Thursday, July 20, 2017

Part II: names, nicknames, more names

      The name game continues, second day ...
      The response on the nicknames blog was a good one, and so we go on. Because overnight dozens more came to mind, and also there are two other "name" categories.
      How about people whose first names are just initials (usually, but not always, abbreviations for their full names)? How about those two-tone first names?
      Stay tuned.
      First, back to nicknames. My friend Ross Montelbano, who wrote "... that was amazing. That might be my favorite article you've written. If I might add ..."
      Ross' list (I added first names and comments):
      John "Blue Moon" Odom; Jim "Mudcat" Grant; Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown; "Spaceman" Bill Lee
      "The Grey Ghost" (the character Gavin Grey, played by Dennis Quaid in the movie Everybody's All-American, adapted from a novel written by the late, great Frank Deford)
      "Bucketfoot" Al Simmons (Baseball Hall of Famer who once played for Shreveport)
      Old Aches and Pain" Luke Appling; Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd; "Dr. Strangleglove" Dick Stuart; "Sweet Swinging" Billy Williams; "The Schnoze" Ernie Lombardi; "Smokey Joe" Wood; "The Walking Man" Eddie Yost
      "Scrap Iron" Clint Courtney (the majors' first bespectacled catcher from Hall Summit, La., 40 miles from Shreveport) and Phil Garner (from Knoxville, Tenn.)
      Archibald "Moonlight" Graham (played in one major-league game, then became a doctor and was portrayed in the movie Field of Dreams by Burt Lancaster)
      Hazen "Kiki" Cuyler; Leon "Goose" Goslin; Lynwood "Schoolboy" Rowe; "The Reading Rifle" Carl Furillo; "Wild Thing" Mitch Williams
      "[Warren] Spahn and [Johnny] Sain and Pray for Rain"

      "Sweet Lou" Piniella and "Sweet Lou" Dunbar (basketball, from Minden, La., and the Harlem Globetrotters)
      "The Flying Scotsman" Bobby Thomson (he hit "The Shot Heard 'Round the World)
      "Nails" Lenny Dykstra; "Wahoo Sam" Crawford; "Sudden Sam" McDowell; "The Yankee Killer" Frank Lary; John "Tito" Francona; Terry "Tito" Francona (son of the father); "The Big Donkey" Adam Dunn
      Laurence "Dutch" Rennert (National League umpire known for his exaggerated strike calls, he umpired in the Southern Association during Shreveport's time in that league, 1959-61)
      "The Big Cat" -- baseball's Andres Galarraga, football's Rayfield Wright (Cowboys' Hall of Fame offensive tackle) and Ernie Ladd (from Grambling State)  
      Adding to the list (and confessing that it took a little research for some -- but not all) ...
      Butch: The late Brian Smart (also known as "Maxwell").
      Buddy: Early 1960s Fair Park High baseball teammates Buddy Nelson and Buddy Chester. Veteran sports editor/columnist/author/sports talk show host Buddy Martin, now based in Ocala, Fla.
      Reviving two Shreveport umpire/referee nicknames from a recent blog: Clyde Oliver "T-Willie" Moore and Lloyd "Sarge" Boyce.
A young Bert Blyleven (born in Holland):
"Be Home by Eleven"
      Louisiana Tech/minor-league baseball announcer of 4,000-plus games: "Freeway" Dave Nitz.
      Baseball: "Mick The Quick" Mickey Rivers, Bert "Be Home by Eleven" Blyleven (thank you, Chris Berman), "The Gambler" Kenny Rogers, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni, "Crime Dog" Fred McGriff, "The Penguin" Ron Cey, "Joey Bats" Jose Bautista.
      Here is a special one: Harry "Stinky" Davis. He was the Detroit Tigers' first baseman in 1935 when he lost the job to Hank Greenberg (future Hall of Famer). Except for his baseball days, Harry Davis lived his whole life in Shreveport.
      Co-workers at newspapers: Bill "Bull" Rutkin, "Tolo" Tobias Xavier Lopez, R.C. "Cotton" McCoy, the nitpicker "Laz" Allan Lazarus.
      Coaches, LSU: "Biff" Jones, Gaynell "Gus" Tinsley, "Pepsodent Paul" Dietzel, "Cholly Mac" Charlie McClendon,  tragic "Bo" Rein, "Curley" Hallman, "Les-tacles" Les Miles, "Coach O" Ed Orgeron, "Press" Maravich, "Daddy" Dale Brown, "Skip" Bertman.
Pistol Pete Maravich: The PMAC honors his legend
        How could I have forgotten one great basketball name: "Pistol Pete" Maravich?
         Another one, a star in basketball and baseball at Lake Charles High and the University of Kentucky, and a two-sport pro athlete: Charles "Cotton" Nash.
         Personal basketball friends: Mike "Opie" McConathy, Malcolm "Mouse" Smith. Tech basketball trips roommate/legend: Lynn "Ikey" Sanderson.
         Football coaches of note: Paul "Bear" Bryant, Ralph "Shug" Jordan, "JoPa" Joe Paterno, Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty, Nick Satan, Steve Superior ("The Head Ball Coach"), John James "Jimbo" Fisher, William "Dabo" Sweeney. The man the late Frank Deford made famous in Sports Illustrated: Robert "Bull" "Cyclone" Sullivan of East Mississippi JC.
        North Louisiana football coaches: Shreveport's "Old Lou" Lowell Morrison and Roy "Bull" Wilson. Northwestern State's Harry "Rags" Turpin. Oil City's Earl "Blue Boy" Nolan. Louisiana Tech's Milton "Mickey" Slaughter.
        Ruston, La., High School gave us L.J. "Hoss" Garrett and Jimmy "Chick" Childress. In basketball, it was Denmon "Lefty" Garner. In Jacksonville, Fla., Charles "Corky" Rogers is the alltime winningest football coach.
        Another "Hoss" was Jim Brock, former Cotton Bowl exec. The longtime Cotton Bowl chairman was Field Scovell, but Field was his given name.
        An old friend from Sunset Acres, a high school football/track All-State star: Ross "The Hoss" Oglesby.
        Ross was a running back. So, too, a decade earlier were consecutive Heisman Trophy winners -- Alan "The Horse" Ameche and Howard "Hopalong" Cassady.
        Football stadium names: "Death Valley" (LSU and Clemson), "The Big House" (Michigan), "The Swamp" (Florida), "The Granddaddy of Them All" (Rose Bowl). (There are dozen others.)
        A couple of NFL-related names: "Dirty Birds" and "Cheeseheads." A quarterback: "The Gunslinger" Brett Favre. The best-known placekicker of the 1950s: Lou "The Toe" Groza.
        My favorite Shreveport Sports player (and 10-year major leaguer): "Baby Lou" Klimchock. (He was 19 when he starred for the Sports in 1959.)
         Now, how about those initial names. Here are some people I've known and some I've seen (starting with Shreveport connections, branching out):

          A.L. Williams, W.B. Calvert, C.O. Brocato, J.D. Cox, D.C. Machen, J.L. Wilson, J.B. Harville (my junior high, Oak Terrace, was renamed in his honor), V.T. Smith, J.W. Slack, C.J. Lottinger, T.K. Henry (but call him Tommy), H.L. Prather Sr., J.D. Garrett, J.D. Barnett, J.R. Richard, J.R. Ewing, T.R. Sullivan, J.D. Drew, J.D. Martinez, R.C. Slocum, R.B. Summitt, U.L. Washington, H.O. West.  
        Two-tone names (it's probably, mostly, a Southern thing):
        John James Marshall, Jon Pat Stephenson, Joe Raymond Peace, Billy Don Maples, Bobby Ray McHalffey, Billy Don McHalffey, Billy Ray Stokes, John Andrew Prime, Bob Ray Sanders, Billy Rex Lockwood, Jimmy Joe Hildebrand, Billy Bob Thornton.
         I'm out of names for this week.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What's in a (nick)name? Plenty!

