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Nixey, Foghorn, The Bird: Central Mass. baseball players and their nicknames

In this year’s World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the names of the players appear to be a moving target.

Brock “Brockstar” Holt has become “Brocktober” Holt, and Andrew “Benny Biceps” Benintendi is now “Air Beni” after a spectacular leaping catch in Game 2.

Markus Lynn “Mookie” Betts remains as he has since the start of his baseball career, but others are earning new stripes as they fight their way through this year’s post-season.

Nicknames have always been a part of baseball. Names of famous Red Sox players include George “Babe” Ruth, Ted “Teddy Ballgame” Williams, Carlton “Pudge” Fisk and Roger “The Rocket” Clemens.

Of the 100-plus Central Massachusetts natives who have played professional baseball, nicknames are plentiful and colorful — among them “Dodo Bird,” “Partridge” and someone named “Chewy.”

Probably the most famous is Cornelius “Connie Mack” McGillicuddy of East Brookfield. He was manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years, winning five World Series. Some folks referred to him as “The Tall Tactician.”

There was also Hall of Fame manager Wilbert “Uncle Robbie” Robinson of Bolton and Hall of Fame players Charles L. “Gabby″ Hartnett of Milville, William E. “Candy” Cummings of Ware and William R. “Sliding Billy” Hamilton of Clinton.

Lesser known but colorful players include James E. “Pony” Ryan of Clinton, Lewis J. “Blower” Brown of Leominster, George H. “Foghorn” Bradley of Milford and Thomas J. “Honest Tom” Niland of Brookfield.

Whitie Whitt of Orange may have had the best reason to go by another name. His given name was Ladislaw Waldermar Wittkowski. His professional name is much easier to remember.

Playing today, pitcher Oliver Drake of Gardner is known as “Bucko.”

Central Massachusetts saw several players go on to fame and fortune, and many more who found their way to the Major Leagues for a brief time — in the case of Andy Sullivan, only two at-bats. In one he walked, and in the other he made an out. His cup of coffee in professional baseball was still better than Martin “Flip” Flaherty of Worcester, who played for the Worcester Rubylegs, a team of which he was part owner. As an emergency substitute for an injured player, he batted twice and struck out both times. In the field, he had one chance and made an error. Flaherty also umpired just one professional baseball game.


1) “Connie Mack” from East Brookfield: Cornelius McGillicuddy was a pretty good but light-hitting catcher in 11 years as a player. His real skill was at managing. Some also called him “The Tall Tactician.” He was a player-manager for Pittsburgh for two years and had a Hall of Fame managing career for 50 years with the Philadelphia Athletics. He led the Athletics to seven World Series appearances, winning five titles.

2) “Pussy” from Worcester: Charles A. Tebeau got the nickname “Pussy” because his initials spelled out the word cat. He played two games for the Cleveland Spiders in 1895. In those two games he was pretty good, with three hits in six at-bats. He also scored three runs, stole a base, and had one RBI. Unfortunately for him, he joined the Spiders after having already agreed to play for another team, from Portland, Maine. When the manager of the Portland team saw his name in a sports story, he filed a complaint. The following year Pussy joined the Portland team, but in the final preseason game, he was hit in the head with a pitch, landing him in the hospital and ending his baseball career.

3) “Boon” from Worcester: Bruno P. Haas pitched six games for the Philadelphia Athletics, plus three games as an outfielder and three as a pinch-hitter. In his first game he set a Major League record by walking 15 batters. He walked 28 in his short career. At the plate, in 18 at-bats, he walked once, got one hit and scored one run while striking out seven times. Although his playing career was less than stellar, he stayed with baseball for 37 years as a minor league executive, scout, coach and manager. He also played professional football.

4) “Jonah” from Webster: As a rookie, no one would have guessed how fitting it was for right-handed pitcher George H. Derby to be called Jonah. At the start of the career, he was nothing like the unlucky Biblical character Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale. Derby had a great year. In his first season with the Detroit Wolverines in 1881, he won 29 games with 212 strikeouts, pitching nine shutouts and 495 innings. That season he pitched 55 complete games. Sadly that was his undoing. By the end of the season the bad luck of Jonah visited him. He began experiencing shoulder problems. The following year he won 17 games but lost 20. He still struck out 182 batters, but it was really the end of his career. The next season, his last in baseball, he was traded to the Buffalo Bison, where he had a 2-10 record.

