Just ‘Kidding’: Five Hall of Famers have earned the youngest of nicknames
As with Williams, Carter earned the moniker of Kid during his first Spring Training. Reporting to the Montreal Expos’ camp in 1973, Carter wanted to make a good impression, so he put out maximum effort, both in running sprints and hitting the ball. A few of his Expos teammates noticed his behavior. “Tim Foli, Ken Singleton, and Mike Jorgensen started calling me ‘Kid’ because I was trying to win every sprint,” Carter told the Associated Press. “I was trying to hit every pitch out of the park.”
The nickname of The Kid fit Carter perfectly, given his genuinely boyish enthusiasm and his constant hustle. Even as he aged, Carter continued to play the game hard and with gusto, giving no one any reason to alter his nickname. He would remain The Kid until the end, passing away in 2012 at the too-youthful age of 57.
Of all the kid Hall of Famers, the one that perhaps makes the most sense is Robin Yount. On April 4, 1975, Yount made his major league debut for the Milwaukee Brewers – at the age of 18. Less than three years older than the youngest player ever, Cincinnati’s Joe Nuxhall, Yount became one of a handful of major leaguers to start his career as a teenager.
Bob Uecker, the beloved broadcaster and baseball’s unofficial King of Comedy, dubbed Yount The Kid. Even in 1982, when Yount turned 26, won the American League MVP, and led the Brewers to the pennant, he remained The Kid, still a favorite label coming from members of the Milwaukee media.
That brings us to Griffey, Class of 2016. At various times, he has been called “Junior” or even “The Natural.” But he is also The Kid, a fitting nickname for a player who made his debut at the age of 19, when he still looked young enough to be a sophomore in high school. The name also stemmed from his family heritage. Griffey joined the Seattle Mariners in 1989, at a time when his father, Ken Griffey, Sr., was still playing for the Cincinnati Reds. The name of The Kid became a way to distinguish the talented son from the accomplished father.
With the addition of the younger Griffey, the ranks of kids in the Hall has swelled to five. Three of them are gone now, while the other two are a combined 106 years old. They are kids no more.
Yet, in a game that is always served by youth, each one of them remains The Kid in a special way.
Bruce Markusen is the manager of digital and outreach learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame