Happy birthday, Al Alburquerque! The Tigers' effective rookie reliever turns 25 today.
The right-hander is the inspiration for this week's Friday Five: My coolest names in baseball history.
Not nicknames. Just names. Names given at birth, as far as I know.
By all means, submit your own list. This is mine:
This first choice is, as much as anything, a hat tip to the late, great Bob Sheppard, who often identified this as one of his favorite names to announce. It's just so darn melodic, isn't it?
Hasegawa enhanced this with a great nickname, "Shiggy," and a great personality, as he worked very hard to speak English with teammates and the media.
It took a second reading for me to realize that he doesn't spell his last name quite the New Mexico city. There's an extra "r" up front, between the "u" and the "q." As opposed to between the "q" and the subsequent "u." That would just be weird.
But the last name is close enough to evoke the wisdom of Coach Bobby Finstock from "Teen Wolf":
"There are three rules that I live by: Never get less than 12 hours sleep. Never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city. And never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese."
Granted, Alburquerque is his last name, not his first name, and there's that extra "r" we mentioned. Nevertheless, when you throw in the alliteration factor, there's no way I would play cards with this guy.
Has a guy with this unique a name ever arrived in the big leagues with more hype and then delivered on that hype the way Strawberry did?
Yes, he delivered, in my opinion. If not statistically, then spiritually, what with his role on the 1986 Mets, his self-induced problems with substance abuse, his revival with the 1996, 1998 and 1999 Yankees, his battle with colon cancer and then more substance abuse problems, leading to jail time.
He is, in my opinion, one of the most memorable figures in New York baseball. And his name makes him even more memorable. Besides, will there ever be a better promotion than Strawberry Sunday, back in 1984?
Another mellifluous name, and loved the way he looked on his baseball cards. Sadly, he died in 1987, at age 34.
Praising his name evokes the image of Jeff, proposing uniforms for the new restaurant waiters in this episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm": "Simple. Simple. Simple."
Seriously. What less could you want in a name? Who's gonna come in with fewer than five letters?