The Heart Is A Lonely Bunter

Recently, a good friend who knows I like song puns sent me a list of unlikely ones involving soccer players’ names and old songs, the work of her son and a pal of his. Their puns were very witty and amusing, combining an amazing knowledge of standard tunes with multinational football names – how many people know that much about either? I follow soccer a little, but mostly during the World Cup and Euro Cup, so I was only able to get some of the puns because I knew all the song titles and was able to extrapolate the footie names I didn’t know. Three of the best were “Ribery Thought of You”, using French star Frank Ribery; “Iniestadays”, after his Spanish counterpart Andres Ianesta; and “My Favourite Frings”, using my favourite soccer name, Torsten Frings, of Germany.

Loving a challenge as I do – although my poor, innocent friend certainly wasn’t throwing down the gauntlet – I thought, hmmm……I don’t know many soccer names, but I do know baseball names. So I set about altering song titles with ballplayers’ names to form a list of cringe-worthy song puns, what me might call “The Days of Wine and Rojas”. I can’t take credit for that one, I’m afraid. Let me explain……For a while back in the early ’60s, the Philadelphia Phillies had a keystone combination of Bobby Wine at shortstop and Cookie Rojas at second base and they led the league a few times in double-plays turned. A Philly press-box wag dubbed the era “The Days of Wine and Rojas” after the famous movie, which came out around then. With a few exceptions, baseball names tend to be mostly English or Spanish, which limits the possibilities compared to soccer. But, as we’ll see, there is no shortage of wacky possibilities.

This obsession may seem weird to some, but it’s not all that unMusial for me. It combines three of my favourite things – songs, baseball names and word-play. I’ve set myself some rules to keep things “reasonable”. No first names allowed, so for example “Vida, Sweet as Apple Cider” after Vida Blue – is right out, as are nicknames. And the song title has to be altered, so no “My Funny Valentine” after Ellis or Bobby Valentine, it’s too straight. Most of the players will be pretty obscure, so I’ll show their names in brackets after each “song”, sometimes with more commentary when merited.

Cue the music, tympani roll, strings! ….. “It’s De-Lovely, It’s De-lightful, It’s DiMaggio!”….Without further ado and with (I hope) no hard feelings, here it is, the “Great American Baseball Songbook”, or GABS for short: 

“Schreckengost of a Chance”  (Yes, there really was a ballplayer named Ossee Schreckengost.)

“Takin’ LaChance on Love” (The old Brooklyn first baseman Candy LaChance. With a name like that, the only reason he didn’t work in the off-season as a male stripper was that nobody had invented the job yet.)

“Shantzes Are” (The diminutive pitcher Bobby Shantz and his brother Wilber, who was too small to be a catcher but lasted three seasons as one anyway.)

“A Shamsky, In Old Shamsky Town” (This one’s for Mark Eisenman, who grew up in Queens watching the early Mets. Art Shamsky caught on with the Mets as a fourth outfielder in 1968 and was part of the 1969 Miracle championship team, a jewel in his otherwise lacklustre career. There’s something about the name Art Shamsky that conjures up all sorts of vivid, working-class-Brooklyn-Jewish-left-wing images in my overactive imagination, but the less said about that, the better.)

“Agee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?” (Speaking of the Miracle Mets, Tommy Agee.)

“Rudi, My Dear” (Leftfielder Joe Rudi, the most overrated underrated player ever.)

“Yes, We Have No Tananas” (Thankfully for hitters, there was only one Frank Tanana.)

“Zamora See You” (Oscar Zamora, a relief pitcher with the White Sox during the 1970s.)

“Blue Alou” (Take your pick of the three Alou brothers – Matty, Jesus and Felipe, who  patrolled the outfield for the San Francisco Giants in the early ’60s before being split up. Or Felipe’s son Moises, who didn’t part the Red Sea, but once tried to part the Wrigley Field crowd during a playoff game, unsuccessfully. Oddly enough, with the real tune being “Blue Lou”, there was an old-time Tiger first sacker named Lu Blue.)

“Zaun With the Wind” (Our very own Gregg Zaun, who was a good catcher and as a commentator is very windy indeed.)

“Very Buehrle” (One of my all-time favourite pitchers is Mark Buehrle, whose name sounds like burly, which describes him and rhymes with early.)

“Zisk Is All I Ask” (Richie Zisk was a slugging outfielder/first baseman, mostly with the Pirates. He played during the same time as Carlton Fisk, but unfortunately retired before relief pitcher Doug Sisk came along. In a perfect world, they would have played on the same team and we might have heard “Sisk to Fisk to Zisk”, but no.)

“Stairs’ Way to the Stars” (New Brunswick’s own Matt Stairs.)

“Anything Gose” (Anthony Gose, who decided to start hitting as soon as the Blue Jays traded him to Detroit. It’s OK though, I’ll take Devon Travis over him any day.)

“In A Liddle Spahnish Town” (A double-play – pitchers Don Liddle and Warren Spahn.)

“A Miksis, A Paskert, A Little Yellow Baskette” (A rare triple-play – utility infielder Eddie Miksis, outfielder Dode Paskert and old-time pitcher Big Jim Baskette. Sorry, Ella.)

“Zernial Be Tired of You” (Slugging outfielder Gus Zernial, pronounced “zer-nile.”  Nicknamed “Ozark Ike”, he was muscle-bound, slow-footed, accident-prone and for his own good, should probably have played first base. He was forever injuring himself tripping over drains in the outfield or bats left near home plate, falling down dugout steps or empty elevator shafts, you name it. He was often out of the lineup and struck out a lot, but when he did manage to make contact with the baseball, it went a long, long way.)

“The Foy Next Door” (Third baseman Joey Foy.)

“Bollin’ the Jack” (Brothers Milt and Frank Bolling, both infielders in the ’50s.)

“In Love, In Fain” (Ferris “Burrhead” Fain, one of the reasons Gus Zernial did not play first base. Fain was a hard-living character who often led the league in hangovers, fistfights and, two years in a row, in hitting. His bizarre and colourful life could have formed the raw material for a sprawling, tragicomic novel by a writer like Saul Bellow, who, come to think of it, didn’t need any help.)

 “I Haddix Anyone, Till You” (Harvey Haddix, a smallish pitcher for the Pirates, nicknamed “The Kitten”. On July 12, 1959, Haddix became the only pitcher ever to throw a perfect game and lose. How is this possible, you ask? Well, technically, a perfect game goes into the books as such after nine innings, even if it goes on longer. Haddix threw twelve perfect innings against the hard-hitting Milwaukee Braves, retiring thirty-six of them in a row, but the score remained knotted 0-0 because his teammates couldn’t manage to scratch out one measly, stinking run. The perfection ended in the thirteenth inning on a Pirate error, a sac bunt, and an intentional walk to – dah – Hank Aaron. The no-hitter and the ballgame ended when the next batter – the hulking Joe Adcock – hit a home run. Ever after, poor Harv wore the bemusedly philosophical, slightly shell-shocked expression of a man who knew what it was to snatch defeat, not just from the jaws of victory, but also from the teeth of uncharted near-perfection.)

“Dropo Me Off in Harlem” (Walt Dropo, a big, lantern-jawed, really slow first baseman who even had muscles in his eyelashes. I always thought he was nicknamed “Moose” because of his hugeness, but no, he was from a place called Mooseup, Conn.)

“Zarilla Wind” (Harold Arlen’s “Ill Wind” after Al Zarilla, a rightfielder and the first American League player to hit two triples in one inning. His career took place between 1943 and 1953, in an odd triangle of three teams – the Browns, the White Sox and the Red Sox, the first two of which were really bad. He was constantly being traded back and forth between them, like in 1952, when he played for all three teams, though not at the same time – he was good, but not that good. Not surprisingly, he retired soon thereafter.)

“I’ll Never Staub Loving You” (Rusty Staub, who, when he played for the Expos, was nicknamed :by the locals “Le Grand Orange” for his tangerine locks.)

“Joost Friends” (Shortstop Eddie Joost, a prototype of the speedy defensive whiz.)

“I’ll Never Be the Sain” (The wily junkballer Johnny Sain. Warren Spahn and Sain formed the potent one-two pitching punch for the Boston Braves in the late ’40s. The team didn’t have much else, so their motto was “Spahn and Sain, then pray for rain”.)

“Then Maybe Sewell Be There” (Take your pick between Rip Sewell, who invented the “Eephus” pitch, or Joe Sewell, who played about 70,000 innings at shortstop.)

“Come Waner, Come Shine” (Brothers Paul and Lloyd Waner, who manned the Pirates’ outfield for years starting in the 1920s. Brooklyn fans dubbed Paul “Big Poison” and Lloyd “Little Poison” because, not only did they often kill the Dodgers, but that’s how “person” was pronounced in the Borough of Churches.)

“Estalella by Starlight” (Cuban outfielder Bobby Estalella. This one works on paper, but it helps to pronounce the last name as Dave Frishberg did in his song “Van Lingle Mungo” – rhyming with “Ella”, whereas in Spanish it’s “Esta-lay-ah”.)

“The Smoltz Who Lived on the Hill” (pitcher John Smoltz, who was just inducted into The Hall of Fame and really did live on the hill, i.e. the pitcher’s mound.)

“Dietz You or No One” (Catcher Dick Dietz of the 1960s San Fransisco Giants.)

“Yosterdays” (Third baseman Eddie Yost, who took so many pitches he was called “The Walkin’ Man”. Or his nephew Ned Yost, who currently manages the Royals.)

“If You Wertz Mine” (Vic Wertz, another big, slow, slugging first baseman/outfielder – boy, there were a lot of them back in the ’40s and ’50s, well before steroids. This one’s for Ted O’Reilly, a Cleveland Indians fan from his youth. Ted used to act as a roadie/sound consultant on Boss Brass road trips, we called him Ted O’Roadie. We were in a bus once headed for our annual gig in Mount Clemens, Michigan and I was snoozing. Somewhere in Michigan we passed a warehouse with “Vic Wertz Liquor Distributors” written in big letters on the side. Knowing I was a baseball nut and deciding it was time for a trivia spot-quiz, Ted woke me up and asked “Steve! – who was Vic Wertz?” I yawned, and with drowsy nonchalance answered “1954 World Series, Vic Wertz played for the Indians and hit the deep flyball to centerfield in the Polo Grounds that Willie Mays made “The Catch” on, then doubled the runner off first base. Now can I go back to sleep, Ted?”)

“Mighty Chylak Arose” (“Mighty Lak’ A Rose” is an old song I know only because I like Jack Teagarden so much. The name is an from an umpire of long ago, Nestor Chylak.)

“With the Wynn and the Raines In Your Hair” (Another double-play – the crusty old pitcher Early Wynn, who won 300 games and was the colour man on the earliest Blue Jays radiocasts – and Tim Raines, who should be in Cooperstown. He’s the second-best leadoff hitter ever behind Rickey Henderson, but was far less of a jerk.)

“You’re Driving Me Frazee” (Harry Frazee – pronounced “Frayzee” – was the boob who owned the Red Sox in the teen years and systematically dismantled the team by selling good player after good player in order to finance various shows he was producing in the early days of Broadway musical theatre. Naturally he sold them all to the nearby Yankees, culminating with Babe Ruth. The rest, as they say, is history, and it did drive Boston fans crazy. Frazee was hung in effigy many times – he got off light.)

“Wait Till You Seaver” (The greatest Met of all, Tom Seaver, a.k.a. Tom Terrific.)

“Wood You Like to Take a Wacha?” (Another double-play – the old White Sox knuckle-baller Wilbur Wood and the young pitching whiz of the Cardinals, Michael Wacha, pronounced “wokka”.)

“Bonura Sweetheart” (Zeke Bonura was a first baseman for the White Sox in the latter half of the 1930s. He was a popular, zany, fun kind of player, a sort of forerunner to John Kruk. He bopped quite a few home runs, had some comic misadventures in the field and along with Luke Appling, gave southside Chicago ball fans something to cheer about when things were otherwise pretty bleak.)

“Big Seminick” (John Coltrane wrote “Big Nick” for saxophone legend Big Nick Nicholas, who I actually played with once for a week. I’ve worked in Andy Seminick, the hard-rock catcher who was such a big part of the good 1950s Phillies teams, especially “The Whiz Kids” of 1950.)

“Come Frey With Me” (Infielder Lonnie Frey of the wartime Reds, or Jim Frey, who managed the Royals.)

“Gura My Dreams” (Royals pitcher Larry Gura.)

“Happiness is Just a Thing Called Roe” (Elwin “Preacher” Roe, who pitched his arm – and his ass – off for the Brooklyn Dodgers between 1948 and 1954, after years in Pittsburgh. Ironically, after giving so much to the Dodgers, he watched the team finally win its first World Series in 1955, the year after he retired with a sore arm. “Next year” had come too late for him. A drawling, hungry-looking gentleman from Arkansas, he could have had a career in movies playing hard-bitten rural, Southern characters like Tom Joad.)

“All, Orth Nothing At All” (Al Orth, who pitched for the Phillies on either side of 1900 and was known as “The Curveless Wonder” for, I suppose, obvious reasons.)

“Yount Your Blessings” (Robin Yount, who had a rare double as both a great shortstop and centerfielder with the Milwaukee Brewers.)

“I Love Parrish” (Either third baseman Larry Parrish, or catcher Lance Parrish.)

“Mad About Laboy” (Coco Laboy, who like Rusty Staub was an original Expo. In July of 1969, my parents sent me and my brother Randy to Montreal by train to visit our cousin Trent. My uncle Gord took us to a Sunday doubleheader between the brand-new Expos and the Mets at Jarry Park, my first ever major-league game. Unbelievably, Laboy, Staub and the rest of the fledgling Expos swept the twin-bill, the Mets looking nothing like the team that would go on to amaze the world by winning the Series that year. Speaking of amazing the world, that night we all watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon. All in all, a pretty memorable day.)

“Overall Of Me” (Pitcher Orval Overall. Now, I ask you…. if your last name was Overall and you decided to name your son Orville for some misguided reason, wouldn’t you at least spell it right?)

“Hats Off to Lary” (Tigers pitcher Frank Lary, who was known as “The Yankee Killer” because he beat them like a drum. I’ve tried to pick mostly good old jazz standards here, but this one is for Sybil Walker. We’ve been friends for years and one night we spontaneously discovered to our mutual delight that we’re both unaccountably fond of the silly Del Shannon Top 40 hit from 1961.)

“Mauer Things in Glocca Morra?” (Joe Mauer, the only catcher in baseball history to win three batting titles.

“Maris No Greater Love” (Roger Maris, the last man to legitimately hit over 60 home runs in a season. With the asterisk, subsequent steroid cheaters and everything else he was saddled with, Maris remains one of the most maligned players in the history of baseball. Roger’s hair began falling out in alarming clumps owing to the daily pressure of chasing Ruth’s single-season homer record in 1961, while being routinely insulted and harassed by fans and writers who wanted Mickey Mantle to break the record instead. It’s too bad Rogaine hadn’t been invented yet, it would have been a natural endorsement deal for him.)

“Berra’s Mall Hotel” (Yogi Yogi Yogi Yogi Yogi Yogi Yogi Yogi.)

“Javier Met Miss Jones?” (1960s Cardinal second baseman Julian Javier, whose name is pronounced “have-yay”.)

“For You, For Me, For Overmire” (Pitcher Stubby Overmire, who had a mud fetish.)

“Cow-Cow Bleuge” (Ossie Bleuge, the defensively innovate Senators third baseman of the 1920s and ’30s. Because I only ever read his name in books, for years I assumed it was pronounced with a soft “g”, like “luge”. Then I found out it rhymed with “boogie”, like Ossie Bloogie. This filled me with a childlike and inexplicable joy, it was actually one of the most purely happy moments of my life, like when I first heard Pete Johnson’s recording of “Dive Bomber”. It’s sad, really.)

“I Kemp Get Started” (Steve Kemp, a good power-hitting outfielder with the Tigers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, whose career was derailed by injuries.)

“Reese Foolish Things” (Pee Wee Pee Wee Pee Wee Pee Wee.)

“Look For the Silva Lining” (Pitcher Carlos Silva, recently of the Minnesota Twins.)

“Danks For the Memories” (Pitcher John Danks of the White Sox. This could have worked with Ernie Banks or Larvell Blanks, but Danks sounds better.)

“Blame It on My Ruth” (Needs no explanation.)

“Some of These Mays” (Ditto.)

“I Must Have That Mantle” (As in Mickey’s 1952 Topps baseball card, which I’m told was virtually impossible to find. And if you were lucky enough to get hold of one, your mother would naturally have thrown it out, along with the rest of your cards and your Classics Illustrated comic books one day when you weren’t looking.)

“I Had the Craziest Bream” (First baseman Sid Bream, who is best remembered for scoring the series-winning run for the Braves in the 1991 NLCS against the Pirates. It came in the tenth inning on a very close, controversial play at the plate. Sid made a hard slide amid a puff of dust, the umpire called him safe and Bream then seemed to vanish into thin air. From that point on, I have no idea what’s become of him.)

“Sims Like Old Times” (Journeyman catcher Duke Sims.)

“My Kiner Love” (Ralph Kiner, who was a monstrously strong, home run-bashing rightfielder and the lone bright spot on the pathetic Pirate teams of the Cold War era. Later he became a language-mangling announcer on Met radio broadcasts – not quite in Yogi Berra’s league, but close. One of his best was “And now, a word from our sponsor, Manufacturer’s Hangover Insurance”.)

“Labine and Dandy” (The old worthy of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ bullpen, Clem Labine.)

“How About Carew?” (For Rod Carew, one of the best pure hitters I ever saw in person. I remember seeing him play with the Angels in a game against the Blue Jays at the old Exhibition Stadium. I had a good seat right behind home plate and in his first at-bat, Carew smoked a double right down the first base line about six inches fair. I can still see the puff of chalk as the ball zoomed over first base. The next time up, he drilled a double the opposite way, against the same pitcher – a laser beam down the third base line, again raising chalk. I couldn’t believe it – talk about hitting the ball where it’s pitched. How about Carew, indeed.)

“Speak Loes” (Billy Loes was a sleepy-eyed, deadpan young pitcher with the great Brooklyn Dodger teams of the early ’50s. He had a generally lackadaisical attitude and a penchant for off-the-cuff, wise-guy remarks, like just before the 1952 World Series. The Bums were once again facing the Yankees as underdogs and a group of reporters, knowing Loes was always good for a colourful quote or two, asked him his prediction for the Fall Classic. He said he thought the Yanks would take it in six – no book of baseball press cliches for our boy Billy. Loes pitched one of the games in that Series and made a costly error when he let a slow routine grounder roll right between his legs. Back in the dugout Dodger manager Chuck Dressen, no shrinking violet, asked Loes what the hell had happened and Billy answered nonchalantly, “Gee skip, I lost it in the sun.” I’ve never been able to figure out if Loes had an overactive sense of irony or was just plain dumb, but I’m leaning in the direction of the latter.)

Alexander’s Ragtime Bando” (Who else but third baseman Sal Bando, who only ever looked right in an Oakland A’s uniform.)

“I Should Carey” (Max Carey, a speedy, line-drive hitting centerfielder for the good Pirate teams of 1910-25.)

“Grimes In the Mood for Love” (Burleigh Grimes, nicknamed “Ol’ Stubblebeard” for his grizzly appearance and deceptively grouchy mien – he was actually a real sweetheart. He was also one of about a dozen pitchers who were allowed to continue throwing the spitball after it was banned in 1921 – a sensible grandfather clause.)

“If Severeid Would Leave You” (Catcher Hank Severeid. Or “If Evers I Would Leave You”, after Johnny Evers. Or, for that matter, Hoot Evers.) 

“Warm Valo” (Pinch-hitter deluxe Elmer Valo. I swear, if he was still alive, Valo could roll out of bed and drill a double to the leftfield corner.)

“Yvars Doin’ Alright” (Catcher Sal Yvars, pronounced “eye-vars”. Yvars played for the New York Giants, including the 1951 team that had such a dramatic, heated pennant-race with their hated rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants trailed Brooklyn by as much as thirteen-and-a-half games in mid-August, but then got red-hot as the Dodgers faded, and the two teams finished in a tie for first place on the last day of the season. The Giants took the pennant when they won the final game of the three-game playoff on Bobby Thomson’s famous walk-off homer in the Polo Grounds – the “Shot Heard Round the World”, still the most sensational home run ever hit. As a third-string catcher, Yvars didn’t play much… but he had other skills, namely sign-stealing. Not with the naked eye, mind you, but with the aid of a marine telescope installed in a window of the Giants’ clubhouse, uniquely situated in the center field pavilion of the Polo Grounds, 550 feet from home plate. Using the telescope from this perch, Sal was able to steal the opposing catcher’s pitch-signs and relay them using an electronic wire hooked up to the dugout, where they were then passed on to the Giant hitters using hand signals. There was much more to it, but suffice it to say this really happened and it played a crucial role in the outcome of the pennant race that year. Joshua Praeger’s fabulous book “The Echoing Green” explores all this and much more in stunning detail. It’s sort of baseball’s answer to The Warren Commission Report, but a much more believable and entertaining read.)

“DeBerry Thought of You” (Hank DeBerry was a catcher who came up from the minors to Brooklyn in 1922 with the great power-pitcher Dazzy Vance. DeBerry became Vance’s personal receiver, which, given all the shenanigans The Dazzler liked to regularly indulge in, was pretty much a full-time job.)

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SEVENTH INNING STRETCH – “Take me out, Teddy Ballgame, take me out with Ed Stroud. Give me Jim Leyritz and Connie Mack, I’d just love to see dear old Joe Black. Make it Brut, Brut, Brut for the home team, if they don’t drink it’s a shame. For it’s Dunn, Choo, Gee striking out, as the old…..ball…. flames….”. 

                                                              ***

“Lollar Things You Are” (Sherm Lollar was the White Sox catcher for approximately eight decades. When he got old they just propped him up behind home plate with some bricks and pillows and if the pitcher threw one right in there, ol’ Sherm might catch it. At that point he wasn’t much on blocking the plate, going after passed balls or throwing out base-stealers, in fact the umpire usually had to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Imagine my surprise when I tuned in a White Sox game the other day and Lollar wasn’t catching for them. I couldn’t believe it, I thought “Don’t tell me he’s retired already!?” You just can’t count on anybody anymore, nothing lasts.)

“It’s Too Darn Hopp” (Outfielder Johnny “Hippity” Hopp.)

“Mize Ship” (Johnny Mize, the venerable, Georgia-born first baseman, a lethally dangerous slugger with the Cardinals, Giants and Yankees. His official nickname was “The Big Cat”, but unofficially he was also called things like “Tomato-Face” and “Old Picklepuss”, as he had a ruddy complexion and usually wore a serious, almost sour expression. This was because he was usually focused on whacking the living bejeezus out of the baseball, which he generally did – man, could he ever hit.)

“Stanage Music” (The obscure old tune “Strange Music”, after the obscure old Tigers catcher Oscar Stanage.)

“Kling, Went the Strings of My Heart” (The old-time Cubs catcher Johnny Kling. Could also be “Klinger Awhile”.)

“Assail Groat In the Moonlight” (With apologies to Billie Holiday and Lester Young, this is after shortstop Dick Groat, who won an MVP Award with the Pirates in 1960.)

“I’m an Errand Boyer for Rhythm” (Believe it or not, “I’m an Errand Boy for Rhythm” was actually the name of a novelty song recorded by Nat King Cole, among others. No racism in that title – no siree, boss. I’ve used the Boyer brothers – Ken and Clete, who played third base – and Cloyd, who pitched. Their last name was pronounced ‘boy-yer”, not like the French actor Charles Boyer. Ken was by far the best of them, and I’ve always suspected that after he became a star he changed his name from Clem to Ken.)

“Skizas Real Gone Guy” (“He’s A Real Gone Guy” after Lou “The Nervous Greek” Skizas, who was a backup outfielder with the horrible 1956-57 Kansas City A’s and the 1958 Detroit Tigers, who weren’t much better. I don’t really know what Lou was nervous about – maybe that he was so marginal he could have been replaced by a mannequin.)

“Minnie Minoso, the Moocher(The great Minnie Minoso. I seem to have broken one of my rules here by using Minoso’s first name, but Minnie is actually the name of “the moocher” in Cab Calloway’s famous song. Besides, Minnie was not Minoso’s real first name at all, it was what everyone called him because nobody could handle all his real names – Saturnino Orestes Arrietas Armas – a guy could get hurt saying all that. Minoso died just recently, still not elected to The Hall of Fame, which is a crime against humanity.)

“I’ll Strang Along With You” (Sammy Strang, a super-sub with the New York Giants of John McGraw’s time.)

“Jacucki!” (Okay, it’s getting silly now, but what did you expect? I just had to work in the old St. Louis Browns pitcher Sigmund “Jack” Jacucki, one of my favourite baseball names ever, pronounced “Ja-kooky“. I’m thinking of “Shipoopi” from “The Music Man” – picture Buddy Hackett prancing around singing “Jacucki!, Jackucki!” No, it’s not easy being me.)

“Klopp Hands, Here Comes Charlie” (Sam “Klippety” Klopp, who pitched just one year, with the Boston Braves in 1944. The Braves were awful and so was wartime baseball, so this falls into the “some things are better left unsaid” category. Great name though, irresistible.)

“Shea It, Over and Over Again” (Not Shea Stadium, but Yankee reliever Spec Shea.)

“(You Give Me) Lefebvre” (Dodger infielder Jim Lefebvre, who, being American and all, pronounced his name “Lefever” instead of the more French “Lefave”.)

“Something Kuhel” (The Senators’ first baseman Joe Kuhel, pronounced “cool”.)

“Say It Isn’t Sosa” (Sammy Sosa, who played Tonto to Mark McGwire’s Lone Ranger during the early days of baseball’s “Booster Juice” period. I like this pun because it works on several levels. Sosa’s name ties in nicely with Irving Balloon’s lovely old tune, but the pun also suggests a buzz-phrase from another of baseball’s darkest cheating moments, the Black Sox scandal. When it hit the wall so shockingly in 1920, the eight Chicago players who conspired to throw the 1919 World Series – including Shoeless Joe Jackson – were eventually tried in court, but never convicted of a crime. During Jackson’s testimony a young boy who was a rabid fan of Jackson and the White Sox was alleged to have cried out, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” Just tell us you’re innocent and we’ll believe you, no questions asked. The phrase has become burned into our collective lore as a trope of desperate faith and innocence, of burying our heads in the sand and refusing to believe our idols have clay feet. Of course since 1920, we’ve had so much exposure to corruption, betrayal and disillusionment that “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” has become ironically humorous, a deadpan expression of deep and abiding cynicism. “Say it ain’t so, Sosa”.)

“Forsch All We Know” (Pitching brothers Ken and Bob Forsch.)

Trucks, Be A Lady” (The great old Tigers pitcher, Virgil Trucks. This is a weird one, it makes it sound as if Virgil was a cross-dresser, or maybe even contemplated a sex-change operation, but those weren’t offered in his day.)

“Radatz All” (Flame-throwing reliever Dick Radatz, one of the scariest pitchers ever until he blew out his arm.)

“Is Batts All There Is?” (There really was a catcher named Matt Batts – “Batts bats here in the ninth” – and naturally with a name like that he wasn’t much of a hitter.)

“Sisti” (Erroll Garner’s “Misty”, after Sibby Sisti, who was a utility infielder with the Braves from 1938-54.)

“Crespicule With Nellie” (It looks as though I’ve misspelled the title of Thelonious Monk’s wonderful twilight composition here, but I’ve simply inserted a favourite ballplayer’s name – Frank “Creepy” Crespi. Creepy played second base for the Cardinals from 1938 to 1942 and is forever linked in my mind with Sibby Sisti because their names fit together in such a funny way. Their careers overlapped, so it’s a crime they didn’t play on the same team. Imagine the double-plays on radio – “Creepy to Sibby!”, or “Sisti to Crespi, they’ve turned two again!” It’s also a shame Crespi didn’t play with Coco Crisp – the possibilities of Crisp and Crespi are magically delicious.)

“The Best Is Brett To Come” (After the brothers George and Ken Brett, living proof that life ain’t fair and talent isn’t distributed equally.)

“If the Moon Turned Greenberg” (Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg, who was the game’s first Jewish superstar and hit more than his share of “moon-shots”.)

“Slocumb Sunday” (Pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb. When his 6′ 3″ stature was added to the pitching mound, you could say Heathcliff threw from a wuthering height.)

“Pierce That Rainy Day” (I had to include one of my favourite pitchers ever, the little White Sox lefty, Billy Pierce.)

“Justice Hittin’ and A-Rockin'” (Outfielder David Justice.)

“Way Down Gonder in New Orleans” (Pitcher Jesse Gonder.)

“Bei Mir Bist du Schoendienst” (I was wracking my brain trying to come up with one on the old Cardinals second baseman Red Schoendienst, just tearing my hair out. All I could think of was “Schoen Dienst, Schoendienst Harvest Moon”. Then this one came to me quite easily and late, a ninth-inning rally if I’ve ever seen one.)

And finally, one so bad that both the title and the ballplayer must be explained – “For He Fonseca” (“For Heaven’s Sake”, after Lew Fonseca, pronounced “fon-sake-ah”.)

At over 100 titles, I’m starting to slip a little, so maybe it’s time to quit while I’m behind. I have a couple of regrets, I mean apart from actually starting this whole insane exercise. I wasn’t able to come up with any legit songs using the names Ron Swoboda or Sandy Koufax. With Ron, all I could think of was “Swoboda to Billie Joe”, which is a bit of a stretch, even for me. With Sandy, I was reduced to “Koufax Is Makin’ Wax” which ain’t great either, not that some of the other ones are. However, all is not lost. Generally speaking, my readers are a pretty swift – not to say sick – crowd. I’m sure there are some of you out there who will have a much different or better take on this game, I’m expecting some lulus to come back in comments, so get busy. It’s a tall order, but please, somebody come up with a song using Bill Wambsganss, still the only man to turn an unassisted triple play in a World Series game.

By the way, I was going to title this “The Heart Is A Lonely Catfish” – as in Jim “Catfish” Hunter, but thought batter of it.

 

 

© 2015 – 2017, Steve Wallace. All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “The Heart Is A Lonely Bunter

  1. Brilliant, Steve. Your knowledge of baseball (and other things, like jazz generally) greatly exceeds my own but I could not resist your challenge re: two names. So in the spirit of silliness, how about this one:

    You Swoboda My Head

    I spent too many hours working on a Sandy Koufax tune…

    JLR

  2. Terrific fun……….thanks Steve…….Still laughing about the one you mentioned at your gig on Sunday. Should be on record !!

    Verna

  3. I wouldn’t know a baseball if it hit me Steve! but I still enjoyed it….you must stay up late thinking these out! And now back to music!
    When playing in Florida in the winter with Gordie Fleming, we used to get “silly” at times and play “Round Midnight” and announce it as a Line Dance…no takers. Almost as bad as our Violent Set…Killing Me Softly, Strangler on the Shore and Mame. The only ones who laughed were the guys in the quartet.
    Keep em coming!….. Jack

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