INTERIOR: Cleveland Hopkins Airport, Late August, 2016. A newly re-acquired Cleveland Indian has just arrived from Oakland, while a recently traded Cleveland Brown prepares to board a plane for his new team in New England. Crossing paths over by Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels, the two men shake hands and introduce themselves.
“Coco Crisp,” says one.
“Barkevious Mingo,” answers the other.
They share a chuckle and a knowing nod, cosmically recognizing the very unique, very absurd fraternity to which they will forever belong. . .
It’s WFNY’s 100 Greatest Names in Cleveland Sports History!
Don’t Worry, It’s Not An Annoying Slide Show Article!
Whatʼs in a name? According to Bill Shakespeare, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. But then again, that’s easy to say if you’re a guy with a cool sounding name like Shakespeare. In the world of sports, a name can be the difference between a century of cult status and an eternity of obscurity. Itʼs the key to carving out a nostalgic little corner of the public consciousness—whether or not your talent actually warranted it. Why else would people still remember the likes of hardcourt flops like Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and God Shammgod, or read tear-jerking fictionalizations of a dead ballplayer named Moonlight Graham? The truth is, a name can take you a long way.
As sports towns go, Cleveland might not have the most illustrious history when it comes to trophies and such, but we more than make up for it in fantastically bizarre and unforgettable player names. You can probably rattle off a dozen all-time classics right off the top of your head. Some of them are recent members of the Indians, Cavs, or Browns, and others retired some time in the 1920s. The point is, we remember them—whether it’s with admiration or a laugh.
The Top 100 Cleveland Sports Names covers well over a century of pro sports in the city, focused mainly on just the big three franchises. The players included are ranked on the objective greatness of their names alone, with on-field performance relegated to “fun factoid” status. Bear in mind, nicknames only count if they essentially became the recognized, everyday name the player used. Now, let us begin.
100 Best Names in Cleveland Sports History
Some titles are won on the field, others are given at birth.
#100 – Eric Plunk
Relief Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1992-1998
Sports fans always love a little old school onomatopoeia. To his credit, Eric Plunk spent seven years as a solid set-up man in the Indians bullpen. More important to this conversation, however, he also plunked 12 batters during those seven seasons.
#99 – Pepper Johnson
Linebacker, Cleveland Browns, 1993-1995
His given name was Thomas, but nobody has called this Ohio State grad anything but Pepper for the past 30 years. In the early ʻ90s, Johnson was one of a stable of ex-Giants that Bill Bellichick brought to Cleveland, and he made the Pro Bowl in the original Brownsʼ final playoff season back in 1994.
#98 – Scooter McCray
Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1986-87
You wouldnʼt expect a guy with the name “Scooter” to stand 6ʼ9” and not be a muppet, but the Cavs found just such a man when they picked up this Louisville product for half of the ʻ86-87 season. He was out of the league shortly thereafter.
#97 – Bill Knickerbocker
Shortstop, Cleveland Indians, 1933-1936
Not merely a blip on the funny name radar, William Hart Knickerbocker finished 19th in MVP voting for the Tribe in 1934. He predictably wound up in New York, however, and won a couple titles with the Yankees in 1938 and 1939.
#96 – Keenan McCardell
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 1992-1995
After barely sniffing the field his first three years in the league, Keenan McCardell (not to be confused with the ʻ90s Nickelodeon program Keenan & Kel) started to thrive in 1995, clearly energized by the funeral atmosphere of the Browns’ final season in Cleveland. He caught 56 passes for 709 yards that year, and parlayed the effort into a long career with the Jaguars. As a reminder, there was a three-year period when Jacksonville had an NFL team and Cleveland did not.
#95 – Elmer Flick
Right Fielder, Cleveland Bronchos / Naps, 1902-1910
Born and raised in Bedford, Ohio, this speedy outfielder went on to a Hall of Fame career with the earliest incarnation of the Cleveland Indians franchise. He is also our first of many deadball era players with kooky, old-timey, badass names.
#94 – Jeff Manship
Relief Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 2015-Present
Perhaps the most obscure player in today’s MLB with his own internet meme.
#93 – Orlando Bobo
Guard, Cleveland Browns, 1999
Mr. Bobo was one of the unlucky gentlemen hired to create the illusion of a real NFL team when the Browns returned to the league in 1999. Sadly, he was out of football by 2002 and passed away from heart failure in 2007 at just 33 years of age. Orlando Bobo is of no relation to Orlando Brown, who was also on that ’99 team and has also shuffled off this mortal coil.
#92 – Minnie Minoso
Left Fielder, Cleveland Indians, 1949, 1951, 1958-1959
The Spanish word for mouse is “raton,” not “minoso.” That sad fact aside, it was hard not to love uttering the name of this nine-time All-Star from Cuba. The Indians and White Sox went as far as to trade Minnie back and forth three times in the ʻ50s, jockeying for that PA announcement dollar.
#91 – Errict Rhett
Running Back, Cleveland Browns, 2000
Hereʼs a personal favorite. While he had some solid years for Tampa Bay in the ʻ90s, most people in Cleveland probably didnʼt realize Rhettʼs name wasnʼt “Eric” until 2000, when Dwight Clark signed him as one of a long string of halfback reclamation projects. It didnʼt work out: five games, 258 yards, retirement. He really errict things up.
#90 – Oddibe McDowell
Left Fielder, Cleveland Indians, 1989
Hereʼs another guyʼs whose name legacy has made his surprisingly brief tenure in Cleveland seem much longer. A former first-round draft pick of the Rangers, Oddibe (pronounced “oh-ta-bee”) famously came to Cleveland with Pete OʼBrien and “The Governor” Jerry Browne in exchange for Juuuuuuuulio Franco. After hitting just .222 in half a season with the Tribe, however, McDowell was shipped to Atlanta in July of 1989, and rudely posted a .304 clip the rest of the way. Chris Berman dubbed him Oddibe “Young Again” McDowell.
#89 – Jack Armstrong
Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1992
Back in the 1930s, there was a radio adventure serial called “Jack Armstrong: All-American Boy,” but thatʼs not the main reason this admittedly not-very-unusual name is here. Itʼs because sometimes a name is just ridiculously well-suited to a personʼs profession; in this case, pitching (though Jack would have to take a backseat in this category to the ever-doomed reliever Grant Balfour). As a side note, Jack Armstrong was not a good pitcher.
