The Runner Sports

Big Fudge, Dragon, And Moose: The Stories Behind The Astros’ Nicknames

Baseball has had nicknames as long as it’s had bats and balls. “The Splendid Splinter” (Ted Williams), “The Yankee Clipper” (Joe DiMaggio), “The Georgia Peach” (Ty Cobb)…all are etched in our minds and the colorful histories of the players attached to each. Even favorite past Houston Astros had unique nicknames.

Lance Berkman was “The Big Puma;” Jimmy Wynn, “The Toy Cannon;” and Rusty Staub was “Le Grande Orange” (a nickname gained after he was traded to Montreal, but still “in play” as an Astros nick). Bob Watson was, understandably “The Bull,” Nolan Ryan the fabled “Express,” and recent Hall of Fame inductions have reminded us of the not entirely creative “Bidge” and “Baggy” (Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell).

The story behind a given nickname can range from anywhere between mundane and banal (workable nicknames themselves, come to think of it), to flat-out inventive and chuckle-worthy.

Clothes Encounters of the Thread Kind

Wednesday, August 9, MLB had nothing better to do than unleash a thinly-veiled marketing ploy that they’re threatening we’ll have to undergo the weekend of August 25-27, in something they’ve decided to call “Players Weekend,” which to these ears sounds like nothing more than a new MTV reality series.

Mark your calendars…preferably in colors of mauve, fuchsia and hunter green (wasn’t he a recent first-round draft pick?), or any other hideous color combo that reflects the unfortunate design choices of that weekend’s uniforms.

Church co-ed softball uniforms have suddenly taken a quantum leap in tolerably viewable sportswear. To paraphrase that great humor writer, Fran Lebowitz, “Your right to wear a ‘Players Weekend’ uniform ends where it meets my eye.” And, having written that biting observation in the 70s, she was originally referring to lime green leisure suits! Ladies and gentleman, MLB proudly presents, the lime green leisure suit of the new millennium!

Nicknames, crazy gear part of Players Weekend

Above is the roll-out of the Houston Astros’ new league night bowling tops. When asked by the MLB front office to fill out their respective “Players Weekend” fun nickname jersey names, some played along, but Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, and Brian McCann decided to stand pat (no doubt figuring “Stand Pat” had already been taken by Neshek, on whatever team he’s on this week). To their credit, though, they (or their “people”) may have considered the long-term hit these shenanigans may have on their careers. Cut to 2021, when Springer is an unrestricted free agent: “You’re lucky, George. We have to consider solid personal judgment before we lay out this kind of money. Remember the ‘Players Weekend’ scare of 2017? Good call.”

As for Keuchel, he’s shown a good sense of humor before (t-shirts and fake beards for Keuchel’s Korner for his home starts), and his Twitter handle is even @kidkeuchy.

Name Droppings

But, there are some Astros who are in it to spin it, and had no problem filling in some odd, some dull, and some creative and even laughable jersey nicknames. Here’s the poop (that’s not one of them):

Jose Altuve went with, simply, “Tuve,” because the press and players have used that quite a bit before. “The Toov” would’ve sufficed, though. And, we could have lived with “Tuve-ski,” “Tuve-Meister,” or “The Tuvinator.”

Carlos Correa: “Showrrea” is a construct from his 2015 rookie season, having shown up on posters and t-shirts. Origin unknown (except possibly the Astros’ PR dept.), but execution suspect, until a better one comes along. I guess “Get Off the Gol-dang DL Before The Season Completely Slips Away From Us” wouldn’t fit.

Reliever Will Harris chose “Bill.” Maybe his attorney suggested an oft-used verb.

Alex Bregman could probably have done better than “A-Breg,” but in the tradition of “A-Rod” and “CarGo,” etc, who could blame him? Plus, it’s his Twitter handle.

Carlos Beltran went with “Ivan,” his middle name.

Evan Gattis has what any 6’4″, 270-pound catcher/DH lacking batting gloves would call himself: “Bull.” He likes to tell the story of how a coach at his high school baseball camp noticed Gattis digging in at the plate, and was pawing the turf so diligently, the nickname was applied, and it stuck. It apparently has leap-frogged over “El Oso Blanco” (The White Bear), a nickname he had while with Atlanta, as well as Winter League teams he played on in Latin American countries.

Yuli Gurriel has the unsurprising and perfectly acceptable, “El Yuli,” as it’s actually what he prefers to be called, according to this July 16, 2016, article.

