Monday, July 18, 2011

The Best and the Worst: Sports Names

There have been some great names in the history of organized sports.  Some names are memorable for the way they sound to the ear, names like Cassius Clay and Antero Niittymaki for example.  Names with onomatopoeic qualities are also a lot of fun.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a more appropriately-named hockey player than former Tampa Bay Lightning bruiser Radek Bonk.

At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find names that are at best unfortunate and at worst, tragic.  I could probably do an entire top ten list of athletes whose names would be more suitable for adult film stars, but for the sake of variety I'll resist the temptation.  Therefore, former major leaguers Johnny "Ugly" Dickshot, Dick Pole and Pete LaCock didn't make the final cut.

For our purposes here, we're only going to use athletes' given names.  Anyone can come up with a catchy nickname like Magic Johnson, Too Tall Jones or Boom Boom Mancini.  But it's a true mark of greatness (or embarrassment) when you've got a memorable moniker right from birth.

So grab your peanuts and Crackerjacks and enjoy your visit to the Sports Name Hall of Fame/Shame.


1. Mickey Mantle (MLB) 

"Now batting, for the Yankees . . . centah fieldah . . . numbah seven . . . MICKEY MANTLE . . . numbah seven."

When Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard introduced Mantle to the crowd, it was like the voice of God.  Simply put, there is no better name in sports than the alliterative and All-American sounding Mickey Mantle.  It's the perfect name for an athlete, or possibly a superhero.

"Mild-mannered bank teller Mickey Mantle spends the daylight hours blending in among the citizens of New York City, but when darkness falls and the criminal element creeps out from dank cellars and secret hideaways, Mantle downs a couple shots of Jim Beam and a six-pack of Budweiser and becomes . . . CAPTAIN CHARISMA!"

One of the greatest Yankees of all time, he also has the greatest name.  Eat your heart out, Joe Dimaggio.  

2. Usain Bolt (Track and Field)

The fastest sprinter in the world has a name like "Bolt?"  The headlines practically write themselves.


I wonder if the name is what inspired him to become a track star.  If he were named Usain Vault, would he have risen to fame as an Olympic gymnast?  Would an up-and-coming Usain Splash have unseated Michael Phelps as the greatest swimmer on the planet?  Don't look now, Shaun White, but you're about to hand over your snowboarding crown to the great Usain McHalfpipe.

The name makes the man, or so they say.

3. Lindy Ruff (NHL)

In hockey, there is a situation known as "coincidental minor penalties."  This is when two players from opposing teams are simultaneously slapped with two-minute sentences in the penalty box for minor infractions such as hooking, slashing, or failing to end a sentence with the word "eh?"

I know.  Canadians.

Anyway, I think a better definition of a coincidental minor penalty would be if former NHL defenseman Bill Houlder were penalized for holding.  Or if Cory Cross were sent off for cross-checking.  And of course, in keeping with the topic at hand, if ex-Buffalo Sabre Lindy Ruff were banished to the sin bin for roughing.

What a great name, though, right?  Ruff.  And he'd better be.  Imagine the trash talk if he lost a fight.

"Get up, Lindy, and see if you can find the rest of your teeth.  From now on, we're gonna call you 'Lindy Timid.'" 
4. Van Lingle Mungo (MLB)

I love the way this one rolls off the tongue.  Van Lingle Munnnnn-go.  Apparently so does jazz singer/pianist Dave Frishberg, because he wrote a song about it.  In fact, when you Google "Van Lingle Mungo" you get more hits for the song than you do for the actual guy, who was a pretty decent pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1930's.   

Click here to listen to Frishberg's tune, you won't be sorry.

5. Scott Speed (NASCAR)

This one is so perfect I'm tempted to not even believe it's his real name.  I can just see the young and aspiring race driver Scott Kromwicki sitting around one day thinking, "Man, I'll never make it in NASCAR with a name like Kromwicki.  I need to come up with something zippy, something flashy."  After rejecting "Scott O'Sparkplug," "Scott Turbo," and even "Slammin' Scotty Bumpdraft," he finally settled upon the simple and memorable Scott Speed.  It sounds like Speed Racer's cousin, or something.

But he didn't make it up at all . . . that's the name he was born with.  And it's absolutely perfect for the NASCAR circuit.

Too bad he's not very good.  Hasn't won in several years.
Maybe he should adopt a pseudonym like "Scott Slow."

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jonathan Quick (NHL), Shaquille O'Neal (NBA), Jeff Beukeboom (pronounced BOO-Kaboom, like an exploding ghost) (NHL)


1. Dick Trickle (NASCAR)

Easily the most ridiculous name in sports, if not the entire history of mankind.  I've never understood why guys named Richard willingly go by the name "Dick."  Even when you have a normal last name, like York or Van Patten, it can't do much for the ego when you're hearing, "Hey, how are you today, DICK?"  But when your last name is also a word . . . it can lead to absolute disaster.

Seriously, Dick Trickle?  It sounds like a diagnosis you'd get from a urologist.

"We just got the results back from the lab, and while your prostate looks fine, it seems like you've got an advanced case of dick trickle.  Here's a prescription for Flomax, and we'll schedule a follow-up exam for next month."

Seems like Ricky Trickle would've been a wiser choice.

2. Grant Balfour (MLB)

Let's examine this one, shall we?  If your name is the command "GRANT BALL FOUR," what would be the absolute worst job for you to have?


Grant Balfour is a major league pitcher for the Oakland A's.  Amazingly, he's not the first hurler to overcome a name that implies ineptitude.  Back in the 1980's, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a pitcher by the name of Bob Walk.

Announcers must love it.  "The three-one pitch . . . slider, low and outside, Grant Balfour just did."

