Colorful baseball player nicknames are part of the game's history. Babe Ruth is "The Sultan of Swat," Lou Gehrig "The Iron Horse," Ted Williams "The Splendin Splinter," Stan Musial "Stan the Man," Walter Johnson "The Big Train," Mickey Mantle "The Commerce Comet," Joe DiMaggio "The Yankee Clipper," Willie Mays "The Say Hey Kid," Ty Cobb "The Georgia Peach" and Hank Aaron "Hammerin' Hank,"
Baseball player nicknames are a big part of major league history. Here are ten colorful baseball player monikers that are sure to delight fans. And yes, they’re all Hall of Famers…
George Herman “Babe” Ruth (1895-1948)/“The Bambino,” “The Sultan of Swat”
Perhaps the most famous player in baseball history, George Herman “Babe” Ruth epitomized the game during the Roaring Twenties. A feared slugger for the New York Yankees, Ruth’s career totals are nothing short of spectacular: a .342 batting average, 714 career home runs and 2,213 RBIs. Ruth was primarily known as “The Bambino,” "The Colossus of Clout" and “The Sultan of Swat,” the latter of which conjured up images of his many mammoth, tape measure home run shots.
Autographed photo: Babe Ruth "The Sultan of Swat"
Lou Gehrig (1903-1941)/“The Iron Horse,” “Larrupin’ Lou”
Lou Gehrig made his major league debut in 1923 for the New York Yankees as a pinch hitter. Gehrig later hit his stride with the Bronx Bombers, amassing an impressive list of career stats: a .340 batting average, 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs. Gehrig, whose career was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1939, played in a then-record of 2,130 consecutive games. Gehrig was appropriately known as “The Iron Horse. His other nicknames included “Larrupin’ Lou,” “Columbia Lou” (he had attended Columbia University), “Biscuit Pants” and “Buster.”
George Burke photo: Lou Gehrig "The Iron Horse" in the 1930s
Ted Williams (1918-2002)/“The Splendid Splinter,” “Teddy Ballgame,” “The Thumper,” The Kid”
Ted Williams was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Playing his entire career for the Boston Red Sox, Williams retired in 1960 with a .344 batting average, 2,654 hits, 521 home runs and 1,839 RBIs. His baseball career was interrupted twice by his Marine Corps service as a pilot in World War II and Korea. Ted Williams was known by a variety of nicknames throughout his career: “The Kid,” “Teddy Ballgame,” “The Thumper” and of course “The Splendid Splinter.” Williams certainly lived up to the latter, hitting .406 in 1941, a feat that has never been equaled since.
1952 Red Man tobacco card: Ted Williams "The Splendid Splinter"
Stan Musial (1920-2013)/“Stan the Man”
Stan Musial won National League Most Valuable Player honors three times during his illustrious career with the St. Louis Cardinals. His career stats include a .331 batting average, 3,630 hits, 475 home runs and 1,951 RBIs. Musial acquired his famous nickname “Stan the Man” courtesy of Brooklyn Dodger fans, who in a June 23, 1946, game at Ebbets Field in Flatbush began referring to the Cardinal superstar as “the man.”
1954 Red Heart dog food card: Stan "The Man" Musial
Walter Johnson (1887-1946)/“The Big Train”
Walter Johnson was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. He won American League Most Valuable honors twice, eventually retiring in 1927 with a 417-279 won/loss record, a career 2.17 earned run average and 3,508 strikeouts. Standing 6’1” tall and weighing 190 pounds, Johnson was known as “The Big Train,” whose blazing fastball often bewildered opposing hitters. His other nicknames included “Sir Walter,” “The White Knight,” “The Gentle Johnson” and “Barney.”
Culver Pictures Archives photo: Walter Johnson "The Big Train" in 1916
Mickey Mantle (1931-1995)/“The Mick,” “The Commerce Comet”
Wearing his famous #6 for the New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle was the golden boy of his era. A three-time American League Most Valuable Player selection, Mantle ended his career with the Bronx Bombers in 1968 with a batting average of .298, 536 home runs and 1,509 RBIs. Early in his career Mantle was billed as “The Commerce Comet,” in deference to his upbringing in Commerce, Oklahoma, but was later simply called “The Mick.”
