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Playing the name game with athletes and teams

When you were a kid, you knew the name of just about every pro baseball, football and basketball, player - and probably most hockey players too.

You certainly knew the players’ names on your favorite teams and likely most of the top players in each league during the era.

But do you remember quarterback Gary Cuozzo? He probably didn’t play for your favorite team and he definitely wasn’t a star.

I was watching a YouTube game clip of a Vikings-Jets game from 1970 that actually was an interesting one. Cuozzo was the Vikings’ quarterback in place of injured starter Joe Kapp. A friend pointed out that Cuozzo originally played with the Saints.

Cuozzo was an example of players with names that were difficult to spell when we were kids. Remember how many times you misspelled some names?

I certainly still have trouble with misspellings as my editors and readers can attest to. As we get older, words are easier to type and read with the 14-point or bigger type. Think about it, right?

In this week’s version of my Yesterday column – reminiscing about sport and pop culture in the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and sometimes before and beyond – I’ll take a look at some of sports’ difficult names to spell, some team nicknames, as well as some pop culture clips.

Here are some questions to ponder before I give you the answers later in this column. What NFL team had the nickname, “The Electric Company?” Who were the “Mighty Macs? And what player gained the nickname “The Boston Strangler?”

They Were A Mouthful, Too ... The 1972 Dolphins are still the only team to have an undefeated season in the NFL. We all can name our share of standout players for the team, but can we spell them correctly?

How many of us spelled Jim Kiick correctly? His name still surfaces as being spelled incorrectly. Or how about Larry Csonka or Nick Buoniconti? Did you spell Bob Kuchenberg right? Earl Morrall may have been a challenge, and don’t forget Bob Griese and Larry Seiple.

There’s also Charlie Babb, Jim Del Gaizo (anyone remember what position he played?) You can also throw Garo Yepremian, Bob Heinz, and Jim Mandich (not Manwich which was a hot item in the ‘70s).

The ’72 Dolphins’ accomplishent is one that may stand for football eternity.

Quarterback Quandary ... There have been challenging quarterback names to spell through the years; Some that come to mind are Jack Concannon, Mike Taliaferro, John Reeves (not Jim Reeves, the country singer), Pete Liske, Steve Spurrier, Dan Pastorini. Roger Staubach.

Eagles fans should remember Reaves and Liske.

How many of those guys’ football cards did you have?

Baseball Beauties ... Baseball also has had its share of players with arduous names to spell.

There is a plentiful amount of them, but here are a few that came to mind from my yesterday: Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, John Boccabella, Billy Grabarkewitz, Nomar Garciaparra, Jair Jurrjens, Mark Grudzelanek, Doug Mientkiewcz. Jeff Samardzija, Marc Rzepczynski, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Isringhausen, Marc Rzepczynski, and Mark Buehrle.

Most of those names would be good on a crossword puzzle.

For Phillies’ fans, I thought of Mike Rogozinski, Greg Luzinski, Roy Halladay (not Holliday), Luis Aguayo, Ricky Bottalico, Lenny (Nails) Dykstra, Roger Freed, and Byron Browne (with the e).

I was having trouble remembering any others so if you think of more, please send me the names. But make sure to spell them correctly. Haha

America’s Team and More ... The Cowboys were given the nickname “America’s Team” back in the day of Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, and head coach Tom Landry. It has stuck with them to the present day.

With the recent passing of O.J. Simpson, you may recall “The Electric Company,” being the name given to the offensive line for Simpson in his record years with the Bills.

There have been plenty of other recognizable NFL nicknames - and also some that you might not remember.

How about Da Bears, Doomsday Defense, New York Sack Exchange, Big Blue (Giants), Aints (Saints), Steel Curtain, Greatest Show On Turf, Blue Wave and Ground Chuck (Knox), Fearsome Foursome, Blitzberg (1990 Steelers), Dirty Birds (’98 Falcons), Bills West (2001 Chargers), Orange Crush, Air Coryell, Over the Hill Gang, Purple People Eaters and The Hogs.

