Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
Chris “Boomer” Berman has been an integral part of the success of ESPN pretty much since its founding in 1979. The broadcaster has been the face of the network ever since, with his likable personality and witty commentary. Well over 30 years later, Berman is still with ESPN and has established himself as the premier source of sports nicknames through his years at ESPN.
Whether it’s baseball or football, Berman has come up with descriptive words and phrases to add an element of humor to the otherwise mundane reporting of players’ names. His nicknames draw upon our popular culture to add color to the task of identifying players throughout a game. Famous songs, games, phrases and allusions to our favorite idols or timeless expressions are all sources for Berman’s regimen in finding the perfect name.
Some of Berman’s nicknames are smooth and literate and often work so well to help describe each player as well as their name. On the other hand, there are names that genuinely fit the player in question, revealing the sportscaster’s great wit and creative analogies. This is a list about nicknames that have seemingly stuck or have fit the player in question all too well.
The genius in Chris Berman is all too evident in these following 10 nicknames that have likely changed the history of the two sports.
10. Ricky “Running” Watters – NFL Running Back
Ricky Watters is one of the best running backs in the NFL to not be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Watters amassed almost 15,000 yards rushing and receiving to go along with 91 total touchdowns. He was a complete football player, who was able to gain that extra yard. Maybe his nickname has a little to do with why to this day, he isn’t in the “Hall”.
Ricky ran with reckless abandon, breaking tackles and running north-south with each carry of the ball. His “running” was much like a faucet that wouldn’t turn off if tacklers didn’t get a nice hold. The problem seemed to be with his mouth, which was noted for being just as hard to turn off. Whether toting the ball or talking to the media or players during the game, “Running” Watters was a perfect nickname to describe Ricky’s game.
9. John “I Am Not A” Kruk – MLB 1B/Outfield
John Kruk was a hitter that even Babe Ruth would love. His lack of a chiseled physique didn’t handicap him as he finished his career with a .300 average and three all-star appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was a throwback player in an era where many sluggers were lifting weights and apparently using performance enhancing drugs. Nixon, he is not, but his nickname is surely a statement of truth.
Kruk was honest and true to the sport and integrity of the game. Despite his challenge to keep up his power numbers when playing first base, Kruk was often a picture of poor health and fitness, topping 20 home runs just once. Providing more evidence to his perfect Berman nickname, Kruk stole a grand total of 58 bases during his ten year career providing even more evidence to his innocence from being a thief.
8. Jeff “Brown Paper” Bagwell – MLB 1B
Jeff Bagwell was a gritty power hitter that seldom got cheated at the plate. The lifetime .297 hitter finished his career with 449 home runs and 1,529 runs batted in. Bagwell also worked many counts full, finishing his career with 1,401 walks and leading the league with 149 in 1999. When he did get pitches to hit, he managed to make the most of them, leading the league with a .750 slugging percentage in his MVP season of 1994.
Bagwell was a blue collar power hitter who did whatever was necessary to get his team a win. He scored an astounding 295 runs in a two year span during 1999 and 2000, showing his ability to get on base and cross home plate. He had 488 career doubles to go along with 202 stolen bases, always doing his best to hustle and get into scoring position. He was a “brown bag” type of player whose Berman nickname serves his game just right.
7. Mike “Your in Good Hands with” Alstott – NFL RB
Mike Alstott was a half running back, half fullback who played 11 seasons in the NFL, all with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Alstott racked up 5,088 yards rushing and 2,284 receiving, with 71 touchdowns. He spent his whole career with the Buccaneers, solidifying his reputation as a go to player in the time of need and a player who could help wear down opposing defenses.
When the Buccs needed a yard, Alstott was there. He had an incredible 437 first downs with the just over 1,600 times he touched the ball. If this was not enough evidence of providing good hands, he only fumbled the ball 32 times throughout his career. There are players who might have had more first downs or fewer fumbles, but the formidable 250 pounder certainly deserved his Berman nickname.
6. Eddie “Eat Drink and Be” Murray – MLB 1B
No, Eddie Murray was not a boozer or reckless off the field. “Steady” Eddie was a picture of consistency batting from either side of the plate throughout his 21 year MLB career. He finished with a career batting average of .287, while belting 504 round trippers to go along with 1,627 runs and 1,917 runs batted in. Murray was cherished in Baltimore, and that lends more of a hand to his nickname than any antics that might describe Murray as a player on or off the field.
Murray was a fixture on the Orioles leading them to a World Series crown in 1983. He was more than just a hitter, winning the Gold Glove award at first base for three consecutive seasons (1982-1984). As much as he was feared by opposing pitchers, Murray was revered by his adoring fans. “Eat Drink and Be” Murray, says a lot about how fans in Baltimore and throughout baseball could all enjoy Murray’s game.
