If you've been reading Da Box over the past four or five years, you know one of the sidelight features in Baseball's Hall of Names deals with players who share(d) certain initials. We've assembled teams for every possible double-initial, as well as many other obvious ones like MD, PR, BS and others.
Recently I got to thinking about baseball initials ... you know, the kind you scratch on your scorecard during a game, abbreviations like HR, RBI and HBP. Forget building a roster of these guys -- it'll be hard enough to find representatives for all the obvious baseball abbreviations we can think of. So go ahead, play along ... what initials are missing? And who would be better to fill a role in the existing All-Baseball-Initials roll-call that follows? ...
Let's kick things off on the mound ...
There's only one "natural ERA" in baseball history, that is, a player whose first-middle-last initials were ERA. That'd be 1975 World Series controversy epicenter Ed Armbrister (a Cincinnati OF who hit .245, 1973-77) whose full name is Edison Rosanda Armbrister.
Apologies to some guy in the current Yankee infield, Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, but AER doesn't work, and to Edward John "Rube" Albosta, as the nickname makes the abbreviation E"R"A ... and ooh, you just missed out, Elden Le Roy Auker! So Eddie Armbrister is it, apparently.
If our pitcher wants to plunk (not "Eric Plunk," jut hit 'em straight up) someone, there has never been a major league player with the natural initials HBP. Although those initials became well-associated with the aforementioned '75 Armbrister controversy, the closest we get is Harold William "Buddy" Pritchard, an .091-hitting middle infielder with the 1957 Pirates, who has that whole nickname thing going again. But as a bonus, the "B" could stand for two different things, his nickname of "Buddy" or a shortened form of his given middle name, "Bill."
Woo, we're off to a rip-roaring start, huh?
Of course, a pitcher's primary concern is probably his W-L mark. Believe it or not, there has apparently never been a big league player who was both given and went by a W.L.-initialed name. Oh, you can make arguments for three All-Star pitchers in lefty William "Spaceman Bill" Lee or righties William "Big Bill" Lee and William "Billy" Loes but all three went by B.L. names, as did Negro League Hall of Fame 1B Walter "Buck" Lee.
That win/loss mark matters more if the innings pitched number runs up higher, of course, so what about IP players? (And no, that has nothing to do with intellectual property, legal beagles.) In fact, there are only two candidates -- and one, John Lloyd "Ike" Powers, a RHRP for the 1927-27 Athletics -- only gets there via the nickname route. That leaves us with Irv Porter, an outfielder who singled in four at-bats in his only game with the 1914 White Sox.
If our pitcher wants to intentionally pass a batter to first base and is tired of the H"B"P route, there's only two options, that is, players with the initials IBB ... Isaac B. Benners, an outfielder who hit .185 for two teams in 1884 (and, most intriguingly, has a career line showing one homer and zero RBI ... is that possible?) and Isaac Burr Butler, a RHSP who was 1-10 with a 5.34 ERA for the 1902 Baltimore Orioles. Makes sense to go with the pitcher ...
Now, from the offensive side, using the newfangled metrics of the Jamesian age, there has NEVER been a big league player with either the initials OPS or OBP. But the old tried-and-true pre-sabremetric measure of greatness, the home run, still provides us with numerous options, including an All-Star middle infield in 2B Harold Reynolds and the still-active shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Lost in the didn't-go-by-it haze are a couple of former Dodger greats in another shortstop, Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, and OF Harold "Pete" Reiser. A more recent All-Star OF, Henry Rodriguez, does qualify, but Hall of Fame SP Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn, not so much. With all those HRs on the board, shockingly there is only one natural RBI in big league history, 1990s Tigers/Twins OF Riccardo Benay Ingram. Still, even with the lack of RBI, there is only one man "left on base" (LOB) in big league history, in Luther Owens Barnes, a .243-hitting middle infielder for the 1972-73 Mets.
We should note that we are ignoring even the most common one-letter abbreviations (like H and K and E) -- there would simply be too many possibilities and we've gone down that road previously anyway, building Hall of Names rosters back in 2004-05 for teams of players whose last/family names began with each letter of the alphabet. (Well, except "X" -- there has never been a big league player with a last name starting with "X" ... Oh, 1985-90 minor league catcher Joe Xavier, why couldn't your talent vault you to the big leagues?)
Still, there are plenty of other abbreviations out there that do call to mind some significant All-Star, even Hall-of-Fame-level players. For instance ...
Woo. That's enough of that! But what other baseball initials or abbreviations can we use on this list, and who are the best players to bear those initials? Is there anyone missing from the above list? Over to you, Bauxites ...