Athletes have some of the great nicknames in society. Some are pretty basic for being so-well known. Babe Ruth. Pee-Wee Reese. But I like the more obscure, which is polite for "bizarre."
Vinegar Bend Mizell was actually a fairly well-regarded ballplayer. More so was Old Hoss Radbourn, who's in the Hall of Fame, so neither of those are obscure enough. One of my all-time favorites, for example, is an old-timey baseball player, "Peek-a-Boo" Veach.
Every once in a while, I flip through my copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia and come up with news faves. Like Squiz Pillion or Yats Wuestling. (In Nickname World, if you have a great last name to go with a classic nickname, you get bonus points. Like Putsy Caballero.) But there's also Horse Belly Sargeant. And Piano Legs Hickman.
Of course, from another angle, I really like the ballplayer Christian Frederick Albert John Henry David Betzel -- whose nickname was Bruno. Somehow there's great whimsy in a guy with a name like that having a nickname that's so prosaic.
Baseball tends to have the best nicknames, and especially old-time baseball players. You just don't get many Stuffy Overmires these days.
That said, I just heard today that the free agent tight end who the Chicago Bears signed this week, Martellus Bennett, has the nickname of the Black Unicorn. That's in the same league as the Lakers' Kobe Bryant his his nickname, the Black Mambo. But having a separate nickname like that -- like baseball's Frankie Frisch known as the Fordham Flash -- never strikes me as quite as good as when the nickname is all-encompassing, like baseball's Pea Ridge Day. In an interview, the reporter would likely say, "So, tell me, Pea Ridge, what pitch did you hit for a double in the second inning?" But I've never heard an announcer ever talk with Kobe Bryant after a basketball game and ask, "How did you make that great three-pointer, Black Mambo?"
I bring this up for a totally minimalist reason. I was watching a hockey game the other day, and Doc Emrick was doing the broadcast. Doc Emrick is probably the top hockey announcer in the country today. He's the main play-by-play guy for NBC during the NHL season, covers hockey for the network during the Winter Olympics, and even is now the anchor when NBC broadcasts figure skating. I guess if it has skates, Doc Emrick will cover it. (For what it's worth, he's an extremely good announcer.)
That leads to today's pop quiz. Why is Mike Emrick's nickname "Doc"? I figure it's best to go with that, since we're not likely to ever figure out how Joe Hornung came to be known as "Ubbo Ubbo."
Here's the thing -- lots of athletes get known as "Doc" or "Professor." It's often because maybe they once brought a book into the locker room. Or wear glasses. The pitcher Jim Brosnan was called "Professor" because he wrote a book. (The Long Season, which is a classic, though basically a diary.) I wouldn't be surprised if some players are called "Doc" because some may take a lot of medication. Or perhaps sell it.
So, why -- in a world of sports nicknames -- is Doc Emrick..."Doc"? I found out the answer a few years back, when I was listening to an interview with the good fellow, and a curious interviewer had the audacity to ask. Since finding out the story, I've since asked a bunch of big hockey fans if they know why Doc Emrick was "Doc." All of them knew of Doc Emrick very well, and liked him a lot. But not one knew why Doc was "Doc"? For someone that popular, and in this name of Internet information, it seems to be one of sports' best-kept secrets.
Okay, that brings us to the Lightning Round. If you have a guess, make it now.
Because here's the answer.
Mike Emrick got the nickname "Doc" because...well, okay, it's not exactly a nickname. He has a PhD in communications from Bowling Green. He actually is...Doctor Emrick!
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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