5) “The Bird” from Northboro: Mark Fidrych had a career similar to Jonah Derby’s. In his rookie year in 1976 with the Detroit Tigers, the colorful pitcher was 19-9. The following year, he tore a rotator cuff. His career lasted only one more year. He died in 2009 in a construction vehicle accident. Although he had a short career, The Bird’s impact on baseball was huge. He is credited with making the game fun again for many fans. His enthusiasm and antics on the mound will long be remembered.

6) “Nixey” from Fitchburg: James J. Callahan was named Nixey by his mother, although it is unclear why. He was a great pitcher and a pretty good hitter, playing for teams in Chicago and Philadelphia. He is the only pitcher to get five hits in a game three times. Over his 19-year career he hit .273 with 3,295 at-bats. One year he hit .331 in 118 games. In 1902 with the Chicago White Sox, he pitched the first no-hitter in American League history. He also twice won 20 or more games. On the flip side, Nixey gave up a total of 48 runs in two consecutive starts in 1900.

7) “Foghorn” from Milford: George H. Bradley was named Foghorn because his voice could shatter a glass chandelier. The son of a Milford boot maker, he pitched one year for the Boston Red Stockings. As a pitcher his record was only 9-10, but he made his mark in four years as an umpire. He presided over the first perfect game in baseball history, pitched by Lee Richmond of the Worcester team, which blanked Cleveland, 1-0, at a field in Worcester where Becker College now stands.

8) “Corns” from Grafton: Hugh Frederick Bradley, nephew of Foghorn Bradley, also enjoyed only a short baseball career, but has the distinction of getting the first hit ever at Fenway Park. He played for the Boston Red Sox for two years and finished his career playing for teams in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Newark. He was backup first baseman for the 1912 world champion Red Sox. His best year hitting — .307 — was with Pittsburgh.

9) “Blower” from Leominster: Lewis J. Brown of Leominster was a catcher and first baseman who played for several teams over four years, including the Boston Beaneaters (later the Braves). He was nicknamed “Blower” as a nod to a famous British race-walker, Blower Brown. He was one of the last players to catch a game without a mask, glove or chest protector. He was also blacklisted for a year in 1882 for conduct relating to heavy drinking. He died in 1889, five years after his career ended when he fractured his leg wrestling at a saloon where he worked. The fracture led to amputation and pneumonia.

10) “Bear Tracks” from Worcester: Alva W. Javery of Worcester played six years with the Boston Braves and one year with the Boston Bees from 1940 through 1946 mostly as a relief pitcher. He was an All-Star in 1943 and 1944, pitching two innings in the 1943 game. His best year was 1943, when he was 17-16.


All-Star Game Memories: Mark 'The Bird'

All-Star Game Memories: Mark 'The Bird'

Caledonian Record

In 1976, for one unforgettable season, Mark “The BirdFidrych shone brighter than Elvis, Liz or Ali – maybe brighter than all three rolled into one.


Baseball for the Birds

Baseball for the birdsAfter two weeks of guiding hiking and birding trips my mind automatically finds feathered beauty and details so, of course, as I move back to the details of baseball my bird attention shifts with it. I see Blue Jays, Orioles, and Cardinals so the transition is easy.

Baseball is filled with bird incidents like the pigeon that landed on the field and then wandered over to Greg Bird on first base. There was the Kestrel that entertained Twins fans during a cold and rainy night when it was on the jumbotron catching insects (2010). The Toronto Star reported on an incident with former Twin and Twin City hero – Dave Winfield, “On August 4, 1983, more than 36,000 watched the Toronto Blue Jays play the New York Yankees at Exhibition Stadium. When Yankee star Dave Winfield threw a baseball at the end of the fifth inning warm-up, it came into disastrous convergence with a bird that had been watching in right-centrefield. The bird slumped lifelessly on the Astroturf.

“A police officer sitting on the edge of right field thought it was an intentional hit. Winfield said it was an accident. He was taken to 14 Division and charged with causing “unnecessary suffering to an animal.” The charge was later dropped, but the moment never really went away.”

The Minneapolis Tribune wrote an article about Gene Glynn, our Minnesota Coach, who watches birds at his home in Waseca. “I find birds in every city in every park near the baseball stadium,” Glynn says. “In Florida the shorebirds are all over the place, on the West Coast it’s all about gulls, terns and herons and in Central Park in New York you can see just about anything. Birds get me outdoors and keep me occupied.”

