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You Say Mlicki, I Say Krenchicki
STEVE RUSHIN
July 01, 2013
Baseball is a small town. In 144 years, fewer than 18,100 men have played in the big leagues, roughly the population of Germantown, Wis. If all those men lived together in a single municipality—call it Maranville—the postman would have to distinguish Mel Stottlemyre from Merle Settlemire, Bruce Bochy from Bruce Bochte, Wilbur Wood from Wilbur Good.
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July 01, 2013

You Say Mlicki, I Say Krenchicki

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Some names work better as spoonerisms: Nationals lefthander Ross Detwiler would be a more intimidating mound presence as Dez Rottweiler. But many more are perfect as they are, names destined from birth to be slotted above a locker. Buster Posey, Bombo Rivera and Mickey Mantle could only have been baseball players.

We can't always predict who a newly christened infant will play for—Luis Exposito didn't sign with the Expos, Lenny Metz toiled for the Phillies—but baseball names provide clues to the future, the same as a catcher flashing signs to a pitcher. Indeed, 45 years before the Reds employed a catcher named Johnny Bench they had a pitcher named Johnny Couch.

Sam Leever pitched 13 seasons for the Pirates, but even now, 60 years after his death, there must be 50 ways to love your Leever. Or to further paraphrase Paul Simon: Where have you gone, Jay Loviglio? Coo-coo-ca-choo, Cookie Cuccurullo (and Tony Cuccinello). A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Shin-Soo Choo.

All of baseball is in baseball names: Add a couple of cold ones (Clarence Beers, Bud Weiser) to a patch of green grass—or Jim Greengrass, outfielder for the Reds and the Phillies in the 1950s—and you get bliss: pitcher Elmer Bliss, of the 1903 New York Highlanders.

But then all of life is in baseball names, too, from (Rickey) Cradle to (Danny) Graves. In the end it's impossible to choose the game's greatest appellation. They're all equal in baseball heaven. When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he cares not if you're Wynn or Loes, or even Blasingame.

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