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Baseball’s Great Nicknames: “Sloppy” Thurston
I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a series featuring players with great baseball nicknames. I had already selected my first player for the series, none other than “Creepy” Crespi, with “Bad News” Hale soon to follow. But my post the other day on “Immaculate Innings” mentioned a guy named “Sloppy” Thurston, and the name seemed to resonate with many of our readers. So I’ll save “Creepy” for another day. “Sloppy” it is to start things off!
Before I reveal how he got his unusual nickname, here’s a little bit about his career:
There’s not a whole lot of information on the Internet about right-handed screwball pitcher Hollis John “Sloppy” Thurston, especially since there’s no SABR biography on him. The Fremont, Nebraska native bounced around the majors for nine seasons (1923-1933), after breaking in with the St. Louis Browns on April 19, 1923. His career included stops with the White Sox, Senators, and Dodgers, and numerous minor league teams. Sloppy posted rather unremarkable numbers, going 89-86, with a 4.24 ERA over 288 games. He was actually a pretty good with the bat for a pitcher, hitting .270 in 648 at-bats with 38 doubles, 10 triples and 79 RBI.
Sloppy’s career got off to a rather inauspicious start in 1923 with the Browns. After just about a month into the season and after only two appearances, he was suspended by manager Lee Fohl for refusing to pitch batting practice. He was immediately waived and then claimed by the White Sox in May and went 7-8 as a White Sox rookie.
The next year, 1924 was probably his best season in the majors, as he went 20-14, 3.80 ERA, with the last place Sox. He led the American League in complete games that year with 28, but also led the league in home runs given up with 17, and earned runs with 123. Subsequent arm problems led to a trade to the Senators in 1926 for Roger Peckinpaugh.
Perhaps his best career highlight was his “Immaculate Inning,” as I mentioned in my previous post. On August 22, 1923, Sloppy struck out three batters on nine pitches in the 12th inning of a 3–2 loss to the Philadelphia Athletics. He became the second American League pitcher and the sixth pitcher in major league history to accomplish the “immaculate inning,” the first and only pitcher to do it in extra innings. One career lowlight occurred in a game against the Giants on July 29, 1932, when he tied a major league record by allowing six home runs.
Sloppy played his last game on October 1, 1933. After his career ended, he stayed in the game as a scout for the Pirates from 1939 to 1945 and was credited with discovering Ralph Kiner. He also later scouted for the Indians and White Sox (1951-1967). He passed away on September 14, 1973, aged 74.
I know you’re waiting with “bated breath” to learn how he got his great nickname. So here it is:
It’s one of those “reverse meaning” nicknames. Thurston was tagged with the nickname “Sloppy” due to the fact that he was always well groomed!
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Photo Credits: All from Google search
Information: Excerpts edited from the Sloppy Thurston Wikipedia page, and from Baseball Reference.com