#88 – Bimbo Coles
Point Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2000-2003
Did you know that Bimbo Coles played parts of three seasons with the Cavs? Yes, probably better to be forgotten. In the 2002-03 season, though, the well-traveled Bimbo (real name: Vernell Eufaye Coles) did his part to help Cleveland suck bad enough to get the #1 pick in the following draft. By some versions of logic, then, we can thank a bimbo for bringing the King to Cleveland.
#87 – Otto Graham
Quarterback, Cleveland Browns, 1946-1955
Just because this list includes only name-based honorees doesnʼt mean a legit Cleveland sports legend canʼt sneak his way on here. “Automatic Otto” has one of the great names among NFL Hall of Famers, and it also could also double as the accepted word for “e-mail” in some alternate universe: “Did you get my auto-gram about the meeting?”
#86 – Tinsley Ginn
Outfielder, Cleveland Naps, 1914
Speaking of Grahams, meet the Indiansʼ version of Moonlight Graham. Georgia boy Tinsley Ginn (a name with supreme Southern assonance) made his Major League debut for Nap Lajoieʼs club on June 27, 1914. It was the start of a three-day career in which he recorded only one plate appearance (0-for-1). By June 30, Tinsley Ginnʼs moment in the sun was over.
#85 – Al “Bubba” Baker
Defensive End, Cleveland Browns, 1987, 1989-1990
As mentioned in the intro, nicknames only count on this list if you canʼt help but use the nickname virtually any time you mention the player. Thus, Travis Hafner is not included, despite the obvious awesomeness of “Pronk.” While Al Baker is included, because everybody stills knows him better as “Bubba.”
#84 – John Baby
Defenseman, Cleveland Barons, 1977-78
NHL hockey didnʼt exactly thrive in Cleveland, but the Barons still managed to find themselves a worthy representative on the name list in the form of Ontario native John Baby—not exactly a super intimidating moniker for a hockey defenseman. But at least his opponents knew, nobody puts Baby in a corner– unless he got called for cross-checking or something.
Honorable Mention: Baby Doll Jacobson – Outfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1927
#83 – David Justice
Outfielder/DH, Cleveland Indians, 1997-2000
A true superhero name. Not quirky or funny sounding at all—just sounds like a member of The Avengers. If David had truly been a force for justice, he would have made up for beating the Indians in the ʼ95 World Series by leading them to the title in ʼ97. Close but no cigar.
#82 – Matthew Dellavedova
Point Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013-2016
Even his most passionate devotees refer to him almost exclusively as “Delly” and would spell his actual name wrong if they tried. Nonetheless, the now sadly former Cavalier point guard will never have to buy himself a beer in Cleveland so long as he may live.
#81 – Litterial Green
Point Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1999
On February 5, 1999, Mike Fratello inserted journeyman guard and Georgia product Litterial Green (birthname: Litterial Green) into a game against Atlanta. LG was on the court for two minutes, missed his only field goal attempt, and never appeared in another NBA game. But some say weʼre still living in a litterial world. Sorry.
#80 – Chubby Dean
Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1941-1943
He certainly wasnʼt Dizzy or Daffy, but Chubby was the Dean that Cleveland loved best. Ole Chubbs (born, Alfred Lovell Dean) came to the Tribe from Philadelphia in 1941 and was a decent lefty for the wartime Indians for three seasons.
#79 – Paul Warfield
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 1964-1969, 1976-1977
Hey, itʼs another Football Hall of Famer! The legendary receiver and Warren, OH, native clearly fits on the list under the “Badass” category. When youʼre playing a tough, militaristic, gridiron sport and your name is Warfield, good things are bound to happen.
#78 – Spec Harkness
Pitcher, Cleveland Naps, 1910-1911
Over 100 years ago, Cleveland baseball fans were already becoming much as they are today—jaded and pessimistic. A year after rookie hurler Spec Harkness (born as the equally enjoyable Frederick Harvey Harkness) sparkled with a 10-7 record and 3.04 ERA, he took a Jeremy Sowers nosedive in 1911, eventually falling out of favor and out of the league entirely at just 23, never to return.
#77 – John Rocker
Relief Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 2001
For a week or two in the summer of 2001, the city of Cleveland decided to forgive John Rocker (yet another Georgian) for being an enormous jackass, and instead embraced him as their new, perfectly-named rebel closer—the real life Ricky Vaughn. It didnʼt take. The amped-up redneck went 3-7 out of the pen with a 5.45 ERA and just four saves. He was traded away in the offseason.
#76 – Brad Smelley
Tight End, Cleveland Browns, 2012
Smelley is currently trying to hang on in the league after playing the past couple seasons with the Rams. The Alabama grad was a seventh round pick of the Browns in 2012, and ended up catching one pass in his brief Cleveland career. When your basic identifying information includes the words “smelley,” “brown,” and “tight end,” it can be a tough road in life. If Smelley ends up on the same team with current Michigan tight end Jake Butt in 2017, however, it will have all been worth it.
#75 – Charlie Spikes
Outfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1973-1977
A native of Bogalusa, Louisiana, Leslie Charles Spikes had the tools of his future trade right there in his birth name. Looking back, though, it was probably more amusing than prophetic. Charlie only stole 27 bases in his career, so the emphasis on the footwear was probably a bit unfair. He also made 18 errors in the outfield between ’73 and ‘74, so “Charlie Glover” wouldn’t have fit much better.
#74 – Weldon Humble
Guard, Cleveland Browns, 1947-1950
He served in both World War II and Korea, won four championships with the Browns, and made his way to the Pro Bowl in 1950. But the big Texan Weldon “Hum” Humble didn’t get a big head about it. How could he with a name like that?
#73 – Fausto Carmona
Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 2006-2012
It’s one thing to use a nickname as your regular first name, it’s quite another to go full Don Draper and straight-up swipe another man’s cool-sounding name (and surname) as your own brand new identity. That’s what a teenage Roberto Hernandez did when—in an effort to escape the Dominican Republic with a fat pro contract—he lied about his age and became the international man of mystery, Fausto Carmona. The name itself comes with some irony, since the literary trope of a “Faustian bargain” is basically what Roberto entered into.
Honorable Mention: The Browns had some name-changing confusion to deal with, as well, back in the ‘90s, when two different wide receivers, Reggie Rutland and Michael Jackson, suddenly became Najee Mustafaa and Michael Dyson. To make matters worse, Dyson then decided he didn’t mind the King of Pop comparisons after all, and was abruptly back to being a Jackson again within a few months.
#72 – Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Center, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1997-2010
Here he is, Big Z—the Cavs’ all-time leader in games played and rebounds (for now). A class act in Cleveland for 13 years, the 7’3” Lithuanian sadly retired without ever getting his ring, despite chasing LeBron to Miami for that purpose. His name still sounds like a long lost Dostoyevsky novel: “Zydrunas Ilgauskas,” or “Tale of a Tall Bald Man,” written in 1867; now a major motion picture starring, for some reason, Keira Knightley.
#71 – Tris Speaker
Centerfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1916-1926
Born in Hubbard, Texas, in 1888, Tristram E. Speaker, aka “The Grey Eagle,” excelled in the deadball era and still ranks near the top of virtually every offensive category in Indians history. But even his role as player/manager on the Tribe’s first championship club in 1920 may rank second to the majesty of his moniker.
#70 – Frostee Rucker
Defensive End, Cleveland Browns, 2012
First of all, yes, Frostee is the name on his birth certificate. Second, no, he wasn’t named after the Wendy’s faux milk shake goo. In fact, if you believe Wikipedia, Rucker was named after the esteemed poet Robert Frost. Either way, he didn’t do much in Cleveland, collecting 4 sacks in 16 starts before getting his release at season’s end.
Honorable Mention: Fozzy Whittaker, RB, Browns, 2013. A year after Frostee, Fozzy came to town. Born Foswhitt Gerald Whittaker, this scatback briefly played in 11 games for the 2013 Browns, catching 2 touchdown passes. He had four carries in the Super Bowl last year for Carolina.
#69 – Joe Charboneau
Outfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1980-1982
He had everything you could ask of a baseball folk hero: a name with perfect rhythmical assonance, a boatload of charisma, and a self perpetuated mythology involving DIY dentistry and bottle-opening eye sockets. All “Super” Joe Charboneau was missing was his health, as his Rookie-of-the-Year coming out party also proved to be his final bow.
#68 – Rocky Colavito
Rightfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1955-1959, 1965-1967
What Joe Charboneau might have become is what Rocky Colavito had already been—the unanimously agreed upon face of the Tribe franchise and personal idol of every Baby Boomer in Little League. Had he not spent the early ‘60s in Detroit, Rocky (birthname: Rocco Domenico Colavito) could also very well be the Indians current all-time home-run leader.
Honorable Mention (Italian Names Category): Vito Valentinetti, RP, Cleveland Indians, 1957; Vinnie Pestano, RP, Indians, 2010-2014.
#67 – Joe Jurevicius
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 2006-2007
It looked like a happy homecoming when Cleveland native and Lake Catholic grad Joe Jurevicius signed his appropriately violent-sounding name on a Browns offer sheet in 2006. But after two solid seasons, a knee injury begat a staph infection, which begat an early retirement, which begat a lawsuit, which begat an undisclosed settlement between the vicious one and his hometown team.
#66 – Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner
Leftfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1964-1968
Like Al “Bubba” Baker in the first part of our list, Leon Wagner’s nickname meets the standard of steady usage required to get him on this list. After all, if you’re thinking of the lean, mean power-hitting machine who patrolled left field for the Tribe in the mid ‘60s, you’re not thinking of Leon Wagner. You’re thinking of “Daddy Wags.”
#65 – Marion Motley
Fullback, Cleveland Browns, 1946-1953
The word “motley” literally means “exhibiting great diversity of elements; different colors combined.” So it seems fitting that Marion Motley became one of pro football’s first great African-American stars, suiting up for Paul Brown a full year before Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers. His 8.2 yards per carry in 1946 also made the generally feminine “Marion” sound a lot more intimidating.
#64 – Moxie Meixell
Rightfielder, Cleveland Naps, 1912
Want an even better M.M. name than Marion Motley? No problem. Meet Moxie Meixell. It almost seems like player/manager Napoleon Lajoie just enjoyed surrounding himself with other remarkable monikers, because a couple years before Tinsley Ginn and Rivington Bisland signed on, the Cleveland Naps briefly employed Mr. Merton Merrill Meixell—a Dr. Seuss character who somehow managed to improve his designation with the nickname “Moxie.” And boy did it suit him. Moxie Meixell finished his career with an eye-popping .500 batting average (ahem, 1 hit in 2 at-bats).
#63 – Snuffy Stirnweiss
Third Baseman, Cleveland Indians, 1951-1952
He’s pretty much forgotten these days, but Snuffy Stirnweiss (sadly not short for Snuffleupagus) led the AL in hits and stolen bases in both 1944 and 1945 as a member of the Yankees. Of course, those were also undermanned WWII seasons in baseball. By the time the Indians picked Snuffy up as a 32 year-old in 1951, he had long since devolved into a weak-hitting defensive specialist. He only appeared in 51 more Major League games, and was tragically killed in a passenger train wreck in New Jersey at just 39 years of age.
Honorable Mention: Stuffy McInnis, First Baseman, Cleveland Indians, 1922
#62 – Cleveland Pittsburgh Crosby
Defensive End, Cleveland Browns, 1980 (Draft)
It was certainly cute that the Browns used their second round draft choice in 1980 to take a guy named Cleveland. They’d already had plenty of dudes named “Brown,” after all. It was Cleveland Crosby’s middle name, however, that the Browns brass had perhaps failed to notice. Yes, Cleveland Pittsburgh Crosby could very well have become the living embodiment of the Browns-Steelers rivalry… had he managed to make the team. Instead, the 6’5” defensive end didn’t play an NFL down until 1982 as a member of the Colts. That’s right– Cleveland Pittsburgh only played in Baltimore.
#61 – Addie Joss
Pitcher, Cleveland Bronchos / Naps, 1902-1910
Lost in his prime to fatal meningitis in 1911, Addie Joss still put up enough numbers in just nine seasons to eventually earn his enshrinement in Cooperstown (160 wins, 2 no-hitters, and a crazy 1.89 career ERA and 0.97 WHIP). His death also was the first of a string of similar tragedies that have scarred the Indians franchise (the figurative death of Grady Sizemore not included).
#60 – Sonny Siebert
Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1964-1969
About a half-century after Addie Joss pitched his last game, the Indians signed a kid out of the University of Missouri named Wilfred Charles Siebert—better known as Sonny. He didn’t reach the Majors until he was 27, but he quickly joined “Sudden” Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant as part of a lethal rotation in the late ‘60s, finishing his Tribe tenure with a 61-48 record and 2.76 ERA.
#59 – Shaquille O’Neal
Center, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2009-10
Okay, so the “Big Witness Protection” thing didn’t work quite as planned. And yes, the wider world will wisely erase its memories of Shaq as the 37 year-old (quite doughy) shadow of his former self. But hey, the guy was a jolt of positive energy in 2009, and no matter how old he gets, the name Shaquille O’Neal will always rank among pro sports’ rhymiest and finest.
#58 – Bill Wambsganss
Second Baseman, Cleveland Indians, 1914-1923
Cleveland native Bill Wambsganss didn’t have a name that was easy to say let alone spell (newspaper boxscores routinely just identified him as “Bill Wamby”), but the sheer oddity of it—and the fluke of an unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series—have solidified his legend for a century.
#57 – Ebenezer Ekuban
Defensive End, Cleveland Browns, 2004
You’ve just got to love a bruising defensive end with a Dickensian first name and Neptunian last name. Ebenezer actually had a career-high 8 sacks in his one season in Cleveland, before joining Courtney Brown, Gerrard Warren, and Michael Myers on Denver’s shortlived “Browncos” defensive line.
#56 – Moose Solters
Leftfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1937-1939
On January 17, 1937— in possibly the greatest exchange of names in the history of sports—the Indians acquired Moose Solters (birthname: Julius Joseph Soltesz), Ivy Andrews, and Lyn Lary from the St. Louis Browns for Bill Knickerbocker, Oral Hildebrand, and Joe Vosmik. Man, the Great Depression doesn’t seem so bad now does it? Anyway, Moose held up his end of the bargain, having a monstrous 1937 season for the Tribe (20 HR, 109 RBI, .323 AVG). Sadly, though, his eyesight began to fade in the seasons that followed, and Solters was reduced to a bench role for the rest of his career.
#55 – Boog Powell
First Baseman, Cleveland Indians, 1975-1976
In the rogues gallery of “past-their-prime” Cleveland athletes, even a rundown Shaq in wine and gold can’t quite top Orioles legend Boog Powell in head-to-toe bright red for the ’76 Tribe. The mighty Boog (birthname: John Wesley Powell) actually had a very solid first year in Cleveland (27 HR, 86 RBI, .297 AVG in 1975), but the bicentennial saw his gut grow and his numbers shrink (9 HR, 33 RBI, .215 AVG). Fortunately for Boog, no one outside Cleveland still remembers it.
#54 – Rolly Woolsey
Defensive Back, Cleveland Browns, 1977
I’m pretty sure Rolly Woolsey was one of Harry Potter’s more obscure Hogwarts chums, but according to the NFL record book, he also returned 32 punts for the 1977 Cleveland Browns. He clearly wasn’t much in the way of wizarding, either, since he failed to take a single one to the house.
#53 – Wally Szczerbiak
Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2007-2009
We saw Wally tear it up at Miami of Ohio and establish himself as a solid NBA player for 10 seasons, including two as a role player for some great Cavs teams. … And yet there is still not a soul among us who can spell his name correctly without looking… and re-looking. It’s a bit like the way Wally World played defense—we’re willing to give it a shot, but that sort of arrangement of consonants just isn’t our forte.
#52 – Birdie Tebbetts
Catcher, Cleveland Indians, 1951-1952
In 1949, a 36 year-old George “Birdie” Tebbetts made the All-Star team and earned MVP votes despite hitting just .270 with 5 HR and 48 RBI for the Red Sox. That explains how well respected he was as a catcher, and why the Indians took a flier on him a year later as an even crustier old vet. Birdie and Jim Hegan would spend the next two seasons catching the fearsome foursome of Lemon, Garcia, Wynn, and Feller. And a decade later, Birdie would post a 278-259 (.518) mark across four seasons as the Tribe’s skipper.
#51 – Smush Parker
Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2002-03
The 2002-03 Cavs were the worst team in the NBA, but if stupid names were useful attributes, they would have been title contenders. Since nobody watched that team, it’s easy to forget that rookie William “Smush” Parker averaged a solid 13 PPG in 66 games, playing alongside a rag tag collection of Boozers, Bimbos, Zydrunases, and Diops.
#50 – Orel Hershiser
Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1995-1997
With an outstandingly bizarre name far better suited to the 1930s, Bowling Green grad Orel Hershiser arrived in Cleveland as a free agent reclamation project in 1995, and needless to say, things turned out pretty well for the old Bulldog. He won 45 games in three seasons with the Tribe and pitched in a couple World Series.
Honorable Mention: Oral Hildebrand, Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1931-1936.
See, I told you that name was better suited to the ‘30s. Turns out old timey Oral wasn’t a slouch either—he was a member of the first AL All-Star Team in 1933.
#49 – Campy Russell
Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1974-1980, 1984
The Cavaliers’ Miracle of Richfield team has an impressive four representatives in our Top 50, starting here with the sleepy-eyed forward out of Michigan, Campy Russell (birthname: Michael Campanella Russell). Also known as “Mr. Moves,” Campy put together six fine seasons in the wine and gold, including a 22 PPG, 7 RPG, 5 AST 1978-79 campaign. He does post-game coverage now on Cavs broadcasts and plays the good cop to Austin Carr’s ridiculously good cop.
#48 – Candy LaChance
First Baseman, Cleveland Blues, 1901
In the inaugural season of the Cleveland Indians franchise (then known as the Blues), their most feared hitter was a dapper, mustachioed gentleman named Candy… such were the times. Silly name or not, LaChance was a rare switch-hitting first baseman who played 12 years of Big League ball—mostly in Brooklyn, still the capital of handlebar mustaches. He hit .280 for his career.
Honorable Mention: Candy Maldonado, Outfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1990, 1993-1994. In 1990, almost a century after Candy LaChance’s lone season in Cleveland, the Indians’ most feared hitter was a “Candy” once more—only this time he was a chubby-cheeked journeyman from Puerto Rico. Such were the times.
#47 – Mason Unck
Linebacker, Cleveland Browns, 2003-2006
A career special teamer, this Arizona State grad likely could have maintained his anonymity forever had it not been for the way our ears instinctively perked up whenever an announcer (probably Ian Eagle) said—somewhat bemusedly—“tackle made by… Unck.” Granted, this was something that only happened a handful of times in four years.
#46 – Bunk Congalton
Rightfielder, Cleveland Naps, 1905-1907
From Unck to Bunk, here’s another one of those too-good-to-be-true entries from Nap Lajoie’s “Murderer’s Row of Silly Monikers.” Back in 1906, the Canadian-born Congalton finished second on the club to only Lajoie himself with a .320 average, but the Naps sold him to Boston the next year for a dozen tobacco tins—or whatever teams sold players for in 1907.
