They Call Him... Matt?

Matt Harvey has done everything a Mets fan could've hoped for and more in his brief career. Couldn't we at least give him a nickname?
Share |

In a Mediterranean country, not very long ago, my sunburnt family chugged its way through pasta and a €7 jug of rosé and I banged my head against a foreign wifi connection, struggling to tune in New York’s sports radio station WFAN. This was not a good look, maybe, but Matt Harvey was considering throwing a no-hitter and everyone at the table understood. By the time the connection crackled to life, it was clear from Howie Rose's gutpunched tone that something Metsian had happened, and another near no-no was gone.

So: deep breath, and back to vacation mode. Harvey has carried three no-hitters into the seventh this year, and looks sure to throw one at some point this season. Of course, I thought the same thing last May about R.A. Dickey, before Johan Santana’s duct tape shoulder beat him to it, suggesting that Flushing may yet be due for a Shaun Marcum perfect game. What worried me, as I returned to slurping pink wine and slapping away high-class European mosquitos, was the name of the man on the mound. Not his stuff, which flattens hitters like a boulder does Wile E. Coyote. Not his future, which appears bright enough to confound every pessimistic Mets fan urge imaginable.

No, just: he’s Matt Harvey, alias Matt, alias Harvey. Nothing more. No nickname, nothing for short. Full stop.

***

The good people at Baseball Reference, bless them, maintain a list of every nickname in their system, from Hank “Hammer” Aaron to Salvatore “Zippy” Zuno. Last month, Emma Span wrote a lovely tribute to some of the great weird nicknames, lavishing deserved attention on Bris “The Human Eyeball” Lord, but bypassing my personal favorite, which belonged to Lou Gehrig—not “The Iron Horse,” but “Biscuit Pants,” which the luckiest man on the face of the earth earned by having an oversized ass.

The best nicknames don’t just describe personality, they create, turning confirmed bores like Killebrew, Jeter and Halladay into killers, captains and gunslingers. Until this season, David Wright was a square-jawed goofball—incredibly talented, sure, but far from mythic. In four games at the World Baseball Classic, timely hitting and a hideous red white and blue uniform transformed him into Captain America—210 pounds of patriotic beefcake, who led the tournament in RBI despite departing halfway through. These are 21st Century athletes, bland as plain pasta; their nicknames have nothing to do with their personalities. These monikers are designed to explain how we feel when they step onto the field—a theatrical effect squeezed into one or two words. It makes poetry look inefficient.

A good nickname is the punch line that makes you want to hear the set-up. A good nickname makes you ask, “Why?”

Why was Clint Courtney, who looked like Radar, called “Scrap Iron”? Because though he never won a fight, he liked to start them.

Why was Tony Gwynn “Captain Video”? Because he was one of the first to improve his swing by obsessively watching tape.

Why were Jack Chapman, Bob Ferguson, Franklin Gutierrez all called “Death To Flying Things”? Because sportswriters of the day, though colorful, could only think of so many ways to describe a strong fielder.

Why did so many players earn nicknames like Gentleman George, Gentleman Jim, Gentleman Joe, and Gentlemanly Bob? Because none of them were Ty Cobb.

Why was Ed Heusser known as The Wild Elk of the Wasatch? I don’t know, and neither does Emma Span, but goddamn I really want to.

Why was Don Stanhouse known as Fullpack, or Stan The Man Unusual?

Well, as Damon Runyon wrote, a story goes with it. A journeyman closer with slightly below-average career numbers, Stanhouse distinguished himself in the early ‘'70s with a pre-game warmup that included a primal scream, and an acute lack of command that caused his manager to chain smoke a pack an inning. Thus, Stan The Man Unusual. Thus, Fullpack.

But fullpacks and human eyeballs need lesser nicknames to support them. Pick any old team from any old year, the 1932 Dodgers, say, and you’ll find a few great nicknames (Lefty O’Doul, High Pockets Kelly, Sloppy Thurston) surrounded by bland ones (Mickey, Sukey, Cy). Spend five minutes playing with Baseball Reference’s random page tool, and you’ll find guys like this:

Chick
Heck
Half-Pint Rye
The Chief
Whitey
Arriba
Bunny
Red
Grump
Warrior

I also stumbled upon Nate Bland and Fred Blank, who need nicknames even more than Matt Harvey does. No all-time classics, here, admittedly. But these are good, solid, hard-working nicknames—the sort that good, solid, hard-working players used to get. But no more. Why not? Is Matt Harvey doing something wrong?

***

It’s impossible to put a finger on what doomed American nicknaming, but since it’s easy, faddish and fun, I’ll blame ESPN. The golden age of monikerism coincided with the first boom in American sportswriting, when sportswriters bore the entire weight of describing a game, deploying a depth of detail that television simply made obsolete. Chew on this chunk of an article describing the opening of old Yankee Stadium, when Ruth’s “savage home run” christened “this biggest of all baseball stadia.”

Ruth worked the count to two and two, and then Ehmke tried to fool him with one of those slow balls that the Giants used successfully in the last world’s series. The ball came in slowly, but it went out quite rapidly, rising on a line and then dipping suddenly from the force behind it. It struck well inside the foul line, eight or ten rows above the low railing in front of the bleachers, and as Ruth circled the bases he received probably the greatest ovation of his career. The biggest crowd in baseball history rose to its feet and let loose the biggest shout in baseball history. Ruth, jogging over the home plate, grinned broadly, lifted his cap at arm’s length and waved it at the multitude.

To keep 154 games of minute detail from turning mind-numbing, booze- and ennui-addled sportswriters reached for color, sometimes sinking to cliché and sometimes rising to brilliance. They gave us Babe Ruth, Pie Traynor and Lefty Grove, whose given names are remembered as an afterthought, in small font. The nickname was the name, as though it was still understood then that the men on the field were playing a part, that fans could never truly know them, and that it was best to focus on what these guys did while in uniform. That’s a knotty problem of signification, one that a freshman English student could probably wring a paper out of. But for our purposes it’s important mainly because it means that baseball’s best pitchers don’t win the Denton True Young Award.

But nicknames wear out the more you say them, and between ESPN, regional sports networks, fantasy baseball newsletters and all the various other megaphones for modern sports shouting, ballplayers’ names are invoked more than ever before. Nicknames as excellent as Penitentiary Face, HacMan and One Flap Down—all of which belong to Jeffrey Leonard—are too gentle for the 24 hour news cycle. Only the hardiest monikers, of the cripplingly bland A-Rod, K-Rod, CarGo school, can survive. Thankfully, even the New York Post wouldn’t dare call the Mets’ new ace M-Har.

***

So—what do we do with #33? Nicknames have been proposed, even making their way onto his Baseball Reference page, but “The Real Deal”—endorsed by Doc Gooden himself, but as bland as a real estate newsletter—and “The Dark Knight of Gotham” simply don’t hold up. They could apply to any talented New York pitcher. There is no Harveyness in them. They don’t make you ask, “Why?”

We could count on Harvey finding a nickname organically if the average players around him had average nicknames of their own. (Lucas Duda, I’ve decided, would be called Cream Cheese.) A 24-year-old doesn’t necessarily deserve a great nickname, but nor does a player that age deserve to be as good as Harvey appears to be. Laboring to assign a nickname is silly, like scripting an improv sketch, but the Mets are not good and silliness seems as good a place to take refuge as any.

If you say that the truly great don’t need a nickname, I point you towards “The Franchise,” two words that tell you everything you need to know about what Tom Seaver meant to the Mets. “Le Grand Orange,” likewise, tidily sums up Rusty Staub. If you’d prefer to wait and see how Harvey develops, I applaud your good sense, but I can’t share in it. I am impatient, not just for Harvey to be great, but for him to be legendary—a mythic destroyer bestriding the country, laying waste to ballparks like Orson Welles at a buffet. I’m ready to mythologize him now, and trust him to catch up.

