Thursday, August 9, 2007

Coolest Nickname

Happy Days had Arthur Fonzarelli. Better known as the "Fonz," a character whose attire consisted of jeans, tee shirt, leather jacket and motorcycle. Only on television could such cool happen. With his infamous, "Heyyy," whenever he happened to pass a mirror, perhaps he was the caucasian Willie Mays, who went by the "Say Hey" Kid, when he came up through Trenton, New Jersey and then onto the New York Giants in the late 1940s into the 1950s.

What do you think is the coolest nickname for a major league ballplayer? You've got the Splendid Splinter (Ted Williams), Georgia Peach (Ty Cobb), Sultan of Swat (Babe Ruth), Iron Horse (Lou Gehrig), Say Hey Kid (Willie Mays), A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez), Dizzy (Jay Hanna Dean), etc.

I'm going with Stan "the Man" Musial. Simply because I cannot think of any guy who doesn't want to be referred to as the Man. (I think in the television world, FONZ was equivalent to the man.)

(In truth, it was when Henry "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron passed Stan Musial in all-time hits that there was something more than Aaron being the all-time home run hitter. Although he had 1392 more at-bats than Stan Musial (12,354 vs. Musial's 10,972) he was able to put into prominence, in the modern day, that not all home run hitters were just sluggers. Aaron had 141 more hits than Stan the Man, in 1392 more at-bats. His lifetime batting average was .305 compared to Musial's .330.

And there were flashes of that back in the 1920's and 1930's it's just that those fellows just didn't have as many at-bats as the modern day Hank Aaron or Pete Rose.

Ty Cobb's all-time average was .366. Ted Williams had a career .344 average, with 521 home runs and he lost 6 years to the war and injury (One year he was hurt in the All-Star game.). Babe Ruth, who was walked an amazing number of times until Barry Bonds came along to shatter every free-pass record the Bambino ever set, batted .342. Lou Gehrig, a guy who was unfortunate to have a life ending disease cost him some even more impressive numbers than he had already attained, batted .340.

Longevity, as Hank mentioned in his speech to Barry Bonds, is a big factor. It allows you to accumulate numbers you might not have otherwise been able to reach. When you are as great as the aforementioned players, it's safe to say each and every one of these players could have done what it took to set a new standard. But for whatever reason fate played its part with them the way it factors into everyone's life and the chips fall where they may. You could say it was injury, military service, changing positions, whatever the case may be the great ones played for as long as they could, or were allowed, and are forever enshrined in Cooperstown, New York with the numbers attributed to their careers.

There will always be comparisons about players and the times in which they played. But those of us baseball fanatics who enjoy the sport for all of its intangibles and idiosyncracies know this is as much of a reason why we like the game as it is to witness: Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Barry Bonds or Omar Visquel, play the game of baseball.

It would have been great to see George Herman "Babe" Ruth play. What a thrill that must have been. Or even to see Sadahari Oh (apologies if misspelled) or Josh Gibson. The Japanese League or Negro League had their fair share of accomplished ballplayers but we must understand one thing, in each league those who were superior probably would have succeeded in the other respective leagues. But against a stiffer competition, each and every elite athlete may or may not have done as well as the fantasy we let our imaginations run away with (also known as, the legends in our minds) in regards to our favorites and their seemingly unending list of achievements attained.

Personally, I know I ingested all of the information from books and documentaries and confabulated some possibilities much the same way we did as kids when we were playing in the sandlots. Our collective memories never failed to make everything seem bigger and better, right?

Kevin Marquez