During the middle of the ninth inning of Sunday’s Game 2 of the World Series, I got a phone call from former roommate Mike B. "I was watching the game, and when This Guy I Know got that hit, I thought of your sister, Molly", he said.
I did too. "This Guy I Know" is professional hitter Jose Vizcaino, who had a pinch-hit, game-tying single in the top of the ninth for the Astros. He played shortstop for the Giants in 1997, the heyday of Molly's nicknaming era. Baseball history is full of nicknames based on a player's style of play, hometown, or personal appearance. There’s the "Sultan of Swat", Babe Ruth. Hank Aaron was "Hammerin' Hank". Mickey Mantle came from Commerce, Oklahoma, so he was the "Commerce Comet". Big-nosed Ernie Lombardi was "Schnozz".
Molly's nicknames followed no such logical patterns. Rather, she invented nicknames based on immediate word association. A name could remind her of a movie or a phrase, but usually she just seized on some other similar word. J.T. Snow was "Snowy River". Shawn Estes was "Estates". Often, the nicknames were literary or musical. Outfielder Stan Javier was "Javert". Charlie Hayes was "Purple Haze". Molly also demonstrated her mastery of the Spanish language by dubbing Wilson Delgado, "Skinny", and Pedro Feliz, "Happy Peter".
These are different from "Bermanisms”, the nicknames created by ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman. Berman's names were puns on athletes' names, generally trying to be funny pop culture references. My sister wasn't really trying to be funny, except maybe with "Whatchu Talkin' 'Bout" Ellis Burks.
Sometimes, Molly’s nicknames sounded very well thought-out and accurate, however unintentional. Brent Mayne was "Lion", and he did have a big, fluffy, mane-like hairstyle. One might think of Marvin "Barnyard" Benard's filthy batting helmet, or how his uniform often got dirty when he'd dive for a routine fly ball he had misjudged. I have a feeling Molly didn't consider those things. "Barnyard" was just the most similar noun to Benard she could think of.
My favorite nicknames were the really inexplicable ones. Barry Bonds was called "Baby Huckles", which was a combination of his two earlier nicknames, "Baby Bonds" (because he's a whiner) and "Huckle Barry" (because of, um, huckleberries). Molly called Robb Nen "Chicken", which she explained as such: "Nen-Hen. Hen-Chicken. Get it?" Even though his last name is pronounced the same as "Miller", Bill Mueller still got the Ben-Stein-in-economics-class treatment, known in our house as "Muuuueller? Muuuueller? Anyone?" And in 1998, when Jeff Kent's hair was dyed the exact same color that Jennifer Lopez promoted in a L'Oreal commercial, Molly decided he would forever be known as "Feria".
All of this is just background for Mr. Vizcaino. If you say it just right, "Viz-KAI-ee-no" does sound a lot like "This Guy I Know". In Game Three, Vizcaino drew a clutch pinch-walk in the 13th inning, and I tried to explain his nickname to my roommate.
"Wait, isn't Vizcaino on the White Sox?", she queried.
I hadn’t realized the implications of this, but the White Sox do have a pitcher named Luis Vizcaino. Since my sister is in Chile and presumably unable to watch these telecasts and give nicknames, I have taken it upon myself to dub the Chicago pitcher, "This Other Guy I Know". I think she'd approve.