To that end, I’ve got two proposals, neither of which pretends to touch on his personality—which, as I’ve seen so far, is that of a grimly hardworking baseball player who doesn’t mind posing nude. For your consideration: Kid Harvey, because Matt has the rugged, slablike intensity of a Depression-era palooka. Or, Hazmat, because no one else can clean up the toxic Mets. (The Fumigator would also work, but it’s not punny, and is really a nickname for a reliever, anyway. If the Mets ever get a good one, I’ll deploy it then.)

So: Kid Harvey, or Hazmat. I’m open to suggestions; I know these aren’t brilliant. But a nickname doesn’t have to be brilliant. It just needs to make you want to learn more.

***

I returned to the States on Sunday afternoon, while Kid Harvey was pitching against the Phillies. Suffering from serious baseball withdrawal, I asked the cabbie if he could turn on the Met game.

“The Mets!” he cackled. “They don’t even exist any more! They’re a prehistoric team!”

He laughed all the way out of the airport, a distance of approximately 2.2 miles. When he dropped me off, he said, “Good luck with the Mets. I’m sorry you still think they’re real.”

“It’s a convenient delusion,” I said.

“Have you considered trying voodoo? It can be very helpful.”

Voodoo Harvey, I thought. Not so bad.


Share |

Comments

I went over this site and I trust you have a considerable measure of great data, spared to my bookmarks how to become a dental assistant

Your articles are solon than wow! best healthy drink

Not his stuff, which flattens hitters like a boulder does Wile E. Coyote. Not his future, which appears bright enough to confound every pessimistic Mets fan urge imaginable.minecraft free play no download |
how to get free psn codes without surveys

I haven"t any word to value this post.....Really i am inspired from this post....the individual who make this post it was an extraordinary human..thanks for imparted this to us. construction loan terms

If you don't mind share more like that. cccam server

Thanks for sharing out this content it are really fastidious. Partner Visas

Decent post. I was checking always this online journal and I"m inspired! To a great degree helpful data uncommonly the last part I watch over such data a considerable measure. I was looking for this sure data for quite a while. Much obliged to you and good fortunes. extra resources

Much obliged for each other useful site. The spot else might just I understand that sort of data written in such a perfect means? I have an endeavor that I"m a few seconds ago working on, and I have been watchful for such data. EV Public Chargers

Howdy. I discovered your web journal utilizing msn. This is an extremely elegantly composed article. I"ll make certain to bookmark it and return to peruse a greater amount of your helpful information. A debt of gratitude is in order for the post. I"ll certainly return. found here

Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand.cutlass supreme car covers

Positive webpage, where did u think of the data on this posting?I have perused a couple of the articles on your site now, and I truly like your style. You rock and please keep up the successful work. look here

I am cheerful to discover this post Very valuable for me, as it contains parcel of data. I Always want to peruse The Quality and happy I discovered this thing in you post. Much obliged Branded VR Cardboard

This is a splendid website! I"m extremely content with the remarks!.. Google Cardboard Custom

Gives you the best website address I know there alone you’ll find how easy it is. http://zalatawabooks.tumblr.com/

A debt of gratitude is in order For sharing this Superb article.I utilize this Article to demonstrate my task in college.it is valuable For me Great Work. webpage

I absolutely feel ecstatic when I find articles relevant to my work and my subject. popcornflix

Much obliged to you for extremely usefull data.. Schneider Charging stations

Non-benefit software associations incorporate the Free Software Foundation, GNU Project and Mozilla Foundation. software standard associations like the W3C, IETF create prescribed software principles, for example, XML, HTTP and HTML, so software can interoperate through these guidelines. download keygens

Extraordinary substance material and awesome design. Your site merits the majority of the positive input it's been getting. Branded Google Cardboard