#45 – Ernie Camacho
Relief Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1983-1987
Though his middle name at birth was Carlos, he’d become better known to the Cleveland faithful as Ernie “Macho” Camacho—the Tribe’s makeshift closer for a couple seasons in the mid ‘80s. With just 44 career saves, Ernie’s popularity is hard to explain with numbers or rational thought. Maybe it was the glasses, or the ‘80s porn stache… but it’s probably the name.
Honorable Mention: Bert Blyleven, SP, Cleveland Indians, 1981-85.
Who can forget the glory days in 1984 when Bert and Ernie would combine for a Tribe win?
#44 – Tree Rollins
Center, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1988-1990
Trees are tall. Well, unless we’re talking about saplings. Or bonsais, I guess. But when they started calling Wayne Rollins “Tree,” it’s safe to assume it had something to do with him being 7’1”. I cannot verify this, however. It’s possible that he actually breathed carbon dioxide or shed acorns. He was a bench player. We didn’t know him that well.
#43 – Oscar Gamble
Outfielder / DH, Cleveland Indians, 1973-1975
His fashion sense and power afro made him a quintessential ‘70s ballplayer, but Oscar Gamble’s name is timeless—a true classic from the treasure trove of great Alabama ballplayer names: Red Barnes, Bubba Church, Rusty Greer, Shovel Hodge, Skeeter Newsome, Amos Otis, Satchel Paige, etc. Oscar also gave the baseball world one of its great quotes: “They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.”
#42 – Early Wynn
Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1949-1957, 1963
With 164 of his 300 career wins coming in Cleveland (including #300 as a scrap heap geezer in 1963), Early Wynn makes most lists of all-time Indian greats. He makes our list, however, for having a name so well suited to his work—particularly on days in which he’d triumph in the first game of a doubleheader. …Just think about it for a second.
Honorable Mention: Herb Score, SP, Cleveland Indians, 1955-1959.
In the same rotation as Early Wynn was another name picked right out of an unwritten baseball comic strip—Herb Score; deemed usable only because “Joe Strikeout” was a bit of a stretch.
#41 – Spergon Wynn
Quarterback, Cleveland Browns, 2000
So, if an “early wynn” is synonymous with victory, what exactly would a “spergon wynn” be? As it turns out, he would be a crappy quarterback. It’s harder to say what’s sadder about Spergon Wynn’s brief time in Cleveland—his 22-for-54 (41%) completion percentage and zero touchdowns, or the fact that many fans were still clamoring for him to unseat Tim Couch.
#40 – Satchel Paige
Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1948-1949
What’s left to be said about arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time? Nothing really. But what a cool name, right?
#39 – Butch Beard
Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1971-72, 1975
As Bruce Willis explained in Pulp Fiction, the name “Butch” is American and thus, “doesn’t mean anything.” Combined with the English word for masculine face fuzz, however, “Butch Beard” is not merely a well-traveled, mediocre NBA player, but a major accomplishment in macho name history, as well—topped perhaps only by the next guy on our list.
#38 – Tank Carder
Linebacker, Cleveland Browns, 2012-Present
He only has 20 tackles in his four-year NFL career, and yet we all love Rickie Carder, Jr. Wait a minute, we wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about a guy with that name. Good thing he is known to the world as TANK Carder! Tank Carder is the special ops of special teams! He don’t take no crap from no fools! Tank Carder is the ‘70s action star we didn’t know we needed! … Is he still on the roster, by the way?
#37 – Larvell Blanks
Utility Infielder, Cleveland Indians, 1976-1978
Larvell “Sugar Bear” Blanks was a pretty good hitter, and in his own opinion, a far superior baseball player to the Indians banjo-hitting starting shortstop Frank Duffy. Manager Frank Robinson preferred Duffy’s glove, however, and this—among other things—led to a mutiny of sorts in the Cleveland clubhouse. Robinson was eventually sacked, and Blanks took advantage, hitting .286 in 105 games in 1977. Things fell off afterwards, through, and the Tribe eventually dealt the Sugar Bear to Texas for a young perfectionist named Lenny Barker.
#36 – Fest Cotton
Defensive Tackle, Cleveland Browns, 1972
Held every October in scenic Halls, Tennessee, “Cotton Fest” is a great event that recreates the feeling of rural life in the 1940s, with traditional music, southern food, games for the kids, and an antique tractor show. Hmm, hold on a tick. This is Fest Cotton, not Cotton Fest. My bad. But then again, Festus James Cotton only played 3 games for the ’72 Browns, so I don’t really feel like I’ve left out any important details.
#35 – Blue Moon Odom
Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1975
Let’s stick around in the ‘70s just a wee bit longer and send some love to Johnny Lee “Blue Moon” Odom. After being a fixture in the A’s rotation for a decade, Odom suddenly found himself in the Cleveland Indians’ ramshackle bullpen—shellshocked by a midseason trade and now getting shelled by his former Oakland teammates in his May 24th Tribe debut. Ten days later, with a season ERA approaching 14.00, Blue Moon got a spot start against the Royals and wowed the Cleveland crowd with an improbable 2-hit, complete game shutout. It was literally a once-in-a-blue-moon event, however, as Odom was unceremoniously traded again (to Atlanta) just two days later.
#34 – Hot Rod Williams
Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1986-1995
For a team packed with NASCAR-loving Southern boys (Daugherty, Nance, Price, etc.), it’s somewhat surprising that the Lenny Wilkens era Cavs only had one car-related nickname on the squad. That man was the impeccably flat-topped Tulane grad John “Hot Rod” Williams, who was the picture of consistency for nearly a decade at the Coliseum, throwing in his standard 12 points, 7 boards, and 2 blocks. Sadly, we lost Williams to cancer last December. Shortly thereafter, LeBron James passed him on the Cavs’ all-time rebound list, putting Hot Rod fourth behind James, Brad Daugherty, and Z.
#33 – (Tie) Dave Mlicki, Bob Milacki, Mike Bielecki
Pitchers, Cleveland Indians, 1993
As perhaps the final punchline capping 60 years of Municipal Stadium futility, the ’93 Indians somehow wound up breaking camp with a Mlicki, a Milacki, and a Bielecki in their pitching staff. It’s silly, it’s bizarre, and in terms of results, it was downright icki—as the trio combined to go 5-6 in 21 games with a 5.14 ERA. None of them would stay on for the move to Jacobs Field in ’94. But then, just when we thought we were safe…
Honorable Mention: Scott Kamieniecki, RP, Cleveland Indians, 2000
#32 – Rivington Bisland
Shortstop, Cleveland Naps, 1914
When you stumble upon a crazy name from baseball’s deadball era, it’s usually a nickname gradually adopted by that player as his regular moniker. Not the case with the phenomenally well-christened Rivington Martin Bisland—a slick-fielding shortstop who simply couldn’t cut it at the plate for Nap Lajoie’s gang in 1914. In 57 at-bats that summer, Riv managed just six hits. They’d be the last of his Major League career.
