|Tuesday, June 26
Updated: June 28, 3:16 PM ET
Stubby Clapp, now that's a classic
By Jim Caple
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.
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.
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
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
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:
Win Blake Stein's money
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?
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
-- 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.