     This week I am on a nickname kick.
     Stop and think about it -- nicknames are everywhere, all around us. They are with us every day. And if you have nothing to do -- obviously the case here -- you write a blog about them.
     What's your favorite nickname?
     Mine comes from the world of sports, naturally ... but not the real world. Fake news? Ha. How about a fake sport? Professional wrestling. Almost all the names were fake, nicknames.
Scandor Akbar: One of wrestling's great
villains, to us, he was "Snackbar."
     So many of us loved watching it in our younger years. Dad always loved it; I never could figure out why exactly.
     Anyway, my favorite character was Scandor Akbar. If you watched wrestling from the mid-1960s through 2000, he was known world-wide, but especially around here in North Texas and North Louisiana.
     Had to look this up: His real name was Jimmy Saied Wehba. At the suggestion of the famed Fritz Von Erich, he changed it in 1966 to Scandor Akbar. 
      The promoters and announcers billed him as being from Lebanon (his father actually was) or Syria or Saudi Arabia ... whatever.
     He was from Texas (as was his mother). Born, raised, and lived in Garland his last 40 years.
     He had a great act; he was a super villain -- as a wrestler and then as a manager. The "General" of Devastation, Inc., he messed with opponents, refs, fans. We loved him nevertheless.
      In Shreveport, the wrestling show would be taped at the studio at KTBS-TV, Channel 3, on Kings Highway. A half dozen times -- I am not making this up -- we would see Scandor and a couple of his buddies down the street at Murrell's Grill. It was fun talking to them. They were ... normal.
     His obit story and his Wikipedia page say that Scandor's favorite move was the "camel clutch." No way. Disagree.
     When he reached in his trunks and then struck out at his opponent ... he burned him with fire.
      That move was Scandor Akbar (which stood for "Alexander The Great"). Which -- finally -- brings me to the favorite nickname which I, or some of my friends, created for him. 
      To us, he was simply, "Snackbar."
      Our 43rd President was a nickname guy, had one for so many people. The most famous: "Way to go, Brownie." Yeah, right.
      My wife reminds me that I'm a nickname guy. Every day.
      Let's start with her. Bea is really her nickname (I'm one of the few who calls her Beatrice). But usually I call her "Honey." (OK, I do call her other things, but let's keep this proper.)
      She confesses that in school she was "Bouffant" because of her poofed-up 1960s hair.
      Staying at home and in the family: Our son Jason when he was little was "Jay-Jay," then as a kid, his mother stenciled his name on some clothes for camp: JKey. So he became "Jakey" or "Jake" to me. Now I usually call him "Jay."
      Our daughter Rachel, for me, is "Rach" or "Rachy." Granddaughter Josie (short for Josephine) I often call "Jos." Grandson Kaden is "Kades." So far, Jacob is Jacob and Eli is Eli.
       Our animals: Long ago we had Snowball, who was "Snowy." Later we had Kitty, who I called "Kiki" and our white collie Lightning, who was "Lighty." Now we have two cats, Ditto is "Ditty" "Ditz," "Ditzo" or "Ditmore" and Grayson is "Grace" or "Gracy."
      So many nicknames are simply abbreviations for proper names -- Jim/Jimmy for James, Joe for Joseph, Rick/Ricky for Richard, Ted for Theodore, Gerry for Gerald or Geraldine, Chuck for Charles, Bob/Bobby for Robert, Jack for John (explain that one), Peg for Peggy, Dot for Dorothy, Lou for Louise, Candy for Candice, etc. (You get the idea.)
      Then there are Buddy, Bud, Buster, Bubba,  Butch, Sonny.        
      Buddy: Orville Kince (O.K.) Davis, sportswriting legend; Charles E. Roemer Jr., Louisiana governor/politician; B.L. Shaw (Bea's cousin from their hometown, Jamestown; former Byrd High principal and state legislator).
      Bud: Albert A. Dean, basketball player/coach and principal; Norris Alexander, football kicker/end. Both La. Tech guys. Current major-league pitcher David Norris.     
      Buster: (Cecil) Herren, 1960s running back at Woodlawn and Louisiana Tech; at Tech, we also had Buster Erwin; Clyde A. Carlisle, well-known basketball coach in North Louisiana and East/Central Texas; ESPN baseball writer/analyst Robert Olney; the terrific current San Francisco Giants catcher Gerald Posey.

