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Tuesday, June 26
Updated: June 28, 3:16 PM ET
 
Stubby Clapp, now that's a classic

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

Pokey Reese. Putsy Caballero. Snooze Goulait. Wobby Hammond. Bubber Jonnard. Gookie Dawkins. Mookie Wilson. Cuddles Marshall. Cozy Dolan. Gabby Hartnett. Braggo Roth. Orator Shaffer. Windy McCall. Sparky Anderson. Chipper Jones. Happy Felsch. Sunny Jim Bottomley. Sad Sam Jones. ...

A great name entered the major leagues last week when the Cardinals placed J.D. Drew on the disabled list and called up a utility infielder from Triple-A Memphis to take his spot on the roster.

Stubby Clapp. The name is straight out of a John R. Tunis novel. Stubby Clapp. I want to see that name everyday in the Cardinals boxscore. I want to see Stubby Clapp on the All-Star ballot. I want to go to Busch Stadium on Stubby Clapp bobblehead doll night.

Stubby Clapp.

Had the Cardinals called up any other player, no one would have noticed. He just would have been another name in the transactions wire. But people have noticed Stubby Clapp, all 5-foot-8 of him. With a name like that, how could you not? In fact, the Cardinals fans gave him a standing ovation after his first major-league at-bat. After he struck out.

Stubby Clapp.

You can picture him, can't you? A short little guy with a crew cut and so much tobacco chew that he looks like he's sucking on a grapefruit. Wears a flannel uniform with the solid red socks pulled up to his knees. Shaves once a homestand. Doesn't wear a batting helmet and swings two bats in the on-deck circle instead of using a batting donut. Leaves his glove at the edge of the infield at the end of each inning. Only photographs in black and white.

Stubby Clapp. The name is straight out of a John R. Tunis novel. Stubby Clapp. I want to see that name everyday in the Cardinals boxscore. I want to see Stubby Clapp on the All-Star ballot. I want to go to Busch Stadium on Stubby Clapp bobblehead doll night.

Most of all, I want to listen to a Cincinnati-St. Louis game so I can hear Jack Buck describe a double play involving Stubby Clapp, Pokey Reese and Gookie Dawkins.

... Stubby Clapp. Stump Merrill. Shorty Gallagher. Minnie Minoso. Wimpy Quinn. Pee-Wee Reese. Wee Willie Keeler. Skinny Graham. Slim Sallee. Slats Jordan. Bones Ely. Stuffy McInnis. Chubby Dean. Fatty Briody. Jumbo Schoeneck. ...

Is there any other sport loaded with more wonderful names than baseball? Not just the names of Hall of Famers, the ones that send chills down your back like Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays. And not just the classic nicknames, the ones no one ever really used when talking to a player. So, how's it going Wild Horse of the Osage? I was just talking to the Splendid Splinter and he suggested we get together for a Ballantine Blast with the Sultan of Swat.

I'm talking about the real names and the nicknames fans and players actually used in normal conversation. The names that leap off the pages of the Baseball Encyclopedia and into your heart.

Colorful names like Kiki Cuyler, Cuckoo Christenson, Choo Choo Coleman, Boom-Boom Beck, Bobo Holloman and Yo-Yo Davalillo. Dickensian names like Carden Gillenwater, Austin Knickerbocker, Ossee Schreckengost, Chappie Snodgrass, Chauncey DePew and Homer Smoot. Ridiculous, almost pornographic nicknames like Cannonball Titcomb, Dick Tettleback, Cy Slapnicka, Rusty Kuntz, Pete LaCock and Dizzy Nutter.

I'm not making these up, folks. They're right there in the Encyclopedia. As fun as it is to look up the stats, if you really want to spend an enjoyable afternoon, just page through and soak up the names.

... Bubbles Hargrave. Bump Wills. Spike Owen. Charlie Spikes. Noodles Hahn. Hoot Evers. Socks Seybold. Yogi Berra. Ping Bodie. Toots Coyne. Gavvy Cravath. Angel Bravo. Razor Shines. Sweetbreads Bailey. Cesar Geronimo.

A good name is worth at least 20 points on a batting average. I remember a minor leaguer in the Twins farm system in the late '80s named Chip Hale. He had modest talent, limited range and slight power, but he had that great baseball name going for him. Chip Hale. There were better prospects and higher draft picks in the Twins system, but I bet I got more people asking about Chip Hale than anyone else. And it was because of the name.

After a lot of work and a lot of summers in the minors, Chip Hale eventually had a brief career in the majors. But I always wondered. Would those same people have asked about him so often had he gone by his given name, Walter?

For that matter, would the best player in baseball history have been anywhere near as popular had he gone by his given name, George Herman Ruth, instead of his nickname?

No. Names are important. Names add to the game's lore and romance. They carry such stories all by themselves that John Irving must be jealous. They also leave mysteries that not even Monk Sherlock (97 career hits) could solve them.

I mean, Three-Finger Brown is pretty self-explanatory but what did Piano Legs Hickman look like? How did Cupid Childs earn his nickname? What sort of personality did Icehouse Wilson have? And how messy does a ballplayer have to be before teammates call him Sloppy Thurston?

So let us pause and salute the names that make baseball great.

And hope that sometime in the not too distant future, the Cardinals will play a game at Yankee Stadium so we can hear Bob Sheppard introduce him. "Now batting ... No. 29, Stubby Clapp. The second baseman. Clapp."