#31 – Pio Sagapolutele
Defensive Tackle, Cleveland Browns, 1991-1995
He only recorded 2 sacks in five low-profile seasons with Bill Bellichick’s Browns, but the big Samoan with the bouncy name had the respect of his (pre-hoodie) head coach. Following the kidnapping of the Browns and his own firing, Bellichick brought Pio along with him to New England in ’96, where the DT put up the best numbers of his career. Sadly, Sagapolutele died of an aneurysm in 2009. He was just 39.
#30 – Bake McBride
Rightfielder, Cleveland Indians, 1982-1983
Former NL Rookie of the Year and perennial .300 hitter Bake McBride (birthname: Arnold Ray McBride) came to the Tribe—like so many others before and since—on his last legs. Even so, “Shake n’ Bake” earned his money during his two-year swansong in Cleveland, hitting .311 across 97 ballgames.
Honorable Mention: Sid Monge, RP, Cleveland Indians, 1977-1981.
The man Cleveland traded to Philadelphia for Shake n’ Bake’s services.
#29 – Garland Buckeye
Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1925-1928
Mistakenly born in Minnesota, Garland “Gob” Buckeye finally found his proper home in the Buckeye State in 1925, settling into the Indians rotation as a 27 year-old rookie. He would finish 5th in the AL in ERA a year later. But after posting an awful 0.51 K/BB ratio and a league-high 10 wild pitches in 1927, the big lefty’s days as the state pitcher of Ohio had reached their end.
#28 – Gomer Hodge
Pinch Hitter, Cleveland Indians, 1971
Time for yet another short-lived fan favorite from the 1970s. Gomer Hodge (birthname: Harold Morris Hodge) spent more than 13 years in the Indians system, bouncing from A to AA to AAA back to AA again. But in 1971, he found himself with the big club, used almost exclusively as a pinch hitter in this pre-DH season. He only hit .205 with 1 HR in 80 games, but thanks to a 4-for-4 start to the season, he provided an all-time classic quote to match his Jim Nabors-inspired nickname. “Golly, fellas, I’m hitting four-thousand!”
#27 – Dick Shiner
Quarterback, Cleveland Browns, 1967
Ex-Redskin QB Richard Earl Shiner, Jr., caught on as a third stringer with Cleveland in 1967, tossing just 9 passes all year and completing 3 of them. Presumably tired of snickering at his name, the Browns let Shiner go after the season, but the Steelers jumped at the chance to acquire another Dick, as Shiner would go on to start 20 games for Pittsburgh over the next two seasons. Fortunately, those starts included an 0-3 record vs. the Browns.
Honorable Mention: Dick Teets, Linebacker, Cleveland Browns, 1987.
The greatness of such a name need not be explained, but as a scab player during the 1987 NFL strike, Dick Teets’ comedic contribution to the game has largely been lost since that fleeting moment.
#26 – Daniel “Boobie” Gibson
Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2006-Present
Okay, let’s move beyond Dick Teets now and class things up a bit. It’s Boobie Time! One of LeBron’s few semi-useful teammates from the Cavs’ 2007 NBA Finals run, Gibson never wound up coming close to the consistent, deadly shooter he briefly looked like in those playoffs. Still, he deserves credit for (1) once having the balls to tell LeBron to shut up, (2) marrying Keyshia Cole, (3) still looking like he is 12 years old, (4) proudly embracing one of the stupidest nicknames of all time.
And now… The Top 25!
#25 – Gaylord Perry
Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1972-1975
It’s appropriate that the man most famous for reviving the spitball also had a name seemingly better suited to the spitball’s turn-of-the-century heyday. Gaylord Jackson Perry threw for eight teams across 22 Hall of Fame seasons, but he was at his very best in Cleveland, posting 70 wins, a 2.71 ERA, and 1.10 WHIP across three and a half seasons.
#24 – (Tie) Vic Wertz / Vic Power
First Basemen, Cleveland Indians, 1954-58 (Wertz) / 1958-61 (Power)
They sound like opposing radio frequencies or electrical charges. “When the lever is up, that’s vic wertz. When it’s down, that means you’re at vic power.” The more amusing reality is that Cleveland employed a Vic at first base for eight straight years, with a brief and dangerous double-Vic overlap in 1958. Both Wertz and Power were acquired in June trades (Wertz from Baltimore for Bob Chakales in ’54; Power from the A’s for a kid named Roger Maris in ‘58). Wertz would be best remembered for flying out to Willie Mays that one time, despite two Top-10 MVP seasons in 1955 and ’56. He’d be replaced by Power, who would make two All-Star teams and win three gold gloves during his own brief time in Cleveland. Both men are proof that Victor is a fine starting point for any sports name.
#23 – Colt McCoy
Quarterback, Cleveland Browns, 2010-2013
Daniel Colt McCoy (yes, Colt is sorta technically his real name) may not have led the miserable Browns franchise out of the doldrums as he intended, but the legacy of his name remains. For in the grand history of the National Football League, only “Joe Montana” and “Johnny Unitas” can come close to sounding this cartoonishly All-American. It’s tough, folksy, horse ropin’, church-goin’, ass-kickin’, and apple-pickin’ all wrapped into two words. COLT MCCOY. What a shame that the kid will be best remembered for getting his bell rung Quasimodo-style by James Harrison.
#22 – Napoleon Lajoie
Second Baseman. Cleveland Bronchos/Naps, 1902-1914
As quality names go, it’s mighty difficult to top the honor of having your own team officially named after you. And while the “Naps” wouldn’t have the staying power of Paul Brown’s “Browns,” Nap Lajoie (confirm the pronunciation with your local French teacher) himself would cruise into the Hall of Fame as a giant of the deadball era and one of the greatest second basemen ever. He remains the Indians’ all-time hits leader—100 years later—with 2,046.
#21 – Jamario Moon
Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2009-2011
The state of Alabama represents once again with the high-flying, big-smiling forward out of the basketball juggernaut known as Meridian Community College. Sure, Jamario’s FG percentage plummeted after LeBron skipped town. And yes, few mourned when he was traded away himself in 2011. But let us recall Mr. Moon as he was in the 2010 playoffs, shooting 58% off the bench and 8-of-16 from three-point range. And let us marvel at the finest lunar-themed moniker since Blue Moon Odom. Or at least Moonunit Zappa.
