By Bud Boccone
We all have different ways of knowing that spring has finally arrived. For gardeners, it’s the head of a lone tulip poking through the slumbering brown soil. Fashionistas cast off the winter blues upon the first sighting of seersucker and open-toe pumps. And for me and other similarly afflicted baseball nuts, nothing heralds spring like the aroma of ballpark franks and the sound of bat on ball.
An annual rite of my baseball spring is to drill down on the previous year’s statistics at baseball-reference.com. The reams of stats at baseball-reference are the site’s bread and butter, but it also features lots of fascinating trivia.
One of the site’s best diversions is a historical roster of player nicknames. A quick glance reveals that many of baseball’s most colorful monikers have had something to do with dogs. In the spirit of the season I couldn’t resist this mash-up of America’s two national pastimes, dogs and baseball. I scoured the list to assemble an all-time doggy nickname team.
The AKC Hot-Diggety Dogs
1. Willie “3-Dog” Davis OF
2. Lance “One Dog” Johnson OF
3. Orlando “O-Dog” Cabrera SS
4. Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff 1B
5. Chris “Spuds” Sabo 3B*
6. Joe “Poodles” Hutcheson OF
7. Rex “The Wonder Dog” Hudler 2B
8. Tony “Pug” Rensa C
9. Greg “Mad Dog” Maddux P
* Sabo had some fine seasons for the Cincinnati Reds in the ’90s, but he’s best remembered for his resemblance to Bud Lite pitch-dog Spuds McKenzie.
Clyde “Pooch” Barnhart, Harry “Bow Wow” Arft, Harry “Collie” Colliflower, Mo “Hit Dog” Vaughan
Marty “Bulldog” Pattin, Orel “Bulldog” Hershiser, Jim “Bulldog” Bouton
Cool nicknames, yes, but how good are the AKC Hot-Diggety Dogs?
After reviewing the career stats of each player, a glaring weakness is apparent: a lack of homerun power. “Crime Dog” McGriff is the starting lineup’s only real long-ball threat. But this drawback should be offset by speed and quality pitching. And any all-canine team will have intangibles like loyalty, tenacity, and the desire to fetch balls all day long.
Prediction: If manager Dennis “Hound Dog” Sprung can keep his team from digging holes in the infield and chasing squirrels between pitches, they could go all the way to the World Sirius.