One weird nicknamed player from each MLB team

A good nickname is the finest honor a player can receive

April 17th, 2020
Tom Forget /

Nicknames are an art. Just like movies, books and music, the boring ones are soon forgotten, but the good ones live on forever. Some ballplayers are better known for their nicknames than their careers.

So, let's take a trip down memory lane and check out one outstanding nickname from each team. Some will be modern -- just because not everyone is called something like "Old Hoss" these days, it doesn't mean the names are bad -- and others will be for guys who only got a brief cup of coffee, but whose nicknames still shine on today.

Angels: Moonman

Pitcher Gregory Minton didn't get this one because of a particular love of space, or an obsession with moon pies. No, it came from getting a terrible sunburn on his rump.

As Minton explained to James K. Skipper in his book, "Baseball Nicknames":

"Well, it so happened that I forgot one thing -- my clothes. And certain parts of my body got very badly sunburned. The burn was so bad, in fact, that I got ugly water blisters. .... Big blisters, craters. So that night, when I walked into the clubhouse and started putting on my uniform, manager Rocky Bridges took one look at me and said my body had more craters than the moon. I became 'Moonman' or 'Moonie.'"

Astros: Toy Cannon

Standing only 5-foot-9, Jimmy Wynn was called the Toy Cannon because of his ability to crush absolute moonshot dingers. Like this one, when he cleared the highway. That's not supposed to be possible.

A's: Pantalones

Sure, the term pantalones means pants in Spanish, but this usage meant that pitcher José Santiago had guts. After striking out the side with the bases loaded in the ninth inning during a Winter League game, newspaper sports editor Emilio E. Hyuke wrote that "Santiago had a lot of pantalones."

Blue Jays: Wonder Hamster

Little, squat dudes who can smash the ball out of the ballpark get the best nicknames.

Enter Matt Stairs -- the Wonder Hamster -- who could crush dingers in the most remarkable ways.

He only played with the Blue Jays for a season-and-a-half, but he still hit 32 homers.

Braves: Big Jeff

OK, I hear you. This doesn't seem like a great nickname. The Boston Beaneaters (the name of the Braves before they became the Braves) pitcher earned the nickname because he was the older brother of Jeff Pfeffer.

Right? Not that great.

How about the fact that his name wasn't Jeff, though? "Big Jeff" was actually named Francis Pfeffer, so, yeah, I'd say that fits.

Brewers: Tony Plush

What's the difference between a nickname and an alter-ego? And does it count if you give the name to yourself?

We can split hairs all we like, but just know that when Nyjer Morgan became Mr. Plush, he somehow transformed into something greater than himself. This was his on-the-field name, or as Morgan said, this was his "gentleman's name."

Cardinals: Hippity

Is there any better (or cuter) nickname than the one given to Johnny Hopp? The first baseman and outfielder also won four World Series titles as a member of the Cardinals and Yankees, so even if he didn't love the cutesy tag, it was probably worth it.

Cubs: Buttons

Herbert Briggs, who pitched for the team from 1896-98 and then again from 1904-05, earned the nickname in the most straightforward way possible. When he first joined the team, he would wear a robe with pearl buttons in the clubhouse.

D-backs: Big Unit

We can thank Tim Raines for Randy Johnson's nickname. Johnson collided with the outfielder during batting practice while the two were on the Expos, and Raines exclaimed, "You're a big unit!"

Dodgers: Penguin

Ron Cey crushed over 300 homers in a 17-year big league career, but he only stole 24 bags (and was caught more than half the time). Speed wasn't his thing.

That was apparent while still in college and his Washington State coach -- Bobo Brayton (another great nickname) -- gave Cey the moniker for his waddle-like gait.

Giants: The Gentleman's Hurler

In modern times, the Giants had "The Freak," but a century earlier, hurler Christy Mathewson earned the title "The Gentleman's Hurler" for being an erudite, scholarly opponent. He even wrote one of the most influential books on pitching in the history of the game.

Indians: The Human Rain Delay

Nobody, and I mean nobody, could take longer to get into the box than Mike Hargrove. Perhaps he just should have asked for a uniform that fit?

Mariners: Corey's Brother

While Nyjer Morgan's stage name was kind of heroic, Kyle Seager's self-appointed nom de plume is entirely self-deprecating. The Mariners third baseman chose to use his Players' Weekend jersey to let everyone know that this Seager was simply the brother of his younger, more famous Los Angeles sibling.

Man, for a guy with eight consecutive 20-home run seasons, you'd think he'd have a little more self-esteem.

Marlins: El Pulpo

Antonio Alfonseca saved 102 games with the Marlins from 1997-2001, and won a World Series. He earned the nickname -- which is Spanish for "The Octopus" -- because he's polydactyl, with an extra digit on each hand and foot.

