A Review of D.B. Firstman’s ‘Hall of Name’

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Today, in the Time Before Coronavirus, we would have been eagerly awaiting the start of baseball in just one short week! Instead, we are left to wonder just when and if we will see any live action from the Dodgers and the other 29 teams that encompass Major League Baseball.

In the meantime, as we find ways to occupy our downtime at home, we are looking for ways to incorporate some baseball in our lives. Some people are mass tweeting old games, like some fans on Twitter did on Tuesday night by re-watching Game 1 of the 1988 World Series together. Some have talked about their favorite baseball memory or what memorable games they have attended. Tonight, I plan to re-watch Clayton Kershaw‘s no-hitter from 2014, to celebrate his March 19 birthday.

But also, I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Hall of Name by my Twitter friend D.B. Firstman, and I have happily been working my way through it. It had me laughing within the first two pages with the clever and hilarious turn of phrase and insight into just what story a particular name might tell.

The book starts with a forward by the esteemed baseball writer Jayson Stark, who shares his love of great or different sounding names. D.B then introduces their book by giving you an insight into how they came to write the book, in addition to their thought process behind highlighting which names they did.

Each linguistically delightful name is sorted into one of four categories: Baseball Poets and Men of (Few Different) Letters; Dirty Names Done Dirt Cheap; Sounds Good to Me; and No Focus Group Convened.

D.B. then further profiles each player by general information, the etymology of their name, their baseball biography, the player’s best day, why the name was chosen, players they might be confused with, fun anagrams, and ephemera of that player.

D.B. is also kind enough to include a glossary of terms, so that even if you aren’t a dyed in the blue baseball fan or didn’t major in linguistics, you’ll be able to enjoy the book. 

Pertinent to Dodgers fans, the book highlights Ed Head, Milton Bradley, and Van Lingle Mungo, among many others. My personal favorite name in the book is that of one Boots Poffenberger, a pitcher who didn’t quite have a great tenure with the Dodgers in the 1930’s.

Hall of Name is the perfect book if you only have a few minutes to read at a time, as it is broken down into quick, readable segments. It is also the perfect book if you have an evening ahead of you, allowing you to fall into the lovely rabbit hole of great baseball players’ names. D.B. weaves rich, entertaining stories about current players and players long forgotten alike. I feel sometimes like these stories and anecdotes are exactly what Vin Scully would have shared during some of his own broadcasts.

Hall of Name is available at Amazon as well as other book outlets. You can follow D.B. on Twitter @dianagram where their quick wit and turning of the English language is a delight. I highly recommended Hall of Name to anyone who enjoys baseball, language, or just interesting information on a person and their origins.

5 thoughts on “A Review of D.B. Firstman’s ‘Hall of Name’

  1. One nickname I have always loved is Death to All Flying Things. This moniker was stuck on Robert Vavasour Ferguson. 1845-1894. He was an infielder, manager, league official, and an umpire in the early days of baseball. A native of Brooklyn, he played for the Atlantic’s, and the Mutual’s during his career. He was not well liked, and had a nasty temper. He has a place in history though as he drove in the tying run, and then scored the winning run that ended the Cincinnati Red Stockings 81 game winning streak. He got the nick name because of his fielding prowess. Interestingly enough, this nickname was also hung on Franklyn Gutierrez by Bob Niehaus, the Mariners broadcaster after he made a diving catch. In a little tie in to the book you mentioned, Gutierrez was traded to the Indians for……Milton Bradley. Another side note, prior to that trade, the Dodgers had refused to include him in a deal that would have landed Richie Sexson.

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  2. Van Lingle Mungo. I actually have a baseball card of this guy. Some other great nicknames…Boom Boom Beck. So called because that is the sound the ball made when he pitched it. Boom when it hit the bat, and Boom when it hit the wall. Great baseball story. Hack Wilson, who’s last productive baseball season was 1932 with the Dodgers. was playing RF and Beck was pitching for the Dodgers. Had to be in 33 or 34. Anyway Beck was getting hammered and Wilson was a little hung over from the night before. So when the manager, Max Carey, came out to talk to Beck, Wilson leaned against the RF fence and was taking a snooze. Carey decides to pull Beck, and Beck, who was 6′ 2″ 200 pounds, instead of giving the ball to the manager he turns around and fires it out to RF. The ball hit the wall with a resounding BOOM< and Wilson was so startled he picked the ball up and fired a perfect strike to second base. True story. Dodgers have had many colorful characters and one of the most colorful took over as manager in 1934. Casey Stengel. Stories like that are the thing that make baseball so special.

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  3. Country music lost an icon last night as Kenny Rogers passed away. Was one of my inspirations as to the kind of music I wanted to play. RIP Kenny……also……MLBPA wants credit for service time even if the 2020 season is not played…this could get nasty.

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