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All Points West: When a name precedes you
July 15, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
He was known as the Babe, but the New York Yankee legend was born George Herman Ruth Jr. He also went by The Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, and The Big Bam. My astute colleague Jerry Purvis pointed out that by the time the Babe played his final game on May 30, 1935, at the age of 40, he not only held the record for homers (714 career), he also held the record for strikeouts (1,330), which means if you don’t swing, you don’t get hits. And forget about runs. If you don’t swing with gusto, you don’t get homers either. Earning a nickname (or several in George Herman’s case) meant your teammates and opponents had that much respect for you. The meaning of some monikers carried a lot of weight. The Babe’s reputation preceded him, and might have gone so far as to strike fear in the hurlers who faced him.

At a recent game between Gering Legion Post #36 Platte Valley Companies Seniors baseball team 18U and Gering’s past Legion players otherwise known as the alumni or as I referred to them, Old Guys (It’s OK for me to say old guy because I am one), I realized there’s quite a bit to a name. To be politically correct, I should have called them older guys or veteran players. Archaic terminology even goes so far as to call them grey ghosts. As for the seniors’ long alphabet-soup team name, I’d prefer something a smidgen less wordy, something less strenuous on the tongue. I like a little snap or pizzazz, classic and streamlined. The right kind of label makes the player or team whole. Think how the Orioles go by Birds, or how the Dodgers are sometimes called The Blue Crew, or Dem Bums from their days in the Bronx. Maybe we could shorten Platte Valley to The Peeves? Nah. I’ll be waiting for suggestions.

Once upon a time, sports writers could get away with concocting informal handles, but not so much these days. Non-compliance with reporting a sponsor’s name may require special permission. The same goes for stadiums. The money guys want their due. Heck, it’s free advertising. Like Wrigley Field in Chicago, Target Field in Minneapolis, or Safeco Field in Seattle. Or even parts of a field can become marketable. Boston’s Fenway Park features The Green Monster, the 37.2-foot high wall frustrating the league’s long-ball hitters, makes the game more intriguing. Outfielders do a lot of standing around. Working for a newspaper in the L.A. area, I was instructed by my sports editor that Staples Center was never to be seen in print with the word “the” preceding it because the office supply store is not called The Staples.
Capitalism doesn’t always win out, nor are nicknames limited to the pros.

At Gering’s Oregon Trail Park, during the Alumni Game on July 3, I was privileged to watch 47-year old Shane “Chicky” Reynolds pitch to his son Austin “Red” Reynolds. But wait, that’s not all. There’s more. The Gering’s Legion roster contains more than a half-dozen nicknames. From what I have overheard at the several games I have attended this past season, Austin Reynolds is known as Red because of the fiery mane beneath his cap. That was a no-brainer, and to be expected. Speaking of too easy, the Legion team has one of those, too, in EZ. That’s what Gering teammates call first baseman Esai Hernandez, perhaps to imply, that to him, the game comes easy. Or, that he’s really laid back, and not easily rattled. Austin Abbott is known as Rabbi because Abbot is a monastic or ecclesiastic title, and not because Austin is Jewish. They couldn’t have called him Father or Pastor. That would have been too weird. Then there’s Quentin Timblin who is also known as Q or Q-Tip, not flattering when you think how Q-Tips are used, but OK if you spin it as something that rubs out dirt and promotes health. Dylan Radzymski is known as Razzo, and Quinton Janecek is Yanni. Etymology or genealogy show both of their descendants hailed mostly from Poland, or central Europe. Razzo and Yanni are not the first athletes to have their names abbreviated to double syllables, or even one. Take Major League Hall of Famer Carl Michael Yastrzemski who was known as Yaz to his Boston Red Sox teammates, all of baseball and the sports universe. Outside of baseball, Mike Krzyzewski, the wizard behind basketball’s success at Duke University, is known simply as Coach K.

Untangled lingua – something akin to poetry – meant sports reporters and announcers had a better chance of making a player’s accomplishments more remarkable. Immediately, utter the names A-Rod and D-Wade, and you know instantly, the player and the sport. Gering Legion player Dalton Scott was no exception to this modern day practice.

By reducing one’s name to a letter, you can’t do much better.
During his turn at-bat, his coaches and teammates address him as D-Scott. But where does that leave Chris Palomo, Brent Barge, Brayden Tarr, Trace Fulk and Mike Gutherless? Well, let’s see. How about C.P., Shorty (shortstop), the Tarr-minator, the Incredible Fulk, and Guts, as in it takes Guts to play in this lineup.

Nicknames can catch on or they can fizzle. In the end, they’ve got to mean something.

I mean, come on. Does George Herman sound like a homerun hitter?
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