Tony's Take: Nicknames

  • By Tony Caridi
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  • August 18, 2014 09:14 AM
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  "Famous" Amos Zereoue is one of Tony Caridi's favorite Mountaineer football nicknames.
  WVU Athletic Communications photo
Something disastrous has stolen the glory from sports nicknames.

Think about it. In days of old, athletes had beautiful nicknames that painted a picture in just a few letters. They were monikers that brought players to life. There was Pee Wee, Red, Stinky, Sparky, Tiny, Scooter, Fats, and the list went on.  

I’m not sure why we don’t have great nicknames anymore. It probably flipped when moms started complaining or when parents started giving their kids country-club names that don’t rhyme. Admit it, Big John rolls off the tongue a whole lot better than Big Prescott.

We had some wonderful nicknames for WVU athletes over the years.

In the 1920s, there was the brother combination of Albert “Big Sleepy” Glenn and Marshall “Little Sleepy” Glenn. That, my friends, is nickname GOLD.

One of the all-time greats on the field and in the nickname department was legendary Ira Errett Rodgers, known simply as Rat.

In the 1950s, Mountaineer football and baseball player Vic “Jack” Rabbits was a tremendous talent. He returned a punt 99 yards for a touchdown against VMI in 1955. You’ve got be a jack rabbit to go 99 yards on a punt return.

Gene “Beef” Lamone was a member of that golden nickname era in the '50s, and no one will ever forget Hot Rod Hundley.

This is not to say that good nicknames have totally gone extinct. I recently asked the Twitter universe for their favorites. Surprisingly the most popular response was James “Dirty” Davis. He was a football player with a wonderful smile and great ability to rattle quarterbacks.

Freddie “Boom Boom” Smalls also sacked quarterbacks. He was a member of the 1984 squad that gave Heisman winner Doug Flutie his only loss that season. True to his name, Freddie hit hard and opposing players often went boom-boom.

I’ve had the honor of creating a few names that stuck, including Wes Ours becoming “The Wes Express.” He was an offensive guard who played fullback, and as opposing defenders quickly learned, when the “Express” started rolling they risked getting rolled over.

On the hoops side, I tagged Josh Yeager as the Belington Bomber. His ability to stroke 3-pointers and local ties made him a favorite at the Coliseum.

While my research on this project is just a hair shy of scientific, I think the best nicknames have been trampled by political correctness. Before the PC days, people gave names based on how they looked: If you were skinny, your name was Stick. Do that today and someone is going to have to go to counseling.

Owen Schmitt was the “Runaway Beer Truck,” Michael Baker was “The Touchdown Maker,” Quincy Wilson was Weirton Steel.

I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to the glory days of nicknames, but from Tony "The Ole Fogey" Caridi, I sure hope we do.

My Top WVU Nicknames from 1990 to Present

•    “Famous” Amos Zereoue
•    Major Harris: “The Brashear Bullet”
•    James “Dirty” Davis
•    Jake “The Snake” Kelchner
•    Adam “Pacman” Jones
•    Canute Curtis: “The Amityville Horror”
•    James “Puppy” Wright
•    Kevin “Boo” McLee
•    Darryl “Truck” Bryant
•    Franchot “Boogie” Allen

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