Monday, February 27, 2017
Man of the city
Have you ever come across a terrific factoid for the first time and wondered why no one else has discovered it already and then realize you've misread or misinterpreted something and that's why no one has discovered it? Because it doesn't exist, dumb-ass?
Oh, if I had baseball card for how many times that's happened.
The most recent example came a week or so ago as I was filing away some unwanted 2016 Topps into a box to hopefully never pull out again (except if someone wants them, please, please take them). I came across Caleb Cotham here.
I had no idea who Caleb Cotham is. I stopped watching the YES Network about three years ago in an effort to know much less about the Yankees. Since first coming across the card I've realized there isn't a lot to know, he was traded to the Reds after just 12 games in the Aroldis Chapman deal and then struggled with Cincinnati for 20-plus games in 2016 before becoming a free agent.
In my ignorance, I misread the name on the card as "Caleb GOTHAM," and I thought instantly what a fantastic name that was for some who was pitching in New York. How in the world had the tabloids not seized on his name and used all kinds of "Gotham" headlines? The Batman references could potentially last forever. How had I missed this?
I missed it because his name isn't "Gotham".
This was very disappointing. A missed opportunity by everyone involved. If Charlie Finley or Ted Turner owned the Yankees, Caleb's name would be "Gotham" before he put on a uniform for the first time.
But missed opportunity leads to other opportunities.
I started to wonder if any players featured in their names the nicknames of the city for which they played.
I conducted some very basic research on nicknames for cities that house major league baseball teams. It proved to be a futile exercise. Many city nicknames are not easily tied to people names, "The Motor City," "The Mile-High City," "Charm City," stuff like that.
Fortunately, many large U.S. cities have multiple nicknames, so I came up with three instances in which players shared a name with the nickname of the city for which they played.
Elmer Steele pitched for Pittsburgh, "The Steel City," in 1910-1911. Also, Bob Steele pitched for Pittsburgh in 1916-1917.
This is the only card I found for the Steeles. Elmer Steele is featured in the massive Target Dodgers team set here.
Lou Brock played almost his entire Hall of Fame career for St. Louis. One of St. Louis' common nicknames is "The Lou". So, this Lou played for The Lou for over 15 years.
That means, of course, that any baseball-playing Lou who played for St. Louis also represented the city as Brock did. I didn't have any time to look up every Lou who may have played for the Cardinals. I just know I can eliminate Lou Piniella and Lou Whitaker.
My favorite example of this player name-city nickname phenomenon, is likely very well-known, especially by fans of 1950s baseball.
On December 11, 1957, history was made when the Phillies purchased the contract of first baseman/outfielder Dave Philley. For almost three wonderful years, Philley played for "Philly"!
He was a noted pinch-hitter during the time he played for Philadelphia and my guess is headline writers went wild. Using names in headlines is considered passe these days, but in the '50s anything went.
Philley's name also worked for the team's nickname, the Phillies. There are a few more examples of players sharing a name with the nickname of the team (with a few licenses for spelling), such as the Cardinals' Jose Cardenal and the Angels' Angel Berroa.
But I didn't find any other player name-city nickname examples, striking out on some that I thought would be obvious finds, such as "Oak-town."
If you know of other examples, shout 'em out. Caleb Cotham may have missed out on a golden opportunity but that doesn't mean others didn't.