It was with some sadness and nostalgia that I noted the recent passing of Ronald “Chico” Maki. He played 15 seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, made the All-Star team 3 times and helped the Hawks reach the Stanley Cup finals 5 times, winning the Cup in 1961.
Maki was my favorite hockey player when I was in high school, although I can’t remember why. Maybe it was his real first name. At any rate, it led to my high school nickname: “Chico”. Hardly universally accepted, it was mostly used by my hockey playing buddies. Nearly fifty years later, only one person still calls me that.
With the exception of those few years as “Chico”, I’ve never had a nickname that stuck. As a kid, my Dad called me “Elmer”, and for a time my sister called me “Rocket”, but that’s about it. Not that I’m in the market, so hold your suggestions, please.
I find nicknames interesting, both in origin and in appropriateness. I’ve known people with multiple nicknames, some with only one (sometimes fitting, sometimes baffling) and some who have never acquired one, except perhaps briefly.
I played hockey for years with “The General”, one of nature’s noblemen and a master at creating nicknames. He was so prolific that nearly everyone who played with him was given a nickname. I was denied that privilege – at least not to my face — apart from occasionally being referred to as “Sieve” or “Target”.
The nicknames The General came up with were so good and so sticky that I don’t know the real names of many of the guys I played with…played with for decades, mind you. Some nicknames were clever variations of real names, others were reflections of their playing and life styles.
My favorite was a guy dubbed “Chern”. I thought it was a short version of his real name, but The General clarified that it was short for “Chernobyl”, because everything he did ended in disaster.
Another favorite was a situational nickname The General reserved for whomever was playing stupidly at any moment: “SlapNuts”, as in “Try passing once in a while, SlapNuts!”
I’ve commented previously about the great nicknames in St. Louis Cardinal history. Here’s a few I left out: Skeeter Webb, Nippy Jones, Kiddo Davis, Harry “The Hat” Walker, Spud Davis, Crabby Crabtree, Frenchy Bordagaray, Sheriff Blake, Stubby Clapp, Wheezer Dell, Klondike Douglass, Bones Ely, Showboat Fisher, Mul Holland, Bubber Jonnard, Nub Kleinke, Vinegar Bend Mizell.
And perhaps my favorite: Pickles Dillhoefer. Though he died young from typhoid fever, his nickname ensured baseball immortality.
At least in my book.
Today’s Fact Cetera
When fans wanted to give him a retirement gift, Hall of Famer and former Redbird first baseman “Sunny Jim” Bottomley requested a cow.