What's in a Nickname?

added 2/24/2008 by James Anderson

Over the years many ballplayers were given nicknames for various reasons. Several members of Astrosdaily fan forum took on the project of building the most complete list of former and current Houston Colt .45's/Astros who were given nicknames for various reasons over the years.

Also included below is sidebar information provided by Astros fan forum members of stories behind those nicknames. It of course is incomplete and many more stories behind those nicknames will hopefully surface as the result of this commentary.

I cannot take credit for researching nor gathering all of the stories behind all of the nicknames. Much of the credit goes to many other long time Astros fans.

My deepest thanks goes out to those who participated in gathering all of the information in this commentary. Again, it of course is incomplete but likely the most complete list gathered to date. So, at this time enjoy! If anyone notes any errors in the research or knows of other nicknames feel free to let us know. Here goes...!

The Stories Behind Many of the Nicknames

John Bateman - "PeanutBrittle" - a bad case of Zeke Astacio disease as a kid.

Hector Torres - "LaMalita" - his dad was LaMala in the Mexican League.

Jeff Leonard "Hackman" - I'm not sure how he got that, but he was aka "Ol' Penitentiary Face" which is fairly obvious why.

Randy Knorr "Crash" - As legend has it, Randy puffed up when he learned that Bags and Bidge nicknamed him "Crash" - seemingly after Crash Davis of Bull Durham fame. He came back down to earth when he heard it was short for "Crash Test Dummy" due to his distinct resemblance to one.

Roger Metzger "Trout" and Lee May "Grouper" - Apparently, Doug "Red Rooster" Rader enjoyed fishing. He lovingly tagged his teammates with the names of their piscine look-alike cousins. (rainbow trout - not the speckled trout of the Gulf Coast and the grouper is a big, lumbering Caribbean fish - separated at birth post to follow).

Eddie "Mattress" Mathews - he apparently had a way with the ladies.

Norm Larker "Dumbo" - he had big ears (and a fiery temper that the name was probably meant to try to ignite).

Mike LaCoss "Buffy" - In a popular TV show of the day, "Family Affair" - he bore a striking resemblance to the little girl "Buffy" whose brother was Jodie. Aren't teammates nice to pick up on your finer points?

Mike White "Snuffy" - Meant to point out his speech impediment. Turk Farrell once brought a pet alligator to a spring training locker room and put it in the whirlpool for "safe keeping". The alligator pooped in the pool and alligator poop has a strong smell - at least it was strong enough to turn Snuffy's stomach. As he ran to the toilet to puke, he blurted out, "Nod nammit, Turk - you thon of a bidth" [Anecdote courtesy of Larry Dierker's book It Ain't Brain Surgery]

JC Hartman "The Barber" - according to Reed's terrific book, Six Gun Salute - JC Hartman was a licensed barber. He said he made more in his career as a barber than as a ballplayer. My, how times have changed.

Frank Thomas "The Big Donkey" - We got the Phightin' Phillie shortly after his altercation with Richie -call me Dick-Allen. I guess the Phillies felt he was the more dispensible of the pair. He had a bench jockey sense of humor but didn't know when to let up and couldn't take a joke himself. One of his favorite pranks was to extend a hand to give a "brother" a soul shake and then to bend the guy's thumb back until he cried "Uncle". Richie didn't like him doing that to his buds and one thing led to another around a pre-game batting cage one day and they got into it. They were the two strongest guys on the team and it reportedly took the rest of the team to separate them. We gobbled him up off the waiver wire - apparently with the notion that it would help to brighten up the clubhouse for guys like Joe Morgan, Sonny Jackson, Lee Maye and Walt Bond.

Tony Pena "El Gato" - for being quick as a cat. I guess his new nickname should be "No Mas".

Jerry Grote "The Skunk" - No, he changed his underwear and took baths (unlike Clint Courtney - Turk Farrell once crammed some Limberger cheese down into Courtney's glove one hot, humid day game - taking bets on when Clint might notice the smell. He never did until the plate ump made him go back to the dugout to swap gloves cause he was about to puke) Anyway, as Grote grew older, he had a white streak in his beard and earned the name "Skunk". Quite the pity we didn't keep him around long enough to see him molt into his mature plumage.

