Last Tuesday’s entry, about the 1976 Braves’ nickNOBs, generated lots of very positive response (thanks, gang) and some good suggestions as well, so it’s time for a follow-up.
First and foremost, regarding the question of whether Jerry Royster ever wore “Rooster” in addition to “J.Bird” (we have photographic evidence for the latter but not for the former), several readers pointed out that Royster is now the third base coach for the Red Sox, so I contacted the Sox PR people and asked about this. They checked with Royster, and here’s the word from the man himself: He never wore “Rooster,” only “J.Bird.” So any lists showing him wearing “Rooster” are wrong. I wish they would have let me speak with Royster directly, because I’d love to pick his brain about the whole nickNOB issue, but they weren’t willing to do that.
A few readers also contributed information and research that have added a few more pieces to the puzzle. Here’s a rundown:
Reader Mark Haarmann posted the following comment last Tuesday:
It’s amazing what memories stick with you after all these years. I distinctly remember watching a Cards/Braves telecast from 1976. Adrian Devine came in to pitch for the Braves in extra innings. His nickname-on-back was “Bing,” an obvious reference to the better-known Cardinals GM Bing Devine. I remember the broadcasters mentioning that if the Cards win this game in extra innings, the headline in the next day’s papers should read, “Cards Beat Bing Devine.” Of all the C-list players that passed through during my years following sports, I never forgot Adrian “Bing” Devine because of the nickname on the back of his jersey.
I’m not willing to treat this as a confirmed Braves nickNOB (especially since it seems odd that the Braves would use a nickNOB that referred to another team’s GM). But I too have primal memories of specific sports moments from long ago, and Mark’s account feels persuasive. So I’m willing to add Adrian Devine’s “Bing” to our master chart of Braves nickNOBs, although for now it’s definitely unconfirmed.
Next, reader J.G. Preston did some digging in the Sporting News archives (which it turns out I have access to, but I didn’t realize that, or else I would have done this digging myself) and came up with some good stuff from 1976. First, there’s this item from May 29:
The primary value of this clipping is that it takes several nickNOBs that had previously been questionable and moves them into the “Confirmed” category, including Darrl Chaney’s “Nort,” Roger Moret’s “Gallo,” and Dave May’s “Chopper.” (Interestingly, Jerry Royster’s nickNOB is referred to as “Jay Bird,” although we have photographic evidence that it wasn’t spelled that way.)
Also, note that this clipping indicates that the nickNOBs were Ted Turner’s idea — not Andy Messersmith’s (as Sports Illustrated had claimed) or publicist Bob Hope’s (as Turner himself claimed in his autobiography).
As you may recall from Tuesday’s entry, there was also some dispute as to whether Turner or Messersmith had come up with the idea of having Messersmith wear “Channel 17.” A hint is provided by this Sporting News item from April 24:
Note that this item was published several weeks before the Braves started wearing nickNOBs. But you can see Turner was already thinking about the connection between his star pitcher and his TV station.
Another lingering issue from Tuesday’s entry was the question of who put the kibosh on “Channel 17” — was it National League president Chub Feeney or MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn? The following two Sporting News items, from June 5 and June 19, respectively, indicate that it was Feeney:
Reader Matthew Namee found two additional newspaper items confirming that it was Feeney, not Kuhn, who cracked down on “Channel 17.” The first one ran in the Chicago Tribune and the second in the Pasadena Star, both on May 16:
Note that the second item, aside from confirming Feeney over Kuhn, also includes this line: “Messersmith, like all the Braves’ players, has a nickname sewn on the back of his uniform” (emphasis mine). This is the first time I’ve seen explicit confirmation that the nickNOBs were a team-wide phenomenon. This means, as I mentioned last week, that there are several players and nickNOBs still unaccounted for.
With all of this in mind, I’ve updated our master chart to reflect the Adrian Devine possibility, the nickNOBs mentioned in the first May 29 Sporting News clipping, and the elimination of “Rooster.” The chart now looks like this:
|Darrel Chaney||Nort||Memories and Dreams article; Sporting News clipping from 5/29/76||Confirmed|
|Vic Correll||Bird Dog||NickNOB is mentioned in SI article, but corresponding player is not; Correll is linked to this nickNOB in the Memories and Dreams article; several other internet lists and articles mention this one, although it's not clear how many of them are simply cribbing from each other.||SI is reputable, so this nickNOB was clearly worn by someone. Given the Memories and Dreams corroboration, it seems likely that it was Correll. Also, this article indicates that Correll trained bird dogs in Georgia. Probably legit.|
|Bruce Dal Canton||Prof||NickNOB is mentioned in SI article, but corresponding player is not; Dal Canton is linked to this nickNOB in the Memories and Dreams article; several other internet lists and articles mention this one, although it's not clear how many of them are simply cribbing from each other.||SI is reputable, so this nickNOB was clearly worn by someone. Given the Memories and Dreams corroboration, it seems likely that it was Dal Canton. Also, this obituary says Dal Canton was "like a pitching professor." Probably legit, although I'd prefer to see visual confirmation.|
|Adrian Devine||Bing||Uni Watch reader Mark Haarmann's recollection, as posted in this comment||Unconfirmed|
|Darrell Evans||Howdy||My 2004 ESPN column. Reader Steven Kraljic, who provided a list of nickNOBs that I used for that column, said Evans wore "Howdy -- as in Howdy Doody."||Unconfirmed|
|Ralph Garr||Roadrunner||My 2004 ESPN column; Rob Neyer's 2003 book Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baesball Lineups, page 253.||Completely bogus -- Garr didn't even play for the Braves in 1976. Embarrassing that I ever wrote that.|
|Lee Lacy||Lace||St. Petersburg Times article||The St. Pete Times piece was published while the Braves were still wearing the nickNOBs (not after the fact), so I'm inclined to view it as accurate. Probably legit.|
|Dave May||Chopper||Sporting News item from 5/29/76; also mentioned in the book A Stitch in Time: A Baseball Chronology, by Gene Elston, page 63||Confirmed|
|Andy Messersmith||Channel||This photo||Confirmed|
|Andy Messersmith||Bluto||Mentioned in SI article||Confirmed|
|Roger Moret||Gallo||NickNOB is mentioned in SI article, but corresponding player is not; Gallo is linked to this nickNOB in the Memories and Dreams article and also in the Sporting News item from 5/29/76.||Confirmed|
|Phil Niekro||Knucksie||Memories and Dreams article; this Mitchell & Ness reproduction; Ted Turner's autobiography||Lots of problems here: Memories and Dreams article is suspect; Mitchell & Ness repros are notoriously unreliable; Mitchell & Ness repro uses arched NOB, while photos of confirmed Braves nickNOBs show a straight NOB; Turner's autobiography has several suspect claims regarding the nickNOBs. Unconfirmed, pending more definitive evidence.|
|Rowland Office||Row||St. Petersburg Times article||The St. Pete Times piece was published while the Braves were still wearing the nickNOBs (not after the fact), so I'm inclined to view it as accurate. Probably legit.|
|Tom Paciorek||Wimpy||NickNOB is mentioned in SI article, but corresponding player is not; Paciorek is linked to this nickNOB in the Memories and Dreams article and the St. Petersburg Times article.||SI is reputable, so this nickNOB was clearly worn by someone, and multiple sources indicate that Paciorek's nickname was Wimpy. Confirmed.|
|Marty Perez||Taco||St. Petersburg Times article||The St. Pete Times piece was published while the Braves were still wearing the nickNOBs (not after the fact), so I'm inclined to view it as accurate. Probably legit.|
|Biff Pocoroba||Poco||St. Petersburg Times article|
|Jerry Royster||J.Bird||This photo and this photo||Confirmed|
|Jerry Royster||Rooster||Memories and Dreams article||Bogus. Refuted by Jerry Royster himself.|
|Earl Williams||Heavy||NickNOB is mentioned in SI article, but corresponding player is not; Williams is linked to this nickNOB in the Memories and Dreams article; several other internet lists and articles mention this one, although it's not clear how many of them are simply cribbing from each other.||SI is reputable, so this nickNOB was clearly worn by someone. Given the Memories and Dreams corroboration, it seems likely that it was Williams. Also, this article indicates that Williams frequently battled weight problems and was referred to by some Atlanta sportswriters as "Fat Earl." Probably legit.|
|Jimmy Wynn||Cannon||Memories and Dreams article and this photo||Wynn's longtime nickname was indeed the Toy Cannon, and that photo is from an auction of a supposedly game-worn jersey. Interestingly, Wynn, in his own autobiography, states that his nickNOB was "The Toy Cannon" (not just "Cannon"). Seems unlikely that they'd be able to fit all of that on the jersey, and athletes' autobios aren't generally known for their factual consistency. In any case, at least Wynn's account appears to confirm that he wore some nickNOB. "Cannon" seems most likely.|
|Unknown player||Mo||NickNOB is mentioned in SI article, but corresponding player is not. No further info available.||Roger Moret seems like the most obvious candidate for this one, but other sources say he wore "Gallo." Maybe pitcher Carl Morton..? First baseman Willie Montanez? This one remains a mystery.|
So that’s where we stand now. I’ll run additional updates as the situation warrants. Okay? Okay.
If you think nickNOB research is tricky, it’s nothing compared to kind of research that goes into the Permanent Record project. My latest entry on the PermaRec blog gives a step-by-step breakdown of how one of my research volunteers solved a particularly tricky puzzle. It’s pretty amazing and really shows how hard it is to be good researcher — check it out here.
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