Butts Wagner And Peek-A-Boo Veach: The 30 Greatest Names From 19th Century Baseball

image - Flickr / Boston Public Library
image – Flickr / Boston Public Library

Baseball nicknames in the 1800s were like moustaches at a craft beer festival – everybody had one and they were freaking amazing. It was a time when grown men went by names like Scrappy, Ham, and Jocko. When Native American players went by Chief, deaf players went by Dummy, and no one thought twice about having a guy on their team named Alamazoo. When managers said things like, “We need a big bat in this spot. Tell Doggie Miller to get ready to pinch hit.”

Even the regular names were pretty fantastic back in the day. Every team had at least a few names that sounded as if they were hastily conjured up by a horrible novelist mere seconds before the game began – monikers like Fred Gunkel, Julius Willigrod, and Dorsey Riddlemoser.

You can have your trendy, modern baby boy names, your Liams and Aidens and Carters. But I’ll take a guy named Klondike Douglass every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

30. Con Daily

Sounds like: A Jay-Z song

29. Carlton Molesworth

This is just the worst name I’ve ever heard. This dude definitely died a virgin.

28-26 (TIE). Butts Wagner/Jack Glasscock/Pussy Tebeau

If you thought I wasn’t going to include names that make me giggle like a 10-year-old boy, you thought wrong.

25. Trick McSorley

Trick got thrown off his team for “crooked play,” making him the first in a long line of tricky McSorleys.

24. Bill Goodenough

Little is known about Goodenough, who only had 31 career ABs, all occurring in 1893. But his full name was William B. Goodenough, which sounds like a Chuck Berry song, and his face was comprised of only 9 pixels.

23. Hi Ladd

Sounds like: A friendly fella. Not to be confused with Welcome Gaston.

22. Shadow Pyle

Sounds like: A minor character from a Thomas Pynchon novel

21. Dude Esterbrook

Wikipedia: “Esterbrook died at the age of 43 when he leaped from a train, in Middletown, New York, that was transporting him to a mental hospital.” DUDE.

20. Candy Cummings

Sounds like: An especially depraved female porn star. Regardless, he was a fantastic pitcher and many credit him with inventing the curveball.

19. Boileryard Clarke

Apparently Boileryard earned his nickname due to his voice. What that means is anyone’s guess, but I’m assuming he wasn’t exactly the heir apparent to Whitney Houston. He looked like the kind of guy you see right before you die.

18. Brickyard Kennedy

Sounds like: The Kennedy brother that could really, really drink

17. Cozy Dolan

Sounds like: A black market Snuggie

16. Bumpus Jones

Bumpus pitched a no-hitter in his first major league appearance and then did nothing else of note. He died doing what he loved, having the nickname Bumpus.

15. Buttercup Dickerson

Sounds like: A candy bar or a doo-wop singer

14. Foghorn Bradley

Foghorn, who only played one season, spent most of his time as an umpire. He also had a hair part that looked like it was divided by Moses himself.

13. Noodles Hahn

Wikipedia: “Hahn acquired his nickname as a child, but said that he did not know how he had gotten it. Hahn’s biography from the Society for American Baseball Research suggests four possible origins for the nickname, all involving the fact that Hahn had frequently carried, sold or enjoyed noodle soup.” Well, alright then.

12. Egyptian Healy

Cuz he was from Cairo, Illinois.

11. Lady Baldwin

Sounds like: An antiquated feminine hygiene product

According to Wikipedia, “Baldwin was given the nickname ‘Lady’ because of his ‘quiet ways’ and his refusal to swear or to come into contact with either tobacco or liquor.” The 1880s – a time synonymous with inclusion and sensitivity.

10. Live Oak Taylor

I can’t even begin to imagine the origins of this nickname, but I can tell you that this dude probably did well with the 19th century lady folk because he looked like a long-lost 98 Degrees member.

