Monday, April 15, 2013

42


Today is Jackie Robinson Day, celebrating the anniversary of the first African-American player to start a game in the major leagues. It happened on April 15, 1947, and this break in the color barrier is seen as a momentous event leading up to the civil rights movement in the USA. Jackie is a legend and the only player whose number, 42, is permanently retired by all major league teams. In recent years, all players and uniformed personnel wear the number 42 during games held on April 15 to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day, and the same will be done today.

This past weekend, 42, a movie about Jackie Robinson's story was released in theaters. I have not been fortunate enough to see this movie yet, but as a fan of baseball, it is a must-see. As a fan of names, I cannot ignore the plethora of monikers contained in the film, both of the real-life characters and the actors who portray them.

Jackie - Jack Roosevelt Robinson was the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. Jack is very no-nonsense and common, but it's nice to note that his middle name was after Theodore Roosevelt, who died a few weeks before Jackie was born.

Rachel - Rachel Annetta Robinson is Jackie's wife. I love the first name, and Annetta is a great combo of Anne and Etta, with the latter being an up-and-coming name and nickname.

Branch - Wesley Branch Rickey was President and General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the one who signed Robinson to a contract. I wonder where Branch came from and guess it is a family name, but it passes well as a given name like other word names, such as Brick and Briar.

Pee Wee - Born Harold Peter Henry Reese, Pee Wee was nicknamed as a child after a small marble due to his skill in playing the game of marbles. He played with Robinson and was a great supporter of him. Pee Wee may not be great given name material, but what about Harold? It's not as popular nowadays as it was in the early 1900s, but it is a viable option for those who like the nickname Harry.

Leo - Leo Ernest Durocher was the manager of the Dodgers who supported Robinson's signing. Leo continues to rise in popularity and style.

Red - Walter Lanier "Red" Barber was the broadcaster of Dodger games. While Walter has never disappeared (ranking #375 in 2011), could it return to a top 10 name as it was in 1914?

Dixie - Fred "Dixie" Walker was a player on the Brooklyn team who was hesitant to play with Robinson. Used as a nickname for someone from the South, Dixie as a given name is more popular with the girls and is actually rising slowly in the ranks (#846 in 2011) since it re-entered the Top 1000 in 2007 after over 20 years of absence.

Ben - William Benjamin Chapman was the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies who was against Robinson playing in the major leagues. Nothing too astonishing about William Benjamin, but could Chapman be considered among the likes of other surnames such as Campbell and Chandler?

Dutch - Emil John "Dutch" Leonard was a knuckleball pitcher for the Phillies who pitched against Robinson. While Emil is a fairly popular name in Europe (it is#1 in Norway and #10 in Sweden), it has failed to rank in the US since 1984. It ranked as high as #90 in 1881.

Ralph - Ralph Theodore Joseph Branca was a pitcher for the Dodgers and teammate of Robinson. The name Ralph is threatening to fall off the Top 1000 names in 2012, ranking at #953 in 2011. With the popularity of Wreck-it Ralph, could it make a slight rise?

Burt - Burton Edwin Shotton was Robinson's first permanent manager with the Dodgers. The name Burt does not excite me, but when I saw that his real name was Burton, my tune changed. Burton fell off the ranks after 1981 and does not seem to be coming back, even in the age of -on/-en names.

Clyde - Clyde Leroy Sukeforth managed Robinson's first major league game with the Dodgers. Did you know Clyde was a river name? It is a river in Scotland and somehow that makes it cooler.

Clay - Robert Clay Hopper was Robinson's minor league manager in the Dodgers organization. Clay and his formal buddy Clayton have been a steady presence in the Top 1000 in the US.

Happy - Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler was the commissioner of MLB at the time and approved the contract offered to Robinson. Happy, as a given name, has actually been used on both boys and girls over the years. Although, nowadays, I see it more as a dog name.

Wendell - Wendell Smith, a writer for the black weekly Pittsburgh Courier helped convince Rickey to sign Robinson. Wendell fell out of the Top 1000 after 1995, and reached its height in 1940.

Other notable factoids: Jackie was the youngest born to Jerry and Mallie Robinson; his older siblings were Edgar, Frank, Matthew "Mack", and Willa Mae. Jackie and Rachel had three children: Jackie Jr, Sharon and David.

Mallie caught my eye. Is the first syllable pronounced like Mallory or is it another spelling for Molly? It was ranked in the late 19th/early 20th century, but has recently been given to more girls since the 1980s, according to the numbers.

Now and look at the actors:

  • Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson)
  • Harrison Ford (Branch Rickey)
  • Nicole Beharie (Rachel Robinson)
  • Christopher Meloni (Leo Durocher)
  • Ryan Merriman (Dixie Walker)
  • Lucas Black (Pee Wee Reese)
  • Andre Holland (Wendell Smith)
  • Alan Tudyk (Ben Chapman)
  • Hamish Linklater (Ralph Branca)
  • John C. McGinley (Red Barber)
  • Toby Huss (Clyde Sukeforth)
  • Max Gail (Burt Shotton)
  • Brett Cullen (Clay Hopper)
  • Peter Mackenzie (Happy Chandler)

This is a great group of names and the top attention-grabber happens to the be the star of the show, Chadwick. Chadwick means "farm belonging to Chad" and was ranked from 1965 through 1996. It is a very handsome choice for parents who are looking for a longer version for or an alternative to Chad.

Which of these names stands out to you? And even if you aren't a fan of baseball, I encourage you to check out the movie 42. It's inspirational history at its best!

References from Behind the Name and Nancy's Baby Names.

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