Exactly when did baseball nicknames become so lame? It doesn't take much creativity to come up with IRod, ARod, DLee or any of the other 'first name-last name abbreviated combos'. If I may borrow a line from old Man Haggerty, "Back in my day, we had real nicknames like 'Blue Moon' Odom, Jim 'Catfish' Hunter, 'Tom Terrific' Seaver, Pete 'Charley Hustle' Rose and Jimmy 'The Toy Cannon' Wynn."
Seriously, baseball nicknames are horrible now. Any Rodriguez immediately becomes an 'XRod' and any Ramirez becaomes an 'XRam'. Is DeRo the best anyone can do for Mark DeRose? Thank goodness Frank 'The Big Hurt' Thomas made his debut before this trend started. Otherwise he might be FThom.
Charley Finley (former owner of the Oakland A's) knew the value of a good nickname. He was responsible for 'Catfish' and he reportedly offered a bonus to Vida Blue if he would change his first name to 'True'.
I don't want to spend this whole post complaining though. I want to celebrate a good nickname. Make that a great nickname. Mudcat!
That nickname belonged to Jim Grant, a pitcher from 1958-71. The story goes that early in his career, Grant was rooming with Larry Doby, his childhood idol. Doby named him 'Mudcat', saying that Grant was "ugly as a Mississippi mudcat".
Now that is a great story to go with a great nickname. Grant got his nickname from a Hall of Famer!
I had the pleasure of meeting Mudcat at a small card show. I talked to him for several minutes and mentioned that I loved his nickname and thought baseball could use more colorful monikers like his. He laughed and said he agreed.