Affection to peruse it,Waiting For More new Update and I Already Read your Recent Post its Great Thanks. additional resources

It covers the following facts: inbound links effect on a domain rating, and creating back-links strategy. seo pricing

Your substance is out and out splendid from multiple points of view. I think this is connecting with and enlightening material. Much obliged to you such a great amount for thinking about your substance and your perusers. more information

Your contents are too simple to read and easy to understand.casino senza deposito

The data you have posted is exceptionally helpful. The destinations you have alluded was great. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing.. loftplan

I was surfing net and luckily ran over this site and discovered exceptionally intriguing stuff here. Its truly enjoyable to peruse. I delighted in a considerable measure. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing this superb data. satta king

You make such a large number of extraordinary focuses here that I read your article two or three times. Your perspectives are as per my own generally. This is extraordinary substance for your perusers. the frog game

You make such a large number of awesome focuses here that I read your article two or three times. Your perspectives are as per my own generally. This is incredible substance for your perusersloftplan

You make such a large number of awesome focuses here that I read your article two or three times. Your perspectives are as per my own generally. This is incredible substance for your perusers. Awakening Your Feminine Intuition

Its an extraordinary joy perusing your post.Its brimming with data I am searching for and I want to post a remark that "The substance of your post is marvelous" Great work. browse around this web-site

An entrancing dialog is quality remark. I surmise that it is best to compose additional on this matter, it won't be an unthinkable point however for the most part individuals are insufficient to chat on such themes. To the following. Salud found it

Howdy! Pleasant post! If it's not too much trouble let us know when I will see a postliminary! visit this link

I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will locate that extremely useful... autocad crack

I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will locate that extremely useful...
does geico sell home insurance

Fantastic data on your site, thank you for setting aside an ideal opportunity to impart to us. Astounding understanding you have on this current, it's decent to discover a site that subtle elements such a great amount of data about distinctive specialists. back pain idaho falls

I have read your blog it is very helpful for me. I want to say thanks to you. I have bookmark your site for future updates.
credit report gov site

You have made an awesome showing on this article. It's extremely lucid and profoundly smart. You have even figured out how to make it justifiable and simple to peruse. You have some genuine written work ability. Much obliged to you. the big free chip list

Incredible articles and extraordinary format. Your blog entry merits the greater part of the positive criticism it's been getting. fahrrad navi

Hey buddies, such a marvelous blog you have made I’m surprised to read such informative stuff.
fashion

Businesses, especially minuscule or business ones, can rely on travel brochures to puddle grouping undergo what congest they are promoting. Printing VIP

Money Lender in Singapore I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will locate that extremely useful... Best Money Lender in Bukit Batok

I am truly appreciative to the owner of this website who has shared this nice article at this wonderful place.
Chris Walker - top SEO services

Awesome! It sounds great. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing.. why not check here

I got your blog yesterday and still I am waiting for the new posts… this is quite satisfying blog so all guys come here and learn something special.
fashion

Thank you so very much buddies! I like your all best ever posts daily here. My hat is off to you on your special working.
best essay writing service

much obliged to you for your intriguing infomation. resveratrol anti aging

A debt of gratitude is in order for offering this quality data to us. I truly delighted in perusing. Will clearly going to impart this URL to my companions. choline with piracetam

Undoubtedly this is a phenomenal post I got a considerable measure of learning subsequent to perusing good fortunes. Subject of online journal is astounding there is just about everything to peruse, Brilliant post. why not check here

This webpage is containing a pleasant stuff with the teachings, I loved it a lot.
Chris Walker - best Denver SEO consultants

On the off chance that you set out to make me think today; mission achieved! I truly like you"re composing style and how you express your thoughts. Much thanks to you. geschenkideen weihnachten

I'm happy I discovered this site, I couldn't discover any learning on this matter former to.Also work a website and on the off chance that you are ever inspired by doing some guest composing for me if conceivable don't hesitate to tell me, im dependably search for individuals to look at my site. new casino 2017