Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stuck in the middle with you

One of the great things about cards during the 1970s is that for several years Topps would feature the full names of players on the card backs. First name. Middle name. Last name. The whole shootin' match.

I became fascinated with players' middle names. There were some dandies. Maybe it's not as big of a deal now, with the wide variety of first names you see. In sportswriting, we're forever struggling with the growing number of unique names attached to high school athletes. (My two cents: parents, the name doesn't make your child unique. Your child makes your child unique).

But back when everyone was named Jim, Joe, Mike and John, middle names gave parents a creative outlet. And with baseball players, boy were they ever creative.

I'm going to feature a team of my favorite middle names, all from the 1975 Topps set. Why '75 only? Well, time is short and I had to focus on one year, and why not do it for my favorite set of all time?

Here is the starting lineup from that team, using the middle names only:

2B - Shenoff
CF - L D
SS - R.
LF - Wallison
RF - B.
1B - Celester
3B - Thane
C - Braheen
P - Trumpbour

Great stuff, eh? OK, for those of you who didn't figure out who all those guys are, I'm going to show their cards now.

2B - Leonard Shenoff Randle. Somehow this middle name escaped me all these years. Sometimes, with players from the '70s, I know a player's full name just by repeating it off the back of his card over and over, like John Claiborn Mayberry. But I completely missed "Shenoff." What a great middle name.

CF - Paul L D Blair. Note that there are no periods after the L and the D. Blair was kind of ahead of his time with this. I have noticed over the last few years that people are leaving off the periods on abbreviations. U.S. becomes US, A.J. becomes AJ, etc. But I don't know what to make of this. Does "L D" stand for anything? Why the space between the letters?

SS - Robin R. Yount. Yount has been written about so much, I imagine someone has addressed his middle initial before, and whether it stands for anything at all. But I must have missed it.

Shortstop was the most difficult position in terms of finding an odd middle name. Apparently, your ticket to being the cool kid who plays shortstop is having your parents give you a normal-sounding middle name.

LF - William Wallison Horton. With a name like that, he should have been president.

RF - Johnnie B. Baker. As far as I know the B. is just a B. Like Johnny B Goode. But I know you'll correct me if I'm wrong.

1B - Cecil Celester Cooper. Wow, that's a mouthful. Imagine if Cooper grew up with a stutter or a lisp. Oh the cruel fun kids could have.

3B - Eric Thane Soderholm. I came across a lot of cool middle names going through these cards. This is one of them. If he ditched his first name, Thane Soderholm could double as a character in a romance novel.

C - Gerald Braheen Moses. Such a strange middle name for a seemingly regular guy.

P- Jonathan Trumpbour Matlack. I knew who the pitcher was going to be before I even looked at a single card. Matlack's middle name has been stamped in my mind since childhood.

Pitchers easily have the strangest middle names. Here are the other pitchers on the all-middle name pitching staff:

Rest of the starting staff:

2. Bert Rikalbert Blyleven. A nice Dutch name.
3. Vide Rochelle Blue. I wonder how many faces Vida had to punch with that middle name.
4. George Heard Stone. Another one of those regal-sounding middle names
5. Peter Sven Broberg. A Nordic middle name for someone who was born in Florida.


1. Balor Lilbon Moore. He sounds like a butler.
2. Mac Guerrant McCurdy Scare. Actually, Guerrant is his real first name. McCurdy is the middle name. But what an awesome group of four names that is.
3. Charles Prosek Williams. I'm sure today he would be called "Prozac."
4. Clair Barth Johnson. Johnson dropped his girly sounding first name and the "h" off of his neanderthalish middle name and was known as Bart Johnson. Although, I don't know if Bart is much of an improvement.

Next up, we have the bench. And what a bench it is:

3B/OF - Bob Sherwood Bailey. Go ahead, make all the jokes you want. He was a major leaguer and you aren't.
OF/1B - Ben Ambrosio Oglivie. Rolls off the tongue doesn't it?
SS - Don Eulon Kessinger. The only other shortstop I could find with a remotely different middle name.
2B - Tommy Vann Helms. What an awesome, awesome middle name. Rock on, Vann.

2B - Darrel Osbon Thomas. I wonder if his name was supposed to be "Osborn." Maybe this is one of those deals when the nurse misread the parents' handwriting when Thomas was born.
1B - Wilver Dornel Stargell. I think his middle name should have been "Pops."
3B - Brooks Calbert Robinson. What is it with the Orioles and infielders named "Cal"?
C - Ronald Wray Hodges. Somebody liked the heroine in King Kong? I don't know.

So there you have it. The all-middle name team, from 1975 anyway.

Along the way, I came up with lots of interesting first names (for example, Mike Hargrove's real first name is Dudley). But here are two that especially intrigued me.
The first is Buddy Bell. As many know, Bell's father, Gus played in the major leagues in the '50s, and his son David just wrapped up a playing career. Well, Bell's real first name isn't Buddy as you might have guessed. His full name is: David Gus Bell. How about that? He has both his father's and his son's name in his name.

Lastly, Gene Tenace. Everyone knows him as Gene. He was a key part of the Oakland dynasty, a "Swingin' A."

But his real first name isn't Gene. That's his middle name. His actually first name is: Fury.

Isn't that great? What an unbelievably awesome first name. Why in the world did he go with "Gene"? I know that if his name was Fury Tenace he would have been much more well-known. Heck, his cards might even sell for more money. He'd be more popular with the ladies. What a great name.

In fact, you know that Seinfeld episode in which George wanted to name his kid "7"? I've got a better name for you, Costanza. "Fury." No wait, forget that. I'm naming my kid "Fury."


  1. This was a lot of fun! I love that you used the 1975 Topps cards. I've just started collecting them, and I have the Blair, Baker, and Cooper cards. I blogged about the Paul Blair enigma last year:


  2. Great Post.
    John 'Johngy' Francis W.

  3. Haha, I always used to notice middle names on cards! My favorite's middle name?? Eugene... hmmm...

  4. Kevin: Just read your post. I guess it truly is a mystery if a dedicated O's fan such as yourself doesn't know where the "L D" originates.

  5. Robin Yount's brother, Larry Yount's middle name is King.

    Perhaps the R is for Rex or Roy.

    Great post.

  6. I liked '80s Donruss cards for the same reason. Plus, they gave me ample fuel for teasing my Will Clark-loving friend.

  7. Great starting pitcher choice. ;)