On Player Names

Yesterday afternoon I updated the Tacoma all-time roster, filling in all of the names of players who appeared in at least one game in 2011. It’s on the Rainiers website – you can see the complete alphabetical list of every player to appear in a game for Tacoma, since 1960, right here.

The first name to go in was David Aardsma, who is now the very first player on our list.

This is no surprise. When Aardsma reached the major leagues in 2004, he jumped ahead of Henry Aaron as the first player listed in the all-time alphabetical list of Major League Baseball players.

Why would anybody know this?

Well, let’s go back in time a little bit… to a long-ago era, a dark age of few computers and no cell phones and no internet. Yes, I said no internet – I know, I’m old.

Back then to get your baseball stats you needed get The Book. That would be the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia. It was a huge, huge book – you could go on a workout plan doing curls with it.

I rummaged up my old copy and took a photo for you. That’s a standard-size coffee mug in the foreground.

Try lugging one of these around the PCL in your carry-on bag!

The encyclopedia lists every player in MLB history, and all of their career statistics, in alphabetical order. It was a bit of a story when Aardsma ousted Aaron from the leadoff spot – if I recall correctly, the esteemed John McGrath even wrote a column about it.

So now, on our Tacoma roster, we lead off with the same player that MLB does.

There is one thing we have on the Tacoma all-time roster that MLB does not have: a player whose last name begins with the letter “x.”

Joe Xavier played for the Tacoma Tigers in 1988, and he had a pretty solid season and appeared to be on the verge of a call-up to Oakland.

In all of the 100+ years of Major League Baseball, there has never been a player with a last name starting with the letter “x.” Xavier was poised to be the first.

This was actually somewhat newsy at the time – Baseball America ran a bi-weekly “Joe Xavier Watch” updating his progress, and Sports Illustrated even made a note of him.

Alas, it did not happen. Joe never got the call, and Major League Baseball remains X-free.

Here’s some more on Joe Xavier, from a blog with a very unique idea.

When I got to Chaz Roe on the roster, I wondered if he had the shortest name in Tacoma baseball history. I had to check it out.

Sorry, Chaz. Tacoma has a five-way tie for shortest name, between Bo Diaz (1979), Joe Law (1987-1990), Ron Law (1972), Don Lee (1967), and Al Rico (1972).

I eliminated initial-names from the competition. My apologies to T.J. Bohn, J.J. Putz, and A.J. Zapp – you guys don’t count.

Too bad we never had Ed Ott or Ed Hug, who have the shortest names in MLB history.

The longest name on the Tacoma all-time roster belongs to Tommy Johannesen-Ellis, checking in at 20 letters.

Tommy pitched in one game for Tacoma, in 2007. I believe he is out of baseball now.

If he had reached the majors, Tommy Johannesen-Ellis would have tied such mouthfuls as William Van Landingham and Jarrod Saltalamacchia for longest name (first + last) in MLB history.


  • At The News Tribune, Larry LaRue recaps a media session Ichiro had in Japan.
  • The well-connected Jon Heyman ranks the Prince Fielder suitors. The Mariners are #2.
  • Former Cheney Stadium groundskeeper Bob Christofferson (a strong 17 letters) helped select the initial members of the MLB Groundskeeper Hall of Fame.

We really need Prince to sign soon. See what we were reduced to today? If he doesn’t sign tomorrow I might have to write about something even nerdier, like radio equipment.


6 Responses to On Player Names

  1. Jenny says:

    1) I don’t know how Aardsma’s parents resisted the urge to name him Aaron Alan. I would have.

    2) You drink your coffee black?!?!? Only bikers and felons do that.

  2. stan says:

    Actually Mike, I would be interested in radio equipment, or at least how the radio equipment has changed over the years. I marvel at the pictures of Red Barber/Mel Allen sitting in front of those hugh microphones back in the 40’s. Something tells me it was a much more back-breaking job to get on the air back then. I doubt Mel and Red did the heavy lifting, but I imagine the minor league broadcasters back then had to carry some pretty heavy equipment around.

    I’d also be interested in a post about working with Kevin Cremin and your thoughts on the differences in broadcasting in MLB and in Triple A


  3. Scopes says:

    That’s a beautiful coffee cup you’ve got there, Mike!

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