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.
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!