By the Numbers: This week, we dive into baseball ... by the letters

Greg Jayne: By the Numbers

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

In the long, long history of major-league baseball, each and every player takes a back seat to Cal McLish.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia? Sure, he holds the MLB record with 14 letters in his surname. Yes, if he weren’t 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, there wouldn’t be room on his back for his name.

Have you seen Saltalamacchia’s uniform? The Human Alphabet could send a seamstress into therapy. I’ll bet they needed an architect to draw up blueprints and figure out how to get all those letters on there.

Somewhere, a uniform maker is giving thanks that Eddie Gaedel didn’t have the last name Saltalamacchia.

Look at it this way: You could fit Ed Ott — first name and last — nearly five times into Saltalamacchia.

Fame, however, can be fleeting. Saltalamacchia’s little slice of baseball history will become a footnote if Red Sox prospect Seth Schwindenhammer and his 15-letter surname ever reach the majors.

And still, Cal McLish merely scoffs. Scoffs, I say! Well, he would scoff — if he hadn’t died two years ago, but that’s beside the point.

According to baseball-reference.com, there have been 17,442 players in major-league history, resulting in a broad spectrum of memorable names.

We’re not talking about nicknames. Anybody can have a colorful nickname. Baseball has more Reds and Babes and Leftys in its history than a three-ring circus.

Piano Legs Hickman? OK, that one’s unique. So is Cannonball Titcomb, a pitcher from the 1880s. And if your given name were Ledell Titcomb, you might go by “Cannonball,” as well.

Nicknames long have been pervasive in baseball, although it seems to be a lost art. But we aren’t talking about that.

We’re talking about honest to goodness given names. Like in the early days, when the major leagues were dominated by the sons of immigrants from Western Europe, there were people with names such as Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy. You know him as Connie Mack.

By the 1920s, Mack was managing a Hall of Fame outfielder known as Al Simmons, who was born Aloys Szymanski and whose full name by the time he reached the majors was Aloysius Harry Simmons. He probably didn’t realize it at the time, but Simmons blew a chance to be the only Aloys in the Hall of Fame. And the only Szymanski.

The Hall, of course, is still waiting for its first “Wonderful.” That dream died when 1990s minor leaguer Wonderful Terrific Monds failed to reach the majors. Not only was Wonderful Terrific Monds his real name, but some references list him as Wonderful Terrific Monds III. Alas, he wasn’t wonderful enough to get past the Double-A level.

Razor Shines was wonderful enough to reach the majors. For all of 68 games. But you have to think he never would have made it without the cutting-edge name of Anthony Razor Shines. Cutting edge — get it?

So, yes, baseball has seen a Wonder Monds and a Razor Shines. It has seen Boof Bonser and Van Lingle Mungo and Marc Rzepczynski. It has seen Carl Yastrzemski and Urban Shocker and Coco Crisp, who technically isn’t eligible for this list but would be if he went by his given name — Covelli Loyce Crisp.

Yet none of them live up to the standard set by a pitcher who went 92-92 from 1944-64 — Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.

Question or comment for By the Numbers? You can reach Greg Jayne, Sports editor of The Columbian, at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne