Nicknames define players’ personalities


George “The Babe” Ruth Jr. has one of the most famous nicknames in all of professional sports.

Steven Elsner '20

The history of the nickname began with the Middle English word eke, meaning “also” or “in addition,” which was joined with name to form ekename—literally, “also-name,” used for a secondary or unofficial name.

Over time, it became a nickname. Many people have nicknames, and professional athletes are no exception, with some of the most famous pros sporting nicknames.

Let’s start with the country’s oldest organized sport, baseball. Coming in at number one is: Babe, The Bambino, The Sultan of Swat. George Herman Ruth Jr. was an orphan who caught the attention of Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles. His teammates jokingly named him “Dunn’s new babe,” and it stuck through his whole career. He got the nickname the Sultan of Swat from another Hall of Fame baseball player, Ty Cobb.

Next, Charlie Hustle. Pete Rose got his nickname from Hall of Famer Whitey Ford when Rose, instead of jogging to first base after a walk, sprinted up the baseline. Third, Shoeless Joe. Joe Jackson got his nickname from a mill game, which is a game that was held by mill owners for their workers to play. The game that he got his nickname was played in Greenville, South Carolina. Jackson had blisters on his foot from a new pair of cleats, which hurt so much that he took his shoes off before he was at bat. Fourth is The Splendid Splinter, Teddy Ballgame, The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived. Ted Williams got his nicknames from his thin frame, agility, and batting ease, which led to his nickname the Splendid Splinter. Joe DiMaggio said that he was the greatest hitter he ever saw, thus

his other adopted nicknames. Rounding out the top five is Hammerin Hank Aaron, who got his nickname from his ability to always be a threat to hit a ball out

of the park on a regular basis. Honorable Mentions include: The Wizard of Oz (Ozzie Smith), Mr. October (Reggie Jackson), Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, The Ryan Express (Nolan Ryan), The Freak (Tim Lincecum), and The Rocket (Roger Clemens).

On to basketball, where the top monikerisMagic.EarvinJohnson got his nickname from a reporter who showed up to his high school basketball game where he piled up 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists.  A close second is Air, His Airness,

and Captain Marvel. Michael Jordan earned his nickname from his high flying style of dunks. Next is Dr. J, Julius Erving, who got his nickname from his high school basketball teammate who called him “doctor,” and he nicknamed his teammate the professor.

The Round Mound of Rebound, Chuck, Sir Charles fills the fourth spot. Charles Barkley got his nickname from his ability to rebound the ball at his size, which is short for the position he played. Finally, The Dream. Hakeem Olajuwon got his name from his college basketball coach because he said that his dunk looked like a dream because it was so effortless.

The Honorable Mentions include: The Answer (Allen Iverson), Larry Legend (Larry Bird), The Iceman (George Gervin), The Human Highlight Reel (Dominique Wilkins), Black Mamba (Kobe Bryant), and The King (LeBron James).

On the gridiron, the number one spot goes to Sweetness. Walter Payton got his nickname from Jacksonville State fans who originally called him Sugarman, but eventually it was altered into sweetness.

The opposite of sweet, next is Mean Joe Greene, whose name did not fit his attitude, but his college because they were the Mean Green. Greene was big in stature, so they called him Mean. In third place, The Refrigerator.

William Perry garnered this nickname from Ray Brown, who said, “Man, you’re about as big as a refrigerator” when he could not get in the elevator with Perry.

From big, we go to tall—Too Tall. Ed Jones got his nickname from his teammate because the first day of practice, he did not fit in his pants, and he said Jones was too tall to play football.

Finally, Jack Tatum, The Assassin, got his nickname from his hard hit and presence on the football field. In his first NFL game, he knocked out two players.

Honorable Mentions are awarded to Broadway Joe (Joe Namath), Prime Time (Deion Sanders), The Snake (Ken Stabler), Joe Cool (Joe Montana), The Nigerian Nightmare (Christian Okoye), and Night Train (Richard Lane).

On to the ice where The Great One, Wayne Gretzky — considered the best hockey player ever — tops the list.

Super Mario and Le Magnifique (The Magnificent), Mario Lemieux, was named such for his skill on the ice. Finally, Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, is called by this gentlemanly name because he was a 23-time All-Star and held most of the scoring records.

Hockey Honorable Mentions include: The Russian Rocket (Pavel Bure), and The Golden Jet (Bobby Hull).