CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: Fe... (02/14)
<< Previous Column
Wezen-Ball: BP Odds & ... (02/11)
Next Column >>
Wezen-Ball: A Postcard... (02/17)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Pi... (02/14)

February 14, 2011

Wezen-Ball

Baseball's Superheroes

by Larry Granillo

I was not a big superhero/comic book kid growing up. If you had asked a ten-year-old me in 1990 who were the big superheroes, my response probably would not have been very deep. There would've been the cartoon superheroes I grew up on (He-Man, Thundercats, Voltron, Transformers, etc.) and the old staples (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man). I probably wouldn't have even been able to tell you who Wolverine and Professor X and the rest of the X-Men were at the time.

Thankfully, that all changed somewhat as I grew up. I still can't tell you all of the intricacies of the thirty-five current Batman or Spider-Man universes, or even what the deal is with this summer's superhero-du-jour Thor, but I at least have a strong familiarity with many heroes.

It recently occurred to me that, over the past decades, these comic book superheroes have slowly crept into our beloved game of baseball - in the form of nicknames. We aren't exactly to the point of seeing entire lineups of superheroes - you won't ever see DC's Justice League take on Marvel's Fantastic Four in a single game - but there are quite a few superheroes spread throughout the baseball encyclopedia. Below is a rundown of the ones that I could find using the nicknames found at Baseball Reference. I hope everyone here can help me think of a few others.

Iron Man
Let's start with the most obvious one. Cal Ripken, Jr., was my hero growing up, so it's only fitting that he gets such a great nickname. Of course, in my superhero-ignorant youth, I would never have known about Tony Stark and his Iron Man alter-ego. Today you probably couldn't even find a kid who doesn't know who Iron Man is. How things change.

The Incredible Hulk
I certainly remember Brian Downing. He was putting up decent numbers for the Angels into the late-1980s before retiring after the 1992 season. He gained the "The Incredible Hulk" nickname as early as 1979, when he went on an offseason workout regimen that few in baseball had ever seen before. It probably helped that "The Incredible Hulk", starring Lou Ferrigno, was just getting popular at the time.

Flash
According to Baseball Reference, there are no less than six players in history with the nickname "Iron Man". There is no doubt, though, that the name belongs to Ripken. In that same vein, Baseball Reference tells me that there are at least eight players with the nickname "Flash". Maybe I'm showing my age, but Flash Gordon will always be Tom Gordon to me. And it was especially fitting once he became a reliever for good. "Flash" is exactly the type of nickname you want for your closer.

Spider-Man
And here's where the vagaries of Baseball Reference's nicknames database comes into play. Is Torii Hunter really known as "Spider-Man" to more than, say, fifty people in the Twin Cities? I admit, it's a compelling nickname for a man known for his defense, but I'm not sure I've ever heard it used. Anyone?

Iceman
Again, I couldn't tell you much about Matt Mantei, but he was apparently known as "The Ice Man" to a certain group of fans. And though I would bet that the nickname stems more from "Top Gun" than the Marvel universe, it still works here. Plus, Iceman is too basic of a superhero to ignore.

Beast
Dr. Henry McCoy, the X-Men known as "Beast", was introduced to the world in 1963. The fact, then, that Jimmie Foxx, who retired in 1945, was nicknamed "Beast" is merely a coincidence. Still, if we're cataloging the superhero names found in baseball, "Beast" fits the bill.

Batman
Considering the wordplay involved, it seems obvious that someone, somewhere would be known as "Batman". But, from what I can tell, this has never been the case. Instead, we have the 1940s minor league player Gilbert Batman joining the ranks of the costumed heroes. Sadly, Batman never made it to the big leagues, so we don't have too much information on him. I am forced to assume, then, that Batman's wealthy parents were murdered in front of him at a young age, thus driving Batman into a life of vigilantism. His time in the minor leagues was merely a ruse in an ongoing battle with one of his many enemies.

Those are the superhero nicknames that I can find. A pretty decent lot, if I do say so myself. I'm certain, though, that I've missed quite a few in my search, or that I've misjudged a nickname or two. For example, should Mariano Rivera and his "Super Mariano" nickname be included? What about his "Sandman" nickname (anyone whose read Neil Gaiman's Sandmanseries would know what I mean)? Or about Frank Howard and his "Capital Punisher" nickname? Casey Fossum and "The Blade"? Willie McCovey and "Stretch"?

