America’s national pastime has alway been rife with some of America’s greatest names, even from its inception. Baseball has given us such lasting classics as Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Candy Cummings. These names may seem commonplace today, but only because they’ve become part of the vernacular of the sport. Take a moment to think about each of those names, and consider, “would I name my child/allow my child to be called this?” The answer, were it not for baseball, would probably be no. Especially “Candy Cummings,” that is, no kidding, the name of an actual porn star today. (Semi-NSFW) And yet, in 1867, that man’s man invented the effin’ curveball.
So, to honor the legacy of baseball greats such as Trot Nixon, Rollie Fingers, Tug McGraw and countless others, I present to you: The Greatest Names in Baseball Today. I will be going through each league, starting with the American League, and choosing the top 10 “best” names. Players must currently be on a teams 40-man roster, and must have been on the active roster for at least one game this season. This isn’t necessarily the weirdest names, or the hardest to pronounce, just the ones with that baseball je ne sais quois. Just to clarify, nicknames are acceptable, so long as the nickname is the name the fans primarily know that player by. So, “Coco Crisp” counts, “A-Rod” does not. Let’s do this:
10. Evan Longoria — There’s a whole category of MLB players who have names similar/identical to those of other celebrities. (See: Carlos Santana). I’d like to see an exhibition game that pits the baseball players against their celebrity counterparts. Who wouldn’t want to see Eva Longoria man the hot corner?
9. Vladimir Guerrero — An all-round bad-ass dude, Vlady is without a doubt one of the bonafide sluggers of his generation. And it doesn’t hurt that his name can be roughly translated to mean “Vladimir the Warlike.”
8. Elvis Andrus — Americans don’t really name their kids Elvis anymore. Not since, well, Elvis. But in Spanish-speaking countries, they didn’t let The King stop them from calling their little ones Elvis. And Andrus has really been a phenom with the Texas Rangers fanbase. They come to the park dressed in spangly jumpsuits, and hang on his every hand gesture. It’s a name we can relate to.
7. Carlos Santana — I know that this must be a fairly commonplace Latino name, but I can’t help but get a giggle out of it, and I know a lot of baseball commentators and analysts do, too. But how long before this young Indians backstop overshadows his mystical musician forbearer?
6. Joba Chamberlain — Joba hasn’t really lived up to the hype, but his name continues to be great. Sure, his real name is Justin, but did you know that? I still remember the NY Post headlines when the Yankees brought him up in 2007. I didn’t follow baseball then, so I was mainly confused that they kept spelling “Jabba” wrong.
5. Joey Devine — Seems commonplace enough at first, but I invite you to spend a moment contemplating this relief pitcher for the Oakland A’s. Joey Devine, aka, the perfect mobster name. You don’t want to mess with a guy named Joey Devine. You might accidentally bump into him on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, and his rat-faced companion would threaten you, cause “nobody touches Joey Devine! Nobody, ya hear?”
4. Justin Smoak — I was at a Mets game earlier this season, and between innings, there was an “update from around the league” on the scoreboard, and Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak had hit a home run. The subtitle described the young man as “The Smoak Monster” but the voiceover guy just said “Justin.” So what I’m saying is that there are a lot of silly nicknames and play calls to be had with a kid named “Smoak.” Personally, however, I think we should all just chant “Smo-ACK, Smo-ACK, Smo-ACK” every time he comes up to the plate.
3. Torii Hunter — This is mainly about the two “i”s. But, as baseball-reference.com informs me, Hunter’s full name is Torii Kedar Hunter, and that he is also known as Spider-Man. So any way you slice it, he’s got a winning name. Call him whatever you want, but he’s hit at least 20 home runs every season since 2001, except for 2005. Also, he’s the cousin of former Colorado Rockies CF Choo Freeman, so it must be a family naming convention.
2. Al Alburquerque — Pitcher for the Tigers, poor Al’s parents must have been distracted when they named him Alberto Jose Alburquerque. Actually, though, he could have chosen to go by “Bert” or “Jose.” He picked this life. He knew this was his destiny. Though he’s only made one appearance for the Tigers this season, with a name like that, he can’t help but have a storied major league career.
1. Coco Crisp — This man would make this list even if he went by his birth name, Covelli. Or his middle name, Loyce. Yes. Covelli Loyce “Coco” Crisp. Centerfielder for the Oakland A’s, and perpetual .275 hitter, Crisp is known almost as much for his very large hair as for his breakfast-cereal name. An all-round winner.
Alright, that’s all for the American League. Let me know if you think I’ve left off anyone important, and be sure to tune in for the National League edition, coming up soon!