Shooty Babitt. Offa Neal. Carmen Fanzone. Homer Summa. Nixey Callahan. Shanty Daringer. Brusie Ogrodowski Greasy Neale. Dummy Hoy. Skeeter Kell. Pepper Martin. Smoky Burgess. Moxie Hengel. Champ Summer. Oil Can Boyd. Dizzy Dean. Moonlight Graham. Babe Ruth.

Box score line of the week
Rick Ankiel had a refreshing 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K line, albeit in the Appalachian League, but progress is progress. Brad Penny allowed one hit in eight innings. And Jose Canseco hit his first home run of the year. And that was just Tuesday night.

But none of those performances could match Tim Wakefield's from last Tuesday when the former minor-league infielder took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before giving up a one-out single. And then all hell broke loose. His line:

8.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 8 K.

He would have been the first knuckleballer to throw a no-hitter since Phil Niekro in 1973.

Lies, damn lies and statistics
Do the Royals ever know what direction they're heading? Over the weekend, they traded 26-year-old Mac Suzuki, their best starter much of last year, for 33-year-old catcher Brent Mayne, whom they traded a couple years earlier. On the other hand, Mayne has only two fewer victories since last August 24 (one) than Suzuki (three). ... By signing with the White Sox last week, Jose Canseco boosted his organization total to eight -- Oakland, Texas, Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay, New York, the independent minor league Newark Bears and the White Sox. ... Minnesota starter Eric Milton has allowed back-to-back-to-back home runs twice in his career. The first time was in the second inning on June 24 last year. The second time was in the second inning on June 24 this year. Weird. ... While the Mariners have five players leading in the All-Star voting (and Mike Cameron edging closer to the third outfield spot), all the Devil Rays, Expos or Brewers combined don't have as many votes as Ichiro (1.7 million). ... Nice work by Tigers general manager Randy Smith. He traded Jose Lima before the 1997 season, watched him win 37 games for Houston in 1998-99, then traded for him last week after he lost 18 games last year and allowed 48 home runs and was 1-2 with a 7.30 ERA this season. He also traded six players for Juan Gonzalez (and others) last year, only to have Gonzo sulk about the fences in Detroit, hit .289 with 67 RBI and then leave for free agency to Cleveland, where he is hitting .338 and has already matched last year's RBI total. Smith has made six trades with Houston involving 27 players, including Brad Ausmus three times.

From left field
Despite investing more than $260 million in free agents last winter, the Rangers woke up Wednesday 27 games out of first place, farther back than any team in the AL West has finished since the three-division format began. It hardly seems possible, but if they continue that awful pace the rest of the year, they'll finish 58 games out, the biggest deficit since the 1939 Browns.

Here are the teams that finished the most games behind in big-league history:

Year Team GB Record The skinny
1906 Braves 66½ 49-102 Four 20-game losers
1909 Braves 65½ 45-108 No pitcher with a winning record
1939 Browns 64½ 43-111 6.01 staff ERA
1932 Red Sox 64 43-111 16 pitchers with a loss
1942 Phillies 62½ 42-109 Philly's two teams combined 110½ GB
1962 Mets 60½ 40-120 Worst team in history?
1954 Athletics 60 51-103 Moved to Kansas City after season
1929 Red Sox 59 56-98 Boston's two teams combined 109 GB
1915 Athletics 58½ 43-109 Had won pennant year before
1910 Browns 57 47-107 Hit 12 home runs
1941 Phillies 57 43-111 Phils combined 262½ GB from 1938-42

Win Blake Stein's money
This week's category is: Terrible Teams That Vince Naimoli Doesn't Own.

Q. What team was 9½ games out of first place just nine games into the season and dropped another half-game back three days after the season ended?

Power rankings
1. Barry Bonds
Only one way to slow his pursuit of McGwire's record: Kryptonite baseballs
2. Mariners
Worst of all, David Bell is also the leading vote-getter among NL third basemen
3. Carroll O'Connor
Carroll O'Connor
First death in "All in the Family" cast, not counting Sally Struthers' career
4. Stubby Clapp
Coach Gil Thorpe raves about him
5. Cubs
City's compromise to request for 12 more night games at Wrigley -- 11 max, and only if they're in October
6. Nomar Garciaparra
Good: Named on of People's most eligible bachelors. Bad: His weekends are wide open until August
7. Yankees
Another reason they nixed Urbina deal: He also flunked his driver's test
8. Alan Greenspan
New plan to stimulate economy: tie interest rate to Montreal average attendance
9. Deion Sanders
New time slot for Prime Time: Sunday Morning Ghetto
10. Cell phones
Next ban New York legislature to consider: calls to the Mets bullpen

A. The 1962 Mets opened their first season by losing their first nine games at the same time the Pirates were winning their first 10, leaving them 9½ back nine games into their history. Because the Giants and Dodgers finished the season tied and had a three-game playoff, the Mets also dropped a half-game further back after the third game of the playoffs.

Voice of summer
"How in the world did that happen?"

-- Mark McGwire to St. Louis first-base coach Dave McKay on McKay's induction into the Canadian baseball Hall of Fame. McKay hit 21 home runs in his career.

Jim Caple is a Senior Writer for ESPN.com.







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