things" Ferguson OF Billy Sunday OF Frank Sylvester "Silver" Flint P William H. "Adonis" Terry P Herbert "Buttons" Briggs P John J. "Egyptian" Healy P Harry Thomas "Shadow" Pyle P William H. "Dad" Clarke P Addison Courtney "Ad" Gumbert P Ed Eiteljorge P James Joseph "Nixey" Callahan
19th Century men (and women, too) often had unusual names. (There was a Vice President of the United States named "Hannibal", for example.) We've got a good selection of them here, and some good nicknames, too. Can you imagine Harry Caray trying to say "Eiteljorge" backwards? ("Egrojletie". How would you pronounce that?) And it wasn't enough for Malachi Kittridge to get that first name -- he got a cool middle name, too.
There really was only one choice for first baseman, since Cap Anson played almost all the 1B for the Cubs prior to 1900. In addition to a fine nickname, "Adrian Constantine" is a mouthful. "Egyptian" Healy was from Cairo, Illinois. Many ballplayers in that era, if older than their teammates, were nicknamed "Dad" or "Pop". And Bob Ferguson, an ordinary name if ever there was one, got a fantastic nickname for his propensity to run down every fly ball in his vicinity. We need nicknames like "Death to Flying Things" in the 21st Century, too.
And yes, that's the same Billy Sunday who later became a preacher and is immortalized in Frank Sinatra's song "Chicago: That Toddlin' Town".
1900-1919: The World Series Era
C Eugene "Bubbles" Hargrave 1B Alfred "Dad" Clarke 2B Clarence Lemuel "Cupid" Childs SS Walter "Chick" Keating 3B William Herman "Germany" Schaefer OF William Millar "Bunk" Congalton OF Edward "Dutch" Zwilling OF Frank "Wildfire" Schulte P Zerah Zequiel "Rip" Hagerman P Mordecai Peter Centennial "Three Finger" Brown P Leonard "King" Cole P Cy Slapnicka P George Washington "Zip" Zabel P Jimmy Lavender P George "Rube" Waddell P James "Hippo" Vaughn
One of the greatest players in Cubs history, "Three Finger" Brown, not only had a cool nickname, but a great series of given names, too. He was born in 1876 -- thus, "Centennial". Many players in that politically incorrect era, if they were considered unsophisticated, were nicknamed "Rube". Rube Waddell played most of his career with the Philadelphia A's, but was traded several times due to his propensity to chase after fire engines, sometimes during games, and other wacky behavior. Hippo Vaughn, at 6-4, 215, was one of the largest players of his time. Dutch Zwilling is not only the last player alphabetically in the major league all-time player list, but the all-time Federal League leader in home runs (29).
Wildfire Schulte was NL MVP in 1911 and is the only Cub to have 20 or more doubles, triples and HR in the same season (Ryne Sandberg came very close in 1984 when he had 19 triples and 19 HR).
And though many players got nicknames based on their place of birth in that time, "Germany" Schaefer was born in Chicago.
1920-1945: The Pennant Era
C Elwood "Kettle" Wirts 1B George "High Pockets" Kelly 2B Earl "Sparky" Adams SS Walter "Rabbit" Maranville 3B Clarke "Pinky" Pittenger OF Hazen "Kiki" Cuyler OF Laurence "Hack" Miller OF Dominic "Dim Dom" Dallessandro P Walter "Jumbo" Brown P Earnest "Tiny" Osborne P Abraham Lincoln "Sweetbread" Bailey P John "Sheriff" Blake P George "Chippy" Gaw P Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean P Fabian Kowalik P Hiram Bithorn
Several legitimate All-Star caliber players and even a couple of Hall of Famers are on our list from this era, when the Cubs won five NL pennants. High Pockets Kelly had his greatest fame with the Giants, but played a year for the Cubs in 1930 at the end of his career. Hack Wilson wasn't the only Cubs "Hack" -- Hack Miller played four years for them in the 1920s, after playing against the Cubs in the 1918 World Series.
Jumbo Brown weighed in at 295 pounds and was generally considered, before CC Sabathia, to be the heaviest player in major league history. It wasn't enough, apparently, for Sweetbread Bailey to be named after a great president -- he had to get a nickname, too (too bad that greatness didn't carry over into his playing career, which was pretty mediocre).
