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Book review: ‘Hall of Name’

This is a fun and detailed look at baseball names.

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The pandemic that swept across the world during 2020 put off a lot of things, including much of the baseball season.

Another thing it put off, for me, was reviewing a number of baseball books I’d received earlier this year.

Better late than never, then, I want to tell you about “Hall of Name,” D.B. Firstman’s clever, interesting, humorous and detailed look at baseball names.

It’s exactly what the subtitle states: “Baseball’s most magnificent monikers, from ‘The Only Nolan’ to ‘Van Lingle Mungo’ and more. Firstman follows the same format for writing about each of these names, beginning with their etymology, or word origin, and this is something you probably don’t think much about, but it’s really interesting. Then there are sections about where the player was born, how he got into baseball, a summary of his MLB career and then the fun stuff, parts called “The wonder of his name,” “Not to be confused with” (listing names that sound or look similar), “Fun anagrams” and “Ephemera,” which is basically a list of trivia connected with the name.

The anagrams — and I’ve done articles like that here previously — are great fun, though many of them are NSFW. Just for an example, here’s the anagram given for Johnny Dickshot, who, yes, is a real player (and he grew up in Waukegan): “SOS! Dirty ‘John Hancock.’”

The whole book is filled with fun stuff like that, and you’ll recognize the names of some former Cubs inside, including Orval Overall, Rocky Cherry and Pete LaCock, of whom Firstman notes in his “Ephemera” section:

According to a 1974 story in The Sporting News, during an AAA game that year, LaCock became angry at Frank Haraway, the official scorer for Denver Bears games. LaCock had been charged with a fielding error after not being given a hit earlier in the game. He picked up a ball and threw it in the press box, narrowly missing Colorado Governor John Vanderhoof who was sitting near Haraway. LaCock was suspended one game for this.

The whole book is filled with fun and interesting anecdotes like that one.

This book was published last spring and I received a review copy then, but... well, you know. It’s not too late to get one, and I recommend it. Could make a fun holiday gift for any baseball fan.