Last Tuesday’s entry, about the 1976 Braves’ nickNOBs, generated lots of very positive response (thanks, gang) and some good suggestions as well, so it’s time for a follow-up.
First and foremost, regarding the question of whether Jerry Royster ever wore “Rooster” in addition to “J.Bird” (we have photographic evidence for the latter but not for the former), several readers pointed out that Royster is now the third base coach for the Red Sox, so I contacted the Sox PR people and asked about this. They checked with Royster, and here’s the word from the man himself: He never wore “Rooster,” only “J.Bird.” So any lists showing him wearing “Rooster” are wrong. I wish they would have let me speak with Royster directly, because I’d love to pick his brain about the whole nickNOB issue, but they weren’t willing to do that.
A few readers also contributed information and research that have added a few more pieces to the puzzle. Here’s a rundown:
Reader Mark Haarmann posted the following comment last Tuesday:
It’s amazing what memories stick with you after all these years. I distinctly remember watching a Cards/Braves telecast from 1976. Adrian Devine came in to pitch for the Braves in extra innings. His nickname-on-back was “Bing,” an obvious reference to the better-known Cardinals GM Bing Devine. I remember the broadcasters mentioning that if the Cards win this game in extra innings, the headline in the next day’s papers should read, “Cards Beat Bing Devine.” Of all the C-list players that passed through during my years following sports, I never forgot Adrian “Bing” Devine because of the nickname on the back of his jersey.
I’m not willing to treat this as a confirmed Braves nickNOB (especially since it seems odd that the Braves would use a nickNOB that referred to another team’s GM). But I too have primal memories of specific sports moments from long ago, and Mark’s account feels persuasive. So I’m willing to add Adrian Devine’s “Bing” to our master chart of Braves nickNOBs, although for now it’s definitely unconfirmed.
Next, reader J.G. Preston did some digging in the Sporting News archives (which it turns out I have access to, but I didn’t realize that, or else I would have done this digging myself) and came up with some good stuff from 1976. First, there’s this item from May 29:
The primary value of this clipping is that it takes several nickNOBs that had previously been questionable and moves them into the “Confirmed” category, including Darrl Chaney’s “Nort,” Roger Moret’s “Gallo,” and Dave May’s “Chopper.” (Interestingly, Jerry Royster’s nickNOB is referred to as “Jay Bird,” although we have photographic evidence that it wasn’t spelled that way.)
Also, note that this clipping indicates that the nickNOBs were Ted Turner’s idea — not Andy Messersmith’s (as Sports Illustrated had claimed) or publicist Bob Hope’s (as Turner himself claimed in his autobiography).
As you may recall from Tuesday’s entry, there was also some dispute as to whether Turner or Messersmith had come up with the idea of having Messersmith wear “Channel 17.” A hint is provided by this Sporting News item from April 24:
Note that this item was published several weeks before the Braves started wearing nickNOBs. But you can see Turner was already thinking about the connection between his star pitcher and his TV station.
Another lingering issue from Tuesday’s entry was the question of who put the kibosh on “Channel 17” — was it National League president Chub Feeney or MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn? The following two Sporting News items, from June 5 and June 19, respectively, indicate that it was Feeney:
Reader Matthew Namee found two additional newspaper items confirming that it was Feeney, not Kuhn, who cracked down on “Channel 17.” The first one ran in the Chicago Tribune and the second in the Pasadena Star, both on May 16:
Note that the second item, aside from confirming Feeney over Kuhn, also includes this line: “Messersmith, like all the Braves’ players, has a nickname sewn on the back of his uniform” (emphasis mine). This is the first time I’ve seen explicit confirmation that the nickNOBs were a team-wide phenomenon. This means, as I mentioned last week, that there are several players and nickNOBs still unaccounted for.
With all of this in mind, I’ve updated our master chart to reflect the Adrian Devine possibility, the nickNOBs mentioned in the first May 29 Sporting News clipping, and the elimination of “Rooster.” The chart now looks like this:[table "15" seems to be empty /]
So that’s where we stand now. I’ll run additional updates as the situation warrants. Okay? Okay.
If you think nickNOB research is tricky, it’s nothing compared to kind of research that goes into the Permanent Record project. My latest entry on the PermaRec blog gives a step-by-step breakdown of how one of my research volunteers solved a particularly tricky puzzle. It’s pretty amazing and really shows how hard it is to be good researcher — check it out here.
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