JSF Power Rankings: Underrated Cardinals Nicknames
We all know about “The Man”, “Dizzy”, “Ducky”, “The Base Burglar” and other notable nicknames that have attributed to Cardinals players in the past. Nothing brands a player more efficiently than a grass roots pseudonym. Just ask The Mad Hungarian.
Perhaps equally enjoyable are those that fly under the radar. We’re talking about the ones that the average baseball fan may not acknowledge, but the local patrons embrace.
In July’s St. Louis Sports Magazine, we had a chance to sit down with living proof that non-mainstream nicknames can inspire the fan base as we interviewed a person who struts around Busch Stadium wearing a Puma suit as a tribute to Lance Berkman’s self-imposed tag, “The Big Puma”.
To celebrate our discussion with The Big Puma (the mascot, not Lance himself), we decided to break out our authoritative Power Rankings to determine the Top 5 underrated nicknames to have been assigned to Cardinals players dating back to the early 80′s.
Maybe not all these names were born during their time in St. Louis, but they were certainly celebrated here:
5.) Silent George
Normally the media is a vital tool in getting a nickname started (see: Mike Shannon calling Albert Pujols “The Machine”). The media starts dropping the name occasionally, it’s gets attached to the player and fans jump on board bringing it to a new level.
So when a player can score a nickname by completely ignoring the media, it’s even more impressive. George Hendrick wasn’t and isn’t silent according to teammates, coaches, and even fans, he just chose not to talk to the press. It wasn’t “his thing”. If ignoring the media inspires the media to create a catchy addition to your name, that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.
Didn’t hurt that he scored John Tudor in a trade with the Pirates before the ’85 season.
4.) Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten
Watch a guy who never topped 25 homeruns in his career smack 4 bombs and 12 RBI in one game and there’s a good chance you just witnessed the birth – or at least the popularization – of a nickname that otherwise wasn’t really justified. At least that was the case for Mark Whiten, a mediocre power hitter who had one hell of a game versus Cincinnati in 1993. Right or wrong, we’re assuming the 4 HR 12 RBI game combined with a few tape measure shots the same season, were enough to score him a nickname memorialized on his baseball-reference.com page.
Plus, it scores points in the elusive “non-cheesy rhyming” category.
Lonnie Smith didn’t exactly fit into Whitey Herzog’s plan of building around pitching, speed and defense. Yeah he was fast, but he was also so clumsy on astroturf that he earned the nickname “Skates” because it looked like he was wearing them in the outfield and on the basepaths.
The name was allegedly assigned to him in Philly, but certainly carried over to his time in St. Louis. And picturing a guy draped in powder blue running around the massive Busch Stadium outfield in these is always amusing.
2.) White Rat
Consider it a badge of honor when you are significant enough in the local sports scene to see a nickname spawned from your original nickname. His birth name was Dorrel Herzog, which was morphed into “Whitey”, but that apparently wasn’t enough. We needed to crank out another spin-off and let him be known as the “White Rat”.
And it’s never easy to have people affectionately call you a “White Rat” since we’re talking about a creepy looking rodent.
We’ll admit, if someone bought a rat costume, strapped a Herzog #24 jersey over the top of it, they’d still be a hit at the ballpark in 2011.
1.) The Secret Weapon
Though it’s certainly not under the radar in St. Louis Cardinals lore, ask an average baseball fan the nickname of Jose Oquendo and they’d probably ask you “who is Jose Oquendo?”. Utility men who play 10 of their 12 years in the league on one team typically don’t possess nicknames that crossover into the mainstream, but if any ever deserved to, it was The Secret Weapon.
The name was unique, mysterious and completely justified considering the other team had no idea where Oquendo would appear on the field from inning to inning.
When Tony LaRussa retires, Oquendo should receive serious consideration for the position of Manager, if for no other reason, than based on the idea of a team being led by someone known as The Secret Weapon.
Honorable Mention: One Tough Dominican (Joaquin Andujar), Da Meat Hook (Dmitri Young), The Wrench (Allen Craig), Little Mac (Joe McEwing), Sweaty Whale (Sidney Ponson), Vincent Van Go (Vince Coleman)