      (Most significantly, Bea's brother, the late Howard C. Shaw Jr., who was "Buster" to his original family.)
      Butch: Three in La. Tech football in the 1960s -- offensive tackle Wayne Williams (from Minden, later coach/principal/superintendent in Webster Parish); kick returner-safety Butch Daniel (Cotton Valley); punter-would be QB Butch Troegel (Shreveport-Fair Park). Thomas Aswell, reporter/writer from Ruston now focused on politics in Baton Rouge. Butch Muir, from West Monroe, longtime sports editor in Baton Rouge.
      We also knew Butch Troquille and Jerry "Butch" Summerlin, who teamed up with Maurice "Punk" Jackson in junior high football. My friend Casey was "Butch" to his family early on, but not to the outside world. 
      Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. (They had real names -- they're referenced in the movie -- but who cares?)
      Bubba: The late Mr. J.W. Cook, Woodlawn High assistant principal/then principal; James Bruning Jr., son of the onetime Natchitoches High coach. A couple more: Simon and Alexander, sons of friends. And ... the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (right, Forrest?).
      Sonny: Salvatore Bono (he teamed with Cher and later got into politics); the oldest Corleone brother, shot to hell in The Godfather; Van Cliburn's parents called him "Sonny" even long after he was a kid phenom at the piano. 
      III, the third in a family: Henry Lee "Trey" Prather, Joe C. "Trey" Ferguson, our nephew Leonard "Tré" Woodard.
      One of the best football players, then a longtime coach in North Louisiana: Ronnie "Spot" Alexander. A big (for then) defensive end at La. Tech: Jerry "Big 'Un" Wilson.  
      At Tech, there was an unforgettable coach: Pat Patterson. Everyone knew him as "Gravy."
      One of our coaches in high school called the scrubs and sophomores "rinky dinks" and he termed one chunky would-be player as "Jelly Belly."
      In school, we had two girls named "Cookie" (one whose proper name is Miralee). We had one nicknamed  "Beaver" (she knows who she is.)
      Baseball (see below): Cookie Lavagetto, Cookie Rojas.
      The best running back at Shreveport's Byrd High in 1963-64 was John Johnson. Everyone knows him still as "Jogger." He was not jogging when he ran over other team's players, including Woodlawn's.
      A really good basketball point guard at Bossier High my senior year was Paul "Lobo" Watson.
      Presidents: "The Father of Our Country," "The Great Emancipator," Bully Pulpit, FDR, HST, Ike, JKF, LBJ, Tricky Dick, "Bubba" Clinton. And GCA (Grover Cleveland Alexander ... oh, wait, that was baseball).
      Also in politics: Nixon's chief protectors/conspirators: H.R. "Bob" Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were known as "The Berlin Wall" or German attack dogs.
       The current President, of course, loves giving political opponents (among others) nicknames. I'm not going there.
       Sportswriters: Two of the most famous ones -- Walter "Red" Smith and William Forrest "Blackie" Sherrod.
       (Which brings to mind: So many people are nicknamed "Red." In North Louisiana alone, there's Jimmy Leach, Alton Franklin, Rudolph Smith. In basketball from the past, Arnold Auerbach, William Holtzman, Ephraim Rocha.)
       Sportswriters I've known: Jerry Byrd Sr. in college was "Tweety Byrd," later "The Head That Ate Shreveport" and "The Man, The Legend." Also at the Shreveport Journal, Rick Woodson was Goodson. Wally "Under The" Rugg. Jimmy Bullock was "Haynio." 
       Later at the Journal, John James Marshall -- naturally -- was JJ. Ed Cassiere was "EOE" (expert on everything) and "Eck." Teddy Allen was "sportswriter from Monroe" (inside joke, thanks to Karl Malone. He had a nickname, too.)
       At The Shreveport Times, sports editor Bill McIntyre was "The Fearless Leader," given to him by Jim McLain ("Jim Mac"). Gerry Robichaux was/is "Roby." Tommy Lopez was "The Black Cloud" (he was at times a bad-luck guy). Kent Heitholt was "Heity." 
       In other places ... in Honolulu, two Ferds (short for Ferdinand) -- and one of them was nicknamed "Spud." In Jacksonville, Smitter, Frenny, Bri and my inside-jokes buddy, KG. In Knoxville, Gatsey and Malby. In Fort Worth, Brownie, Vinny, Scooter and Frenchy.       
      One of my favorite sports scribes: In Baton Rouge, longtime high school and LSU: Ted Castillo, "The Prep Talker."
