When the name "Chipper Jones" is brought up, even casual sports fans are quick to identify one of the greatest hitters of our generation. However, if you bring up "Larry Jones" to that same group, you are likely to get many blank stares (unless they are bitter New York Mets fans).
There can be no doubt that Jones would have left just as big of a mark on the game had Larry Wayne Jones Jr. not been given the "Chipper" moniker by his father. However, it's equally clear that the nickname has added to the aura around one of the most respected players in the game.
In honor of Chipper's retirement at the end of the Braves' playoff run in 2012 (whenever that may come), here are the top 10 most recognizable nicknames in baseball history (not counting Jones):
10. William Henry "Skeeter" Barnes: Barnes, who played just over 350 games over the span of nine major-league seasons, may not be as accomplished as some of the other baseball royalty on this list, but that doesn't change the fact that he has one of the most recognizable nicknames ever to take the field. Barnes would spend a substantial time in the minor leagues before finally getting fairly regular playing time for the Tigers in the early 1990s. But, more important, his legacy can live on as (probably not the) inspiration for one of the main characters on a popular "Nick-Toon" and the name of an existing barbecue joint in Nebraska.
9. George Lee "Sparky" Anderson: The first manager ever to win World Series titles in both the American and National leagues, Anderson was a natural leader. Hired to take over the Reds at the young age of 35 with little more than minor-league playing experience, Anderson certainly looked the part of grizzled manager, with his grayed-too-early hair and scruff features. Given the nickname while in the minor leagues for his fiery style of play, "Sparky" summed up Anderson on the field and off of it, and is a fitting way to remember one of the greatest managers in baseball history.
8. Dennis Ray "Oil Can" Boyd: At first glance, one would assume that a person going by the name "Oil Can" is on the eccentric side and, with Boyd, that couldn't be closer to the truth. Being given the name due to his fondness for alcohol (beer had been referred to as "oil" where he grew up), Boyd pitched 10 seasons in the 1980s and early-1990s, with the majority of them in Boston. If nothing else, Oil Can has remained controversial since retirement, claiming that he smoked cocaine every day during the 1986 season (including right before a start against the A's) and that he wishes the Negro Leagues were never broken up. It's hard to imagine much less from a guy whose nickname came from an affinity for beer.
7. John Wesley "Boog" Powell: Boog (short for "booger") is another member of this list who lived up to the spirit behind his nickname, which was given to him by his father due to his mischievous ways as a child. Powell was an outgoing character during his 14 years with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960s and early-1970s, appearing in Miller Lite beer commercials and slugging over 300 home runs. Boog remains a fixture in Baltimore, owning and operating a famous barbecue stand outside the right field wall at Camden Yards.
6. James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter: As opposed to some of the previous entries, Hunter's nickname is not based on any persona or (real) personal experience. Rather, A's owner Charles Finley decided that his young pitcher needed a catchy nickname to be more marketable. As a result, he concocted a story about Hunter catching a huge catfish as a child and tried to get the nickname to stick. And stick it did as Hunter would remain the Catfish throughout his 15-year Hall of Fame career playing for the A's and Yankees.
5. Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean: One of the biggest stars of the 1930s, Dean was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after a 12-year career, mainly with the Cardinals and Cubs. The generally-accepted explanation of Dean's nickname is that it comes from an incident when Dean was in the military and an Army sergeant found him throwing peeled potatoes against garbage-can lids, leading the sergeant to admonish him as a "dizzy son-of-a-[expletive]!" Dizzy was as colorful as the nickname would suggest, and at times he made those covering him dizzy as he occasionally gave sportswriters different names and different locations and dates of his birth. Dean also gets added points for being the teammate and brother Paul "Daffy" Dean, who himself receives an honorable mention with respect to this list.
4. Harold Peter Henry "Pee Wee" Reese: While it would seem logical that Reese's nickname was given to him due to his small stature on the baseball field, that is not the case. Instead, the name "Pee Wee" was given to Reese when he was crowned the marbles champion for the city of Louisville at the ripe age of 12. However, seeing that Reese would only grow to a less-than-imposing 5 feet 10 inches and 160 pounds while playing infield for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and 1950s, the moniker would definitely remain fitting and true throughout his time on the baseball diamond.
3. Richard Michael "Goose" Gossage: While playing for the White Sox in 1972, Gossage's teammate Tom Bradley described him as looking like a goose when he leaned in to take the sign from the catcher. One way or another, the name stuck, and Gossage has forever been known as the Goose. The combination of a Hall of Fame career and a great-sounding alliteration leads Gossage to the third spot on this list.2. James Thomas "Cool Papa" Bell: Bell played in the Negro Leagues for more than 20 years, well enough to earn him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. He was known for his even-keeled demeanor, never getting overly worked up yet always getting the job done on the field. As a result, he earned the "Cool Papa" moniker from onlookers impressed with his combination of intense spirit and constantly relaxed presence.
1. George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr.:Two words say it all when it comes to sports nicknames: "The Babe." Ruth received the nickname from various Baltimore Orioles players, after then-owner Jack Dunn had to become Ruth's legal guardian in order to sign him to a contract at age 19. To this day, Ruth remains one of the most famous and accomplished athletes in all of sports and easily the most recognizable nickname in baseball history.
While "Chipper's" place among the greatest hitters in the history of the game is without question, a bigger area of debate may involve where he would land on this list.
Related Content From This Contributor:MLB Historical Triple Crown WinnersBiggest Regular Season Collapses in Baseball History
Del Pearson is a huge baseball fan and follows intently throughout the season. His favorite time of year is the fall when playoff chases heat up although, unfortunately, his Toronto Blue Jays are not much of a contender in 2012. You can follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson2.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chipper Jones