06/16/08 11:00 PM ET
Nicknames are part of the game
Pads clubhouse filled with players with alternative monikers
By Ronald P. Clark / MLB.com
For generations, nicknames have been a part of everyday lives. Some nicknames get to a point where the person's government name seems irrelevant. The nickname sticks. It just fits.
In sports, nicknames are also a vital nuance. It could be a renowned nickname, that any casual fan would know a player by or a name that stays within the confines of the locker room. Either way, being known as something other than the name on one's birth certificate is quite common.
Ivan "Pudge" Rodrigez, David "Big Papi" Ortiz, Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff, Dwight "Doc" Gooden and Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas. All of them were given nicknames and all of them stuck.
Within the San Diego Padres organization, it is no different.
Even if many of the names that circulate throughout the clubhouse were not coined by players on the Padres, nicknames that stick follow players no matter where they go.
Padres pitcher Greg Maddux is known as "The Professor" or "Mad Dog" or "Doggie." Relief pitcher Cla Meredith is known as "Claw." Reserve first baseman Tony Clark has been known as "Stretch" since his days in high school.
In college, Bryan Corey was known as "Tackleberry," after the "Police Academy" movie franchise character. With the Red Sox earlier this season, he was called "Fire Marshall Bill" after one of Jim Carrey's characters on "In Living Color."
Whether simple, complex, random or just for kicks, nicknames can be both positive or negative.
Take Padres reliever Heath Bell, for instance. Since college, he has been known as "Taco." His old college buddies and old friends still call him that. His last name is Bell, his nickname is Taco, it is simple execution. But according to Bell, the fans in San Francisco call him "Taco Bell" in what they would consider a derogatory manner, unknowingly calling him by a name that he has been called for years.
Being a pitcher, Bell took a liking to being referred to as "Heater." He says he throws hard and his name is Heath. A nickname is born.
While playing Triple-A ball, Bell was referred to as "Sticky Buns." He even has a hat that reads, "Sticky Buns Yum Yum Good."
But not all nicknames stick or are liked by the recipient.
Bell played with a guy known as "Snacks." The same guy tried to pawn off the nickname on Bell, who will admit he isn't the smallest guy in the room. The attempt failed.
Other players on the Padres have never had a nickname. Carlos Guevara, Scott Hairston and Josh Banks all could not come up with a nickname they were called at a point in their careers.
But Hairston and Banks did fall into another category of nicknames -- name abbreviations or variations.
Scott "Scotty" Hairston or Josh "Banksie" Banks are just examples of turning someone's name into another form. Kevin Kouzmanoff is serenaded with the chant of "Kouuuuuz" with each at-bat or great play at third base.
And the Padres' players are not alone.
In Houston, the Astros' Lance Berkman was being called "Fat Elvis." He wasn't a fan of the name so he coined "Big Puma." He says that pumas are swift and agile. Now, a group of fans wear cat suits in the stands during games. Berkman's teammate, Carlos Lee, is known as "El Caballero" or "the cowboy." A group of fans wear sombreros to the game in his honor.
In Chicago, the Cubs' Ryan Theriot is known as the "Riot." And Cubs broadcaster Chip Caray referred to former Cub Mickey Morandini as "Dandy Little Glove Man."
Justin Hampson hasn't been on the Padres long, but word is slowly spreading that he is to be referred to as "Hammer." He doesn't know how it got started, but he knows that once it starts, he won't be able to stop it. Like any good nickname, the name sticks. It just fits.
Ronald P. Clark is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.