“You can just call me Wild Bill. Holy shit, wait, you’re actually going to do that?”
We’ve talked about early baseball, and especially baseball in the 19th century, here before. Simply put, the 1800s were a lawless time in a lot of ways, and professional baseball was definitely included in that list. Hell, back then, foul balls didn’t count as strikes, in 1879 it took 9 balls to get a walk, and people wouldn’t even play with a glove so errors were almost more common than hits.
Now, these oddball rules were the result of a new sport coming into its own, which was a trying process for both owners and players. Teams and even Leagues folded overnight, and the salary a professional baseball player could hope for was about as high as you’d expect from someone placed in this tenuous position. So while the quality of play was, by modern comparison, pretty shitty, the 19th century did have us beat in one very significant field.
The ridiculousness of their names and nicknames. Nowhere does baseball offer more accidental hilarity than with the names that players, who though underpaid were professional athletes, went by. These are names that fans chanted (or like, respectfully muttered to each other, we know that people wore fancy hats to baseball games back then so maybe it was a more refined affair at the time) and that are forever linked in the history books of the game as these people’s identities.
And there are some doozies of identities here. So no more backswallash (Is that a 19th century word or did we just write gibberish?) let’s dive into some of these names.
The Goofiest Baseball Player Names Of The 19th Century
Unfortunately, most of the names we were able to find that are truly ridiculous were not the actual names of the players involved. They were the nicknames, but they still managed to become their official names as far as scoring was concerned—sort of like how Chad Ochocinco actually appeared on stat sheets as “Ochocinco” for a portion of his career. And that’s good enough for us, because if your baseball reference page lists you as someone with a hilarious name, we are not going to look that gift horse in the mouth. So here are some names the record books have so gifted us.
Nicknames are a bitch. Now, we know that words meant different things in the 1800s than they do in 2015, and The Sopranos still had a guy with the nickname of Pussy, but we have to guess that poor Charles Alston Tebeau must have had a hard day when he first joined the Cleveland Spiders for two games during the 1895 season. “What’s your name, boy?” we imagine the manager asking him.
“Charles Alston Tebeau, sir,” he might have politely responded.
“Charles, eh? We got a Charles already on the team.”
“Well, uh, in that case, I could always go by Alston, you know it was my grandfather’s…”
“Your name is Pussy!”
“Hey everyone, come meet Pussy Tebeau, he’s new!”
Pussy Tebeau only played for two games, hitting 3-for-6 with three put-outs in the field, an assist, and no errors. It’s actually not a bad performance, and he probably would have stayed with the team if he hadn’t already signed with a different team, who filed a complaint and forced him to be dropped. He ended up quitting the sport the following year after getting hit in the head by a pitch pretty badly. We can imagine he breathed a sigh of relief that people would at least stop calling him Pussy after that point, though that’s just because he was lucky enough not to see the invention of Wikipedia.
Born Charles B. Baldwin, and blessed with a glorious mustache, Lady Baldwin’s nickname absolutely was meant to be derogatory, which isn’t that surprising considering how women were treated in the 1880s. He pitched for seven seasons, with a respectable 73-41 record and a 2.85 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Wolverines, Brooklyn Bridegrooms (!) and Buffalo Bisons from 1884 to 1890. His best campaign came in 1886, where he set a major league record for wins by a left-handed pitcher at 42 (he still stands number two on that list) and went 4-1with a 1.50 ERA in the 1887 World Series (which isn’t considered an actual World Series, but still) before eventually retiring due to arm problems at 31.
But no, the way he played had nothing to do with why he was dismissively called “Lady.” His teammates called him that just because he was quiet and didn’t swear, drink, or smoke. Sure, it was probably gentle chiding from the teammates, and we’d equally take fucking issue at least with his booze and cursing stance, but you know it wasn’t meant to be an endearing nickname. But it sure was an enduring one, since that’s the name he’s officially known by in the annals of baseball history.
What? No. Wait. What? William Arthur “Candy” “Wait Candy Why Does It Have To Be Candy Don’t You See How Wrong That Sounds With My Last Name That Is” Cummings is a Hall of Fame pitcher that, really, only the most die hard baseball historians know much about. He had a record of 145-94 with an ERA of 2.49 and 259 strikeouts (with 233 complete games) over six years playing for various National Association and National League teams from 1872-1877. His biggest contribution to the sport was that he, basically, invented the curveball (which, again, he wasn’t very good at using to get players to strike out on).
But that name. Candy. Cummings. We understand this all happened before sex was a thing that society acknowledged the existence of, but how could he go his whole career not realizing that all the people snickering when his name is announced are snickering at him?
Fun fact, he was 5 foot 9 and weighed 120 pounds during his career, which, and we’re not here to judge, if someone started a sentence “Candy Cummings, a 5 foot 9, 120 pound professional…” we’d finish that sentence by saying Porn Star almost immediately.
Ice Box Chamberlain
Okay, to be fair, this is also a really cool nickname. Ice Box is a far better name than the one he was born with, because no one respects Elton Chamberlain. Elton Chamberlain isn’t just a butler in Downton Abbey he’s the one who has to like, deal with bedpans. Now Ice Box Chamberlain, he’s a professional boxer. Oh wait, holy shit, he totally tried (and failed) to be a boxer after he retired from baseball! Okay, we can respect you for that, Ice Box.
He played for six teams between 1886 and 1896, and was a good, but not great, pitcher during that time. But he managed to get people to call him Ice Box, professionally. That’s like the time George kept trying to get people to call him T-Bone at the office, only with a cooler name (hah, puns) and getting it to work. Ice Box Chamberlain is a goddamn hero.
Hahaha, we’re children. We truly are. But come on, it’s Dickie Flowers. Now, apparently if you were named Charles back during this time it was determined you had to have a nickname, but you can very clearly figure out that Charles Richard Flowers probably went through his life wanting to be called Dickie, short for Richard. He played 21 games in 1871 for the Troy Haymakers, and three games in 1872 for the Philadelphia Athletics, and he would have been a completely wiped out blip on our nation’s collective history if not for the wonderful sport of baseball. Because he took part in the inaugural seasons of professional baseball, his name will live on, albeit in its own small way, in history.
…..*snort* as Dickie Flowers. Oh God, you guys, seriously. Whewww. Names are hilarious.