Autographed photo: Mickey Mantle "The Commerce Comet"
Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999)/“The Yankee Clipper,” “Joltin’ Joe”
One of the most popular players ever, Joe DiMaggio played his entire career with the New York Yankees. A three-time American League MVP recipient, DiMaggio made baseball history in 1941 when he hit safely in 56 consecutive games, a record which still stands today. DiMaggio retired in 1951 with a career .325 batting average, 361 home runs and 1,537 RBIs. DiMaggio acquired his famous nickname “The Yankee Clipper” in 1939 when Yankee Stadium announcer Arch McDonald compared his speed and grace to the new Pan American Clipper, which was servicing air travelers at the time. His other nickname “Joltin’ Joe” became the subject of a popular song. In 1941, Les Brown and His Orchestra recorded “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio,” whose lyrics, sung by Betty Bonney, paid tribute to his 56-game hitting streak.
Autographed Life magazine, August 1, 1949: Joe DiMaggio "The Yankee Clipper"
Willie Mays (1931-)/“The Say Hey Kid”
A 24-time All-Star selection, Willie Mays was one of the most gifted athletes ever to take the baseball diamond. Mays spent most of his career with the New York/San Francisco Giants, ending his playing days with the New York Mets in 1973. Mays’ career stats are indeed impressive: a .302 batting average, 3,283 hits, 660 home runs and 1,903 RBIs. Mays was affectionately known as “The Say Hey Kid,” but close friends and teammates also called him “Buck” or “Cap,” the latter of which referred to his status as team captain.
1952 Red Man tobacco card: Willie Mays "The Say Hey Kid"
Ty Cobb (1886-1961)/“The Georgia Peach”
One of the greatest players in history, Ty Cobb played most of his career with the Detroit Tigers, making his major league debut in 1905. Known for his tough, aggressive style of play, Cobb retired in 1928 with a .366 batting average, 4,199 hits, 117 home runs and 1,939 RBIs. Cobb was known as “The Georgia Peach” in deference to his native Georgia.
1961 Golden Press baseball card: Ty Cobb "The Georgia Peach"
Hank Aaron (1934-)/“Hammerin’ Hank”
A 25-time All-Star selection, Hank Aaron played most of his career with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. He ended his playing days in 1976 with the Milwaukee Brewers, amassing an impressive array of career stats: a .305 batting average, 3,771 hits, 755 home runs, 2,297 RBIs and 6,856 total bases. Henry Aaron was known as “Hammerin’ Hank” or simply “The Hammer.”
1957 Topps baseball card: Hank Aaron "Hammerin' Hank"
Fifteen More Popular Baseball Hall of Famer Nicknames
- Christy Mathewson (1880-1925)/“Big Six”
- Ernie Banks (1931-)/“Mr. Cub”
- Nolan Ryan (1947-)/“The Ryan Express”
- Ozzie Smith (1954-)/“The Wizard of Oz”
- Tom Seaver (1944-)/“Tom Terrific”
- Honus Wagner (1874-1955)/“The Flying Dutchman”
- Enos Slaughter (1916-2002)/“Country”
- Willie Stargell (1940-2001)/“Pops”
- Paul Waner (1903-1965)/“Big Poison”
- Rogers Hornsby (1896-1963)/“The Rajah”
- Al Kaline (1934-)/“Mr. Tiger”
- Johnny Mize (1913-1993)/“The Big Cat”
- Cal Ripken Jr. (1960-)/“Iron Man”
- Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887-1950)/“Old Pete”
- Tony Gwynn (1960-)/“Captain Video”
1961 Fleer baseball card: Johnny Mize "The Big Cat"
- All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
- Top image: Sepia photograph: Babe Ruth "The Bambino" from the early 1930s
Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.