William Van Winkle “Chicken” Wolf

As if being named William Van Winkle Wolf wasn’t bad enough, imagine being saddled with the nickname “Chicken.” Chicken Wolf (1862-1903) was a Major League Baseball outfielder. Although his career wasn’t spectacular, it was definitely solid, as Chicken amassed 1439 hits over an 11-year career. He also led the American Association in batting average in 1890.

But far more interesting is Chicken’s personal life. Chicken apparently got his nickname after his manager told his team to eat lightly before a game, but Wolf disobeyed and scarfed down a heaping helping of stewed chicken. He played poorly that game, committing several errors, and for that, he will forever be known in baseball lore as Chicken Wolf. However, this sad event has had beneficial effects on numerous generations. You see, Little Leaguers around the world now know not to eat stewed chicken before a game. Way to show those kiddos, Chicken.

It is unknown how Chicken felt about this nickname, but it sure does make one wonder if he was more likely than the average player to fowl a ball off. (Haha, fowl, not foul? Get it?) Horrible jokes aside, you’ll be fascinated to know that about halfway through his career he also came to be known as “Jimmy” Wolf. Because Bill Wolf was apparently not cool enough for Chicken. Or something.

Chicken doing what he does best.

Chicken doing what he does best.

A generally quiet individual, Chicken ruffled the feathers of team captain Dude Esterbrook during one memorable argument. Dude began the Louisville Colonels’ 1889 season (in which the team would finish with a near-all-time-worst record of 27-111) as team captain. Dude was a bit of a control freak and liked things done his way, even assessing fines to teammates who did not follow his direction. In April, Esterbrook fined a player 10 dollars (10 whole dollars!) for not following his instructions on how to throw a ball. This apparently incensed Chicken, who engaged in a heated argument with Dude over the fine. Esterbrook then slapped a 10 dollar fine on Chicken. This fine escalated all the way to an incredible 40 dollars. Wolf responded to Dude’s deed by visiting the team owner. The result? Chicken supplanted Dude as team captain within a week.

In other exciting news, Chicken apparently battled a bit of a weight problem at one point, with newspapers commenting in the spring of 1890 that “Wolf is in good condition and has worked off nearly all superfluous flesh.”

And for that, he should be commended. You go, Chicken Wolf!

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About Rob

Huge San Diego Padres fan, working as an economic consultant in Pasadena, CA. Contributor to the Funny Names Blog. funnynamesblog.wordpress.com
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27 Responses to William Van Winkle “Chicken” Wolf

  1. Lucky Wreck says:

    oh wow. The name William Van Winkle Wolf is so top notch to begin with! He got a double dose of name awesomeness!

  2. amb says:

    Rob, I take back my comment from yesterday, as clearly only a creative genius could come up with this: “A generally quiet individual, Chicken ruffled the feathers of team captain Dude Esterbrook during one memorable argument.” I see what you did there!!

    • Rob says:

      Yep, I’m pretty awesome! I was also trying to sneak in a Kentucky Fried Chicken reference in there since Chicken played with the Louisville Colonels, but I just couldn’t figure out a way to squeeze it in.

    • Dave says:

      Haha, I know… I loved that line too! So good!

      • amb says:

        I know. There’s like a BoFN crew brain swap going on this week, or something. Rob’s using literary devices, I’m talking about science … now we need Liz to write about boxing and you to write about Ethel Merman …

  3. Liz says:

    back-to-back Van Winkles (you DID read my post yesterday, didn’t you, Rob 😉 )–gotta love that. Working off superfluous flesh is indeed always to be commended. Looking fit-and-trim in his “photo.”

    • Arto says:

      It’s van Winkle week! Party time!

      • Liz says:

        Nothing (and I mean nothing) says Party Time like Van Winkle Week at BoFN 😀

        • Rob says:

          Indeed! And you know me Liz, I’m extremely active on this blog. You’d be surprised to learn that I read every single word on this blog (comments included). 😉 Probably a lot less surprised to learn that that isn’t true! I wish I could. But I did indeed see that we have back to back Van Winkle action. Whoever’s posting tomorrow has a lot of pressure on them to find another Van Winkle.

          • Liz says:

            I think we’ve shut down the competition for anymore Van Winkle posts. Too hard to top a doubleheader like that. (wanted to use baseball words, so googled “dheader” to make sure I was using it correctly. thinking it works 😉 )

  4. Arto says:

    Ten dollars? An amount that would leave Matlock flabbergasted, so I’m sure Chicken responded similarly a hundred years prior.

    I presume a Dude Esterbrook article is forthcoming. Sounds like he was quite a character!

    I also enjoyed the “ruffled his feathers” line quite a bit. Nicely done, Rob!

    • Rob says:

      Thanks Arto! The Dude may indeed get his own post. Awesome Matlock reference, by the way. He’d probably trip out over 3 dollars though, it wouldn’t even take 10.

      • Dave says:

        Arto, Leslie and I watched a video the other day of Matlock tripping out over “A BUCK SEVENTY FIIIIIVE!” so I agree, $10 would be pretty crazy!

  5. Nicely done, with just enough puns and plays on words. I love that Chicken had a captain named “Dude”. My dad’s family had a habit of endowing nicknames on the boys (my dad excepted) leading to one uncle called “Bummy” though I’ve no idea why.

  6. ksbeth says:

    this is one of my favorite names ever!

  7. Karen says:

    The contradiction inherent in the name is what really makes it work. 🙂

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