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WHAT'S IN A NICKNAME?
Chuck Wielgus
October 12, 1987
Sports sobriquets are laced with puns—and daggers
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October 12, 1987

What's In A Nickname?

Sports sobriquets are laced with puns—and daggers

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A. Italian.

Q. How many dingers did Frank (Home Run) Baker hit in 1913, his most productive season?

A. Twelve. (O.K., so it was the era of the dead ball....)

Thankfully, nicknames often have some flexibility, which helps them retain their accuracy. Take the San Francisco Giants' Jeff (Penitentiary Face) Leonard, who cavorts around Candlestick ' but looks like he did it with the candlestick in the conservatory. He has done time as Hac-Man (a reference to his impulsiveness at the plate) and as Sugar Ray (a reference to a scuffle with teammate Dan Gladden). Now that he's mellowed somewhat, his nickname has been softened accordingly—to Correctional Institution Face. At least in California, correctional institutions have a more mellow image than penitentiaries.

Boxer Kevin (E.T.) Moley was so nicknamed not because of a frail physique, but because—take your pick—he pulled off a series of Eighth-and Tenth-round KOs, or always wore Eight-or Ten-ounce gloves. The late Paddy Flood, the manager who gave Moley his nickname, was asked if his man had heard from Steven Spielberg.

"Who?" Flood asked.

"The guy who made the movie."

"What movie?"

"E.T.!"

"Never saw it," said Flood. "But we're fighting this guy Spiegelberger next."

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