#20 – Syndric Steptoe
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 2008
Despite standing a diminutive 5’8”, Syndric Steptoe (of course that’s his real name; who could make it up?) put up solid numbers in college at Arizona and was snagged by Cleveland in the 7th round of the ’07 draft. Of course, in college, you only need to step one foot—or toe—in bounds to complete a catch. In the NFL, Steptoe’s adjustment to stepping multiple toes inside the chalk would prove remarkably unfruitful. He was last seen plying his trade for the Edmonton Eskimos, who released him in 2012.
#19 – Chico Salmon
Utility, Cleveland Indians, 1964-1968
Born in Panama as Ruthford Eduardo Salmon [pronounced suh-MONE], “Chico” wound up as one of a slew of snappy-named Tribesmen in the mid ‘60s, playing just about every position on the diamond for Birdie Tebbetts’ good but never good enough ballclub. Salmon hit .307 as a rookie in 1964, but never topped .256 in his subsequent four years in Cleveland.
#18 – Thane Gash
Safety, Cleveland Browns, 1988-1990
Before Eric Turner or T.J. Ward started goring helpless receivers in the Browns defensive backfield, there was a safety out of Middle Tennessee State whose very name warned of a gruesome fate for any who dared cross his path. He wasn’t anywhere near as talented as those aforementioned DBs, mind you, but Thane Gash certainly sounded terrifying. “How serious is the injury, Doc?” “Very serious. He’s suffered a thane gash—the worst kind of gash.” Thane also had two sacks and returned two picks for touchdowns in 1989, so that’s a bonus.
#17 – Earthwind Moreland
Defensive Back, Cleveland Browns, 2001
There are lots of ways to pay homage to your favorite ‘70s soul-funk band. Buy a t-shirt, hang up a poster, maybe even go crazy and get a tattoo. Earthwind Moreland’s mom, however, went the extra mile. As a result, her son would enter the NFL with one of the most magnificent sports names of the new century. But when the Georgia-born cornerback failed to make an impact in Cleveland or anywhere else, the explanation was all too clear. He simply lacked the “fire.”
#16 – Fair Hooker
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 1969-1974
Wide Receiver has always been a personality position. As such, it’s not shocking that five of our Top 25 names are former Browns pass catchers. What is a bit shocking, however, is that there was once a man named Fair Hooker (Fair Hooker, Jr., actually), and that this man played six seasons of professional football. The jokes are obvious enough that uttering them aloud borders on redundancy. Still, you have to love the flexibility in the double entendre, as the “fairness” of the “hooker” in question may refer to anything from her code of ethics to the paleness of her skin to her overall skill set. Or, perhaps she is a fairgrounds attendant by day. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure story, really.
#15 – Milton Bradley
Centerfielder, Cleveland Indians, 2001-2003
One of the great clubhouse cancers of the 21st century, Milton Bradley’s seemingly endless arsenal of childish tantrums actually made Candyland and Chutes and Ladders a little less enjoyable by association. Still, Bradley’s chuckle-inducing designation isn’t the highest ranking “product placement” name on our list. That individual is still to come.
#14 – Bingo Smith
Guard/Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1970-1980
Had he remained simply “Robert Smith,” this original Cavalier would have cursed himself to a future of Google search frustration—buried under the wikis of an Ohio State running back and the lead singer of the The Cure. Fortunately, Smith’s sharpshooting ways earned him a new, unique identity that would follow him into the NBA and through a full decade in Cleveland. The Cavs would put together better teams in the generations to come, but for the kids of the ‘70s, Joe Tait’s calls of “Bingo!” still resonate—having helped to define an upstart franchise.
#13 – Foots Walker
Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1974-1980
As has already been established, great names were the driving force behind the Miracle of Richfield, and this included the role players. As the team’s fleet-footed sparkplug, Clarence “Foots” Walker had himself one of sports’ most ingenious, indisputably flawless nicknames. One can only stand back in awe at its combination of the contextual and the catchy. And Foots was an excellent baller to boot, regularly finishing among the NBA’s leaders in steals and assists during his six years in Cleveland.
#12 – Mysterious Walker
Pitcher, Cleveland Naps, 1912
Uh oh, Foots, you’ve got some competition. Unless there’s a Walker out there with the first name “Sleep” or “Imperial,” it’s going to be downright impossible to top the legend of Frederick “Mysterious” Walker. And it really is a legend of sorts. A three-sport star at the University of Chicago, Walker pitched just one game for the Cincinnati Reds in 1910 before resurfacing with the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals under an assumed name: Frank Mitchell. The questions surrounding this mysterious, dominant hurler (some said he even pitched with a mask on) led to the L.A. Times dubbing him “Mysterious Mitchell”—later amended to “Mysterious Walker” after his true identity was discovered. Of course, that kind of took away the mystery a bit, didn’t it? But I digress. Walker, like so many amazing names from the Cleveland Naps era, had a VERY brief stint in Cleveland—pitching just one inning of one game in 1912. He walked a batter, but escaped unscathed; free to return to the caverns of the Paris Opera House.
#11 – Mac Speedie
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 1946-1952
He’s generally been lost in the shadow of iconic teammates Otto Graham and Marion Motley, but on our list, Mac Speedie (yes, that was his real name) easily trumps them both. Seriously, how does a guy named Speedie become a college track star and All-Pro wide receiver with no sense of irony? Sixty years later, Mac still ranks third in Browns history in both receptions and receiving yards, even though he only appeared in 86 games.
#10 – Jubilee Dunbar
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 1974
Now it’s time to revisit those 1974 Cleveland Browns—a truly awful team with the best-named and least skilled receiving corps in the NFL. With most of the passing game built around short routes to the running backs and tight end Milt Morin, Cleveland only had one WR (Steve Holden) reach the 30-catch mark for the season. The rest of the crumbs were spread amongst the likes of Gloster Richardson (9 catches), Dave Sullivan (5), and of course, the legendary tandem of our No. 16 best name, Fair Hooker (4), and the incomparable Jubilee Dunbar (6)—a New Orleans native and former Saint who, like Hooker, would vanish into cultdom forever at season’s end.
#9 – Chip Glass
Tight End, Cleveland Browns, 1969-1973
Despite the fragile sound of his all-time classic nickname, Charles Ferdinand “Chip” Glass was drafted out of Florida State—essentially— to break other people. This was before players like Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome stuffed the stat sheet and added glamour to the tight end position. In Chip Glass’s day, it was all about blocking and keeping the machine moving. Consequently, he only caught 31 passes and five touchdowns over five seasons in Cleveland, while narrowly missing out on playing alongside Jubilee Dunbar and Fair Hooker on our suddenly much celebrated ’74 Browns team.
