This article was written by James K. Skipper Jr.
This article was published in the 1989 Baseball Research Journal
A MANAGER DOESN’T NEED A nickname to make the Hall, but it helps. Fully fourteen of the 16 Cooperstown skippers had calling cards. See if you can guess the people from their nicknames:
The Old Roman. When his White Sox won their first pennant in 1901, journalist Hugh Keogh began referring to their owner, who had managed in four leagues, as “The Old Roman.” Thomas Shea, author of a 1946 book on baseball nicknames, suggests that the nickname was a composite of his characteristics breeding, a patrician bearing, shrewdness, and a noble mane of white hair that crowned a classical profile. (Charles Comiskey)
The Old Fox. The name was probably given him by an opponent. It derives not from his wiliness as a manager and executive, but from his days as a pitcher, when he was guilty of much chicanery. “For a little fellow he was pretty good,” umpire Bill Bryan observed. “He used to stand out there on the rubber and spend minutes knocking the ball against his spikes, pretending there was dirt on them, and meanwhile scuffing the cover of the ball.” (Clark Griffith)
The Tall Tactician. The 6’1″, 170-pound Athletics manager, a master of baseball strategy, was an unforgettable sight for more than half a century sitting on the bench in suit, tie, and straw hat, and directing his players by waving a score card. (Connie Mack)
Little Napoleon. The nickname referred to the Giant skipper’s height (5’7″) and authoritarian and military style of managing. (John McGraw)
The Mahatma. The Browns and Cardinals manager always thought he had something important to say. He liked to lecture players individually and collectively, using catchy phrases and parables that often were over their heads. As a Dodger executive in the l940s, he reminded sportswriters of India’s orator-turned-statesman, Mahatma Gandhi, and they began to refer to him in print as “The Mahatma.” (Branch Rickey)
Uncle Robbie. Managing the Dodgers from 1914 to 1931, the portly ex-catcher was a lax disciplinarian. This, combined with a fatherly attitude toward his players, not only won him respect and admiration, but also the nickname “Uncle Robbie.” (Wilbert Robinson)
Cousin Ed. An ironic nickname for a man who liked to pick fights, “Cousin Ed” derives from “Cousin Egbert,” a name given the 1920s-era Yankee general manager by sportswriter W.O. McGeehan. (Edward Barrow)
Bucky. The player-manager of Washington’s 1924-25 championship teams, he was first called Bucky” as a kid basketball player. “I had a couple of players on my back in a rough game,” he related. “When I shook them off and shot a basket [a friend named Gary Schmeelk] said I bucked like a tough little bronco.” (Stanley Harris)
The Mighty Mite. The 5’61/2″ Yankee skipper more than earned the name for controlling such strong-willed players as Babe Ruth, Joe Bush, and Jumpin’ Joe Dugan. (Miller Huggins)
Marse Joe. Managing the Cubs in the l920s, he was given the nickname by Chicago sportswriters. “Marse” is a variation of “Massa,” a term for “master” once used by slaves. The manager may have first been called “Marse Joe” when he fired Grover Cleveland Alexander for breaking curfew regulations. (Joe McCarthy)
Deacon. The only manager to direct three teams (St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh) to pennants, this soft-spoken man was, in fact, a deacon in the Methodist Church. (William McKechnie)
Casey. He was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. According to one of several explanations for his nickname, he arrived in minor-league Kankakee in 1910 with “K. C.” on his bags and introduced himself by saying “I’m from K.C.” (Charles Stengel)
Señor. His managerial skills with the Indians (1954) and White Sox (1959) earned him the respectful “Señor,” which is Spanish for “Mister.” (Alfonso Lopez)
Smokey. As a kid on a grade-school baseball team, the legendary Dodger skipper threw a live fastball. The kids said he put plenty of “smoke” on the ball. (Walter Alston)
The other Hall-of-Fame managers, nineteenth-century greats George and Harry Wright, had no distinctive nicknames.
James K. (Skip) Skipper, Jr. is chairman of the sociology department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.