      Let's turn to sports ...
      Basketball: First, our North Louisiana superstars: Robert "Chief" Parish, who was "Slim" to some of his friends in high school, and Karl Malone, "The Mailman" who delivered.
      And some of the greats: Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, Jerry West "Mr. Clutch" and "Zeke From Cabin Creek," "The Big O" (Oscar Robertson), John "Hondo" Havlicek, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and "The Hick From French Lick" (Larry Bird), "Dr. J" (Julius Erving), Walt "Clyde" Frazier, "The Big Fundamental" (Tim Duncan), "Black Mamba" (Kobe Bryant).
      Also, Chet "The Jet" Walker, "Fall Back Baby" Dick Barnett, Jim "Bad News" Barnes, Melo (Carmelo Anthony).
      My favorite: "The Round Mound of Rebound," the crazy Charles Barkley.
      Big guys: "Twin Towers" (Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets, early 1980s). Little guys: Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, Jose Juan Barea ("JJ" of our Dallas Mavericks). "Spud" Webb.
      Right now, you have the "Splash Brothers" and "Lob City." There's always "The Dream Team." "Fabulous Five" (Kentucky late 1940s) and "Fab Five" (Michigan early 1990s). Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys" and the LA Lakers' "Showtime). The best: Phi Slama Jama (U. of Houston, 1980s).  
      Dirk. Just Dirk. Doesn't need a special nickname.
      The greatest coach of all: "The Wizard of Westwood" (John Wooden). Today's coaches: Pop, Coach K, Doc. 
      Football: Start with quarterbacks. Terry Bradshaw, in college at La. Tech, became "The Blond Bomber" or "The Rifleman." (What we learned a couple of years ago is that Bobby Layne years before had been "The Blond Bomber" at the University of Texas.)
       Joe Ferguson, who many from our area believe is the best high school QB they've seen, was "The White Knight." Bert Jones was "The Ruston Rifle."
       "Broadway Joe" Namath. Kenny "Snake" Stabler. Johnny U. Billy Kilmer, to us, was "Beetface."
       The Cowboys: "Dandy Don" Meredith, Roger "The Dodger" Staubach, and bless his heart, Danny White "Danny Black, the Master of Disaster." Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith and WR Michael "The Playmaker" Irvin, were "The Triplets.") Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Cliff "Crash" Harris. Bob "Mr. Cowboy" Lilly.
      "The Man in the Hat" -- Tom Landry. Coach of "America's Team" and the "Doomsday Defense."
      Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" and "Terrible Towels." Miami's "No-Name Defense" and "Killer B's." Minnesota's "Purple People Eaters" and the LA Rams' "Fearsome Foursome." Washington's "Hogs" and "Over-the-Hill Gang." Denver's Orange Crush. The Saints were once "The Ain'ts" (with the fans' brown paper bags). San Diego's Air Coryell. Seattle's "Legion of Boom." The New York Giants' "Big Blue." And perhaps the first and best: Chicago's  "Monsters of the Midway." Predecessors of "Da Bears."
      No greater nickname for a running back than "The Galloping Ghost," Harold "Red" Grange. Few were better, tougher, than "The Tyler Rose," Earl Campbell. Of course, "Juice" ran behind "The Electric Company" for Buffalo; later "Juice" (O.J. Simpson) was known as "Killer."
      Reggie White was "The Minister of Defense" and Elroy Hirsch was "Crazy Legs." Dick "Night Train" Lane was from Fort Worth and Deion "Prime Time" Sanders -- man of many teams and multiple sports -- lives in the Greater Dallas area. And, yes, like Deion, Vincent "Bo" Jackson could play a little football and baseball.  
     Golf: Eldrick Woods is "Tiger." Of course. But he is not the greatest major champion; that is Jack Nicklaus, first known as "Fat Jack" but now better known as "The Golden Bear." But he's not "The King," Arnold Palmer is (that's "Arnie.") And you had to love "Super Mex," Lee Trevino. Another great showman, "Chi Chi" Rodriguez (he's the Juan).
      Tennis: Not well-versed here, but I know the late, great announcer/writer Bud -- yes, another Bud -- Collins had names for everyone. The best: "Superbrat" can only be John McEnroe.
      Soccer: Starts and ends with "Clockwork Orange," the wonderful Dutch teams of the 1970s. 
      Auto racing: "The Intimidator," car No. 3, Dale Earnhardt Sr., who probably was responsible for creating "Wonder Boy," Jeff Gordon.

