Friday marks the 90th birthday of Bob Uecker, a man synonymous with Milwaukee Brewers baseball. He’s been the radio voice of Brewers games since essentially the inception of the franchise, and he’s still going strong.
Locally, he’s probably known mostly as “Ueck,” though he also carries the nickname “Mr. Baseball,” bestowed to him by iconic late-night host Johnny Carson when Uecker was a regular guest on Carson’s show.
It’s among the most recognizable nicknames in Wisconsin sports. Another nicknamed local legend, Glenn “Doc” Rivers, is about to take the reins as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. The former Marquette University star was bestowed the nickname in middle school by MU assistant coach Rick Majerus, who noticed Rivers wearing a T-shirt in honor of Julius “Dr. J” Erving — and then saw Rivers flash game that could stack up with someone of Erving’s stature.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here’s a look at some of the most recognizable nicknames in Wisconsin sports lore:
Curly (Earl Lambeau)
Is Earl Lambeau essentially the patriarch of Wisconsin sports? The cofounder of the Green Bay Packers and one of the organization’s first players and coaches, Curly Lambeau was the driving force that transformed the upstart football team into a powerhouse. In his 29 years as Packers coach, Lambeau won six NFL championships, a league record he shares with George Halas of the Chicago Bears. The son of Belgian immigrants, Lambeau was given the nickname Curly as a youth because of his curly hair.
On the topic of other nicknames that essentially substitute for a first name, we have …
Bud (Allan H. Selig). Speaking of driving forces, Selig was the man who brought baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970 — and kept it here in the 1990s. He operated as team owner until he officially became Major League Baseball commissioner in 1998. The nickname was given by his mother.Fuzzy (Fred Thurston).The Packers Hall of Fame guard has been known simply as Fuzzy since his youth, also because of curly hair.Doc (Glenn Rivers). The McDonald’s All-American was a recruiting win for Marquette, and he parlayed an excellent career in the program into a successful NBA playing career and a quarter- century of NBA coaching.
More:50 in 50: Doc Rivers banks in a prayer to beat Notre Dame
The Kid (Robin Yount)
Even in the twilight of his 20-year career wearing a Milwaukee Brewers jersey, he was still the 18-year-old kid who Brewers manager Del Crandall dared to start on opening day in 1974. He got quite a bit better, though. The first-ballot Hall of Famer is still regarded as the best player in franchise history.
The Ignitor (Paul Molitor)
The Brewers legend didn’t know exactly where the weirdly spelled nickname came from, but it still fit. The career .306 hitter spent most of his 15 seasons atop the Brewers lineup, helping the franchise achieve its first wave of success and only World Series appearance.
More:50 in 50: Paul Molitor’s hitting streak comes to a dramatic conclusion
Stormin’ Gorman (Gorman Thomas)
Brewers assistant coach Frank Howard bestowed the nickname on Thomas, and it stuck well enough that he opened a bar in South Carolina called Stormin Gorman’s after his playing career. The wildly popular outfielder and cleanup hitter was a central part of Harvey’s Wallbangers during the Brewers’ rise to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Gumby (Jim Gantner)
Thomas had already paid it forward, saying in 1979 that he gave the second baseman Gantner the nickname two years earlier in Triple-A, because Gantner “walks like Gumby and he talks like Gumby,” the animated comic character with a funny voice. Gantner spent 17 seasons in one uniform with the Milwaukee Brewers, joining Yount and Molitor in an iconic triumvirate.
Simba (Ted Simmons)
A nod to his lion-like mane of hair, the nickname became a perfect moniker for the competitive catcher, acquired in a seismic trade before the 1981 season that put the Brewers on the path to a World Series. Today, he’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mr. Warmth (Mike Caldwell)
Perhaps it isn’t as ubiquitous as other members of the 1982 Brewers on this list, but big-game left-handed pitcher Mike Caldwell also played a massive role in the Brewers’ rise — even if he remains curiously outside the Brewers Walk of Fame. It was a perfect ironic name for a fierce competitor like Caldwell.
Hammer (Hank Aaron)
Hammerin’ Hank is a pro-sports institution unto himself, and from 1954 to 1965, then again in 1975 and 1976, he went about compiling his record 755 career home runs with a Milwaukee jersey. The nickname was an obvious fit for someone hammering so many home runs, and his autobiography is titled, “I Had a Hammer.”
Tony Plush (Nyjer Morgan)
The self-appointed alter ego of the unpredictable outfielder became a sensation in the summer of 2011, when the newly acquired Morgan had a career year and helped the Brewers win the National League Central. Morgan’s game-winning base hit in extra innings of Game 5 in the National League Division Series will live forever.
Greek Freak (Giannis Antetokounmpo)
The native of Greece and leader of a Bucks renaissance admits he didn’t love the nickname at first but has grown to embrace it. The all-time scoring leader in Bucks history has become one of the great success stories in NBA lore, and others have tried to attach nicknames that steer from the potentially pejorative offering, like broadcaster Ted Davis with “The Alphabet” and former broadcaster Eddie Doucette with “The Big Feta.” But it’s hard to deny the rhyming power — and nod to his unique talent — of Greek Freak.