#8 – Heathcliff Slocumb
Relief Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1993
Most names cannot stand on their own. To worm their way permanently into our brains, they require the complementary memories of the people attached to them—their appearance, personality, accomplishments. This was never the case with Heathcliff Slocumb, however. From the moment we first encountered his name on a baseball card, in a boxscore, or over the airwaves in a slow-motion Herb Score utterance, we could never forget it. “His name is Heathcliff Slocumb? For real?” Nevermind that you had an imposing, 6’3” African-American from Jamaica, NY, with a name more suited to a spindly, 19th century British aristocrat or an orange cartoon cat. And ignore the fact that he only spent half a season in Cleveland and went on to much greater success as a closer for the Phillies. For many of us, Heathcliff Slocumb simply set the new standard for where a genuine birth name could go.
#7 – Barkevious Mingo
Defensive End, Cleveland Browns, 2013-2015
If you wanted to create a list of disastrous draft picks made by the expansion Browns, it’d probably be just about as long as the list you’re currently reading. We all know that. Still, this one hurts just a little more, if only because it’s so easy to imagine the fun we could have had with an All-Pro version of Barkevious Mingo. The former LSU standout, who once inspired Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe to name his fantasy football team “Barkevious Mingo’s Mum,” literally was playing in the Dawg Pound with the word “bark” in his name! Plus, we could have had a whole running gag of shouting “The Mingo ate your baby!” when he racked up another sack. Just tragic really. Goodnight, sweet prince.
#6 – Ben Gay
Running Back, Cleveland Browns, 2001
In the summer of 2001, just days after the Indians had acquired Expos prospect Milton Bradley, the Browns countered by inviting the equally silly-named (and similarly troubled) Ben Gay into training camp. I suppose one could trace the behavioral issues of both Gay and Bradley back to the clear insanity of their parents for naming them as they did. But some curses are a blessing in disguise, as both men made our Top 20! It has to be considered a disappointment, though, that Gay’s NFL career fizzled before he could ink a deal hocking analgesic heat rub. These opportunities don’t present themselves every day.
#5 – Shin-Soo Choo
Rightfielder, Cleveland Indians, 2006-2012
Shin-Soo Choo was nobody’s comic relief. He was the Indians’ best hitter for a couple years. Still, it was impossible not to enjoy the peppy, sing-songy bliss that came with saying his name. Shin….Soo… Choo! It sounds like the Korean adaptation of those fight scene “Kapow” graphics from the old ‘60s Batman TV series. But it also rhymes! And it’s perfectly crafted for both nicknames (Big League Choo) and stadium chants (“Chooooooooo”). It even sounds like some sort of exotic cooking product from a late night infomercial. “The Shin-Soo Choo truly does it all! But supplies are limited, so call and order yours today.”
#4 – Mudcat Grant
Pitcher, Cleveland Indians, 1958-1964
Jim Grant was a good but not particularly outstanding pitcher for the Tribe in the early ‘60s (67-63, 4.09 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 5.2 K/9). Mudcat Grant, however, remains a local legend and folk hero. And yes, they are the same person. Grant actually was given the Mudcat moniker by a minor league teammate who had presumed he was from Mississippi. The Floridian embraced it, nonetheless, and the slick nickname earned him almost as much attention as his fast rise through the Indians farm system. In the Bigs by 22, Grant eventually solidified his Cleveland celebrity by working in the Indians’ Community Relations department during the offseason and singing at local jazz clubs with his band “Mudcat and the Kittens.” He also had his own knack for naming things, including his specialty pitches: the “hop and jumper,” the “cloudball,” and the “kickapoo pitch.”
#3 – Webster Slaughter
Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns, 1986-1991
There’s something magical about an evenly split, four-syllable set of words peppered with both consonance and assonance. It just gives a name a sort of 3-D presence and HD quality. Syndric Steptoe had it. Earthwind Moreland had it. But Webster Slaughter really had it. And when you throw in the connotation of horrific brutality a la Thane Gash, you’ve got the third greatest name in Cleveland sports history. Slaughter was a second round pick out of San Diego State in 1986 and would go on to rack up the 8th most receiving yards in Browns history at 4,834. He was a top target of Bernie Kosar in the glorious Dawg Pound days, and despite persistent rumors, his name was never, in fact, a veiled threat of violence against the pint-sized ’80s sitcom star Emmanuel “Webster” Lewis.
#2 – Coco Crisp
Outfielder, Cleveland Indians, 2002-2005
On August 7, 2002, Indians fans did a collective double take as the “player to be named later” in the Chuck Finley trade to St. Louis was finally revealed. His name, apparently, was Coco Crisp, and he immediately became the most talked about member of the Akron Aeros. Born Covelli Loyce Crisp, the speedy outfielder had acquired his nickname from his grandma, who called him “Co” for short. This eventually evolved into “Coco,” as Crisp’s transformation from young man to Kellogg’s breakfast cereal was complete. Unlike a lot of humorously named ballplayers, Coco actually entertained the fans with his skills, as well, tallying 31 homers, 140 RBI, 35 SB, a .299 AVG, and .804 OPS between 2004 and 2005. His trade to Boston the next season wasn’t one of Mark Shapiro’s better ones (Andy Marte, anyone?), but all will be forgotten if the prodigal Coco—now back with the Tribe a decade later—can play a role in a Cleveland postseason run.
#1 – World B. Free
Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1982-1986
Thirty years before there was a Chad Ochocinco or a Metta World Peace, there was the man atop our list. He was born Lloyd Bernard Free in Atlanta, GA. But it was during his high school days in late ’60s Brooklyn, NY, where he first earned the nickname “World.” For many years after, that’s all it was—a nickname. But after breaking out as one of the NBA’s most electric scorers for Philadelphia, San Diego, and Golden State, Free started to take himself, and his unforgettable alter ego, a little more seriously.
In 1981, as a member of the Warriors, he had his name legally changed to World B. Free. A year later, he landed in Cleveland, dealt to the Cavaliers for the equally well-traveled Ron Brewer. World, aka the “Prince of Midair,” immediately became the team’s top scorer and a desperately needed ray of sunshine at the end of the disastrous Ted Stepien era. In retrospect, Free was the bridge from the franchise’s roughest period to its competitive rebirth in the 1986 draft. For that alone, we should thank him.
His personal flair and 23 points per game were quite admirable, as well. But more than anything, it’s the name we’ll remember. World B. Free—greatest name in Cleveland sports history.