Or what about the missing nicknames that no one has yet claimed? Doesn't it seem like someone would have "Captain America" as a nickname by now? Or "Professor X"? "Dr. Doom"?

I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on these superhero nicknames, or any others. It's a field just ripe for ideas.

Related Content:  Nicknames

48 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

mturpin47

I thought Steve Garvey was known as "Captain America", but a cursory Google search tells me I may have made that up. For some reason, I also feel Eric Byrnes earned the Cap nickname as well. And sure enough, his official website has the details:
http://www.byrnesie.com/ssp/news?news_id=58

Feb 14, 2011 05:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Michael
(736)

I was thinking that Dale Murphy should have been nicknamed "Captain America." He wasn't but I did find one 1987 article that made the comparison in passing: http://articles.latimes.com/1987-03-24/sports/sp-89_1

Feb 14, 2011 07:01 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

You know, that sounds familiar to me too, but I can't find anything to corroborate it either. Weird.

I almost included Doc Ock for Octavio Dotel in here (as I know I've heard more people than just myself call him that), but no one I talked to on Twitter had heard of it. Nicknames are harder than you thought...

Feb 14, 2011 10:40 AM
 
Patrick

This article has nothing to do with baseball and I can't believe BP is going in this direction. If I could go back in time and cancel my subscription I already would have.

Seriously, though, another fun read. Thanks.

Feb 14, 2011 05:43 AM
rating: 7
 
NYYanks826

In sticking with the theme of this article, having the ability to go back in time would be a pretty sweet superpower.

In seriousness though, look at this article, and then look at the other articles they've posted so far today: Weekly quotes, a prospect profile, and a team top 11 prospect article.

The BP staples are still here, but they've just decided to add a little more variety. I think it improves the hell out of the site. Keep up the good work, Larry!

Feb 14, 2011 06:21 AM
rating: 7
 
rjblakel

Agreed - BP's not forgetting the bread and butter...they're just *adding* variety. Keep 'em coming.

Feb 14, 2011 16:41 PM
rating: 0
 
heyblue

It should be noted, too, that this article is part of BP's free content.

Feb 15, 2011 14:11 PM
rating: 0
 
TangoTiger

I remember seeing Robin "Batman" Ventura get alot of play during his college streak.

Feb 14, 2011 06:39 AM
rating: 0
 
JimmyJack

I have a baseball card with Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura that says "Batman and Robin.". I have an even cooler card with Cal Ripken and Alex Rodriquez pictured together reading comic books: Cal reading Superman and ARod reading Superboy.

Feb 14, 2011 08:50 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Both of those cards sound amazing. But I don't think we get to call Frank Thomas "Batman" because of one card...

They almost sound as cool as the "Black and Blue" and "Pete & Re-Pete" cards Fleer put out in (I want to say) 1983...

Feb 14, 2011 10:41 AM
 
sldeck

not sure what superpower Bill "Swish" Nicholson would have, but maybe he could team up with others to comprise The Absolutely Fabulous Four

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=NICHOLSON19141211A

Feb 14, 2011 07:11 AM
rating: 0
 
cfinberg

You're MY hero for that spectacularly awful pun. Well played.

Feb 15, 2011 00:41 AM
rating: 0
 
Todd S.

What, Kung Fu Panda isn't a superhero? Okay, point taken.

Can we retroactively apply The Human Torch to Bobby Ayala?

Feb 14, 2011 07:19 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Geoff Young
BP staff

Didn't Ron Davis "earn" that nickname back in the day?

Feb 15, 2011 08:02 AM
 
CRP13

If you wanted to stretch the bounds of "player", you could include Bartman. After all, he did catch a fly ball in the majors once...

Feb 14, 2011 07:31 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

That one made me laugh. It's perfect.

Feb 14, 2011 10:42 AM
 
dianagram

You forgot the Minnesota WonderTwins. :-)

Feb 14, 2011 08:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Thinking outside the box. I like it.

Feb 14, 2011 10:45 AM
 
NYYanks826

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ruffibr01.shtml

Bruce Wayne Ruffin. That deserves some credit, right?

Feb 14, 2011 08:22 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Yes, definitely. I looked (quickly) for Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, but I only searched on "Wayne" and "Kent" so I missed him. Nice catch.