But the NFL isn’t the only place where you will find nicknames. Do you recall The Wrecking Crew (Texas A&M’s defense), Doctors of Dunk, Whiz Kids, Pony Express (SMU’s Eric Dickerson and Craig James), Bronx Bombers, The Evil Empire, Lumber Company (Pirates’ ‘70s lineup), Bronx Bombers, Killer B’s, Nasty Boys, Seven Blocks of Granite, Harvey’s Wallbangers, Bad Boys, Phi Slamma Jamma, Big Red Machine, and the Broad Street Bullies?

If you grew up in the 1960’s, ‘70s, ‘80s, you should know many of these. Please feel free to send me some I missed.

Something Sounds Strange ... Here’s some more classic sports names. We’ll start with two that should be very familiar to Philadelphia sports fans - ex-Phillie Bake McBride and ex-Sixer World B. Free.

Here are some more names that you might recall. Coco Crisp, Coco Laboy, Yinka Dare, Cookie Rojas, Dick Pole, Dick Trickle, Fair Hooker, Blue Moon Odom, Sonny Sixkiller, I.M. Hipp, Razor Shines, Will Barrow (get that one?), Scientific and his brother Majestic Mapp (yes, they are real), Napolean Outlaw, Shooty Babbit, Catfish Hunter, Chocolate Thunder, Flash Gordon, Mudcat Grant, and the immortal Boots Day.

Phillie Phodder ... Each week, I’ll offer a Phillies’ trivia question to test your knowledge. Here you go..

On April 18, 1987, Mike Schmidt hit his 500th career home run. Against what team did Schmidt achieve the mark, and (if you’re really good) against what pitcher?

Mighty Macs ... Despite the impact of Caitlin Clark and the rise of women’s basketball popularity, you might not know that it recently was the 50th anniversary of the Immaculata College’s “Mighty Macs” women’s basketball team that won its first of two national championships.

You may remember Cathy Rush, who was their coach and compiled an astounding 149-15 record from 1970-77.

On the local front (somewhat local in the Lehigh Valley) Carol Blazejowski became the highest-paid player in the Women’s Pro Basketball League, signing a three-year contract for a reported $150,000 with the New Jersey Gems. However, the league folded after her first year and her playing career ended.

Blazejowski also played with the semi-pro Allentown Crestettes, who won the EWABL title in 1976.

Did anyone see the Crestettes play? From my yesterday, I remember Nancy Lieberman, Anne Meyers (sister of David Myers, both from UCLA), and Cheryl Miller.

Name In A Tune ... In 1964, Shirley Ellis sang, “The Name Game,” a song that truly related to its title, naming objects in a swift, catchy style that we all heard at one time.

There also was ABBA’s “The Name of the Game” in 1977, and TV’s ‘Name That Tune” from the ‘70s.

WWF Wrap ... Periodically, I’ll look back at a WWF wrestler from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s who may remember from our past.

Do you remember Ted Dibiase, “The Million Dollar Man?” DiBiase debuted in 1974, and he was the first WWF North American Heavyweight Champion, a three-time WWF Tag Team Champion, and a one-time WWE 24/7 champion.

DiBiase, whose real name is Theodore Willis and is a Nebraska native, retired in 1993 and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.

Trivia Answer ... Schmidt hit his 500th homerun against the Pirates off Don Robinson.

Memory Lane ... Each week, I’ll look back at a former athlete, head coach, manager, or media personality from our yesterday.

Do your remember the players known as the “Boston Strangler?” Sixer guard Andrew Toney gained the nickname for his knack of hitting big shots and having big games against the Celtics.

Toney was the team’s first pick in the 1980 draft and played nine seasons with the club. He was a two-time All-Star and averaged 15.9 points and 4.2 assists per game. By the way, Toney averaged 18.5 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.8 rebounds against the Celtics.

Spell Check ... I hope I spelled all of these names correctly in this column..

Feedback ... Your thoughts, ideas, and comments are always welcomed at tnsports@tnonline.com