Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 7/18/15

It seems like baseball nicknames are becoming extinct. Sure, names like "The Panda" and "King Felix" are currently recognizable, but clever monikers just aren't as prevalent--or as FUN--as they once were. I thought I'd recall some of the more memorable ones I've come across since I started following baseball:

*Jim "Catfish" Hunter: A Hall of Famer who won 200 games before the age of 31; the 5-year, $3 million contract with the Yankees in the 70's was HUGE NEWS at the time. A "money" pitcher who accumulated five WS rings. No real truth to the idea that his nickname may have had something to do with his rural upbringing on a farm and/or interest in fishing; A's owner Charles O. Finley simply liked "Catfish"--and it stuck. Sadly, he died of ALS at a very young age..........
*Dick "Dirt" Tidrow: A former pitcher who began his career as a starter, then adjusted to the relief role. A member of two Yankees championship squads, the bushy mustache--along with NO desire to appear on the cover of GQ--earned him that nickname. 100 wins over a 13-year career..........
*Pete "Charlie Hustle" Rose: Regardless of what you think of the man as a human being, he left it ALL on the field--EVERY day. I mean--SPRINTING to first base on a walk? Head first slides? I truly believe if it weren't for the way he played the game, we'd RARELY even HEAR the term "hustle" anymore--in ANY sport. People credit Whitey Ford for coming up with the nickname..........
*Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky: Is that a politically correct nickname? Regardless, he spent 13 years in the "bigs" and pitched in 307 games--all but ONE as a reliever. Was almost unhittable in 1975 while with the Cards--giving up 72 hits in almost 100 innings while pitching to a 1.66 ERA. Had the unforgettable routine of taking a deep breath, pounding the ball into his glove, and storming to the mound to face batters; if you saw it, you'll never forget it. The Fu Manchu mustache just added to his wild presence; was given the nickname by a member of the Cards' front office..........
*John "Boog" Powell: People tend to forget he won an MVP award in 1970 and hit 339 HR's over 17 seasons. A four-time All Star, he supposedly received the nickname from his Dad--an offshoot of "buggers" (a term for kids who were familiar with mischief in the South). Also made a name for himself in retirement--running Boog's BBQ at Camden Yards and making some AWESOME Lite Beer commercials (remember the one with Numazawa?)..........
*Mark "The Bird" Fidrych: Took the baseball world by storm in '76 as a 21-year old--leading the league in CG, ERA, and also winning the Rookie of the Year award; that season did a number on his arm, as well--which would limit the length of his career to only parts of 5 seasons. He'd groom the pitching mound, talk to the ball, and sprint to the dugout--a man who OOZED enthusiasm. Received the nickname in the minors from a coach who thought he resembled "Big Bird" from Sesame Street. Sadly, he died in a farm-related accident in 2009; a TRULY unforgettable character..........
*Walt "No Neck" Williams: Played in the "bigs" from 1964-'75 with four teams--including the Yankees. Only 5'6" tall, he had an incredibly muscular frame but a VERY short neck--reportedly the result of an injection he received as a child. .270 lifetime hitter who didn't strike out much. "No Neck" was a good defensive player, too--who always had a smile on his face. Ended his playing career in Japan (1976-'77).........
*Lee William "Buzz" Capra: Spent 7 seasons with the Mets and Braves between 1971 and 1977; arm troubles caused his career to come to a halt before the age of 30. Braves fans won't forget 1974, though: He won 16 games and led the NL in ERA (2.28) while being named to the All-Star squad. He pitched well over 200 innings that season--FIVE times as many innings as he had pitched in ANY previous season (umm--yes, a RECIPE for arm trouble/disaster). No, he did NOT acquire the nickname due to any perceived partying that he did; supposedly, he swung a baseball bat wildly as a kid--like a buzzsaw--and the nickname was ultimately shortened to "Buzz." Spent time as a pitching coach after his career ended..........
*Jimmy "The Toy Cannon" Wynn: He was listed at 5'10 " (NOT!) and maybe 170 pounds, but MAN could he hit the ball--and FAR. Hit 30 or more HR's in a season three times and almost 300 in his career (during the 60's/70's). Once hit a HR in his hometown of Cincy that cleared a HUGE scoreboard and landed on Interstate 75 (some believe it's STILL traveling). Given the nickname by a Houston sportswriter back in the 60's (due to his frame/immense power); at first, Jimmy didn't like it--not fully knowing its true meaning. He grew to appreciate the moniker when he realized it was originally coined to be very complimentary of his strength..........
*John "Blue Moon" Odom: A pitcher for 13 seasons (mostly for Oakland) who was fast on his feet, as well--sometimes used as a pinch-runner. Two-time All-Star ('68 and '69) who won 31 games over that two-year span; was also a stellar pitcher in Oakland's postseason runs in the early 70's. He hated the nickname--given to him by an ex-classmate due to his round face; had a rough time (legally, etc.) following his baseball career..........
*Carlton "Pudge" Fisk: I guess he received the nickname due to being a bit chubby as a child; filled out, though, as an adult--actually looking very gangly to me when he played (was a tall catcher). The nickname didn't bother him as he played a remarkable 24 seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000..........
*Rich "Goose" Gossage: Another Hall of Famer (nicknames MUST help)--pitched 22 years. Led AL in saves three times and had over 300 in his career (not a one or two out pitcher, either). Seems like he was all "arms and legs" when delivering the pitch; former teammate Tom Bradley said he looked like a goose when taking signs from the catcher. Wrote a biography called The Goose Is Loose..........
*Larvell "Sugar Bear" Blanks: A very versatile infielder who played nine seasons between '72 and '80. A TX native, he was able to play one year in his home state with the Rangers in 1979. Was coined the nickname while in the minor leagues by former teammates Darrell Evans and Ralph Garr due to his approach at the plate; I guess he had a "sweet" swing at the time..........
*Sean "The Mayor" Casey: The man played 12 seasons (mostly in Cincy) and was a lifetime .302 hitter; hit .410 in four postseason series, too. Received the nickname due to his VERY sociable nature--being known to talk NON-STOP to base runners while playing first base. Having seen/heard him on telecasts following his career, he'll STILL talk to anyone who's willing to listen. I can only assume that he's not into politics right now because he's a guy who possesses a significant amount of integrity..........
*Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson: One of the tallest pitchers in history, he supposedly was given the nickname by former teammate Tim Raines after a collision in batting practice with the 6'10" pitcher. 303 wins over 22 seasons and one of the NASTIEST lefties (vs. lefties) ever. Just ask John Kruk..........
*Tom "The Blade" Hall: A very decent pitcher in the 60's and 70's who compiled a .612 W-L% over a ten-year career; went 10-1 for the '72 Reds pitching mostly in relief. Nickname originated from his slender (I mean REALLY slender) build--he was 6 feet tall and "listed" at 150 pounds. Yes, it's been said that he had to move around in the shower just to get WET; now THAT is skinny, folks..........

Many more great nicknames come to mind; I guess a follow-up column (or two) is in order. Hope it brought back some great memories, folks..............

Thursday, July 09, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 7/4/15


I used to think that watching Calvin Murphy shooting free throws was the ultimate thing of beauty. That all changed the other day when I saw a recent picture of a bikini-clad Eva Longoria on the beaches of Spain during a break from a charity gala. You live and learn--right, folks?..........TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the last member of the Toronto Blue Jays to lead the American League in hits? Answer to follow..........ITEM: A dating site strictly for Kentucky fans is about to launch; searchable profiles will go live on July 15th. One slogan that the site should NOT use, in regard to the quality of dates, is "ONE AND DONE"--aka the John Calipari recruitment philosophy..........Just imagine if Bowdoin College Associate Athletic Director Alice Wiercinski married wide receiver Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles. *Question: Do you think she'd be happy when "school's out" with the married name of Alice Cooper?..........Call me crazy (or is it a sign of aging?), but the endorphins acquired during a 10K power-walk now beat a "beer buzz" ANY day of the week..........Do you think the game of professional golf gets a tad more difficult after the age of 40? Former Masters champion Mike Weir (now 45) has played 17 tournaments so far on this year's PGA Tour and has made ONE cut--that being at the CIMB Classic which was played at the end of OCTOBER..........ITEM: Green Bay Packers TE Andrew Quarless becomes involved in an argument with some women in Miami this past Saturday and proceeds to fire two shots out of a .45 caliber handgun (no one was injured). According to reports, one woman claimed that Quarless did it simply to demonstrate his "manhood." Umm--call me judgmental, folks, but firing a gun around unsuspecting women at 5:30 in the morning doesn't make ANY male much of a man AT ALL. Ahhh--but he sure started his Fourth of July with a "bang", right? (sorry, folks).........Oh--one more thing about Quarless. Former TE Anthony Becht--now a talented NFL analyst and regular guest on "Thursday Night Tailgate"--tweeted the following this past weekend about the troubled Packers player: "I don't know about Andrew Quarless being the best TE, but he sure is one of the DUMBEST."..........Reach for the TUMS, Red Sox fans: Following last Sunday's win vs. Houston, DH David Ortiz was hitting .148 from the 7th inning on in games played this season. O.K.--maybe something STRONGER than TUMS, huh?..........My take on the current MLB All-Star voting process? Put it this way: When K.C. SS Alcides Escobar receives 9 million MORE votes than a guy like Xander Bogaerts, there's something TERRIBLY flawed with the system, folks..........The New York Post's Steve Serby--writing the other day about idiotic decisions by guys like Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants and various other NFL players in general: "Q: When do these guys grow up? A: The Twelfth of Never."..........Did you know that the 1987 Cleveland Indians had THREE players on the squad with 30 or more home runs (Joe Carter, Brook Jacoby and Cory Snyder)--and STILL lost over 100 games under managers Pat Corrales and Doc Edwards? Ah, yes--it had to be the pitching, right? Yep--the staff's team ERA was a robust 5.28 that season--dead last in the American League..........Answer to trivia question: VERNON WELLS--whose total of 215 in 2003 was the highest in either league that year..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former Virginia Tech athletic director/Penn St. football player Jim Weaver--who passed away recently; he was 70 and had suffered from Parkinson's disease. After graduating from PSU, Weaver had positions in athletic administration at Florida, UNLV, and Western Michigan before landing in Blacksburg. Weaver was highly-instrumental in Virginia Tech's moves to the Big East and ACC; in particular, the football program flourished greatly under Weaver's reign. Jim was very aware of the importance of facility upgrades, too--overseeing projects at Tech that totaled over $200 million. He retired in 2013 due to a variety of health issues. Jim Weaver is survived by his wife, Traci, and four sons: Cole, Craig, Josh, and Paul. May Mr. Weaver rest in peace.