Hiram Bithorn is mentioned here because he's the only Cub to have a stadium named after him -- the ballpark in his hometown, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
1946-1968: The Low Years
C Cuno Barragan 1B Steve Bilko 2B Al Glossop SS Elder Lafayette White 3B Bob Ramazzotti OF Jimmy McMath OF Richard Allan "Footer" Johnson OF Paul Schramka P Jophery Brown P Darcy Fast P Paul Henry "Jake" Jaeckel P Vito Valentinetti P Walter John "Monk" Dubiel P John Anthony "Ox" Miller P Sterling Slaughter P Myron Walter "Moe" Drabowsky
Nicknames began to vanish in the postwar era -- some of these are pretty ordinary ("Jake" Jaeckel probably just some alliteration from his last name), although Elder White is not a nickname -- that's his actual given name. White was the starting SS for the Cubs on Opening Day in 1962, the first player other than Ernie Banks to start on Opening Day at SS since 1953. White hit .158 for the month of April, was benched, and later returned to the minors, where he spent the next three years before retiring.
The oddest nickname here belongs to Footer Johnson. He played in only eight 1958 games, three as a PR, five as a PH, scoring one run and going 0-for-5. His baseball-reference page says he was also known as "Treads". That's an awful lot of nicknames for that short a career. He wasn't particularly fast -- his minor league record shows four SB, seven CS in 662 games played -- so where did this come from? We may never know.
Darcy Fast -- now that could have been a legendary name, especially for a pitcher. He was a top prospect who got into a few games in 1968 at age 21. Then he was drafted into the military. When he got out he had lost his desire to play baseball and filed voluntary retirement papers at age 25, reportedly the youngest to ever do so. He's now a minister in the Pacific Northwest
1969-1981: The Wrigley Era Ends
C Ed Putman 1B Ralph Pierre "Pete" LaCock 2B Al Montreuil SS Billy Grabarkewitz 3B Carmen Fanzone OF Charles "Boots" Day OF John Junior "Champ" Summers OF Larry Biittner P Oscar Zamora P Dennis Lamp P Manny Seaone P Eddie "Buddy" Solomon P Bob Locker P Mike Paul P Jim Todd P Lynn McGlothen
Nicknames nearly vanished in the 1970s -- at least, colorful ones. Champ Summers managed to play for one championship team -- the 1984 NL West winning Padres. With the Cubs, he wasn't so great, although his first major league home run, on August 23, 1975, was a pinch-hit grand slam. (The Cubs scored six runs in back-to-back innings that day and lost anyway, 14-12.)
Larry Biittner makes this list for having an unspellable name; Mike Paul and Jim Todd for being pitchers with two first names and Lynn McGlothen for having a first name more typically female than male. Al Montreuil was from Louisiana and his name should have been pronounced mon-TROY (or some facsimile thereof); Jack Brickhouse insisted on calling him "Al Montreal".
And when Buddy Solomon came to the Cubs, some Jewish fans thought they were getting one of their own. The African-American Solomon, though, isn't Jewish.
Pete LaCock makes this list not only for his name, but for his famous father (TV game show host Peter Marshall). Finally, Oscar Zamora, a mediocre middle reliever, is here because in his time, some fans used to sing this little song about him (to the tune of "That's Amore"): "When the pitch is so fat, that the ball hits the bat, that's Zamora!"
1982-date: The Modern Era
C Joe Kmak 1B Hee-Seop Choi 2B Delino Lamont DeShields SS Fritzie Lee Connally 3B Howard Johnson OF Kalvoski "Kal" Daniels OF Scott Bullett OF Buck Coats P Rocky Cherry (middle name "Ty") P Esmailin Caridad P David Aardsma P Ben Van Ryn P Blaise Ilsley P Cohen Williams "Laddie" Renfroe P Porfirio "Porfi" Altamirano P Joey Nation
The modern era is still mostly devoid of nicknames; the only two in this list are shortened versions of longer ones. How on Earth does anyone name their newborn son "Kalvoski"? And yes, Fritzie Connally was actually given the name "Fritzie", not "Frederick" or "Fritz" or something more dignified.
Ben Van Ryn claimed to be a descendant of the famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn (pronounced the same). Nothing was ever proven. It's too bad Joey Nation wasn't a very good pitcher, because that's a great baseball name.
Joe Kmak was unofficially nicknamed, as was Kent Hrbek before him, "Buy A Vowel"; David Aardsma is here because he knocked Henry Aaron out of the top alphabetical spot in baseball encyclopedias; and in more recent years we've had a lot of unusual first names such as "Blaise", "Esmailin" and "Delino", while Buck Coats and Rocky Cherry both have those as their actual given names.