The World Series is here! This namer is a big fan of Major League Baseball (MLB), and Zinzin always loves to explore worlds outside of its own to find naming inspiration. So, let’s look at the rich naming traditions in the world of baseball, where the use of nicknames, in particular, is as fun and fascinating as the sport itself. More specifically, let’s look at the team naming history and current (active roster) player nicknames of the two teams in the 2022 World Series: the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies.
But first, why nicknames?
Nicknames work on a couple of different levels. On a practical level, they offer an easy, distinctive, and oftentimes shorter, way to refer to a team or baseball player. (In the 19th century, it was newspapers that first started to shorten team names to save printing space.) On an emotional level, nicknames give us a fun and memorable way to connect with a player. They feel familiar and evoke the best qualities of players.
According to well-known sports writer Joe Posnanski, baseball nicknames tend to be descriptive of the player, descriptive of the player’s game, sometimes just plain goofy, or classic. Here, he gives a great intro to baseball nicknames in (Nick)name dropping: 25 best in MLB history:
…A baseball nickname can be a description of a player. They called Don Mossi “Ears” because he had big ears, and they called Walt Williams “No Neck” because he didn’t have much of a neck. These don’t strike me as particularly clever (Williams hated the nickname), but they are a big part of the game. Mordecai Brown, you probably know, was called “Three Finger” because he lost two fingers in a farm machinery accident.
There are nicknames that describe the player’s game. Brooks Robinson was “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” for the way he devoured any ground ball that happened to be near him at third base. Rickey Henderson, the all-time stolen-base leader (probably forever), was and always will be “The Man of Steal.” Nolan Ryan hummed a 100-mph fastball past hitters for so many seasons that people started calling him, simply, “The Ryan Express.”
Then there are just goofy nicknames that stick. Bill Lee is “Spaceman” for the spacey out-of-this-world thoughts that never stop filling his mind. Catfish Hunter got his nickname from Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley, who thought all players should have nicknames. Mark Fidrych was called “The Bird” because he sort of resembled Big Bird on “Sesame Street.”
And finally: There are the classics, the nicknames that transcend, the ones that replace players’ names and become a part of baseball lore…
Since nicknames run the gamut from descriptive to evocative, I can’t help but think of Zinzin’s own naming process for companies and products. There are a lot of parallels in terms of finding the core, or the essence of something…or someone, in the case of nicknames, along with having fun finding it.
Without further fanfare, check out the team nicknames and (active roster) player nicknames below. Then read on to find a little more history about team name origins and mascots. And baseball fans, if you notice that we missed any, please add them in the comment section at the end of the post!
2022 Houston Astros player nicknames**
- A-Breg — Alex Bregman
- Air Yordan — Yordan Alvarez
- Baby Goose, Perdomo — Lance McCullers Jr.
- Boom Boom, Boomer — Trey Mancini
- Catrachos — Mauricio Dubón
- Chas chomp — Chas McCormick
- Colo — Christian Vázquez
- Compa N — Héctor Neris
- El Brazo* — Bryan Abreu
- El Culichi — José Urquidy
- El Niño, La Tormenta — Jeremy Peña
- El Pasito Garcia — Luis Garcia
- El Reptil — Cristian Javier
- Gritty*, Turbo* — Hunter Brown
- JV, The Monarch — Justin Verlander
- King Tuck — Kyle Tucker
- La Grasa — Framber Valdez
- La Piña — Yuli Gurriel
- Martincito — Martín Maldonado
- Monte — Rafael Montero
- Papito — Aledmys Díaz
- Press — Ryan Pressly
- The Rooster — Ryne Stanek
- Tuve, Gigante, El Penqueño Gigante — Jose Altuve
- Slay* — David Hensley
- K-Mart* — Seth Martinez
* Zinzin-suggested nickname (if an existing one was not found or until one exists)
Astros team name origin & nicknames
Founded in 1962, the Houston Astros name was inspired both by the city’s connection to NASA (astronaut Alan Shepherd gave it a thumbs up), as well as their state-of-the-art, domed home stadium at the time, the Houston Astrodome. Prior to that, Houston’s baseball team was known as the Colt .45s. An article on MLB.com, sheds more light about The history behind the Astros’ team name:
Judge Roy Hofheinz, who owned the expansion baseball franchise and was the brainchild behind the Astrodome, announced on Dec. 1, 1964, that the Colt .45s were becoming the Astros in conjunction with their move to the Astrodome — the world’s first domed stadium — at the start of the ’65 season.
“We felt the space idea was more logical because the ballclub is in Houston — Space City, U.S.A., and our Spring Training headquarters is in Cocoa Beach, Fla., at Cape Kennedy — Launching Pad, U.S.A.,” Hofheinz said at the time. “The name and insignia will help dispel the image of Texas as a land of cowboys and Indians, and it behooves every citizen in this area to call attention to the 20th century aspects of Texas and Houston.”
