Is The Nickname In Decline?

From Babe Ruth to The Crime Dog, baseball has a rich history of nicknames for its stars, but what about more recent times? John Branch of the New York Times investigates the cultural phenomenon and comes to the conclusion that great sports nicknames are disappearing.

In an age of A-Rod and D-Wade, when nicknames rarely conjure imagery beyond a corporate logo, it can be easy to bemoan the loss of another slice of simpler times.

But sociologists and experts in onomastics, the study of names, said the diminishment of nicknames was not exclusive to famous athletes. Studies on the subject are few, but there is widespread agreement that the use of nicknames across American society has steadily slipped.

Less certain is why. Maybe it reflects a loss of intimacy and connectedness. Maybe it is because of the changing way we name children, or how we now deflect unflattering nicknames to shape our own identities. Maybe all the good nicknames are taken.

Whatever the case, the decline is most easily gauged in sports, where nicknames have long played a role in distinguishing and at times deifying athletes.

I’m not so sure I can hop aboard the train that Branch is driving. While uncreative name-based nicknames like A-Rod, Johnny Mac, and Tulo may be more prevalent, it’s not as though inventive handles are in complete decline. This article reminds me a lot of my parents telling me how “real” music stopped being written after The Beatles.

Here are some of my favourites for current ballplayers:

  • Lance Berkman: “Big Puma” or “Fat Elvis”
  • Pat Burrell: “Pat the Bat”
  • Carl Crawford: “The Perfect Storm”
  • Adam Dunn: “Big Donkey”
  • Jeff Francoeur: “Frenchie”
  • Vladimir Guerrero: “Vlad The Impaler”
  • Franklin Gutierrez: “Death to Flying Things”
  • Travis Hafner: “Pronk”
  • Roy Halladay: “Doc”
  • Félix Hernández: “King Felix”
  • Orlando Hernández: “El Duque”
  • Orlando Hudson: “O-Dog”
  • Tim Lincecum: “The Freak”
  • Hideki Matsui, Oakland Athletics: “Godzilla”
  • Iván Rodríguez: “Pudge”
  • Carlos Ruiz: “Chooch”
  • Pablo Sandoval: “Kung Fu Panda”
  • Shane Victorino: “Flyin’ Hawaiian”

Closer to home, the Blue Jays have a ton of potential for nicknames:

  • Travis Snider: “Lunch Box”
  • Jesse Litsch: “The Ginger Beard Man”
  • John McDonald: “The Prime Minister of Defence”
  • Ricky Romero: “RR Cool Jay”
  • Jose Bautista: “Joey Bats”

So, let’s have it. What are your favourite nicknames for hometown players?