Big O (Oscar Robertson)
One common genre of nicknaming is using the word “Big” and adding a name or letter after it — and you’ll see more examples below — but Oscar Robertson has this particular manifestation cornered. Across sports, everyone knows who “Big O” is. The Cincinnati star was a massive coup for the Bucks when they traded for him before the 1971 season, and a championship immediately followed. He’s one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
Big Dog (Glenn Robinson)
Supposedly given to Robinson by a school custodian at Purdue when Robinson lit up a practice as a freshman, the moniker stuck throughout his playing career, including his eight seasons (and two all-star appearances) with the Bucks. The No. 1 overall pick in 1994 was just passed on the all-time Bucks scoring leaderboard for third place by Khris Middleton. Speaking of whom …
Khash (Khris Middleton)
This one may not be as ubiquitous as others on the list, but it’s at least as a strong online presence for Middleton, whose sweet pull-up jumpers have been part of what makes him an indispensable part of Milwaukee’s current run of elite success. He finds himself near the top of the Bucks all-time leaderboard in several categories.
Sir Sid or The Squid (Sidney Moncrief)
The truth is, the five-time all-star had a litany of nicknames thrown his way during his Hall of Fame career. The first recipient of the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year honor won it in back-to-back years in 1983 and 1984, and his jersey hangs in Milwaukee’s rafters.
The Greyhound (Bob Dandridge)
This is an Eddie Doucette special. Dandridge, a recent inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame and a central part of the team’s 1971 championship, was constantly moving up and down the floor. He played nine seasons with the Bucks and made three all-star teams. Pair that with Doucette, the wordsmith radio announcer tasked with selling the Bucks to a wide audience, and a brand new vocabulary emerged. Doucette referred to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as “The King” and coined the term that would forever be associated with Abdul-Jabbar, the “skyhook.”
They were far from the only Doucette offerings that became common tongue around Bucks fans.
Cement Mixer (Dick Cunningham). The strong center played six of his seven NBA seasons with the Bucks.Rabbit (Lucius Allen). Allen played 19 minutes per game on the 1971 championship team in limited playing time, but by the time he left Milwaukee, he was averaging more than 17 points per game.Electric Eye (Flynn Robinson). A player involved in the trade that brought Oscar Robertson to Milwaukee, Robinson is sometimes forgotten for his marksmanship; he was an all-star in 1970.Wayne the Wall (Wayne Embry). The big man would go on to become the first Black general manager in NBA history when he took the reins for the Bucks in 1971, the start of a decorated front-office career.Speed Bump (Paul Mokeski). Perhaps one of Doucette’s greatest inventions was the moniker for the seven-footer in Milwaukee from 1982 to 1989, who “wouldn’t stop you, but he’d slow you down.”Johnny Mac (Jon McGlocklin). This is a pretty sensible nickname, but it endures as the way Bucks fans think of this popular player, who remains a part of the Bucks fabric more than 50 years after he was part of the 1971 championship. A longtime team broadcaster, McGlocklin and Doucette worked together founding the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer).
Big Dobber (Bob Lanier)
Some nicknames feel like they belong to a different chapter of a player’s career, even if they stem from childhood, because the player made his or her name in another city. Yes, even Robertson probably belongs in this camp, though his connection to a Bucks title makes the connection stronger. Consider Lanier, whose jersey hangs in the Fiserv Forum rafters after four-plus strong seasons in Milwaukee at the end of his career. But by then, his legacy had been forged in Detroit. Apparently stemming from the way a family member mispronounced “Robert,” Lanier’s nickname inherited a “Big” the bigger he got until he was 6-11, 250, and wearing legendary-sized shoes.
Other nicknames that fit this mold, inherited from players who forged a name for themselves elsewhere:
Boomer (George Scott). Scott, the thumping first baseman who racked up five Gold Gloves with the Brewers, was given the nickname for the booming hit he put on the ball by Red Sox teammate Joe Foy. Though Scott spent four seasons in Milwaukee, he’s primarily associated with the Red Sox organization.Moose (Greg Monroe and Mike Moustakas). The natural shortening worked for the third baseman Moustakas, who became a centerpiece of the 2018 and 2019 Brewers after spending most of his career with the Royals. Monroe, the big man with a particular enthusiasm for “and-one” proclamations, was a low-key turning point for the Bucks organization in 2015.El Caballo (Carlos Lee). Assigned by Chicago White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson (and translating to “The Horse”), Lee was an all-star for the Brewers in 2005 and stayed with the team until he was traded late in 2006. He played six years with Chicago and six with Houston.The Glove (Gary Payton). Payton’s ill-fated 28 games in a Milwaukee uniform mark a maligned chapter in Bucks history, and he’s primarily known for his days in Seattle. His expertise at defending earned him the nickname, tightly fitted to the man with the basketball.Tiny (Nate Archibald). The 6-1 lefty spent one season with the Milwaukee Bucks but by then had already fashioned a Hall of Fame career with Boston and Kansas City.The Mad Stork (Ted Hendricks). So named for his gangly appearance by teammates at Miami, the Hall of Fame linebacker spent one all-pro season with the Packers in 1974. It might be among the best nicknames in NFL history.
Minister of Defense (Reggie White)
You could argue this one belongs in the same category above; after all, White had already been known by the moniker during his days with Philadelphia. But the ordained minister who also happened to be one of the game’s best defensive ends changed the trajectory of Packers history when he signed as a free agent in 1993, a major domino on the path to two Super Bowl appearances and the championship in 1996. He’d already been ordained when he picked up the nickname in college at Tennessee.
Gunslinger (Brett Favre)
Known for his “from the hip” and sometimes chaotic heaves downfield — often for good, sometimes not — Favre became the leader of a reborn Packers franchise, guiding Green Bay to a Super Bowl championship and another NFC title the following year. The undervalued trade acquisition from Atlanta wound up setting numerous NFL passing records on his way to Canton, and Jeff Pearlman’s biography of Favre (now a complex subject) was titled “Gunslinger.”
Grave Digger (Gilbert Brown)
Known for his “grave digging” celebration after burying a ball-carrier at the line of scrimmage, the burly and popular defensive tackle spent 10 seasons with the Packers during an electric run from 1993 to 2003.
Bag of Donuts (Frank Winters)
You can thank colorful broadcaster John Madden for laying this on the Packers center, who had a reputation for being a friendly person, though the nickname belies his tenacity on the field.
Majik Man (Don Majkowski)
Before the Packers hit their stride, they had Majkowski, who told Sports Illustrated he coined the nickname himself as a teen to provide an alternative to the many mispronunciations. He spent six seasons in Green Bay, including a Pro Bowl campaign, often fighting injury. And though one injury opened the door for Favre and a new era of Packers success, he remains deeply beloved by Packers enthusiasts.
Golden Boy (Paul Hornung)
It was his blonde hair that got him the nickname at Notre Dame, but it’s easy to see the fit otherwise, between the golden dome of a Notre Dame helmet and the athleticism that helped make him a star, on his way to the Heisman Trophy and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1957 draft. Hornung became an all-time great Packers player, winning the 1961 MVP and claiming four NFL championships.
Blood (Johnny McNally)
Packers history is littered with tremendous nicknames. Few are as recognizable as Johnny Blood, even though he wasn’t a defensive player known for violent hits. He was part of four NFL championships with the Packers in the 1930s. McNally apparently took the nickname after seeing a marquee for the movie “Blood and Sand” in Minneapolis in 1924. The do-everything player on offense made the NFL’s All-Decade team in the 1930s and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Other great nicknames from Packers throughout history:
Crazylegs (Elroy Hirsch)
The Wausau native earned the nickname because of his frenetic running style, one that helped him become a force at Wisconsin, then Michigan, then as a two-time All-Pro in the NFL from 1946 to 1957 and eventual Hall of Famer. He later became athletics director at Wisconsin.
The Horse (Alan Ameche)
The 1954 Heisman Trophy winner at Wisconsin went on to win two NFL championships. The Kenosha fullback’s nickname, sometimes varied as The Iron Horse, doesn’t appear to have a clear origin, though a UW assistant takes the credit for coining it as a nod to Ameche’s practice work ethic.
Polar Bear (Brian Butch)
The Appleton native with bleach blonde hair became a central component of Wisconsin’s basketball teams, playing in 124 games from 2004 to 2008.
The Crusher (Reginald Lisowski)
Most Wisconsinites may not even know the real first name of the South Milwaukee favorite son, who became a big draw on the American Wrestling Association circuit, first debuting in 1949.
A few more to note
Matt the Brat (Matt Kenseth). It’s a nickname he picked up as a short-track racer before the Cambridge native went on to a successful NASCAR career.Cujo (Curtis Joseph). The University of Wisconsin goaltender’s name naturally fit with the rabid Saint Bernard popularized in a Stephen King novel. The Canadian played only briefly at UW before a long NHL career.Frank the Tank (Frank Kaminsky). Stemming from a name bestowed to Will Ferrell’s iconic character in the movie “Old School,” Kaminsky isn’t the only player to earn the moniker. But the Naismith Player of the Year at UW might be among the best.Big Foot (Pete Ladd). Lanier wasn’t the only Wisconsin sports figure known for big shoes. The rookie reliever made a splash for the Brewers in the 1982 postseason.Splash Mountain (Brook Lopez). The perfect fusion of Lopez’s self-avowed love for all things Disney and his three-point acumen with the Milwaukee Bucks.Big Bird (Brad Lohaus). The seven-footer for the Bucks picked up the nickname as a rookie in Boston.Spider-Man (Ben Oglivie).His unforgettable catch in the 1982 regular-season finale for the Brewers helped embolden this nickname.