Mets: Marvelous

Marvelous Marv Throneberry may not have the best nickname, but it's the most fitting for a Mets legend. Throneberry became "Marvelous" while playing for the 120-loss 1962 Mets because of his penchant for clutch hits in the team's few wins, and also for his ability to lose games with his glove or baserunning.

In the end, it made him the perfect beer spokesman.

Nationals: The Capital Punisher

We're going to go back to another Washington team with this one. Fearsome and bespectacled slugger Frank Howard -- who twice led the American League in homers with the Washington Senators -- earned the wonderful moniker The Capital Punisher. He'll even add the nickname to his autographed baseballs, which I think means that it's part of his official name when he files his taxes. Maybe.

Orioles: Human Vacuum Cleaner

It's such a hilarious name when you think about it. Take arguably the game's greatest defensive third baseman in Brooks Robinson and compare him to the device that sits in every house and does the most boring job in the world.

Padres: Captain Video

It seems silly now, as players don't simply watch video, but engage deeply in it with advanced analytics and futuristic recording devices that can measure every single physical thing they do on the field.

But only 20 years earlier, the singles-machine that was Tony Gwynn stood out from the crowd for his devotion to watching his swing -- even heading to the clubhouse between at-bats to get a peek.

Phillies: Secretary of Defense

Garry Maddox’s defense was so good that the quote, "Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other one-third by Garry Maddox," is actually attributed to at least three different people, including Ralph Kiner. (The Secretary of Defense nickname originally appeared in a Daily News column.) Somehow, despite his eight Gold Gloves, Maddox never was elected to a single All-Star Game.

Pirates: The Gravedigger

Richie Hebner crushed over 200 home runs and won a World Series during his big league career, but he's better known for the offseason job he kept: Helping dig graves at his family's cemetery. Once, in response to his father claiming that he had dug the grave too shallow, he responded by saying, “I never saw one get up from it.”

It was enough that in 2011, the Tigers -- for whom Hebner played from 1980-82 -- gave away a bobblehead featuring Hebner with a shovel instead of a bat.

Rangers: Stan the Man Unusual

You can have Musial; give me Don Stanhouse, who was wild enough both on and off the mound that he earned this name.

Still, it's better than Earl Weaver's nickname for the reliever: Fullpack -- as in Weaver would want to smoke a full pack of cigarettes while Stanhouse was on the mound.

Rays: Nerd Power

While the bespectacled Eric Sogard has had the nickname for years, last year it was most fitting. Sogard hit 13 home runs -- more than he hit in the eight previous seasons combined.

Reds: The Magician

Joe Abreu only made it into nine games with the Reds in 1942, but that's OK because he had another passion: Magic. By the time he reached Cincinnati, Abreu knew over 400 card tricks and was a member of the National Society of Magicians.

Red Sox: Greek God of Walks

With his giant goatee, bizarre stance and preternatural ability to never swing outside the strike zone, Kevin Youkilis lived this nickname. He has even named one of the beers at his brewery after the nickname.

Rockies: Little Pony

Carlos González may be better known to fans as "CarGo," but that's not what his teammates called him. In the clubhouse, he was "Little Pony."

"It’s because of the way I cut my hair, with the tail [kind of a faux Mohawk]," González told the Denver Post in 2010.

Royals: Joker

Third baseman Joe Randa earned this one for the little grin that seemed attached to his face whenever he was on the field. Clearly he should have been cast in the film instead of Joaquin Phoenix.

Tigers: Twinkle Toes Bosco

Yes, it sounds like the name of a low-level mafioso in a terrible made-for-TV "Godfather" knockoff. But this was Tigers outfielder Ron LeFlore's nickname that he earned while in prison.

It was during a tryout with the Tigers while on furlough from jail that earned LeFlore his place on the Tigers' roster and, eventually, a film based on his life starring LeVar Burton.

Twins: Disco

Dan Ford picked up this name for his love of the nightlife. It was enough that fans would wear T-shirts and carry signs with "Disco" on them to support him.

White Sox: Aches and Pains

Luke Appling put together a Hall of Fame career, but he may have also been an all-time whiner. Appling earned the sobriquet by playing through a variety of maladies, but also by making sure everyone knew about them.

''I've still got them,'' Appling said as a coach with the Braves in 1989. ''I've got a bad right knee. Hurt it in an old-timers game. And a bad left knee and right shoulder. I reinjured the right knee a couple of years ago. I think it's mutilated now.''

Yankees: Biscuit Pants

Lou Gehrig was known as "Biscuit Pants" for how he wore his uniform, and, uh -- how to say this -- his "broad back porch."

I don't know what to tell you. Butts aren't just a 21st-century thing.