April 21, 2008
The baseball world is exhausted from the first American visit of Pope Benedict XVI ... From his papal pow-wow with the former owner of the Texas Rangers to his blessing of the Nationals new ballpark to his home run trot around the edge — not on the grass, please, not... on... the... grass... please... Thank You! — of Yankee Stadium.
Of course, the Pope's visit also makes us seamheads wander back mentally to a middle reliever named Donn Pall, who pitched for the White Sox, Marlins and a few others.
To recap: Pall had a solid 10-year career in the bigs from 1988-98; he had a winning record, an ERA better than the league average, he even has a World Series ring. Pall’s story was a nice one, too, because he grew up a Pale Hose fan in Evergreen Park, a suburb near old Comiskey Park, and was a walk-on at Illinois before making it to the bigs for his hometown team with no hype machine behind him at all. He was a pretty good pitcher, Mark McGwire's NL-record 57th homer aside.
He also has the best baseball nickname of all time.
The pope in those days was John Paul II, so, White Sox announcer Tom "Wimpy" Paciorek — himself a good Polish Roman Catholic boy — naturally referred to the right-hander as “The Pope” Donn Pall.
More skilled players have thrown a ball. Hipper nicknames have been bestowed. But, apologies to Chris Berman, never has nickname and real name gone together quite as well as “The Pope” Donn Pall.
(It should be noted that ESPN's Page 2 did a "best nickname in baseball history" deal a few years ago. Of course, "The Pope" is nowhere to be seen. Maybe if Pall's Sox were Red and not White...)
It helps that Pall is both Catholic and Polish, like the late, great pontiff.
Pall is now 46 and works as a financial advisor and Little League manager for his children's teams in suburban Chicago.
“I thought (the nickname) was kind of fitting” for the above reasons, Pall told Big League Stew.
Pall also said he got mail from people who thought it was wrong for him to be called “the Pope.”
“Some people were on me how it’s sacrilegious,” Pall said. “It’s not like I was going around touting myself as him, or even that I pretended to be holy. Like it was all my fault.
“I don’t look at my nickname too highly, but it’s just cool to have a nickname at all.”