EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the A to Z Challenge, an exercise in self-flagellation we bloggers inflict upon ourselves to teach us discipline as writers and to build audience. During the month of April, I’ll be posting 26 times, once for every letter in the alphabet. Looking on the bright side, we can each be thankful this is an English language exercise and not Khmer, the language of Cambodia, which sets the world record with a 74-character alphabet! After some misgivings, I’ve decided to proceed with my initial idea of blogging about the special people in my life whose names begin with the appropriate letter. There will be difficulties, like having more than one special person whose names begin with the same letter, forcing me to choose. And then there are those letters — O, Q and X among them — where no name springs readily to mind. What will I do then? We’ll have to wait and see!
U is for Ugly
The A-to-Z Challenge ain’t over yet, not by a long shot, I still haven’t introduced you to Johnny Dickshot.
Nicknamed “Ugly” by his baseball contemporaries, Dickshot (yes folks, that’s his real name) was a light-hitting outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Giants and Chicago White Sox. He played from 1936 to 1945.
Now I may be old, but not that old, so I never actually saw Dickshot choke up on his lumber and swing it, but if you know me at all, you know that I’m a huge baseball fan, and one of the reasons is because of guys like Ugly Dickshot.
More than any other sport, baseball is in love with its history. Indeed, how could it not be with guys like Dickshot patrolling the outer gardens of places like Forbes Field, the Polo Grounds and old Comiskey Park, places that live only in memory.
And if you know anything about baseball, you also know it’s rife with nicknames. While Dickshot is the only Ugly that I can find listed, there are tons of others that are equally compelling, with Bald Billy, Woonsocket Rocket, Kewpie Dick, Gray Flamingo, Country Breakfast, Crash Test Dummy, Jack the Ripper, Creepy, Laughing Larry and Tomato Face among them.
But it’s not just about names, it’s also about numbers. Being a baseball geek means I don’t consider it a waste of time to peruse statistics. Baseball almanacs, once as thick as a big-city telephone directory, are now conveniently available online in places like www.baseball-reference.com, but if you’re really a fan, you still devote space in your home library to hard copies!
Yes, baseball fans love statistics, and it’s one of the things non-fans don’t understand about us. But truth to tell, Johnny Dickshot’s output leaves even the most ardent fan a bit limp. A quick look at the record book shows that in his career, Dickshot rarely went deep. He hit just seven home runs in his six-year career, ugly indeed for a corner outfielder, a position traditionally thought of as a spot for power hitters.
So what makes Ugly pretty enough to include as one of my “special people?” Nothing, really, other than his name, which you’ll have to admit is unique, and lends itself to a bit of cheap comedy. The real reason I chose him is because I don’t know anyone with a name that starts with U, so I was forced to send Ugly in to pinch hit.
In baseball, crazy things can happen. A team can do everything wrong and still be victorious, unless you’re a fan of the Houston Astros, in which case your team will probably lose no matter what. But when you are victorious despite playing sloppily, fans might call that “an ugly win,” and ugly wins are possible in the A-to-Z Challenge, too, where a risky theme choice might force a writer to bend his own rules regarding special people.
That’s why you’ll have to excuse me while I turn over today’s post to the public address announcer:
“Attention, please. Now batting for Roamin’ Gnomials and playing the position of U in the A-to-Z Challenge, Number 36, Johnny Dickshot!”
Down on the field, Dickshot knocks the dirt from his spikes, then lines the first pitch he sees back up the middle for a clean single.
And the crowd goes wild!