It doesn’t happen as much now, but a player being known almost exclusively by their nickname is a longstanding phenomenon in baseball. Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford are probably the three most prominent examples of this in Yankees’ history.
If you look at almost any Baseball Reference team page from the first half of the 20th century, you can find multiple examples of this on every team in every season. Some of them are extremely obvious in how they came to be, but some of them are a bit weirder. Let’s look at some of those weirder ones and find some of the more bizarre stories of how they came to be.
Semi-regular catcher Hannah played in 244 games across three seasons for the Yankees from 1918-20. He wasn’t a particularly great hitter, putting up a career 76 OPS+. His defensive abilities, specifically his ability to block the plate, and his build were generally seen as the reason he was called “Truck.” However, there is another theory.
The other is that he once drove a truck while working for a business during the offseason. The equivalent of that in this era would be like if Didi Gregorius had been called “Camera” or something like that. He might’ve just done a thing and then been known as it for the rest of his baseball career.
A three-time league leaguer in strikeouts with the Reds, Hahn pitched one season with the then New York Highlanders in 1906.
Hahn himself claimed to not really know where “Noodles” came from, but other sources are very clear that it had something to do with soup. Either he liked noodle soup, or he used to deliver it to his father at work, or because he used to sell it. All have been posited as theories. Either way, a notable person from his era in baseball history is forever listed as “Noodles” because of soup.
Stirnweiss already had a career as a notable college football player well before he ever gained his nickname.
While playing in the minor leagues, a reporter saw Stirnweiss light up a cigar while he had a mouth full of chewing tobacco and made a joke about snuff. The nickname “Snuffy” stuck, and it’s what he would be known as he became a regular three World Series teams. Stirnweiss died at age 39, but somehow not from reasons related to his nickname.
Before his eight-year major league career with the Yankees, Cree played baseball at Penn State. While there, one particular impressive performance caused a classmate to yell “He’s a bird, that’s what he is.” His SABR page does not specify if that came after a certain show of speed, but if it wasn’t, that’s random.
Home Run Baker
Ok, this one is a cheat as is not “weird” as much as it is funny to look back at in retrospect.
Baker got his nickname because he was one of the most prolific home run hitters of his era. He led baseball in the stat in four straight years from 1911-14. He came over to the Yankees in 1916, where he finished in the top 10 in home run for another four seasons.
The thing about that is this: that was the dead ball era. His highest ever season total was 12. For his career Baker hit 96. Yes, different eras and all, but Aaron Judge has 14 more than that in 24% of the career at-bats of the guy called “Home Run.”