And speaking of Captain America, someone pointed out to me that he already had a pretty decent career as a five-time All Star: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/rogerst01.shtml (Steve Rogers)

Feb 14, 2011 10:44 AM
 
Bill Parker

I can't tell you how deep or wide the association between Torii and Spider-Man runs, but I will tell you that when I scrolled down to the "Spider-Man" heading, Torii's the name I thought of. It's entirely possible that, as is the case with many BBREF-listed nicknames for modern players, I know them ONLY because they're listed on BBREF. No idea where they come up with some of those.

(-BillTPA)

Feb 14, 2011 11:07 AM
rating: 0
 
Michael Bodell
(89)

I thought spiderman was used a lot on BBTN during Web Gems when Hunter used to get tons of gems playing cf in minn.

Feb 15, 2011 19:07 PM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

THIS guy's nickname would have made for an unusual superhero:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lordbr01.shtml

Feb 14, 2011 11:24 AM
rating: 0
 
sldeck

that's a new take on a 20/20 player

Feb 14, 2011 13:29 PM
rating: 0
 
fgreenagel2

Flash Gordon is taken from the sci-fi hero of the same name from the 50's and 60's, not the Barry Allen (or Jay Garrick or Wally West) Flash from the DC Universe.

Feb 14, 2011 12:00 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

That is a fair point. I'd say, though, that since he's sometimes called "Flash" and sometimes "Flash Gordon", he can fit both bills in this column.

I agree, though, that his full nickname is "Flash Gordon"

Feb 15, 2011 07:13 AM
 
fgreenagel2

A vulture is a pitcher who gets a "blown-save win." I remember Jeff Nelson called "The Vulture" in 2000 when he had 8 wins for the Yankees (a few in games that he blew the save). A cursory google search found that Jesse Orosco (36) and Mike Timlin (37) are the career leaders in that arcane stat.

The Vulture is a Spiderman villain, but I expect that the pitcher is named after the bird.

Feb 14, 2011 12:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Michael
(736)

Phil Regan may or may not have been the first reliever nicknamed the Vulture, but he certainly was a long time before Jeff Nelson.

Feb 15, 2011 07:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

How could anyone other than Albert Pujols be "Mr. Incredible"? Unbelievable strong man, and a devoted husband and family man in the bargain.

And while we're at it, can we throw in a few arch-villains? I certainly think of Don Denkinger as "Mxyzptlk" -- alterer of reality, much for the worse...

Feb 14, 2011 12:20 PM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

It goes without "Ceying" that Ron Cey is The Penguin.

Feb 14, 2011 18:28 PM
rating: 1
 
frampton
(870)

Phil Regan, who pitched in relief for the Dodgers in the mid-60s, is even given "The Vulture" as a nickname in Baseball-reference.com. He was 14-1 (with no starts) in 1966.

Feb 14, 2011 12:23 PM
rating: 0
 
MikeNeft

Nomar was known as Spider-Man.

Feb 14, 2011 12:52 PM
rating: 0
 
DavidHNix

Spider-Man --

Many years ago, the PA announcer for the AAA Tucson Toros had nicknames for many players. The shortstop was always introduced as "Nelson Spider-Man Norman." BR lists Norman at 6-2 and 160, and this was when he was just 20, so the name certainly fit.

That was the most entertaining baseball team I've ever seen.

Feb 14, 2011 15:13 PM
rating: 0
 
Nick Carter

Freddie Freeman will surely be Captain Marvel Jnr.

Feb 14, 2011 16:52 PM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

I prefer citing Freddie as The Freeman, in reference to Half Life 2.

Feb 15, 2011 07:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Good call. There've got to be a few more "secret identities" like this...

Feb 15, 2011 07:15 AM
 
tmangell

Damnit - Nick stole my thunder! The reason I picked up Freeman for my fantasy team last year is because he shares the name of Captain Marvel Jr's alter ego.

Feb 14, 2011 19:14 PM
rating: 0
 
tmangell

Couldn't a base stealer like Bourn, Crawford or Pierre be "Quicksilver" from the Avengers or "Johnny Quick" from the Justice Society of America? Although, "Quicksilver" seems like a 19th century steampunk nickname for somebody like "Sliding" Billy Hamilton. It's also the title of a Neal Stephenson novel.

Feb 14, 2011 19:21 PM
rating: 0
 
yadenr

Is there going to be a super-villain sequel? Joe "The Joker" Randa says there ought to be.

Feb 14, 2011 20:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Hadn't considered that, but it seems possible. Who else can we put in there? Penguin...

If only there were a super-villain named Joey, so Albert Belle could make a cameo!

Feb 15, 2011 07:14 AM
 
dianagram

Is Cody Ross or Dick Ellsworth really ... "Bicycle Repairman"?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxfzm9dfqBw

Feb 15, 2011 07:09 AM
rating: 0
 
clete6
(577)

The only time I've ever heard "Spider-Man" applied to a professional athlete was for a jai-alai player named Landa, who was great at climbing walls.

Feb 15, 2011 08:54 AM
rating: 0
 
jnewfry
(131)

Can you count Bo Jackson as his own cartoon superhero? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaiUL5Z7NlI

Feb 15, 2011 09:15 AM
rating: 0
 
fgreenagel2

I've never seen so many comments by people with 3 or 4 digits. This article really shows the comic-baseball nerdfest (I prefer studfest) of the early subscribers. I think Nate, Christina and Goldman are (or were) all comic book fans too.

Feb 15, 2011 20:03 PM
rating: 0
 
jonjacoby

Negro Leaguer Max Manning was known as Dr. CYCLOPS, and there was STORM Davis. While not superhero, but movie monster, Hideki Matsui as GODZILLA. Rex Hudler was "Wonder Dog" and my two favorites: Mike Epstein: SUPER JEW. And Antonio Afonseca should be Dr. Octopus, he was known as the Octopus.

Feb 15, 2011 22:03 PM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

If Super Jew counts, then surely Ryan Braun's Hebrew Hammer should get a mention.

Feb 16, 2011 04:14 AM
rating: 0
 
kbdekker

Can we start calling Carlos Marmol Dr. Strange because of the unpredictable magic he performs with a baseball?

Feb 15, 2011 22:48 PM
rating: 0
 
CalWhite

In Toronto, Glenallen Hill will forever be known as Spiderman because of his serious arachnophobia.

One afternoon, he was having his pre-game nap and had a dream about spiders that so unnerved him, he woke up and ran through a plate glass window. He was out for a while before recoverinbg, but he's been known as Spiderman ever since.

Feb 17, 2011 11:48 AM
rating: -1
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: Fe... (02/14)
<< Previous Column
Wezen-Ball: BP Odds & ... (02/11)
Next Column >>
Wezen-Ball: A Postcard... (02/17)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Pi... (02/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, April 24
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Carlos Rodon and the White Sox...
Eyewitness Accounts: April 24, 2015
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: Of Signals and Sausages
Raising Aces: Debut Ante: Raisel Iglesias
Painting the Black: No D In Desmond?
BP Bronx

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 14, 2011
Premium Article Future Shock: San Francisco Giants Top 11 Pr...
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Winning the Winter, AL ...
Purpose Pitches: Pitchers and Catchers Day
Premium Article Prospectus Preview: AL East 2011 Forecast
Premium Article Prospect Profile: Anthony Gose
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks at First, Third an...
The Week in Quotes: February 7-13

MORE BY LARRY GRANILLO
2011-02-20 - Wezen-Ball: Jim Edmonds' Final Trot
2011-02-18 - Premium Article Prospectus Preview: NL Central 2011 Preseaso...
2011-02-17 - Wezen-Ball: A Postcard to All of You
2011-02-14 - Wezen-Ball: Baseball's Superheroes
2011-02-11 - Wezen-Ball: BP Odds & Ends
2011-02-08 - Wezen-Ball: Ferris Bueller Follow-Up
2011-02-06 - Wezen-Ball: Ferris Bueller's Day Off at Wrig...
More...

MORE WEZEN-BALL
2011-02-23 - Wezen-Ball: Some Colorful Language
2011-02-20 - Wezen-Ball: Jim Edmonds' Final Trot
2011-02-17 - Wezen-Ball: A Postcard to All of You
2011-02-14 - Wezen-Ball: Baseball's Superheroes
2011-02-11 - Wezen-Ball: BP Odds & Ends
2011-02-08 - Wezen-Ball: Ferris Bueller Follow-Up
2011-02-06 - Wezen-Ball: Ferris Bueller's Day Off at Wrig...
More...