Formal Names Make Comeback In Majors (Special from the IBWAA)
By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in February 2023.
What’s in a name?
Baseball history is steeped in nicknames — not only for teams but also for players.
The list seems endless, from Babe Ruth to Chipper Jones, with Whitey Ford, Sparky Anderson, and Vinegar Bend Mizell among those that are best-remembered.
But the game is also full of players who prefer the formality of their given names.
Nobody called playoffs hero Daniel Murphy by the more familiar Danny, for example.
And how about Daniel Vogelbach, a DH for the Mets last season, or former Mets pitcher Robert Person?
Few people refer to Jacob deGrom, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, by any other name.
The same can be said for Michael Harris II, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, and Anthony Rendon, the slugging third baseman whose comeback hopes could be the key to contention for the Los Angeles Angels this summer.
Carlton Fisk was never called Carl and Roberto Clemente hated hearing himself referred to as Bob.
On the other hand, Sparky Anderson, Tom Seaver, and Ken Griffey, Jr. all shared their real first name with the fictitious TV baseball executive George Costanza.
Lefty Grove was Robert — a name serious-minded manager Connie Mack used on the rare occasions when he had to remove the pitcher from the game — and Yogi Berra was never called Peter Lawrence in public.
Getting back to those who use their given names, with no shortening applied, Bartolo Colon was always a Bartolo, especially in his rolly-polly later years, and never a Bart.
Same for Francisco Lindor, never known as Frank or Frankie except by a few close friends, and Michael Lorenzen, starting a new career as a starter for the Detroit Tigers. It’s Michael, please, and not Mike.
Same deal for Andrew Benintendi, who brought his penchant for formality to the Chicago White Sox when he signed as a free agent.
Mickey Mantle went by his real name too; he was named after former Tigers catcher Mickey Cochrane even though that player’s real name was George Stanley. Yes, another George in hiding!
Whitey Herzog is the only Hall of Famer named Dorrel Norman, while playoffs hero Bucky Dent never answered to Russell Earl. Well maybe in elementary school.
Some names — even given ones — are family heirlooms, while others are just mysteries to be solved by Henry Louis Gates of Finding Your Roots on PBS.
The best case in point? Biff Pocoroba, a one-time catcher for the Atlanta Braves, was actually named Biff. At least he had some claim to fame.
And speaking of names, my cousin Gabriel Macht, star of the long-running legal show Suits, disdained Gabe, while I went the other way, preferring Dan or even Danny to the formal Daniel.
As my French teacher use to say, “Chacun a son gout.” Translated, that meant each one to his own taste.
HTP weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ can’t wait to get to the museum. In the meantime, he’s covering the Braves-Mets title chase and other stretch-drive baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and various other outlets.