The news concerning the trade of Tug Hulett the other day prompted two reactions for me:
1) Who the hell is Tug Hulett?
2) Why haven’t I ever heard of a player with such a cool name?
Tug Hulett sounds like the name of a boat in an old Disney cartoon, a small, happy little vessel earnestly moving through choppy seas. Even if he doesn’t amount to much as a player — and at this point, he has 13 career hits — he could have a long career ahead of him in children’s programming, if he so chooses.
But I digress.
Tug Hulett is just the latest great name in baseball, a sport that over the years has seen some colorful monikers (like Tug McGraw.) Today, I offer 10 of those best names:
1. Van Lingle Mungo: My all-time favorite baseball name belongs to the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants hurler of the 1930s and ’40s. Sports columnist Jim Murray wrote that Mungo’s name seemed like something that could be sung by a sailor in the rigging of a banana boat. It also sounds like a dance step from the ’40s or a physical ailment or a new wave band from the ’80s.
2. Oil Can Boyd: A close second, Boyd got his nickname, according to Wikipedia, from his beer-drinking days in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, where beer is referred to as “oil.” He wins points for also having been bat-shit crazy, not that I’d expect anyone named Oil Can to be sane. I definitely wouldn’t want to come up against him in a street fight. The best man at his wedding was probably named Buckshot.
3. Kent Hrbek: The highest-ranking position player on this list, the stout Minnesota Twins first baseman had a name better-suited for WrestleMania or a children’s fairytale: “We tried to storm the castle but couldn’t overcome the Kent Hrbek.” Fifty years ago, he would have had a washing machine named after him.
4. Aloysius Travers: The hapless one-time Detroit Tigers pitcher makes this list as much because of his history as his name. A seminary student signed to pitch one game in the midst of a strike in 1912, Travers gave up 24 runs, the most in major league history and never played again. His name connotes the image of a school boy being pummeled by street toughs. You just don’t meet too many people named Aloysius anymore.
5. Yogi Berra: The only player to have a cartoon character named after him. I think.
6. Boog Powell: The Baltimore Orioles slugger comes from the Kent Hrbek school of having a name better suited for a 1930s strike breaker or “Flintstones” character.
7. Grover Cleveland Alexander: With probably the most regal name ever for a player, Alexander was dubbed for the president at his time of birth, Grover Cleveland. Baseball fan that I am, I get confused sometimes and think we had a president named Grover Cleveland Alexander.
8. Fernando Valenzuela: Like Van Lingle Mungo, this is another name that rolls off the tongue and echoes to be repeated. Just hearing the name makes me think of the Los Angeles Dodgers hurler twisted into a corkscrew position, a wild look in his eyes.
9. Rabbit Maranville: This sounds more like the name of a slick sports car than a baseball Hall of Famer.
10. Dummy Taylor: What makes this name so great is that Taylor, a New York Giants pitcher around the turn of the century, was actually deaf. Back in the day, there used to be all kinds of names like this: Frenchy, Whitey, Nippy. In our politically correct era, we just don’t see names like this anymore.