By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Baseball is known as a game of inches.
But it’s also a game of nicknames.
Or, at least, it used to be.
Yes, thanks to old-timers such as Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Paul “Big Poison” Waner and Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner, no sport in America enjoys a richer history of colorful monikers than our national pastime.
Through the mid-20th century, that creative tradition carried on swimmingly with a consistent stream of players such as the “Say Hey Kid” (Willie Mays), the “Splendid Splinter” (Ted Williams) and the “Yankee Clipper” (Joe DiMaggio).
As baseball rolled into more recent decades, its nicknames still remained strong with the likes of “Charlie Hustle” (Pete Rose), “Mr. October” (Reggie Jackson) and “The Big Unit” (Randy Johnson).
But, today, fans know all to well that our nation’s collective imagination has seemingly shrunk when it comes to handing out hardball handles.
Sure, you’ll still find a “Kung Fu Panda” (Pablo Sandoval) here and a “Big Papi” (David Ortiz) there, but these days most baseball nicknames frustratingly consist of merely taking a player’s first initial, grabbing a hyphen and then slapping both in front of the first three letters of the guy’s last name.
As a result, we’ve now been forced to believe that “A-Rod,” “K-Rod and “D-Lee” is what passes for clever in the 21st century.
But, thankfully, this season a potential hero has emerged to return us to the nickname glory of yesteryear – or, well, just churn out a bunch of nicknames.
Yes, standing proudly atop the rubble of this lost baseball season on the North Side of Chicago is Mike Quade. Sure, the Cubs’ rookie manager might need a calculator just to figure out how many games his team will still be under .500 if they win 10 of the next 12. But when it comes to meting out monikers, Quade is without peer.
And, unfortunately, much creativity.
In case you haven’t been paying much attention to the Cubs this season – and, really, who could blame you? – Quade has a curious way of calling almost every guy on his team by a name that they weren’t born with.
According to the website drodd.com, which has been tracking the Cubs manager all year long, Quade has used nicknames for at least 23 players and one coach this season.
Makes you wonder what Quade would call himself.
In any case, here’s Quade’s roster of nicknames for 2011:
• “Dougy” for Doug Davis
• “Marm” for Carlos Marmol
• “Sori” for Alfonso Soriano
• “Wellsey” for Randy Wells
• “Cassy” for Starlin Castro
• “Fuke” for Kosuke Fukudome (remember that one, Cleveland)
• “Woody” for Kerry Wood
• “Marsh” for Sean Marshall
• “Bake” for Jeff Baker
• “Colve” for Tyler Colvin
• “Hilly” for Koyie Hill
• “Russ” for Jeff Russell
• “Cash” for Andrew Cashner
• “Z” for Carlos Zambrano
• “Demp” for Ryan Dempster
• “Rammy” for Aramis Ramirez
• “Sote” for Geovany Soto
• “Zamarge” for Jeff Samardzija
• “Monty” for Lou Montanez
• “Barn” for Darwin Barney
• “Garz” for Matt Garza
• “Carp” for Chris Carpenter
• “Zeus” for third base coach Ivan DeJesus
Out of that batch, I’d say “Zeus” is the best, “Cassy” by far the worst and “Zamarge” the biggest stretch. But in a year devoid of memorable moments – and, you know, winning streaks – Quade’s affinity for nicknames might be the most interesting thing to come out of Wrigley Field this entire season.
And the only reason to look forward to September call-ups.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.