Maybe you remember this somewhat-beloved and somewhat-ignored series from the last hot stove season. As a way for us to keep our baseball minds warmed up and our senses of irony attuned, I'd like to welcome back the series for a second half. I've gotten the imprimatur from our feared leaders to continue this, and I really want you all to get involved. So let me and us know which names you like most, which names are boring, and in which ways I'm trying too hard. We can't get anywhere without criticism.
Old people names are funny. To go back to our old introductions...
I want to celebrate the names, the ridiculous and the sublime, that make baseball what it is. This is largely inspired by a Joe Posnanski post where he said that Wally Moon was the most 1950’s name ever. That sparked me to take on this new project. The rules are that we begin with the decade they started their career in (i.e. Wally Post comes up in the 50's, not the 60's).
Let’s go through each decade of Reds’ history, from 1890s through the 2000’s and select the greatest names. We will have three categories: Best Name, Most Cincinnati Name, and Most 1920’s Name. I will list the names and how they got on the list below, and then choose my winners. Feel free to disagree in the comments.The 1950's are what started this all. The golden generation, boys of summer, and all of that. Say "1950's baseball" and certain images come into your head of clean-shaven, clear-eyed, boys playing the game they love. And, for the first time, black people. Enjoy.
Dixie Howell: Only a guy who played for Brooklyn could be named "Dixie" because he was from Louisville.
Eddie Erautt: Alliterations were pretty big in the 1950s, but his last name makes me think of some 1990s German nerdcore band.
Wally Westlake: Apparently ol' Walden is one of the Sacramento baseballing heroes and he has a sort of B-Actor name and persona. He was one of those journeymen outfielder types; BBRef puts him right behind Dan Gladden and Craig Counsell, which sounds about right.
Dick Sisler: It's a name that brings out the immature boy in all of us. He was traded, along with Virgil Stallcup, for Wally Westlake in one of the better name-trades out there.
Rocky Bridges: Texan with a whole lot of chaw in his mouth, which is kind of what I expected. And I'm always a sucker for adjective-noun naming traditions.
Bubba Church: A Bubba Church is most of the churches in the Birmingham boy's hometown. We have a lot of quintessential Southerners this round.
Nino Escalera: He was only around for one year, which is too bad. Saturnino doesn't have a nickname listed, but I really hope it was Ceres or Neptune or something.
Corky Valentine: Unfortunately, he hit like Miller and pitched like Joe.
Moe Savransky: A Buckeye who pitched in the league one year than just had to open his own bar or burger joint or something else quintessentially Pole.
Ray Jablonski: Ol' Jabbo never lived up to his early promise. I was somewhat disappointed to see that "Heywood" Jablonski didn't have any sort of equivalent in Urbandictionary or the like.
Matt Batts: It's a damned shame he never hit like he should've with a name like that. Catcher lifer compares well to your Tony Eusebios and Brook Fordyces, but could've been much more.
Curt Flood: His name has taken on a life of its own at this point, but it is a good one for it. Ray Jablonski vs. Kuhn wouldn't have had the same effect. I didn't realize that his last MLB at-bat was 1971; from 1963-69 he was essentially a best-case Drew Stubbs, and then he just disappeared. He had the right to be pissed. I'm sure there was plenty of teeth-gnashing at the time that this guy making $90k wanted more money...anybody read the books about him? I'd love to hear more.
Paul LaPalme: Paul The Palm was a crafty lefty and was another fantastic pitching name.
Pat Scantlebury: A Canal-zoner like McCain, which I find interesting. Patricio Athelstan Scantelbury has a wonderfully Cold War name that makes him sound like a LeCarre character. He was 38 when he got his cup of coffee in the bigs. He was like his generation's Tom Shearn.
Dutch Dotterer: "Oh, don't mind ol' Dutch here. Just minding my business, donning the ol' tools of ignorance. I'll catch up to yas when I get there, no need to wait up for me." Mr. Dotterer probably had what was called "Lennieface" but we would recognize as "Shrekface."
Vicente Amor: "Why hola there, young lady. I am only here for the weekend, for I am a professional pitcher. What Castro is doing to my people, ay, what can I say? It makes my heart cry. We should discuss this over cuba libres on my Eams loveseat, que no?"
Smokey Burgess: One of the best-hitting catchers before ol' Number Five came into the league, if he was around today, I would ask, nay, demand that his at-bat music would be Smokestack Lightning. Speaking of, did anybody actually see Cadillac Records? Is it nearly as good as I want it to be?
Vada Pinson: I'm not sure why, but Ernie Ford's Sixteen Tons comes into my head when I think of Vada. I just think of a bad, bad, man with a good, good, bat. I would've loved to have been around for the teams with Frank Robinson, Pinson, Deron Johnson, a young Pete Rose...Maloney, O'Toole, Joey Jay and an Old Lefthander in the rotation...dang. Why there aren't more Vadas around, I don't know. There is at least one gentleman who frequents this board who is gonna root for him.
Turk Lown: I was originally going to use this space to ask why rubes are often nicknamed Turk (Farrell, Wendell, Curtis, et al) but then I realized Lown was from Brooklyn and's first name was Omar. He has that sort of pan-ethnic look to him, so who knows? Maybe he was Turkish. It's still a pretty cool name, all things considered.
And, for this decade:
Most Cincinnati Name: Vada Pinson evokes my grandfather's Pall Malls, Crosley Field, machine politics, and the rest of mid-century paraphenalia, so we're sticking with it.
Most 1950's name: Wally Post. They just don't make Wallys like they used to. I think the Reds to a poor job hearkening back to the pre-Machine days. If the Red Sox have Pesky's Pole, the Reds should really make the left field foul marker Wally's Post.
Best name of the decade: I don't want to give it to the same man twice, but I'm just having a really difficult time establishing why anybody but Vada Pinson should run away with this one.