Starter Collin McHugh is “Snap Dragon 2.” Good judgment should dictate we leave well enough alone, but probe we must. McHugh is well-known to have a wicked spin rate on his curveball, and recent success and higher pitch usage with a knee-buckling slider, so “snap” for that, and “Dragon” as a nod (and a wink and a nudge) to Chris Devenski, “The Dragon.” And, of course, “snap dragon” is a flower, and with McHugh’s sense of humor, again, a dig at “Devo the Dragon.”

Plus, “Snap Dragon 1” was already pruned and picked, by fellow “Mac-Daddy,” starter Lance McCullers, Jr. So, until we hear otherwise, I’m sticking to the good-natured ribbing in the direction of reliever Devenski by these two clubhouse clowns.

Devenski has always been called “Devo,” as an easy, shortened version of his name, but he much prefers “Dragon.” The well-known story is that it’s a nod to his Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks manager and mentor, Rodney Linares. What many don’t know is why: Struggling in a Hooks game, Linares came out to talk to Devenski on the mound. Offering encouragement, Linares told Devenski to “unleash the Dragon.” He did, and he is.

Related: Finding Devo: Devenski Waits His Turn in the Dragon’s Lair (4/23/16)

Closer Ken Giles has opted for the wildly optimistic (if not completely Statcast-supported) “100 Miles Giles.” A Phillies-centric article, from 2015, about that nickname appears here.

Duke” is reliever Luke Gregerson‘s handle for his jersey, in honor of his recently-passed father, John “Duke” Gregerson, who, at 60, lost a two-year battle with brain cancer on New Year’s Day. This USA Today article from May is a poignant tribute.

Reliever James Hoyt (6’6″) chose “Hoyter.” Perhaps he was thinking in terms of one who “hurts,” and says it in a Brooklyn accent. Had Hoyt been paying attention to my December 8, 2015, article, he would have noticed I dubbed him then, “The Big Hoyt,” playing off of Frank Thomas‘ “The Big Hurt,” but as if one was from Brooklyn. May not be too late to change the paperwork, James.

Ground Chuck” is starter Charlie Morton, obviously referring to his penchant for inducing ground-ball outs, unless he’s throwing us a curve, and revealing his “Air Jordan”-like pick-up basketball nickname.

Jake Marisnick is, for some reason, “Big Fudge.” Let him explain, in this Astro blog from September 8, 2014: “It just came last spring training with the Marlins when I was on the DL. I was eating everything in sight. They said I put on a ton of weight, but I really put on maybe 10 or 15 pounds. And they thought it was hilarious, so ‘Big Fudge’ came about. It’s just kind of what they went with.” Jake even has an Australian Shepherd he named “Little Fudge.”

Large right-hander Joe Musgrove is “Moose,” not to be confused with Mike Moustakas, who will also have that more well-known moniker on his Kansas City Players Weekend jersey. Joe is 6’5″, 265, and has an “Mus” in front of his name.

Pitcher Francis Martes is the mysterious “Chanchi.” A peek at the Urban Dictionary seems to enlighten us (I’ll paraphrase): “Chanchi: A gentleman of Hispanic descent who dresses like they are, uh…ghetto. Extremely Hispanic, but tries to hide it.” Francis, if I’m way off base, try to pick me off, and comment below on the origin of your use of “Chanchi.” And, what, exactly, is wrong with “Frankie Tuesday”?

Mike Fiers is “Kai.” With little to go on, and assuming there’s no family connection to that word/name, here’s a guess: In Burmese, kai means “strong” or “unbreakable.” In Mandarin Chinese, Kai is a common given name with one of several meanings, most often “victory” (凱), with another being “open” (開). But, we may have a winner (especially if Fiers is of Scottish descent), where “Kai” means “fire.” Well-played, Mike.

Pitcher Michael Feliz is “Fuego,” which many know, is Spanish for “fire” (clearly, a recurring theme among pitchers). So, if “Feliz” is “happy” (and it is), that makes Michael “Happy Fire.”

Finally, Josh Reddick is “Red Dog.” We can piece this together: He has red hair; he has “red” in his name; he’s a Georgia native, and while he didn’t attend the University of Georgia (Middle Georgia State, instead), he nonetheless, is a fan of the Bulldogs. And, “Red Dog” sounds like a great WWE wrestler’s name, and he’s a big fan.

Interesting closing side note on one of the other Players Weekend jerseys: That of New York Yankees rookie slugger, Aaron Judge. He had to be pushed, a bit, to put his fan-generated nickname, “All Rise,” on his. Little does he know that he’s in good company: The “All Rise” jersey is the very same one used by the good folks at Fleischmann’s Yeast Company.

It’s their softball jersey.

NEW: What the Astros Do When You’re Not Looking, Summer ’17 Edition

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle