One day, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hopes to be remembered for more than a long last name. The Boston Red Sox hope it’s as their catcher of the future. But for now, his mere presence on the field has already solidified a spot in franchise history.
After being acquired last July, Saltalamacchia quietly broke one of the longest standing records in Red Sox history. In 1901, the first year of the franchise’s existence, Ossee Schreckengost set the Red Sox standard for last name longevity at 13 letters. Otherwise a blip on the historical radar, Schreckengost only appeared in 86 games for Boston.
From Bill Monbouquette to Doug Mientkiewicz, five players approached Schreckengost in the years that followed, each ultimately falling a letter short. Then came Saltalamacchia.
At 14 letters, Saltalamacchia actually has the longest last name in major-league history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 15 players with 13 letters in their last name. That group includes the likes of Todd Hollandsworth and Kirk Dressendorfer. While those names extended from shoulder to shoulder on the back of a uniform, no one can match Saltalamacchia.
It’s worth noting that a potential threat looms in the Red Sox farm system. Seth Schwindenhammer, a fifth-round pick in 2009, checks in at 15 letters.
For now, Saltalamacchia’s place in history is safe, so let’s familiarize ourselves with his 14 letters of history.
Though his name continues to appear in the lineup, Saltalamacchia’s teammates probably aren’t the best ones to ask about spelling. Featuring a rare “cch” combination, it’s even more confusing in a clubhouse with the “chh” of Clay Buchholz. Most teammates probably prefer just “Salty.”
Saltalamacchia himself has sought to save some ink with his signature.
"I just sign `S-a-l-t scribble, scribble, scribble," he said in 2007. "I don't know if anyone can really read it or not."
A true study of the eight consonants and six vowels in Saltlamacchia appears to be a job for the experts, 275 of whom are currently congregated outside Washington D.C. for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. A champion will be determined Thursday (8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN).
There’s a process to all this spelling, something more than just memorization. The spellers study roots, languages and pronunciations in order to reel off words like vichyssoise, cywydd and coelocanth. The predetermined list of questions may provide subtle clues to the educated speller looking to decipher Saltalamacchia.
Language of origin? Sicilian.
Definition? Well, a loose translation gives you something about jumping in the brush.
Alternate pronunciations? Everything has one in Boston.
Zachary Doiron, a fourth grader at Thomas A. Edison K-8 School in Brighton, is one of five Massachusetts residents competing in the national bee. Just 10 years old, he beat out students as old as 15 to capture the Boston Citywide title.
Doiron made quick work of spelling Saltalamacchia, briefly stumbling toward the end before shouting “two C’s!” It helps that he’s a sports nut who lists Dustin Pedroia as his role model.
Spellers from Massachusetts have another connection to the Red Sox: a championship drought. Though the Bruins seek their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, there’s another title that’s evaded the Bay State for even longer.
In 1939, Elizabeth Ann Rice of Worcester correctly spelled canonical to become the first speller from Massachusetts to win the national bee. 72 years later, she’s still the only one.
Of course, that was all before legions of Red Sox fans grew up trying to spell Saltalamacchia.