28 Unforgettable Nicknames in Sports

June 18, 2018 by Grant Suneson

Professional sports locker rooms are where teams share strategy, joy, and sadness. It’s where they plan for the game, but also where they can step away from it, be themselves, and kid around. Players are known to prank their teammates, as well as give each other nicknames.

Some athletes get their nicknames from reporters and beat writers, who need to use a certain special superlative to describe to their readers and viewers the athlete’s style of play or personality.

For many players, like Alexander “Ovi” Ovechkin, their nickname is simply a shortened version of their given name. Other nicknames, though, are a bit more strange and unexpected, and require a bit more creativity from fans, teammates, or writers to come up with.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed sports media sources, including the Sports Reference family of sites, to compile a list of the weirdest nicknames in American sports history.

Click here to see the most unforgettable nicknames in sports.

The NBA’s Charles Barkley used his wide frame to bully opponents and grab rebounds, earning him the nickname “The Round Mound of Rebound.” The Chicago White Sox had a shortstop named Luke Appling in the 1930s and 1940s who frequently picked up injuries late in his career. This unfortunate streak gave rise to his moniker, “Old Aches and Pains.”

Appling was one of many baseball players from decades ago to end up with strange identifiers. Baseball has such a rich tradition, dating back over a century, that many of the best names were bound to come from the major leagues. The MLB also has longer seasons, so when reporters wrote daily about legendary players like Lou Gehrig, many opted to use his nickname “Iron Horse” to spice up their columns.

Sometimes a nickname is used so frequently it sounds strange to hear that player’s given name. George Herman Ruth, Jr. doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as Babe Ruth. Ruth’s greatness garnered perhaps a greater number of nicknames than any other player. His monikers include “Caliph of Clout,” “The Great Bambino,” “The Sultan of Swat,” and “Bam,” among others.

This list is in no way comprehensive. There are hundreds and hundreds of strange and hilarious nicknames in the history of the four major sports leagues in America. Many of the best nicknames have likely been lost to history or simply never even made it out of the locker room.

To determine the weirdest nicknames in sports, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed numerous media sources, including the Sports Reference family of sites, to find odd nicknames given to MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA players.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

1. The Hebrew Hammer
> Player: Al Rosen
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Third baseman, Cleveland Indians
> Career: 1947-1956

Al Rosen was one of the best third baseman in the American League, driving in more than 100 runs in half of his 10 seasons with the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s when the Tribe challenged the Yankees for AL supremacy. In 1953, Rosen led the American League with 43 home runs and all of baseball with 145 runs batted in and was named the AL most valuable player. Rosen, who was Jewish, was nicknamed the alliterative “Hebrew Hammer.”

Source: General Photographic Agency / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

2. Babe
> Player: George Herman Ruth Jr.
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Outfielder/Pitcher, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees
> Career: 1914-1935

George Herman Ruth Jr., better known as “Babe,” is arguably the greatest baseball player ever. While trying out for Baltimore Orioles owner Jack Dunn, some players called him “Jack’s newest Babe.” The Babe blossomed into a terrific pitcher and the game’s greatest hitter, earning him a slew of nicknames like “Caliph of Clout,” “The Behemoth of Bust,” “The Great Bambino,” “The Sultan of Swat,” “The King of Crash,” and “Bam,” among others.

 

Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

3. Big Sexy
> Player: Bartolo Colon
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels
> Career: 1997-present

At a height of 5’11” and a weight of 285 pounds, Bartolo Colon doesn’t seem like the prototypical professional athlete. But the pitcher has endeared himself to fans across the majors, earning the moniker “Big Sexy.” Colon has had a long, impressive career. It started in 1997, and along the way, he’s won a Cy Young award and been named an All-star four times. At age 45, he’s still getting it done with the Texas Rangers.

Source: Library of Congress

4. The Man Nobody Knows
> Player: Bill Dickey
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Catcher, New York Yankees
> Career: 1928-1943, 1946

Bill Dickey was the first in a line of very good New York Yankees catchers. The Hall of Famer was the anchor of the Yankee dynasty that dominated baseball in the 1930s. Dickey was known by teammates and others who knew him as the “Man Nobody Knows” because of his aloofness.

