The Oakland A’s recently acquired a player named Boog Powell, and we really need to talk about that. It’s an excellent baseball name and it automatically makes the lineup more fun. We recently had a discussion about player nicknames, but this one sounds like an old classic straight out of golden days gone by.
There’s a reason for that, though. It literally is a classic out of golden days gone by. As you probably know already, the nickname was inspired by the original Boog Powell, an All-Star slugger from the 1960s and 70s who was a favorite of Young Boog’s grandpa. So, while this might be the name that would induce the most double-takes from a casual observer, it’s by no means unique in baseball terms.
But of course, Boog is neither player’s real name. The original was John, and ours is Herschel Mack Powell, which ... wait why did he need a nickname again? He already had some pretty sweet options. Anyway, there has also been a Herschel in MLB history, last name Bennett, from the 1920s. There were two others who, like Powell, went by different monikers (Hersh Lyons, and Bill Prough).
Whichever way you slice it, Herschel Mack “Boog” Powell is not the first of his name in baseball. However, there are quite a few A’s whose given names are in fact unique among all 18,748 players in MLB history. In fact, there are five on the current roster and eight on the 40-man version:
- Rajai Davis
- Khris Davis
- Ryon Healy
- Jharel Cotton
- Liam Hendriks
- Jaycob Brugman (40-man)
- Renato Nunez (40-man, played MLB in 2016)
- Yairo Munoz (40-man, hasn’t debuted in MLB yet)
Plus two more from earlier this year:
- Yonder Alonso (the guy traded for Boog)
- Jaff Decker (still in the A’s org)
Here are a couple more borderline cases:
- Kendall Graveman — There have been two other players with the given name Kendall, but neither embraced it. One went by Ken, the other Casey. So, Graveman is the first to call himself Kendall. He’s also the first-ever Graveman.
- Simon Castro — There have been two other players named Simon, but they were “SYE-muhn” whereas Castro is “see-MONE.” In a way, that makes him unique. (There were three other Simons who went by alternate first names.)
One other close call: Jed Lowrie. There have been two other players named Jed (Jed Hansen, Jedediah “Jed” Bradley), not counting Jedd Gyorko.
In the case of Rajai, Ryon, Jharel, Jaycob, and Yairo, there has never even been a minor leaguer with their first name. Cotton, Hendriks, Brugman, and Graveman are also unique last names in majors/minors history, as are Manaea, Coulombe, Semien, Phegley, Canha, Bassitt, Mengden, and Wendle. (And, reaching down slightly further: Lavarnway, Doubront, and Wendelken.)
If you’re wondering, it does not appear that having this many novel first names is all that unusual. Let’s set Oakland’s bar at nine unique MLB monikers who have appeared in at least one game in 2017 — counting Kendall since no one’s ever gone by that before (the same exception applies for Ernesto below). How has the rest of the AL West fared this year?
- Angels: 11 (Andrelton, Yunel, Kole, Huston, Yusmeiro, Jefry, Kaleb, Parker, Keynan, Deolis, Damien) (that’s Damien Magnifico)
- Astros: 7 (Yuli/Yulieski, Norichika, Marwin, Reymin, Teoscar, Jandel, Ashur)
- Rangers: 6 (Yu, Rougned, Shin-Soo, Jurickson, Keone, Ernesto)
- Mariners: 3 but one of them is Yonder (also Leonys, Yovani)
Well, we’ve gone this far. Here’s a look down the entire A’s minor league system, from Triple-A through the AZL Rookie League; I’ve picked out every first name I can find that is unique to all of major and minor league history.
- Sandber Pimentel
- Santis Sanchez
- Iolana Akau (or Lana, either way)
- Viosergy Rosa
- Yerdel Vargas (or Yerdelluis)
- Enrry Pantoja
- Yordys Alejo
- Wandisson Charles
- Jhenderson Hurtado
Just missed the cut (1 other player in minor league history): Daulton Jefferies, Jeferson Mejia, Malik Jones.
Just missed that honorable mention section but I had to mention Skye (2 others in minors): Skye Bolt, JaVon Shelby (though he’s the first to capitalize the V).
Going back through 2012, I didn’t even find as many first-time MLB names as Oakland has suited up just this year: Yoenis Cespedes, Bartolo Colon, Jemile Weeks, Geovany Soto, Arismendy Alcantara, Kila Ka’aihue, and Fautino De Los Santos. There’s even been another Coco (Laboy), and more than one Sonny, though none of them except Gray had that as their actual given name as opposed to a nickname.
OK, I better stop now before I get sucked in too much further. Hey, what about bullpen coach Garvin Alston? There was one other Garvin but it was really his middle name ...
All info gathered from Baseball-Reference.