Besides the team baseball has Robins. Like Robin Ventura from the White Sox and Robin Yount from the Brewers and Robin Roberts from the Phillies – a pretty good threesome! Aaron Crow brings another of our common birds to the diamond and Dean and Don Crow had the proverbial cup of coffee. Mike Parrott played from 1977 – 1981.
Hawk Harrelson represents our raptors. Andre Dawson was known as the Hawk too. Turkey Gross in 1925 and Turkey Tyson in 1944 represent the bird that Ben Franklin wanted to replace the eagle as our national symbol. The Eagle was represented by Bill Eagle in 1898 and the Grey Eagle – Tris Speaker, hall of famer.

The German word for birds – Vogel – can be found in Otto Vogel from the early 1920’s and Ryan Vogelsong added the lyrics of our avian world too.

The Bird is well represented from the diminutive Birdie (actually he was not) Tebbetts, catcher, to Doug Bird, the pitcher who lasted 11 years in the majors. There was also George Bird in 1871, Frank Bird in 1872, and Greg Bird – current. But of course THE BIRD was Mark Fidrych who took the baseball world over during his too brief career.
THE BIRD would go 19 – 9 in his rookie yearwith a 2.34 era in 250 innings and the Tigers were 74 – 88 even with him. His 9.6 WAR and his 1.079 WHIP would satisfy any stathead, but his story goes downhill fast. He lasted five innings and won only 10 more games total and he would only live to be 54. There are numerous bios on Youtube but this one really captures the excitement of his year: and in books The Bird, by Doug Wilson, but seeing him in a Tigers Uniform that magic summer of his rookie year is something no one could forget. On the ground shaping the mound with his hands, and with his general demeanor Mark connected with the fans.

Willie Horton, his teammate said at his funeral, “Everyone playing in the major leagues today owes a debt of gratitude to Mark Fidrych. He brought baseball back to the people. He made it popular again. He helped save the game.”

Bird came in as the game was at a 1976 low point – owners had a lock out, free agency was just beginning and fans were disgusted. But Bird had such enthusiasm and charisma. People loved it when he talked to the ball, when he ran off the mound to congratulate teammates or when he shook hands with the umpire after the game.
He played for the $16,000 minimum wage and still loved everything about the experience. The unwritten rule (yup, one of those) in those days was not to take curtain calls. The Bird changed that. Described as “gawky, noisy and energetic with a huge mop of curly yellow hair…” he did not look like a typical ball player. In fact, he looked like Big Bird from Sesame Street and that gave him his nickname – a perfect fit.

His career ended because of a severely torn rotator cuff, maybe from his 24 complete games, but that was before the TJ surgery and the advances that now save pitchers careers. He was what baseball needs right now, a personality. Burn all the unwritten rules, we need authentic heroes on the diamond, we need real people we can relate to. THE BIRD was a savior and we need more of them. We may have a big fish – Mike Trout – right now, but it is the Bird, Reggie Jackson and others who jump out of the game and into the hearts of the fans that really make baseball. 

Posted on Twins Daily by mikelink45


Mark Fidrych Foundation receives $10,000 donation from Teamsters Local 25 Autism Fund

(l to r) Teamsters Local 25 Secretary-Treasurer Tom Mari, Jessica Fidrych, Local 25 President Sean O’Brien, Ann Fidrych, Christine, Bill and Liam Fitzgerald, and Fidyrch Foundation Board member Denyse TurpinRegion – Teamsters Local 25 President Sean O’Brien on May 3 presented more than $275,000 to 12 local autism non-profits, including a $10,000 donation to the Mark Fydrich Foundation, which continues the legacy of legendary baseball player Mark Fidrych, with an emphasis on enhancing the lives of children and adults with special needs through sports. The grant was made in the name of Northborough resident, Liam Fitzgerald, known internationally as “The Fist Bump Kid.”

“Local 25 is proud to have raised more than $4-million in the last 11 years for local, regional and national autism organizations,” said O’Brien. “We’re excited to support the Mark Fidrych Foundation again in the name of Liam Fitzgerald. Liam loves sports and has participated in the local challenger league that is supported by the organization. We’re continually impressed by the coaches and volunteers of these leagues and how they empower the participants to succeed.”

In its 11th year, the Teamsters Local 25 Autism Fund has donated more than $4 million since its inception.

To learn more about Teamsters Local 25’s commitment to autism, visit


National Bird Day