9. Peek-A-Boo Veach

Sounds like: A pedophile

8. Old Hoss Radbourn

Old Hoss is probably the best known guy on this list. He was a 300-game winner and holds the all-time record for single season wins, with 59. He pitched 678 innings that year, which is more baseball than I’ve watched in the past five years combined. Below, a long Wikipedia excerpt that ranks among the most incredible I’ve ever stumbled across:

“Jealousy and hatred between Radbourn and Charlie Sweeney, the other ace pitcher on the team, broke out into violence in the clubhouse; Radbourn was faulted as the initiator of the fight, and was suspended without pay after a poor outing on July 16, having been accused of deliberately losing the game by lobbing soft pitches over the plate. But on July 22, Sweeney had been drinking before the start of the game and continued drinking in the dugout between innings. Despite being obviously intoxicated, Sweeney managed to make it to the seventh inning with a 6–2 lead, but when Bancroft attempted to relieve him with the change pitcher, Sweeney stormed out of the park in a rage, leaving the Providence side with only eight players. With only two men to cover the outfield they lost the game.

This left the team in a state of disarray with the consensus view that the team should be disbanded. At that point, Radbourn offered to start every game for the rest of the season (having pitched in 76 of 98 games the season before) in exchange for a small raise and exemption from the reserve clause for the next season. From that point, July 23 to September 24 when the pennant was clinched, Providence played 43 games and Radbourn started 40 of them and won 36. Soon, pitching every other day as he was, his arm became so sore he couldn’t raise it to comb his hair.”

7. Phenomenal Smith

I think Phenomenal may have been the only one who called himself that. Wikipedia says, “In his first and only game for Brooklyn, on June 17, 1885, Smith’s teammates were reported to have intentionally committed 14 errors to punish Smith for his perceived brash and cocky demeanor.”

6. Jiggs Parrott

I like the 1800s because they thought they had to give a guy with the last name Parrott a nickname.

Apparently, one season Jiggs was so hated by hometown Chicago crowds that manager Cap Anson elected only to play him in away games. My Little League manager tried the same trick.

5. Oyster Burns

Sounds like: A rare and horrible medical disorder that occurs on the inner thigh

According to Wikipedia, “Burns, nicknamed ‘Oyster’ because he sold shellfish in the off-season, was described as a ‘loudmouth’ and having ‘an irritating voice and personality’.”

In 19th century baseball, you got a cool nickname for smelling like fish and disturbing people. I do it in 2014 and I’m legally required to go door-to-door introducing myself every time I move. Well, I guess I’m just an old soul.

Some other Wikipedia gems on Oyster:

“While he was playing for the Bridegrooms, the New York Clipper described Burns as ‘the noisiest man that ever played on the Brooklyn team. His voice reminds one of a buzz-saw.’”

“In 1893, between games of a doubleheader, a teammate of Burns, Tom Daly, was sleeping in center field when Burns stabbed Daly with a penknife. Daly awoke and turned on the knife, leading to a severed tendon which kept Daly out for two weeks.”

4. Cannonball Titcomb

Pretty amazing, but he’d be number #1 if his name had been Cannoncomb Titball.

3. Pretzels Getzien

I sincerely wish this man had lived 100 years later so that Sportscenter anchors could’ve shouted “This Pretzels is making me thirsty!” during every one of his highlights. Wait, no I don’t.

2. Ice Box Chamberlain

“Ice Box!” We don’t even use those anymore! That’d be like if there was a dude in the 70s named 8-Track Wilson, or a guy in 1997 named GeoCities Jones.

1. The Only Nolan

Take that Nolan Ryan! I love the idea of someone claiming ownership over such a pedestrian name. The Only Nolan is certainly the only Nolan that matters to me, and apparently he was a total badass. Some facts from his Wikipedia page:

“He was expelled by the team on August 14 when he told the team he was going to a funeral, but instead went drinking.”

“At a National League meeting…the league adopted a blacklist of players who were barred from playing for or against any NL teams until they were removed by unanimous vote of the league clubs. Nolan was one of the ten blacklisted for ‘confirmed dissipation and general insubordination’.”

Confirmed dissipation! Nowadays we’re lucky to have rumored rakishness. The 1800s, those were the days…

Bonus: The 10 Greatest 19th Century Team Names

Even the teams of the 1800s had incredible nicknames. Besides hailing from metropolitan hotspots like Worcester and Troy, team names of the time were frequently as awesome as they were off-the-wall and quirky.

  1. Philadelphia Quakers
  2. New York Mutuals
  3. Worchester Ruby Legs
  4. Brooklyn Superbas
  5. Brooklyn Bridegrooms (an 1888 name change from the Brooklyn Grays due to several players on the roster getting married)
  6. New York Gothams
  7. Boston Beaneaters
  8. St. Louis Perfectos
  9. Cleveland Spiders
  10. Chicago Orphans

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