      Boxing: Who else? The Louisville Lip, Gaseous Cassius, The Greatest. He gave us "The Big Ugly Bear" ("Sonny" Liston, real name Charles), "The Mongoose" (Archie Moore), "The Rabbit" (Floyd Patterson)" and he fought "The Big Cat" (Cleveland Williams) and "The Bleeder" (Chuck Wepner).
      Jack Dempsey was "The Manassa Mauler." Joe Louis was "The Brown Bomber." Two champs named Sugar Ray -- Robinson and Leonard.
      Baseball is the best sport for nicknames because, for one thing, it dates more than 125 years. Pick a team and there is a whole set of nicknames.
      So, of course, let's start with the New York Yankees. "The Bronx Bombers" (and in 1977-78, "the Bronx Zoo"). Legends: "The Sultan of Swat" (George Herman "Babe" Ruth); "The Iron Horse" (Lou Gehrig); "Joltin' Joe" and "The Yankee Clipper" Joe D (Joe DiMaggio); "Poosh 'Em Up Tony" (Lazerri); "The Old Professor" (Casey Stengel); "The Scooter" (Phil Rizzuto); Yogi (Lawrence Peter Berra); Whitey (Edward Ford, "The Chairman of the Board); "The Mick" (Mickey Mantle); "Mo" (Mariano Rivera); "The Captain" or "Jetes" (Derek Jeter).
      We also had Allie Reynolds, the "Superchief" from Oklahoma;  "Moose" (Bill Skowron); one of my favorites "Sparky" (Albert Lyle); "Louisiana Lightning" (Ron Guidry); Jim "Catfish" Hunter; Rich "Goose" Gossage); "Donny Baseball" (Don Mattingly); "The Warrior" (Paul O'Neill); "Coney" (David Cone); "Boomer" (David Wells); "El Duque" (Orlando Hernandez); "Rock" (Tim Raines); "Chicken Man" (Wade Boggs); and these guys who we merely tolerated: "Mr. October" (Reggie Jackson), Roger "Rocket" Clemens, "Straw" (Darryl Strawberry) and "A-Rod" (Alex Rodriguez).
      Team nicknames: "The Hitless Wonders," "The Gashouse Gang," "The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang," (ha, that was in the movies), "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" who became the "Miracle Mets" of 1969, "The Boys of Summer."
      The Gashouse Gang: "Dizzy" (Jay Hanna Dean) and "Daffy" (brother Paul Dean), ("Wild Horse of the Osage" ("Pepper" Martin); "The Fordham Flash" (Frankie Fritsch); Joe "Ducky" Medwick.
      The Boys of Summer, the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers: Pee Wee (Harold Reese), Duke (Edwin Snider), Campy (Roy Campanella), Newk (Don Newcombe), Oisk (Carl Erskine), Preacher (Roe) ... and Jackie Robinson.
      If you loved the Braves, you loved "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron, Johnnie B. "Dusty" Baker, Rico "Beeg Boy" Carty, "Knucksie" (Phil Niekro), Ruston and Grambling College's Ralph "Gator" Garr, also known as "The Roadrunner." Ruston and Louisiana Tech's George Stone -- "Stoney."
      The 1960s San Francisco Giants: "The Say Hey Kid," arguably the greatest outfielder ever (Willie Mays); "The Baby Bull" (Orlando Cepeda); "The Dominican Dandy" (Juan Marichal); "Stretch" (Willie McCovey); "The Lord" (Gaylord Perry).
      The early 1960s Houston Astros: "The Toy Cannon" (Jimmy Wynn), "The Red Rooster" (Doug Rader), "Little Joe" Morgan, "Turk" Farrell, "Fred Flintstone" (Fred Gladding), "Flea" (Bob Lillis).
      The Miracle Mets: "Tom Terrific" (Tom Seaver) and "The Ryan Express" (Nolan Ryan, later of the Astros and Texas Rangers). And from the team they beat in the 1969 World Series, the Baltimore Orioles: John "Boog" Powell and "The Human Vacuum Cleaner" (Brooks Robinson).
      More names/legends: If you are a baseball fan, you can identify them: "The Flying Dutchman," "Rajah," "The Georgia Peach," "Cool Papa," "Rapid Robert," "The Big Train," "Double X," "Little Poison" and "Big Poison," "Little Louie" and "Nellie," "The Great One," "Pops," "Mr. Cub," "Pudge" (two catchers, Hall of Famers), "Killer," "Big D," "The Big Hurt," "The Big Unit," "Le Grand Orange" (from Louisiana), "The Human Rain Delay," and "Mr. Baseball" (a funny man/actor/announcer).
      A legend in infamy: "Marvelous Marv" Throneberry.
      Suspended-from-the Hall of Fame: "Charlie Hustle" (Pete Rose) and "Shoeless Joe" Jackson.
      The best of our friends, the Red Sox: Yaz, "Big Papi" (David Ortiz), "The Little Professor" (Dom DiMaggio) and the greatest hitter who ever lived: "The Splendid Splinter," "The Thumper," "Terrible Ted" -- Mr. Ted Williams. 
"Stan The Man Unusual" -- Don Stanhouse
      Later Cardinals: Enos "Country" Slaughter; "The Wizard of Oz" (Ozzie Smith); Bob "Hoot" Gibson, and the greatest of them, a very nice guy: Stan "The Man" Musial.
      Which leads to my favorite baseball nickname: A wild, weird 1970s Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher -- Don Stanhouse, "Stan The Man Unusual."
      And another favorite: "A Dandy Named Sandy," Koufax.
      Early in my career, I came up with two nicknames that stuck: "Quick Six" for Charles McDaniel, a breakaway running back at Springhill (La.) High School and then Louisiana Tech and "The Wrecking Crew" for a 1974 Fair Park High defense that carried the team to a state-championship game. Earlier, Woodlawn's defense for the 1968 state championship team was "The Big Red."
      We have a group of friends who -- back to how we started this -- loved wrestling, and were particularly impressed with how clueless the omnipresent referee, Jerry Usher, always seemed. So we took to calling each other "Jerry" and still do.
       One of those friends (the very funny David) left us a couple of years ago, and he had a variety of nicknames: "Professor Toro Tanaka" (as he was introduced to always sparse crowds at old SPAR Stadium in Shreveport), "Sweet Daddy Seiki," "Sky Lo Lo," "Stu" ... and "Jerry." 
       Finally, a personal nickname that some high school friends might -- or might not -- remember: "The Jewish Leprechaun."
       Almost as good as "Snackbar."  