Source: Al Bello / Getty Images

5. Boof
> Player: Boof Bonser
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Pitcher, Minnesota Twins
> Career: 2006-2010

Boof Bonser technically has no nickname, as his legal first name really is “Boof.” He was born John Paul Bonser, and his mother started calling him “Boof” as a baby. The moniker apparently stuck, and Bonser legally changed his first name to Boof after he was drafted in 2000.

Source: Scott Halleran / Getty Images

6. The Round Mound of Rebound
> Player: Charles Barkley
> League: NBA
> Position, team(s): Power forward, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns
> Career: 1984-2000

Charles Barkley has a big sense of humor, a big personality, and perhaps an even larger waistline. He is known as “The Round Mound of Rebound” for his dominance on the boards. The one-time MVP also has been known as “Sir Charles,” “The Chuckster,” “The Chuck Wagon,” and “The Prince of Pizza.” Barkley’s love of food is legendary. He once revealed to Jimmy Fallon that he purposely gained 20 pounds in just two days to try to avoid being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, which didn’t work.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

7. Piano Legs
> Player: Charlie Hickman
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): First baseman, Boston Beaneaters, Cleveland Naps
> Career: 1897-1908

Charlie Hickman was sometimes known as “Cheerful Charlie” due to his upbeat demeanor. But the most enduring nickname for this early 20th century player has to be “Piano Legs.” The strange name may stem from the powerful legs he needed to run the bases at a reported 215 pounds.

Source: Rick Stewart / Getty Images

8. Dr. Dunkenstein
> Player: Darrell Griffith
> League: NBA
> Position, team(s): Guard, Utah Jazz
> Career: 1980-1991

Darrell “Dr. Dunkenstein” Griffith had amazing jumping ability when he played college basketball. His brother changed one letter from the Parliament song “Dr. Funkenstein” to give him his nickname. He was the Rookie of the Year in the 1980-1981 season and competed in the first ever NBA Dunk Contest in 1984.

 

Source: Ronald Martinez / Allsport / Getty Images

9. The Admiral
> Player: David Robinson
> League: NBA
> Position, team(s): Center, San Antonio Spurs
> Career: 1989-2003

Before David Robinson was an all-time great NBA player, he played basketball at the Naval Academy. Robinson played for the Midshipmen thanks to a waiver because he was an inch over the 6’6″ maximum height. He grew to 7’1″ by the time of his graduation. He served with the Navy from ashore for two years instead of the typically required five because he was simply too tall to serve on a ship or a plane. After completing his required service, Robinson played for the San Antonio Spurs. His commanding presence and naval service earned him the nickname “The Admiral.”

 

Source: Andy Lyons / Allsport / Getty Images

10. The Worm
> Player: Dennis Rodman
> League: NBA
> Position, team(s): Power forward, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls
> Career: 1986-2000

Before Dennis Rodman was an amateur North Korean diplomat of sorts, he was a talented basketball player. A five-time NBA champ and one of the best defenders ever, Rodman was known as “The Worm” for the way he wriggled around while playing pinball as a child. Rodman’s basketball skills and over-the-top personality also drew other names like “Rodzilla,” “Demolition Man,” “El Loco,” and “Dennis the Menace.”

Source: Courtesy of Topps

11. Mortimer Snerd
> Player: Dick Selma
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Pitcher, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies
> Career: 1965-1974

Dick Selma was a journeyman pitcher who toiled for seven MLB teams and posted a lifetime record of 42-54 in 10 seasons. He was also considered, in the lingo of his day, a flake, an eccentric who got under people’s skin. Selma got the nickname “Mortimer Snerd,” which is a reference to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s wisecracking dummy because Selma liked to poke fun at people.

Source: Brian Blanco / Getty Images

12. Muscle Hamster
> Player: Doug Martin
> League: NFL
> Position, team(s): Running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
> Career: 2012-present

Nicknames are supposed to be endearing, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin absolutely hates his nickname “Muscle Hamster.” He got the name from college teammates for his short, yet muscular physique. Martin has asked friends, teammates, and even the NFL Twitter account to stop using it, but it has stuck throughout his career.