I can hardly think of anything worse.  An NFL kicker named Steve Widewright?  A running back named Tyrell Fumbleman?

Grant Balfour.  I guess it's better than Dick Trickle.

3. Fair Hooker (NFL)

Listen up, parents.  When your last name is a synonym for prostitute, you have to be very, very careful about naming your child.  "Michael Hooker" isn't going to attract unwanted attention.  "Rich Hooker" and "Randy Hooker" most definitely will.

Which brings us to former Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Fair Hooker.  Let me start by saying, what the hell?  "Fair" isn't even a name.  It's like Mr. and Mrs. Hooker did this on purpose.  You can even look at it two different ways:

While many Vegas prostitutes do an outstanding job of customer "service," Champagne Fixxx is only a below average-to-fair hooker.

Cinnamon Bunns told me I could get a full hour for two hundred bucks, but then she left after forty-five minutes.  She is not a very fair hooker.

Monday Night Football's Don Meredith said it best.  "Fair Hooker?  I've never met one." 

One very tall Fucka.
4. Gregor Fucka (European Basketball)

Okay, okay, to be completely fair about it, there's supposed to be some little symbol over the c, the name's Slovakian, and it's pronounced "FOOTCH-ka."

But still.

One can only imagine the hell his MOTHER went through.  "Are you Mother Fucka?"

And imagine what happened when she had to pick up the kids at the babysitter.  "Ivan and Helga are here to get their little Fuckas.  And not a moment too soon, those Fuckas were absolutely horrible today.  I can't want for them to get the Fuckas out of here."

Sure, as a European basketball player, he's a virtual unknown here in the States, but one can only hope he'll someday find his way to the NBA.  I'd love to see him play for the Knicks.  You know the Madison Square Garden crowd would hang a huge banner:


5. Craphonso Thorpe (NFL)

It started innocently enough.  Craphonso's father is named Craig Alphonso Thorpe, who thought it would be clever to smash his first and middle names together to create "Craphonso" (pronounciation: Cra-FONZ-o).  Pretty clever, actually, and if his name were Robert Edward Thorpe, having a son named Robard would be unusual, but not embarrassing.  But I don't completely blame Mr. and Mrs. Thorpe for this one.  Someone at the hospital needed to step up to avert this disaster.  I'm picturing the scene, when they're giving the information to the nurse in charge of the birth certificate.

NURSE: Okay, Mr. Thorpe, have you and your wife chosen a name?
CRAIG: Yes we have, we're going to call him Craphonso.
NURSE: Can you spell that for me?
CRAIG: Sure.  C-R-A-P . . ."
NURSE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, are you sure about this?
CRAIG: What?
NURSE: That spells "crap."  You really want to do that to the kid?
CRAIG: It uses both my names.  Craig and Alphonso.  Cra-FONZ-o.  Get it?
NURSE: Yes.  I get it.  It starts with crap, and he's going to hate you.
CRAIG: Just write it down, that's what we're going with.

Good thing dad's name wasn't Balthazar Isaac Thorpe.  Otherwise, Peyton Manning would be completing touchdown passes to a guy named Balsaac.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS: Dick Butkus (NFL), Miroslav Satan (NHL, and sadly, NOT for the New Jersey Devils), Ron Tugnutt (NHL)


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KaLynn ("MiMi") said...

thanks so much for the lesson in sports names! Truly enlightening! And good for a chuckle or two!

Eva Gallant said...

Dick Trickle must have had a tough time picking up women!

Bill Yates said...

Oh man, this cracked me up!

Jonah Gibson said...

Good one. Still chuckling over '...Don Meredith said it best.'

Fred Miller said...

For years, I thought Butkus was spelled "b-u-t-t-k-i-s-s". Still can't say it without giggling.

Suldog said...

As soon as I saw "bad names", I thought "Fair Hooker". Of course, there could be a whole category of French-Canadian hockey players with poofy-girly names, such as Patrice Bergeron.

00dozo said...

Ha! This was great. I used to watch hockey quite a bit and always wanted to organize a fantasy team with funny names like, Ruutu, Snuggerud, Puppa, etc.

"Tugnutt" (also on my list) would have been a more appropriate name for a baseball player, though.


Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Dozo, NHL seems to have the best names. I'd love to see Jordin Tootoo and Jonathan Cheechoo on the same line. Maybe throw in Bonk on left wing and call it the Trainwreck Line.

Cheechoo! Tootoo! Tootoo! Cheechoo!


It's also a shame that Pavel Rosa, Jani Rita and Kris Beech never teamed up on the RosaRita Beech Line.

Just saying.

notactuallygod said...

DICK BUTKUS, pronounced BUT-KISS, is my nominee for worst.

Junior Seau, prounounced SAY-OW, great name for a hard hitting linebacker.

There's also Andre Winner, an MMA fighter whose record is 11-6. So Winner was the loser six times. Ah, what's in a name?

If I Were God...

lime said...

i wonder if magic johnson is the cure prescribed for a bad case of dick trickle.

Judge Fudge said...

My personal favorite is still the late Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Johnny Dickshot.

Quirkyloon said...

Ha! This was funny and entertaining. And I love the name Van Lingle Mungo! As you said it rolls off the tongue so smoothly.

It will be my mantra for the day, eh?

Woops, my Canadian just slipped out! HA!

(And I'm not Canadian, although I wouldn't mind being one *smile*)

Anonymous said...

As for baseball, I thought of reds pitcher Homer Bailey which is a bit of an unfortunate name.

Steve Bailey said...

Dick Trickle changed his name recently.... to Dick Steadyflow... he finally saw a doctor my sources say.

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