Apparently, the Colt Firearms Company also wanted a cut of the profits, which further spurred the name change to the Astros, which is currently the oldest team nickname in the history of professional Houston sports franchises. Here are some additional nicknames that fans (and non-fans) call them:
- The ‘Stros — Short version of “Astros”
- Crush City — Reference to the 2015 team that led the league in home runs
- The Stars — Reference to the team logo
- The Astronauts — Long version of “Astros” to honor astronauts who occasionally come to the ballpark
- The Lastros — Used by detractors of the 2011-13 teams that each lost over 100 games
- The Disastros — Referring to the team when playing bad
- The Blastros — Reference to having a lot of home run pop in the lineup since 2015
- The Astronomicals — From Cincinnati Reds radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman
- The Houston Asterisks — Used degradingly in reference to the controversial championship won during the 2017 season amidst a sign stealing scandal
- Source: Wikipedia
2022 Philadelphia Phillies player nicknames**
- ABC*, Attiway* — Andrew Bellatti
- Bash Brothers, Day Care (with Matt Vierling) — Alec Bohm
- Bash Brothers, Day Care (with Alec Bohm), Viersicle* — Matt Vierling
- Big Fella, Host, Big Hosk — Rhys Hoskins
- Bro*, Altitude* — Connor Brogdon
- Brotein Shake — Brad Hand
- D-Rob — David Robertson
- Ef, Led Zeflin — Zach Eflin
- El Mambo — Jean Segura
- El Mundo*, Doso* — Edmundo Sosa
- El Pocho — José Alvarado
- Faultline* — Bailey Falter
- Gator* — Dalton Guthrie
- Gibby — Kyle Gibson
- Harp, Bam Bam, Mondo, The Showman — Bryce Harper
- Kyle from Waltham, Schwarbs — Kyle Schwarber
- Nicky Two Bags — Nick Castellanos
- Nols — Aaron Nola
- Real, BCIB (Best Catcher In Baseball), Jackin’ Taters — J.T. Realmuto
- Red Power Ranger — Ranger Suárez
- Shortstott*, Brot*, Stotty* — Bryson Stott
- Sir Anthony — Seranthony Domínguez
- Stubbhub* — Garrett Stubbs
- The Wizard*, Brandon the Brown* (a la Gandalf the Grey) — Brandon Marsh
- Thor — Noah Syndergaard
- Wheels — Zack Wheeler
* Zinzin-suggested nickname (if an existing one was not found or until one exists)
Phillies team name origin & nicknames
Founded in 1883, the Philadelphia Phillies are the oldest continuously run, single-name, single-city franchise in American professional sports. However, their naming origin is a bit more complicated, according to Matt Albertson in his article Understanding The Phillies Origins And Nickname. He explains:
In 1883 alone, the Philadelphia Baseball Club Limited was identified as “Philadelphias,” “Phillies,” “Quakers,” and even “Athletics.” The nickname “Phillies” itself is simply a shortened version “Philadelphias.” Plus, “Phillies” rolls off the tongue easier than “Philadelphias.” Like “Athletics”, the “Phillies” moniker was recycled from an earlier club. In this case, the first usage in newspapers was in reference to the 1873 Philadelphia White Stockings and the nickname was used on occasion to identify at least three different teams between 1873 and 1877.
The present day Phillies club was formed in 1881 and first took the field in 1882. Al Reach reorganized the club and the Philadelphia Ball Club Limited was chartered in November 1882 and admitted to the National League in December 1882 for the 1883 season, which is why the organization to this day cites 1883 as their founding.
Only a franchise with such longevity has this number of nicknames to show for the ups and downs over the many years:
- The Phils – Short version of “Phillies”
- The Fightin’ Phils — Reference to their hard-nosed style of play. (Some Phillies fans will add “Ph” instead of an “F” for most anything associated with the Phillies, such as “The Phightin’ Phils.”)
- The Phightin’s — Short version of the previous
- The Phiwwies — In imitation of the Philadelphia accent
- The Foitin’ Phiws — Another version of above
- Phillie Phanatics — Avid followers
- The Red Pinstripes — Reference to the team’s red pinstriped uniforms.
- The Quaker City Team
- The Whiz Kids – Name for the 1950 NL Championship team; reference to their youth
- The Wheeze Kids – Name for the 1983 NL Championship team; reference to their lack of youth.
- The Broad Street Bellies — Reference to the 1993 NL Championship team for their lack of physical fitness, and the nickname of the NHL’s nearby Philadelphia Flyers, the “Broad Street Bullies”
- Macho Row — Reference to 1993 NL Championship team
- The Cardiac Kids — Originally a 1950s nickname, better known as the nickname of the 1980 World Championship team
- The Pillies — Reference to an amphetamine scandal in the early 1980s
- The Philthies — Used by detractors
- The Sillies — Used by detractors, especially when team is underperforming
- The Frillies — Used by detractors
- Source: Wikipedia
Side-by-side comparison: team mascot names
Orbit | Astros mascot name (1990-99, 2012-present)
Definition: orbit (astronomy): the curved path of a celestial object or spacecraft around a star, planet, or moon, especially a periodic elliptical revolution. The mascot name Orbit pays tribute to Houston’s association with NASA. As the legend goes, Orbit’s birthplace is the “Foul Territory of the Grand Slam Galaxy,” and his species is “Homerunus Spectacularus.” For (shockingly a lot) more about this fuzzy green Astros mascot, check out As Houston Astros’ Orbit celebrates his birthday, Here are some fun facts about him.
Phillie Phanatic | Phillies mascot name (1978-present)
Definition: fanatic (sports): a person who is extremely enthusiastic about and devoted to some interest or activity. Named after fanatical fans of the team, the Phillie Phanatic is one of the first and most recognized mascots in MLB history. For a phascinating (wink, wink) look at the background of this Phillies mascot, check out 1978: Phillie Phanatic Makes His First Ever Appearance, Starting Weird Legacy.
A great name comes from finding the essence — or core brand position — of something (or someone in the case of nicknames). Once you establish your brand position, let the naming begin. Remember, naming should be fun! For instance, you can’t tell us the people who came up with the nicknames Nicky Two Bags, Boom Boom, and La Piña weren’t having a good time.
Furthermore, players typically earn these memorable nicknames. Why? Because they put in all the hard work to get to the top of their game. In the same way, companies that put in the hard work to achieve a great name rise to the top of their brand game and become top-of-mind for customers.
Lastly, good luck to the Astros and the Phillies!
** Despite best efforts to find all the nicknames out there, it’s possible some were overlooked. Feel free to add any missing nicknames to the comments below — thanks!