5. Andres “The Giant” Galarraga – MLB 1B
Andres Galarraga was nicknamed “The Big Cat” long before Chris Berman made a play on his name. Galarraga combined cat-like quickness with his hulking six foot three frame, earning him two Gold Glove awards for his first base defensive play. He played 19 seasons, cranking out 399 home runs and 444 doubles, while batting a respectable .288. He was listed at 235 pounds, but often seemed to be larger than that when he was at the plate or took the field, especially during his prime.
Andre the Giant was a mammoth wrestler, which says a lot about Galarraga’s stature and his game. Many battles with injuries and later with lymphatic cancer drew eerie parallels to Andre the Giant’s own battles with Acromegaly, the condition in the pituitary gland that led to complications in his own life. Both sports participants remain “Giants” in sports history by being larger than life in their own unique ways.
4. Sammy “Say It Ain’t” Sosa – MLB Outfield
Sammy Sosa was one of the most dangerous power hitters in the game during the 13 years he spent as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Finishing his career with 609 home runs and 1,667 runs batted in, Sosa also stole over 30 bases three times in his storied career. Much of Sosa’s feats and legendary battles with the likes of Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, remain tainted amid speculation about his steroid abuse. A phrase (“Say it Ain’t So”) burrowed from the Shoeless Joe Jackson era seems to fit the Sosa situation quite well.
Sosa’s nickname provides the perfect portrait of angst that still comes from Cubs fans. Caught using a corked bat one time with the Cubs, the performance enhancing drug debate has brought his statistics and achievements under the scrutiny of the media, former players and fans alike. “Say It Ain’t” Sosa, is the Chicagoan’s battle cry and a Berman direct hit with a nickname that sure seems to echo many Cubs’ fans blues.
3. Todd “Highway to” Helton – MLB 1B
Todd Helton was easily the most feared Rockies hitter in the lineup from 1999 to 2004. In two consecutive seasons during this time (2000, 2001), Helton topped 40 home runs and 140 runs batted in, while leading the league in batting with a .372 average in 2000, to establish himself as one of the best players in the Rockies’ brief existence. He has won three Gold Glove awards, four Silver Slugger awards and has been selected to the National League all-star team five times during his career.
Helton is a career .316 hitter with 369 home runs and 592 doubles up to this point. In 7,962 at bats, Helton has only struck out 1,175 times, while walking 1,335 times. These are terrific numbers for a first baseman who hits for average and has decent power. The “highway to” Helton can be a rocky road for pitchers who make a mistake. Maybe Berman‘s nickname can shed light on Helton’s accomplishments that have yet to draw the attention they deserve, as evidenced by the lack of MVP support received in the 2000 season. For now, ACDC continues to play on radios across the globe and Helton’s career numbers and legendary nickname continues to grow.
2. Andre “Bad Moon” Rison
For starters, Andre Rison was a feisty wide receiver who had a very productive career playing for seven different NFL teams. He managed to catch 743 passes and gain 10,205 yards despite playing for so many different teams throughout his NFL career. Although he had many on-field instances where his temper came into play, Rison is best known for lashing out at booing Cleveland fans following a loss to the Packers in a home game. His “f-bomb” laden tirade came out in support of Cleveland’s move to Baltimore and drew even more ire from many Browns’ fans who were so disgusted with the impending move.
Rison made it to five Pro Bowls and was a Super Bowl champion with the Packers, but bad news always seemed to surround his name. In June of 1994, Rison’s lost his house and all his possessions following a fire that was started by his girlfriend, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, from the music group TLC. He had a great career, never being endearing enough to remain on one team, but “Bad Moon” Rison will forever be known more for his troubles and his nickname linking him to music, than his accomplishments on the field of play.
1. Fred “The Crime Dog” McGriff – MLB 1B
The legendary Fred McGriff will forever be known as “The Crime Dog”, and the public’s acceptance of his nickname will only add to Chris Berman‘s fame. Fred McGriff was a perfect citizen and one who carried plenty of clout. Lean, mean and clean, McGriff belted 493 home runs in a career that spanned 19 years. Known more for his consistency, hitting 30 or more home runs ten times in his career and with five different teams, McGriff would seldom let a pitcher get by with a mistake left right out over the middle of the plate.
Berman used a reference to the cartoon crime fighting dog McGruff, to come up with “The Crime Dog” nickname. It just seemed to match McGriff’s persona, while his bat would certainly fight the crime of a pitch being left out over the middle of the plate. Many fans have probably forgotten about McGruff, but Fred “The Crime Dog” McGriff continues to live on, cementing Chris Berman’s legendary status with each and every passing day.
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