 

Source: Stephen Dunn / Allsport / Getty Images

13. The Crime Dog
> Player: Fred McGriff
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): First baseman, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
> Career: 1986-2004

Fred McGriff got his nickname “The Crime Dog” from ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman. His surname is close to McGruff, a cartoon dog created by the Ad Council to increase children’s awareness to criminal activity by encouraging them to “take a bite out of crime.” McGriff had a good career, hitting nearly 500 home runs and winning a World Series with the Atlanta Braves.

Source: Courtesy of Topps

14. Hacksaw
> Player: Jack Reynolds
> League: NFL
> Position, team(s): Linebacker, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers
> Career: 1970-1984

Jack Reynolds was a linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams and then with the San Francisco 49ers where he won two Super Bowl rings in the 1980s. His hard-as-nails reputation preceded his NFL career because of his nickname, “Hacksaw.” Reynolds reportedly got the nickname because he destroyed the frame and drive shaft of a car using a hacksaw after his college team, the University of Tennessee, was shut out by Ole Miss.

Source: Courtesy of Beckett Collectibles

15. Ugly
> Player: Johnny Dickshot
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox
> Career: 1936-1939, 1944-1945

Johnny Dickshot had a respectable six-year MLB career, posting a batting average of .276 for the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates. But Dickshot is a fixture in baseball lore for having one of the all time most unfortunate nicknames — “Ugly.” Dickshot described himself as the “ugliest man in baseball.”

 

Source: Tim DeFrisco / Getty Images

16. The Hick from French Lick
> Player: Larry Bird
> League: NBA
> Position, team(s): Small forward, Boston Celtics
> Career: 1979-1992

Larry Bird supposedly gave himself the nickname “The Hick from French Lick.” Bird went to high school in French Lick, Indiana and apparently wanted opponents to think of him as a hillbilly so they would underestimate him. Bird also was known as “Larry Legend” for his legendary late game performances, and “Kodak” for having a seemingly unnatural awareness for where every player was on the court, as if he’d taken a photo of his surroundings.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

17. Iron Horse
> Player: Lou Gehrig
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): First baseman, New York Yankees
> Career: 1923-1939

Everyone knows mighty Lou Gehrig for his strength and endurance — he held the record for consecutive baseball games played until Cal Ripken eclipsed it — hence the nickname “The Iron Horse.” But the Hall of Fame first baseman was also nicknamed “Biscuit Pants” because of his ample backside.

Source: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

18. Old Aches and Pains
> Player: Luke Appling
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Shortstop, Chicago White Sox
> Career: 1930-1950

Hall of Famer Luke Appling got the nickname “Old Aches and Pains” because of the number of injuries he received during his career. Even so, the Chicago White Sox shortstop, also called “Luscious Luke,” hit .310 lifetime, won two batting titles, and collected 2,749 hits, seventh most all time among shortstops. Appling was named the greatest player in White Sox history by Chicago fans in 1969.

 

Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

19. Scrabble
> Player: Marc Rzepczynski
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals
> Career: 2009-present

MLB relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski can be a bigger challenge for broadcasters than he can for hitters. Rzepczynski, who is of Polish descent, got the nickname “Scrabble” because his surname looks like a random assortment of letters — as if a bunch of tiles fell out of a Scrabble box. Players and coaches often struggle with the name, which is pronounced “Zep-CHIN-ski”.

Source: Harry How / Getty Images

20. Kung Fu Panda
> Player: Pablo Sandoval
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Third baseman, San Francisco Giants
> Career: 2008-present

Pablo Sandoval is affectionately known in San Francisco as the “Kung Fu Panda.” Sandoval, like the animated character voiced by Jack Black, is surprisingly athletic given his rotund physique. Teammate Barry Zito, who was impressed when Sandoval leapt over an opposing catcher during a game, gave Sandoval the nickname that has stuck with him throughout his career.

