Nicknames started to peter out in the 1960s, though the major leagues still made room for Catfish, for Mudcat, and for Slats and our beloved Moonman.
Take a look at the Cardinals roster, though, and see if you can find more than one or two measly nicknames. Yep, we've got "El Hombre" and, if we push the envelope, "Skip"...and that's all she wrote. It's enough to make you miss Ray "Burger" King, though his nickname never really took hold.
Unreal aims to change all that. Beginning today, we'll publish a poll and invite readers to vote on nicknames for the 2009 Cardinals.
Where to begin the search for a Rick Ankiel nom de guerre? Why, let's ask the man himself!
About to turn 30 this year, planning to start a family, and on the brink of free agency's windfall, Ankiel sees contentment where others see quiet. There is only one thing he's thinking about changing.
Ankiel has been preoccupied recently about when it is age appropriate for him to shorten his given name, Richard, to "Dick" instead of "Rick." Some friends and clubhouse denizens have already taken to calling him "Dick" this spring. He calls it an instant "ice-breaker."
Unreal didn't make that up. Shocking, we know. It's actually from a recent Derrick Goold piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. When we first read it, we thought we were hallucinating, figured it must've been a bad mushroom or something. Maybe Ankiel was just playing an early April Fool's joke on Goold. Whatever the case, it's as good a starting point as any: Dick.
Better yet, add an old-school twist: Swingin' Dick.
Though others have suggested The Natural, clichés cause Unreal to break out in a rash. But we do like the throwback concept, and the notion of keying on his power. So how about The Human Howitzer? (OK, it's not "Death to Flying Things," but that one's taken.)
A more contemporary, alliterative take on the power concept? Ammerin' Ank.
One vote per reader, please. But don't hesitate to write in a suggestion and leave it via the Comments thread. We'll close voting and announce the winning nickname a week from today, when we put up a new poll.