What’s in a Nickname? What Brewers of Yesteryear Might Have Worn for Player’s Weekend
August 25, 26 and 27, is “Player’s Weekend” across Major League Baseball. The main attraction of Player’s Weekend will be the special uniforms worn by players, each of which will feature a nickname or other “statement” on the back instead of a last name. This past week, the unis and their nicknames appeared on the MLB shop online (because why do anything cool if you can’t try to make a bunch of money off of it, right?) and inspired a social media frenzy of sharing the coolest nicknames (Scooter Gennett’s choice of “Ryan,” his given name, was a particular favorite). Our local nine have a decent share of cool monikers as well. Slugger Eric Thames will wear “Sang Nam Ja,” Korean for “badass.” Michael Blazek (if he makes it back to the big league by then) will go with “Jus Blaze,” which should be popular with the NORML crowd. Bespectacled second baseman Eric Sogard will wear “Nerd Power,” a theme that dates back to his days playing in Oakland.
Since what we like to do here at Brew Crew Confidential is look at the present through the past, it is only fitting to wonder what Brewers of ages past might have worn on their back had they the chance to do so. One’s attention drifts immediately to the franchise legends. “The Kid,” “Molly,” and “Hammer” are all too obvious. Hank Aaron could have done as the Mariners’ Kyle Seager did. Seager will wear “Corey’s Brother” as a reference to his brother, who stars with the Dodgers. Aaron could have worn “Tommie’s Brother” as a reference to his own brother, who had a brief big league career and, at the time Hank was a Brewer, was a hopeful to be the first black manager in Major League history. Rockin’ Robin Yount might have had a little fun with the long-standing rumor that his middle name (almost always just listed as “R”) is actually Rachel. Yount might have worn “Just R” or something like that. Or he could go with “Rachel” and confirm all those whispers. As for Molitor, a few unflattering jokes could be made about his past drug troubles or his injury history, but I’d like to see him wear “Four-One,” which would arch above his uniform number as a nice nod to local pride.
Using straight nicknames can be fun, too, but it works better with some of the team’s lesser-known players. Slugger Jeffery Leonard’s fierce demeanor earned him the nickname “Penitentiary Face,” which when paired with his 0 uniform number would look pretty frightening indeed. Glenn Braggs, who was said to entertain ladies “until the cows came home,” was dubbed “Moo-Moo.” Jim Gantner could go with “Gumby” or “Klinger,” both evidently assigned to him by Gorman Thomas to mock the way he ran. Darryl Hamilton became a fan favorite with the nickname of “Hambone.” John Jaha was known as “Jaws” when he first came up. Former pitcher Al Reyes was called “Hot Nuts” by Bob Uecker for reasons that remain unknown. Hall of Famer Don Sutton could have really tested the limits of acceptability by going by his nickname of “Black and Decker,” which would be both an on-uni ad and a reference to his reputation for illegally scuffing the ball with sandpaper.
Of course, you don’t need a nickname to have fun with this promotion. How about Chuck Carr wearing “Chuckie Hacks” as a reference to his infamous comment in May 1997 that helped in getting him released. Geoff Jenkins, best known early in his career for looking like a certain Packers QB could have worn “Favre” and attracted a lot more autograph seekers. Joe Winkelsas, who threw seven innings for the Brewers in 2006 – seven years after throwing a handful of pitches in a single appearance for the Braves – could have worn “Garbage Man,” a job he actually did between his major league stints.
There is no word yet if managers will be included in the nickname promotion, but past Brewers skippers could have certainly had some fun with it. How about “Mr. Black” for Tom Treblehorn? Treb is married to Summerfest director and Milwaukee mainstay Bo Black and was the rare example of a big league manager less prominent in his team’s hometown than his wife. Ned Yost could have donned something like “I Heart Sac Bunts” to show his disdain for advanced thinking in baseball strategy (not that he didn’t already do in every game he managed here). Phil Garner, who had a pretty cool nickname in “Scrap Iron,” would have done better to go with “Mr. July,” a reference to his appearance in the July 1984 issue of Playgirl (Google it if you dare).