"Shoeshine" Palmeiro. Astros broadcasters Bill Brown and Larry Dierker showed an interview with Orlando Palmeiro that went like this: "We bench guys will do whatever it takes to keep the regulars loose ... crack a joke, rub their necks, shine their shoes...." A nonplussed Dierker said, "I've been in baseball 40 years and I've never seen a player shine another guy's shoes"[This coming from a guy who once paid a tollbooth in Florida by tossing a speckled trout in the basket - but that is another story].

Al Cicotte was called "Bozo" because of his favorite brand of ice cream, and "Count Dracula" because he liked to wear black capes.

Curt Blefary was "Clank" because of his poor defensive play.

Jim Pendleton was "The Guv'nor" because of his refined manner.

Octavio Dotel was "El Pato" (Spanish for "duck") or "Ducky" because he walked like a duck.

Claude Raymond was "Frenchy" because he was French-Canadian.

Craig Biggio is "Pigpen" because his uniform and batting helmet are always dirty.

Harry Walker was "The Hat" because he always adjusted his cap between pitches.

Larry Dierker was "Wrangler" because he once wore those brand of jeans... a nick given to him by Milo although Dierker prefers the nickname "Sluggo".

"Big Puma" nickname was started by the local morning Houston radio guys for Lance Berkman and the "Twinkie" nickname started when fans at Wrigley Field would throw packages of Twinkies at Berkman. Instead of getting upset at the incident, Lance would simply pick up the packages of Twinkies, thank the crowd and put the things in his back pocket. Lance later claimed that he enjoyed eating the Twinkies between innings in the dugout but that was never confirmed!

The "Sluggo" nickname mentioned above was given to Larry Dierker by former broadcast partner and long time close friend Dewayne Staats. When the two worked together in the broadcast booth for the Astros years ago Dierker accidentally spilled a cup of coffee all over Dewayne's scorecard just before game time. Staats humorously commented that he felt like "Mr. Bill" and Dierker "Sluggo" for the abuse he received from Dierker due to the coffee incident. The nickname stuck.

The two characters that Staats referenced were from the old "Mr. Bill and Sluggo" skits from Saturday Night Live years ago. Any of you who recalls those "Mr. Bill and Sluggo" skits will immediately understand the meaning behind Dewayne's "Sluggo" comment about Larry.

Astros broadcaster Bill Brown even commented on air to Larry about his "Sluggo" nickname during a FOX televised road game at Colorado against the Rockies during the 2005 season.

That closes the book on the "Sluggo" nickname for Larry Dierker and to those who thought the "Sluggo" nickname in bad taste because it was believed that it referred to Dierker's seizure he suffered while still managing the Astros will now understand that the nickname was given Dierker many years before he suffered that seizure.

Below is the list built by many fans of the Astrosdaily Fan Forum.

The Current and former Colt. 45's/Astros nicknames to date:

1."The Flea" - Bob Lillis
2."Sluggo" and "Wrangler" - Larry Dierker
3."Peanutbrittle" and "Dawg"- John Bateman
4."The Toy Cannon" - Jimmy Wynn
5."Turk" - Dick Farrell
6."Le Grand Orange" - Rusty Staub
7."Skinny"- Hal Brown
8."Cheo" - Jose Cruz Sr.
9."Pato" - Octavio Dotel
10."The Lip" - Leo Durocher
11."The Hat" - Harry Walker
12."Diamond Jim" - Jim Gentile
13."Inky" - Pete Incagvilia
14."Arthur_____And the Crowns" -Lee Maye
15."The Bear"- Jim Owens
16."Red Rooster" - Doug Rader
17."Frenchy" - Claude Raymond
18."Tuffy" -Karl Rhodes
19."The Kid" - Billy Wagner
20."Bull" - Bob Watson
21."Wildfire" - Harry Craft
22."Peanut Head" - Jimy Williams
23."No Neck" - Walt Williams 
24."Poison Ivie"- Mike Ivie
25."Heathcliff" - Cliff Johnson 
26."Senor Smoke" - Aurelio Lopez
27."Count Dracula" or "Bozo" - Al Cicotte
28."Sparky" - Glen Vaughn
29."Pork Chop" - John Hoffman
30."Clank" or "Buff" - Curt Blefary
31."Wildthing" - Mitch Williams
32."Whitey" - Wade Miller
33."Express" - Nolan Ryan
34."La Malita" - Hector Torres
35."The Pencil" - Carroll Sembera 
36."The Guvner" - Jim Pendleton
37."Pterodactyl" - Charlie Kerfeld
38."Hackman" - Jeff Leonard
39."Tank" - Thomas Howard
40."Scrap Iron" - Clint Courtney/Phil Garner
41."Beetle" - Mark Bailey
42."Freddy Flintstone" - Fred Gladding
43."Sting" - Jim Ray
44."The Ghost of Hartsdale" - Al Helfer
45."Dr. Death" - Danny Darwin
46."Crash" - Randy Knorr
47."The Roman Candle" - Roman Mejias
48."Trout" - Roger Metzger
49."White Rat" - Eqp. Mgr, Whitey Diskin 
50."Tomato Face" - Jack Lamabe
51."Horsey" - John Edwards
52."The Coneheads" - Charlie Kerfeld/Larry Andersen
53."The Toy Bulldog" - Clint Courtney
54."The Voice" - Gene Elston
55."The Dean" - Bob Green
56."Rat" - Gary Gaetti
57."Iron Mike" - Mike Marshall
58."Mattress" - Eddie Mathews
59."The Milk Shake Man" Bill Virdon 
60."Tiny" - Mike Felder
61."The Hit Man" - Mike Easler
62."Dumbo" - Norm Larker
63."Big Foot" - Pete Ladd
64."Dutch" - Russ Kemmerer
65."Buffy" - Mike LaCoss
66."Fudd" - Milt May
67."Night Rider" - Don Larsen
68."Snuffy" - Mike White
69."Big Jim" - Jim Umbricht
70."Diz" - Howie Reed
71."Hummer" - Dick Drott
72."Lefty" - George Brunet
73."The Big Bopper" - Glenn Davis
74."Captain" - Milo Hamilton
75."Mighty Mite" - Nellie Fox
76."Catfish" - Jim Crawford
77."Rambo" - Bert Roberge
78."One Tough Dominican" - Joaquin Andujar
79."Bulldog" - Jim Bouton
80."Flight 45" - Dave Smith
81."Little Stew" or "Stewball" - Jimmy Stewart
82."Flakey" - Jackie Brandt
83."Hawk" - Aaron Pointer 
84."Iceman" - Jim Hickey
85."Happy" Burt Hooton
86."Country" Harry Spilman
87."Shoes" - Joe Pittman
88."The Barber" - J.C. Hartman
89."Doctor Dummy" - Trainer, Jim Ewell
90."The Rocket" - Roger Clemens
91."Bagpipes" - Jeff Bagwell
92."The Big Unit" - Randy Johnson
93."Loco" - Jose Herrera
94."Pound Cake" - Chuck Harrison
95."Big Fly" - Jim Fuller
96."The Switchman" - Hal Woodeshick
97."Wingnut" - Adam Everett
98."The Gunner" - Bob Prince
99."Little Joe" - Joe Morgan
100."Roadrunner" - Willy Taveras
101."The Grouper" - Lee May
102."The Big Donkey" - Frank Thomas 
103."Shoeshine" - Orlando Palmeiro 
104."El Gato" - Tony Pena
105."The Skunk" - Jerry Grote
106."Dr. Baseball" - Norm Miller
107."El Bolsolito" - Ezequiel Astacio 
108."Mo" - Lee May
109."Crazy Horse" - Mike Cuellar
110."Lima Time" - Jose Lima
111."Doggy" - Richard Hidalgo
112."Wizard" - Roy Oswalt
113."The Bulldog" - Mike Hampton
114."Augie" - Gene Freese
115."The Killer B's" - Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio
116"The Big Puma" or "Twinkie" - Lance Berkman
117."Red" - George Witt
118."Lights Out Lidge" - Brad Lidge
119. "The Big 'Un" - Walt Bond

Last but not least. I would like to hear from all of you who participated in this research. I would appreciate it if you would e-mail me at : Musial6_Mays24@yahoo.com.

- James Anderson