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Bethel SportsBeat: Extinction of Great Nicknames

Everybody used to have a nickname in sports. What happened?

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At one time, it seemed like every college and professional athlete had a nickname. Players weren't just identified by the name on their backs or number on the roster, but also by a colorful moniker they had been tagged with by a sportswriter or teammate. A nickname could spice up a story or add laughter to a locker room. For some reason, we've seen great nicknames become all but extinct.

The 1970's were a time of high-anxiety for our society and high-jinks in sports, where it seemed that it was mandatory to have a nickname. The Dallas Cowboys were loaded with great ones, like Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Randy "The Manster" (half-man, half-monster) White, and Roger "The Dodger" Staubauch. The Houston Oilers had Billy "White Shoes" Johnson and the Oakland Raiders had Kenny "The Snake" Stabler and Ted "The Stork" Hendricks. Man, those were the days. Baseball had Jim "Catfish" Hunter and John "Blue Moon" Odom, while the NBA gave us Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Even hockey was creative and imaginative with the likes of Montreal's Maurice "Rocket" Richard and his brother, Henri, who was known at the "Pocket Rocket."

There were some colorful nicknames given to players from the Connecticut over the years. who played in the Major Leagues for the New York Yankees and Washington Senators, was tagged with the nickname "Spec" because of all the freckles he had on his face. That may seem cruel, but anything goes in the sports world and if the name fits, you may have to wear it, whether you like it or not.

was a schoolboy legend in Stamford before he turned 16-years old. A three-time All-State running back and gifted baseball player at Rippowam High School, Valentine became known around the city as "Bobby V."

If you mentioned Frank Vieira to a sports fan in the state, they might say "Who?" but if you say "Porky" Vieira, they'll be quick to say, "Oh, yeah. He's a basketball and baseball legend who averaged 28 points as senior at Bridgeport Central and built the New Haven baseball program into a national power."

"Porky" stood only 5'6" and is on Portuguese descent, so that's how the name came together that's what he's known as throughout the state. Not Frank. Not Vieira. Just "Porky."

There have been other colorful nicknames given to great players and coaches from the state. a former star at Masuk High School (Monroe) was the "G-Man". became the "Hit Dog" at Seton Hall University and with the Boston Red Sox. Rudy Johnson, a three-sport star at Branford High School, was known as "Scag." Howard Ives, a standout hockey player at Hamden High School was known simply as, "Butch."

Former basketball star at New Canaan High School, became known as "Wilky". Legendary Danbury football coach Ed Crotty was known as "Copper" and his name is splashed across the Hatters football stadium today. Joe Sikorski, own legend, was "The Bear." Does have a nickname? Does anybody else around the state have a good one? Where did they all go?

football player who died tragically in a car accident in mid-March, was known as "The Great Brandino", a beautiful moniker given to him by his grandfather and one that truly fit Brandon.

Why are there a lack of great nicknames in the sports world today? With the Internet and all the social media platforms, one would think there would be more memorable nicknames, not less. Perhaps, it was just more meaningful to sportswriters in an era gone by to be remembered for tagging someone with a name they could associated with. People are more creative today, not less. Maybe they're just trying to come up with a nickname for themselves and don't have time to worry about anyone else.

Bobby Hull, "The Golden Jet" and "Broadway Joe" Namath. How cool is that?

Patch wants to know your list of all-time favorite nicknames.

Bob Rogers March 28, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Your articles are the best! Thank you Mr. Devlin! My favorite nicknames now are coming from the Cape Cod League collegiate announcers.... like Justin "Freak from Goose Creek" Smoak or Luke "El monstruo de cuadrangular" Scott..... and maybe throw in Kevin "Greek God of Walks" Youkilis (hoping he's healthy this season too!)

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