Nicknames

Photo courtesy Chris Knight / PennLive

Photo courtesy Chris Knight / PennLive

“Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive” – Thomas C. Haliburton

As long as baseball has been played, nicknames have had a prominent place throughout the game’s storied history. Colorful and memorable monikers are often used to highlight a player’s physical characteristics and mannerisms or the way they play the game. It doesn’t matter if you are an All-Star or the 25th man on the bench, nicknames have always allowed fans to feel a more
personal and relatable connection to the players. Baseball legends Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, and Willie Mays are just as well known as “Charlie Hustle”, “Mr. October”, and “The Say Hey Kid”.

In the Golden Age of baseball, nicknames were bestowed upon almost everyone. “Red”, “Lefty”, and “Doc” were commonplace on most major league rosters.  Nowadays, it seems like only superstars get tagged with clever and unique epithets like “Big Papi”, “Kung Fu Panda”, and “The Flyin’ Hawaiian”.

In the Senators’ clubhouse, manager Matt LeCroy prefers calling players by a more informal version of their name like they are all a bunch of friends arguing over the last slice of pizza. Brian Goodwin becomes “Goody”, Destin Hood goes by “Hoody”, and Ricky Hague gets called “Haguer” in LeCoy speak.

The rich history of baseball in Harrisburg has had its fair share of great and memorable nicknames. Here are just a few:

Jhonatan Solano “Onion” (Harrisburg Senators 2009-2010, 2012)
Solano is known affectionately as “Onion” because he had to hitch a ride in a van carrying both people and produce from his native native Colombia to Venezuela for a tryout that landed him his contract with the Nationals.

Spottswood Poles “The Black Ty Cobb” (Harrisburg Giants 1906-1908)
In the Jim Crow era it was common for many African-American players to be likened to their white counterparts by nicknaming them “The Black” so and so. Poles was an exciting baserunner as he was both fast and daring so comparisons to Cobb were made relatively frequently.

Bryce Harper “Bam-Bam” (Harrisburg Senators 2011)
Former Senator Ian Desmond coined the phenom’s nickname as an homage to the club-wielding son of Barney and Betty Rubble on “The Flintstones” after Harper bloodied his face when he shattered a bat in between the dugout and locker room.

Herbert “Rap” Dixon (Harrisburg Giants 1922-1927)
Despite growing up in Steelton, Dixon was born in Georgia and “Rap” is a nod to his southern heritage as it is short for the Rappahannock River which is a Virginia river that was widely used as a border separating north and south.

Clarence “Fats” Jenkins (Harrisburg Giants 1924-1927)
Despite a slight frame, Jenkins was stuck with the nickname “Fats” from childhood because his brother was so overweight.

Kirk Rueter “Woody” (Harrisburg Senators 1993)
Rueter was nicknamed “Woody” after his resemblance to the lead character in the animated movie “Toy Story”.

“Sliding” Billy Hamilton (Harrisburg Senators 1905-1906)
Hamilton got his nickname by being one of the first speedsters in the game during the turn of the century. He led the league in stolen bases five times in his career, topping 100 on four separate occasions. He also holds the all-time record for runs scored in a season (198 in 132 games) and led the league four different times.

Stephen Strasburg “Jesus” (Harrisburg Senators 2010-2011)
After Strasburg’s first round of throwing live batting practice to his teammates, Nyjer Morgan christened the budding superstar with the nickname of “Jesus”. Not because he’s some sort of savior but as Morgan said, “Cause what’s the first thing you say when you see him pitch? Jeee-sus!”

Frank Grant “The Colored Dunlap” (Harrisburg Ponies 1890)
Grant, a slick fielding second baseman, earned the nickname “The Colored Dunlap” in honor of Fred Dunlap who was the major leagues’ best defensive infielder at the time.

Ben Taylor “Old Reliable” (Harrisburg Giants 1925)
Taylor was a dependable first baseman who played 17 seasons hitting over .300 twelve times in his career. He was slick-fielding, consummate professional who hailed from a ball-playing family that also featured his older brothers C.I., Jim, and John.

Roger Bernadina “The Shark” (Harrisburg Senators 2007-2008)
Bernadina was tagged with his nickname by two diehard fans who watched so many of his highlight reel catches in person. They realized his similarities to a shark in the way that he patrols the outfield and hunts down fly balls like a shark hunting its prey.

Other Notable Nicknames
Orlando Cabrera “O-Dog” (1997)
Vladimir Guerrero “Vladdy” (1996)
Orlando Hernandez “El Duque” (2010)
Ray “Burger” King (2007)
Chris Marrero “Nene” (2009-2010, 2012)
Michael Morse “The Beast” (2012)
Ivan Rodriguez “Pudge” (2011)

This article was originally found in issues #9, #10, and #11 of the Senators’ program and was reprinted with the permission of the Harrisburg Senators

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