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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Best nicknames in sports

Every sports team has a nickname. But the good ones -- or its starts — have a second nickname. Here's my list of the best 15 alternate nicknames in sports.

1. Big Red Machine
The Cincinnati Reds lineup of the 1970s was a really big, relentless, unmerciful hitting machine. It featured three Hall of Famers, plus all-time hits leader Pete Rose. It also had six MVP awards, four home run leaders, three batting champs and a combined 63 All-Star Game appearances. Some argue that the 1975-76 championship teams are the best baseball team ever.

Broad 2. Broad Street Bullies
Intimidating nickname for an intimidating team. The Philadelphia Flyers of the mid-1970s spent half their team beating you and the other half beating you up. Newspapers would tell opposing fans to hide the women and children. The Flyers won back-to-back Cups in 1974-75 and remain hockey’s most loathsome team.

3. Monsters of the Midway
Originally, this name belonged to the University of Chicago, but it was made famous by George Halas' great Chicago Bears teams of the 1940s. The name experienced a rebirth during the Bears dominating 1985 Super Bowl season, but it’s those teams that won four NFL titles in the 1940s (including 73-0 over the Redskins in 1940) that own this classic nickname.

4. Phi Slamma Jamma
This might be the most clever nickname ever. It combines college life and Greek-inspired slang for the most exciting play in basketball -- the dunk. The University of Houston basketball team from 1982 to 1984 featured two stars -- Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler -- who did an awful of slamming and jamming.

5. Showtime
Perfect nickname to describe the run-and-gun Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. With Hollywood celebs such as Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon rooting them on, stars Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led an up-tempo style that was as exciting as any ever seen in the NBA.

Sox 6. The Black Sox
An infamous nickname might be sports' most recognizable. It was coined 90 years ago, yet fans immediately know the backstory of how the 1919 Chicago White Sox threw the World Series.

7. Purple People Eaters
In 1958, Sheb Wooley came out a song that soon had a cult following called "Purple People Eater.'' Ten years later, the Minnesota Vikings devastating line of Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen were known as the "Purple People Eaters.'' Specifically, they ate quarterbacks.

8. America's Team
The Dallas Cowboys are so American they have a big fat star in the middle of their field. Back in the 1970s when All-American boy Roger Staubach, a product of the Naval Academy, and classy coach Tom Landry with his cool hat ran the show, the Cowboys were the most polarizing team in football. You either loved them or hated them and most people loved them.

9. Legion of Doom
You have to love a nickname that forecasts disaster for the opponent. This nickname applied to the hockey line of John LeClair, Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg of the mid-1990s Flyers. Loaded with skill and physical dominance, the line combined for 121 goals and 134 assists during the 1995-96 season. Our second favorite hockey line nickname: The French Connection for Buffalo's Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert of the 1970s.

Lambert 10. Steel Curtain
A nickname that perfectly captured the spirit of a team and a city. The Steelers of the 1970s won four Super Bowls because of a suffocating defense that featured four Hall of Famers and is considered the greatest ever. A steel curtain, indeed.

11. Bronx Bombers
This has been the New York Yankees nickname seemingly forever. But we knock a few points of because this has been the nickname even during the rare times when the Yankees didn't have much of a lineup. If you're talking Yankees, it's not as famous, but we love the 1920s' “Murderers Row.'' Seriously, that's one frightening nickname.

12. Gashouse Gang
We're down with any nickname that has the word "gang'' in it. The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals earned the name for their ragtag appearance and scrappy style. Opponents swear the team didn't wash their uniforms. Managed by Frankie Frisch, the Cards won the 1934 World Series in seven games over the  Tigers.

Laimbeer 13. Bad Boys
Did anyone outside of Detroit like this Pistons team of the 1980s? They wrestled, scratched and clawed their way to back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990 with a brutal style that might get you arrested on a city street. And led by Bill "Whaaat? Who, me?'' Laimbeer, the Pistons would whine over calls while opponents limped away. Oh, one more thing: they were really good.

14. Harvey's Wallbangers
The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers lost the 1982 World Series in seven games to the Cardinals. Still, the nickname -- a play on words combining the alcoholic drink and manager Harvey Kuenn -- described the Brew Crew's penchant for spraying baseballs off the wall. Gorman Thomas, Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Ted Simmons, Ben Oglivie. Geez, did these guys have any outs in their lineup?

Four 15. Four Horsemen
Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Don Miller and Elmer Layden were stars on Knute Rockne's 1924 Notre Dame football team. But thanks to legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, they were coined the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse. "They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds,'' the great Rice wrote.

There are plenty of others left off the list: The Hogs, the Whiz Kids, Orange Crush, The No-Name Defense, The Killer B's and the Fab Five, just to name a few. Is there one that you would have included on the list?

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 2:44pm]


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