Friday, April 21, 2006

April 21st, 1863

Germany Smith Born

That's George J. Smith on his birth certificate, born in Pittsburgh, so presumably the name comes from his heritage, rather than place of birth. Smith had a fairly long career in the 1880s, playing as the very model of a no-hit, good-field shortstop. (Although good-field is something of a relative term there; Smith made 971 errors in 1665 games at shortstop, but his career.902 fielding percentage there is actually .015 points higher than the league average during his career.)

He drew my attention though not for his "good" defense, but rather for his nickname. There have been five "Germany"s in baseball history, including Germany Schaefer and my personal favorite Germany Schmit, better known as "Crazy" Schmit. Not counting players actually named "French" (there've been a few of those) there've been five "Frenchy"s in the Majors; along with eight players known as "Irish," including Irish Meusel, brother of Bob.

The all-time national nickname winner though is "Dutch." While you might not think of the Netherlands as a great baseball country, they did manage the only no-hitter in this year's World Baseball Classic and finished a respectable 1-2 in their group. Perhaps it is fitting then, that there have been sixty-eight "Dutch"s in the history of Major League Baseball. So let's all remove our caps in honor of the Dutch and their overwhelming nickname superiority, while bowing down to Queen Beatrix.

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