 

Source: Tim DeFrisco / Getty Images

21. Never Nervous Pervis
> Player: Pervis Ellison
> League: NBA
> Position, team(s): Forward, Boston Celtics, Washington Bullets
> Career: 1989-2001

Pervis Ellison was nicknamed “Never Nervous Pervis” because he kept his poise during close basketball games. Ellison got the moniker during his freshman year at the University of Louisville, when the Cardinals won the NCAA Tournament in 1986. Ellison went on to play for four NBA teams, and he averaged 9.5 points in a career that spanned 11 seasons. However, injuries limited his time in the NBA, to such an extent that he was referred to as “Out of Service Pervis.”

 

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

22. The Big Unit
> Player: Randy Johnson
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Pitcher, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks
> Career: 1988-2009

At 6’10”, Randy Johnson, “The Big Unit” was an intimidating pitcher for the Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Johnson recorded 4,875 strikeouts in his career, second only to Nolan Ryan. His 303 career victories are the fifth most of any left-handed pitcher. Johnson won the Cy Young Award five times, including four times in a row. He is one of just five pitchers to throw no-hitters in each league. At 40 years old, Johnson became the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game.

Source: Goudey Gum Company / Wikimedia Commons

23. Babe Ruth’s Legs
> Player: Samuel Byrd
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Outfielder, New York Yankees
> Career: 1929-1936

New York Yankees outfielder Samuel Byrd earned the nicknames “Babe Ruth’s Legs” or “Babe Ruth’s Caddy” because he would often pinch run for the hefty lefty late in games. The caddy nickname proved prophetic as Byrd became a professional golfer after leaving baseball, winning several PGA tour events.

Source: Doug Benc / Getty Images

24. The Human Rain Delay
> Player: Steve Trachsel
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Pitcher, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets
> Career: 1993-2008

Pitcher Steve Trachsel was dubbed “The Human Rain Delay” for the time he took between pitches. When Trachsel pitched, the games could be up to an hour longer than the standard contest. His deliberate approach didn’t seem to make a difference in his performance — Trachsel’s lifetime record was 143-159, and his earned run average was 4.39.

 

Source: Otto Greule Jr / Allsport / Getty Images

25. Vinsanity
> Player: Vince Carter
> League: NBA
> Position, team(s): Small forward, Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets
> Career: 1999-present

Slam dunks are one of the coolest feats in sports, and few players have ever dunked like Vince Carter. Carter earned the nickname “Vinsanity” for the way he flew through the air. He was also known as “Half-man, Half-amazing” and “Air Canada” for his spectacular jams while playing with the Toronto Raptors early in his career.

Source: Courtesy of Topps

26. No Neck
> Player: Walt Williams
> League: MLB
> Position, team(s): Outfielder, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees
> Career: 1964-1975

Walt Williams was mostly known for his nickname “No Neck” because he was just 5’6″l and weighed 165 pounds in his playing days. His stocky build made it look like his head went straight into his shoulders. In his 10-year MLB career, mostly with the Chicago White Sox, Walt Williams batted a respectable .270, though he hit with little power. HIs best season was in 1969 when he finished sixth in the American League in batting, hitting .304.

Source: Hakandahlstrom / Wikimedia Commons

27. The Great One
> Player: Wayne Gretzky
> League: NHL
> Position, team(s): Center, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings
> Career: 1978-1999

Fans of basketball and football often debate who is the greatest player of all time. In hockey, there is no debate. Wayne Gretzky earned his first of nine Hart Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player at 19. He won four Stanley Cups and was named an All-Star 15 times, earning him the nickname “The Great One.”

Source: Mike Powell / Getty Images

28. The Refrigerator
> Player: William Perry
> League: NFL
> Position, team(s): Defensive tackle, Chicago Bears
> Career: 1985-1993

One of the most enduring moments from the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears season was the 6’2″, 335-pound William “The Refrigerator” Perry plunging across the goal line in a stint as running back. Perry earned his nickname for being roughly the size of the large kitchen appliance, but he was also very athletic. He could even dunk a basketball. Some teammates called him “Biscuit” for being “a biscuit under 350” pounds.