Friday, July 14, 2017

The perspective on loss and losing

      It took the death of a young woman to again shake me to reality and consider what is really important.
      Athletics -- especially baseball this time of year -- isn't it.
      Life is, how we live each day, how we count our blessings. And for us, our kids and grandkids are our greatest blessings.
      I did not know Christina, but I know her father, Gary. He was one of those (many) good kids from long ago, one of those kids -- with year-younger brother Jerry -- who took part in our games in the neighborhood and on the school grounds.
      They lived closeby. We knew Gary and Jerry's mother and father, and liked them, and after they split up, we liked the mother's new guy, Pete.
      So on July 8 -- Saturday of last week -- the first thing I saw on Facebook that morning was a photo of Gary and his daughter, with this post:
      "This is me with my child Christina, a child that I wanted and waited for and loved with all my heart. A child that I had to say goodbye to July 6th.
      "The part of me that wanted to keep her with me was Dad, the part of me that knew I had to let her go because of the cancer and pain was Father. So I cried deeply twice, once for me and once for her."
     Christina was 33, the mother of a beautiful daughter, Piper.
      I loved the name of the place where Christina died, as was included on the memorial page dedicated to her: Apple Valley, California.
      Feel for my old friend (but not as old as me). Feel for all my friends who have lost their own children.
      We experience death so often now, increasingly so it seems the older we get. It is tough enough to lose parents, parents-in-law, spouses, siblings, our friends from way back and more current ones, co-workers. And I empathize, too, with my friends who have lost their parents in recent years.
      All of it hurts some. But to lose a child ... oh, gosh. I think that's as tough as it gets.
      Could not get Christina -- and Gary -- off my mind this past week. So I wanted to write, but needed Gary's OK before I did so.
      And it made me think back to a list of losses of young people, and the parents I have known for so long and include some really meaningful friends.
      Jubilee and David (both teenagers), Lydia, Jason, our precious Amy and Jimmy -- the last three the same age range as our son Jason. Back to the late 1960s and our military guys in Vietnam -- Glenn, Trey, Harold, Eddie. And on a personal note, the baby (Melissa) my wife-to-be never knew.
       We can't forget.

       And the causes: gunshot accidents, murder, cancer, death in childbirth, complications from surgery, war explosions, an umbilical cord gone wrong.
       Tragic, all of them.
       Now for perspective, I turn to my world of athletics -- and journalism.
       When I read or hear of someone describing a team or an individual's loss as "heartbreaking," that's terrifically overblown. When it's someone "living and dying" with a team, that is ridiculous.
       If I ever wrote "heartbreaking" to describe a loss -- I tried not to -- I apologize.
       More perspective: My baseball team -- "the premier franchise in American sports" as I like to call it, irritating the "haters" -- has been awful the past month. It is discouraging, it is aggravating, it is -- to be truthful -- about what I expected the season to be ... until the team's good play the first two months teased us.
       I don't watch on TV or computer much -- less stressful that way. But I follow the progress of the games.
       "I wish it wasn't that important to you," my wife tells me. I remind her this team has been important to me for 62 years; all my teams are important to me.
       So with each loss -- and there have been 18 in a month's time -- I might sulk or rant ... but only for a minute, or five minutes. That's it. Then I go on to walk, read, write, talk with Bea, or -- yes -- even help with the chores around here.
        It's not that important anymore. I don't grieve these type losses. They're not heartbreaking.
        But Christina, and the others ... yes.
        Which brings me back to Facebook. In recent weeks, Tim Madigan -- in my opinion, the best writer/reporter among a lot of talented ones on news side at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in our time there -- has been posting about a new book he co-wrote with Dr. Patrick O'Malley: Getting Grief Right.
        "I think it could be the most impactful book I've ever written," Tim told a writer for a story in the Crookston (Minn.) Times, his hometown newspaper. And among Tim's several books are a couple on his friend Fred Rogers -- Mr. Rogers. Hey, neighbor.

        Tim explains, in part, the purpose for the book.
        "One big reason is the universal reality of grief," he said in the story. "If we live, we will lose someone. But for those who grieve, the world can still be a very lonely, difficult place."    
        My wife said to me: "This is a book we need to read."
        My friend Gary, in a note to me Thursday, told of seeing his Christina through her cremation service.

        "It was difficult and I had to 'cowboy up' to get through it," Gary wrote me, "but she deserved to know I was there at the end. Everyone is different, but for me there was not a person on earth who could have made me feel better. I did not want to have to go through a service and have to smile and console people I hardly knew when I wanted to put my fist through a wall.
        "My family was gracious enough to understand that and gave me space, just letting me know that when ready or needed they would be there."
        Here is how Gary ended his Facebook note on July 8:
        "For my daughter and for me ... do something nice for someone else today in her memory."
        He told me Thursday: "... A few responded that they did, and mentioned her during their good deed. That was what I needed to hear.

        "So for those who want to help recover from the loss of a loved one, do something and let them know what you did no matter how small, other than giving lip service. Like a pebble in the water seeing the ring of good deeds in your child's name is the only thing that made me feel better."
         We grieve about the people we've lost. We count our blessings. Do something nice for someone today.
Christina's memorial page:

Story on Tim Madigan and Dr. Patrick O'Malley's book: