It was another week that went from “ho-hum, what day is it again?” to tragic. But at least we still have Manny. (Well, we don’t still have Manny because the O’s traded him away. But the world has Manny.)
On Friday night, Manny Machado hit two home runs in the Padres win over the Seattle Mariners:
As I noted yesterday, nicknames just aren’t what they were 100 years ago. This week in particular, a lot of baseball players with interesting names were born.
Today is the birthday of Owen F. “Spider” Clark. Spider Clark was born on September 16, 1867. He was a utility player who played for the Washington Nationals in 1889 and the Buffalo Bisons in 1890. According to Wikipedia, “While he was primarily a right fielder, he played all over the diamond on defense, playing every position at least once, including one game as a pitcher for the Bisons.” Perhaps that’s how he acquired his nickname.
Tomorrow is the birthday of both Robert Henry “Farmer” Ray and John Frederick “Sheriff” Blake, born in 1886 and 1899, respectively. Farmer Ray was a left-handed pitcher from Colorado. He played only one season for the St. Louis Browns (1910). There was no information about how he earned his nickname. According to the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Sheriff Blake’s nickname came to be when he manager George Stallings called him over, but could not remember his name, only that he was from West Virginia. So he simply said, “’Hey you moonshining sheriff, come here.’” Blake later explained that it was during Prohibition and West Virginia was known for moonshining.
Surprisingly, the only player with a nickname born on September 18 was Witt Orison “Lefty” Guise, born in 1908 in Driggs, Arkansas. Predictably, his nickname was due to the fact that he was a left-handed pitcher. Guise played for the University of Florida before signing with the Cincinnati Reds. He made only two appearances from the Reds in 1940, at the age of 31. According to Baseball Reference, he was in the minors in 1941 and 1950.
Rounding out our list of baseball nicknames is William H. “Yank” Robinson, who was born on September 19, 1859. Yank played during that time when teams also had more interesting names – he played for: the Detroit Wolverines (1882), Baltimore Monumentals (1884), St. Louis Browns (1885-1889), Pittsburgh Burghers (1890), Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers (1891), and Washington Senators (1892). SABR states that the origin of Yank’s nickname is unclear, but it could be related to the fact that he was born in Yankee territory (Philadelphia, PA) and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. The nickname first appeared in print in 1886 when he was playing in St. Louis, which had been under Union control during the Civil War.
Things were different back then. Sure, players of every era have acquired nicknames, and today’s players have gotten a chance to let everyone know theirs, but the nicknames of the past seem to have stuck and have become their names. I mean, sources like Baseball Reference and Wikipedia likely will not one day refer to Jim Palmer simply as Cakes Palmer.
Why don’t today’s baseball players have good nicknames, like players from the early 1900s? When I look at the website “Today in Baseball History,” I’m often struck by the fascinating names of players born in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During this week, in particular, there seem to be several.
On September 14, Thomas Francis “Bunny” Madden was born in 1882 and George Peacock “Icehouse” Wilson was born in 1912. Catcher Bunny Madden attended Villanova University and played for both the Boston Red Sox (1909-11) and Philadelphia Phillies (1911), though there’s no information on how he earned his nickname. Icehouse Wilson played both baseball and football at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. He earned the nickname “Icehouse” from football coach Slip Madigan because he was cool under fire. Icehouse played only one game for the Detroit Tigers in 1934, though he was with the team for 10 weeks. His MLB career batting average is .000. He then returned to the minor leagues and retired from baseball in 1935.
Judd Bruce “Slow Joe” Doyle was born on September 15, 1881; Elwood Good “Speed” Martin was born on that date in 1893. Slow Joe was a pitcher and earned his nickname because he would take a long time between pitches. He played for both the New York Highlanders (1906-1910) and the Cincinnati Reds (1910). Speed played for the St. Louis Browns (1917) and the Chicago Cubs (1918-1922). I couldn’t find anything that explained how Speed got his nickname, but he was also a pitcher. Its interesting that both Slow Joe and Speed were born on the same day.
Of course, this only gets us through part of the week. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about Spider, Farmer, Sheriff, Lefty, and Yank.
Yesterday, MLB celebrated Roberto Clemente Day. And, as I promised then, today I am posting my research (see below) on when Roberto Clemente Day has been celebrated every year since it was first created by MLB in 2002. It took several hours to verify all of the dates; I relied on MLB press releases that were available online, as well as newspaper articles. It really shouldn’t be that hard.
Just looking at the list, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern of when MLB deems it the right day to celebrate Clemente. Sometimes its during Hispanic Heritage Month, sometimes its not. It has been celebrated as early as September 2 (in 2009) and as late as September 22 (2004). Why not on his birthday (August 18) or some other significant date?
I recall from previous years, that when I’ve looked at the MLB schedule prior to the beginning of the season, Roberto Clemente Day was not always listed – as if it was added later as an after thought. Without knowing when Roberto Clemente Day is going to happen, its really hard to properly celebrate it.
Why, MLB, is the date different every year? Maybe they have a really good reason they just haven’t told us about. But we’d really like to know.
Date of Roberto Clemente Day
Sometime in September?? (I couldn’t identify the actual date)
Quick question – did you know it was Roberto Clemente Day? Or – did you know September 9 was going to be Roberto Clemente this year prior to the several articles that started coming out about a week or so ago?
I really wish Major League Baseball would spend a little more time planning, promoting, and celebrating this commemorative day. After all, they made it up, the least they can do it celebrate it properly. Every year, I contemplate writing something in honor of the event, but I am quickly derailed by the fact that I’m not sure when Clemente Day is. I always see articles on the internet stating that Clemente Day is celebrated on [insert whatever date here] every year. This is not true. Once again this year, I found it infuriating this year that several news articles about Roberto Clemente Day started out along the lines of: “MLB established September 9 as Roberto Clemente Day in 2002.” Wrong! MLB established September 9 as Roberto Clemente Day for this year at some point in the recent past. It’s on a different day every year (see tomorrow’s post). No wonder none of us can plan for, remember, or even celebrate the day! Of course, not all teams are at home on a specific day, like September 9. But, like Jackie Robinson Day, this can be overcome.
Even if you go to mlb.com, click on “Schedule” and then click on “Important Dates,” the promised “Full coverage” about Roberto Clemente Day takes you to a lame “Roberto Clemente Day” website – or web page, I should say – which they can’t even be bothered to update (to be fair, their “Jackie Robinson Day” page is only slightly better). There are basically three sections to this page: (1) a news “carousel,” (2) corresponding videos, and (3) an “About Roberto Clemente Day” section on the right-hand side, which includes a link to yet another page where you can go to vote for who you want to win the award this year (not that its clear how your vote is considered in the final determination of who wins). Seriously – that’s it. Hardly anything about the man himself, his impact on baseball, or even past winners of the Roberto Clemente Award.
As of yesterday, there are a grand total of FOUR articles in that news carousel – only one of which is from this year:
The “About Roberto Clemente Day” section says only this: “Roberto Clemente Day was established by Major League Baseball to honor the legacy of the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. In his honor, MLB annually presents the Roberto Clemente Award to recognize the player who best represents the game of Baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions, both on and off the field. Club nominees for this prestigious award are announced on Roberto Clemente Day each year.”
Which roughly translates to: “We (MLB) established Roberto Clemente Day – yay us! Clemente was a good guy, but more about US: we renamed a PRESTIGIOUS award after him and we give it to a player through a really unclear process every year. We announce the nominees every year on Robert Clemente Day – but we can’t tell you when that is because we apparently decide at the last minute. Yay us for being diverse!” Or, you know, something along those lines.
If MLB really wanted to celebrate the legacy of Roberto Clemente and the contributions of its Latino players, they could start by having Roberto Clemente Day on the same day every year. You know, so people could plan for it, write about it, and celebrate it. They could upgrade that website to provide more information on Roberto Clemente and the Roberto Clemente Award. They could even exploit fans, which we know they like to do, by selling us Roberto Clemente stuff and Hispanic Heritage Month stuff (which they also do a really bad job of celebrating). For example, we’d love it if they’d sell those “Ponle Acento” shirts that the players wear! And, if they really wanted to be good guys, they could donate the proceeds from selling us that stuff to organizations that help folks – maybe even that help Latinos in need.
Tomorrow, I’ll continue my rant about the seemingly random dates Roberto Clemente Day has been celebrated. (If anyone knows why it’s always different, please enlighten us.) Next week, I’ll discuss the Roberto Clemente Award.
Until then, Happy Clemente Day! There’s so much more MLB can do with this celebration. Maybe we should demand that they do.