I’ve had several different monikers in my life. As a young boy my brother’s friends called me “Turtle.” It had nothing to do with speed; they claimed I looked like a turtle. I never saw that, but as an old man, I sometimes look in the mirror and yes, there is a certain turtle look.
In college I was “Jowls” a bit more complicated and maybe I will someday post on that origin.
The name I disliked the most was my high school name, “Bullet.” This name was given to me by my best friend Charley. Why is it that best friends will tag you with a name you dislike? I tried to nail Charley with “Asshead,” but it never stuck.
Bullet sounds like it could be a cool nickname, but in this case it was not. To make matters worse, for some reason my name was not merely Bullet, but it was spat out in a derogatory manner, “Hey B U L L E T, what’s up.” I hated “Bullet.” You cannot let people know you hate a name or it will stick forever. I think it was obvious that I hated that name, and that is why it chased me all the way to college when I finally lost it.
Bullet came from baseball. I loved baseball, but I did truly suck at the game. I played Lacrosse right up to eighth grade, and I was pretty damn good at it. My baseball playing was limited to plastic wiffleballs.
My first shot at real baseball was a pickup game in the eighth grade. I could not hit because I was afraid of getting beaned with a hard ball. I did get a chance to pitch. I pitched to one batter, Doc Waller, a ninth grader with fearsome power. My first two pitches were clobbered, but they were clobbered foul because I threw them so slowly Doc was way ahead of them. My third toss I reared back and tried to put everything I had on it. The ball popped the catcher’s mitt even before Doc swung and missed. Everyone’s jaw just dropped, they never saw a pitch that fast.
The next year, my family moved from Long Island to New Jersey. I followed them, because that is what fourteen year olds did.
Westfield New Jersey did not have a lacrosse team. In the ninth grade they only had baseball. I was not one to sit out a sports season so I went out for baseball.
I knew I could not hit so with the memory of that Doc Waller fastball the year before I decided I would try to pitch. I had one tryout. Asshead (I know, it never caught on, but I owe him) was the catcher.
“Dude, do you have a curve?”
“I can throw a spinner.”
“A spinner? What the fuck is that? Does it curve?”
“No, it just spins a lot.”
“Shit, do you have a fastball?”
“OK, let’s see what you’ve got.”
I reared back and put everything I had on the pitch. Now if a pitcher has a really fluid motion and perfect timing he can throw flames and it looks like he is hardly trying. That is what happened with my Doc Waller pitch. This was a new year, I put everything I had on the pitch and it left my hand late, bounced one foot in front of the plate and had little speed on it.
Asshead pounded his mitt.
“One more with some zip, see if you can reach the plate.”
I could not. Four more tries and I could not reach more than one foot in front of the plate.
The Yankee star pitcher of that time was Bob Turley…“Bullet” Bob Turley who was known for his blazing fast ball. Asshead could not resist.
“Hey ‘Bullet Joe’ one more, see if you can reach my mitt.”
I could not. I did not make the team.
That friggin name stuck.
That name makes me Cranky.
That name makes me Cranky.