I introduced my friend Jack McCarthy to my friend Ron Dietrick at the gym one day and the three of us enjoyed a lengthy chat before Ron had to be on his way and Jack and I returned to our workouts. I feel compelled to say this was “pre-Covid,” which if you’ve been paying attention, is taking over the Agnes Flood of 1972 as a line of demarcation in our histories.
“What a nice guy,” Jack said as Ron headed for the door, and when I responded, “Yeah, Beagle is a gem,” Jack’s face lit up. “What a minute,” he said, “that was Beagle Dietrick!”
It was like I had just introduced him to Dwayne Johnson and only later revealed he was also known as “The Rock.”
I tell this story not so much to point out how legendary Beagle Dietrick is around here, but also how pervasive nicknames are in Greater Pittston. As I write, I am wondering how many readers will be saying to themselves, “I didn’t know Beagle Dietrick’s name is Ron.”
Which brings to mind the oft-told story (by me, of course) of another local legend with a legendary nickname, Pop DiBuono.
Back in the ’60s, my friend Mike Caputo met Pop DiBuono and the two immediately hit it off. They made plans to do something together, but Mike was hesitant to call Pop’s house to set it up. He had no idea what Pop’s real name was and if Pop’s mother answered, he couldn’t very well ask for “Pop,” could he?
So he set out to discover the name Mrs. DiBuono had given her son at birth. It was no easy task, but he eventually found someone who told him it was Joseph. Now, he was ready to make the call.
Sure enough, Pop’s mother answered. “Mrs. DiBuono,” Mike said, “is Joseph home?”
“Just a minute,” she answered and then yelled, “Hey, Pop, it’s for you.”
Which brings me to the late “Tricky” Kridlo. If this column were not about nicknames but about genuinely nice people, Tricky would still be mentioned. Tricky had been dead a few years when I met his wife one day. I told her I had never heard his real name and she said it was William. “What did you call him?” I asked, and she shrugged and said, “Tricky.”
It was the same with my old boss, “Pidge” Watson. He was another William, but few knew that. Even his wife called him “Pidge.” Nicknames often run in families (think Joseph “Moe” Mullarkey, son of Joseph “Moe” Mullarkey) and Pidge’s sons were not known as John and Billy, but as “Chicky” and “Cowboy.”
The late “Moon” Kopp just popped into my head, and if you are starting to think I could do this all day long, you are probably right. I knew Moon Kopp since I was a toddler and as I grew older I thought his name made him sound like an extraterrestrial law enforcement officer. Who gives out speeding tickets in space? The Moon Cop.
Moon’s real name was Leonard. At his funeral, I asked his son Bobby what Moon’s wife Clara called him. “Moon,” he said. “Everybody called him Moon.”
One of my assignments early in my career was to write about the Greater Pittston Slow Pitch League. We had typesetters in those days and one Saturday afternoon as Sheila Gelb typed the names of players “Pickles” Alaimo, “Peanuts” Trotta, and “Bananas” Lanunziata, she stopped and said, “This sounds more like a grocery list than a softball team.”
For the record, they were George, Richard and Vince.
A while back, the late Joe Keating, a former Pittston mayor, handed me a list of local nicknames he had been compiling for some time. There were 89 names on it, but surprisingly not Moon Kopp. I glanced over it looking for the guys so known by their nicknames that hardly anyone knew their real ones. A handful jumped out:
Flash Flanagan, Juggy Touhill, Moe Mullarkey, Moose Demich, Sugar Shandra, Wimpy Frushon, Nippy Nowakowski, Bunny Linnen, Shag Ardoline, Harpo Gallo, Bozo Connors, Ace Brogna, and Ace O’Malley.
Real names: John, James, Joseph, John, Charles, Guy, George, Francis, Joseph, Frank, John, Al, and John.
These also made Joe’s list. I know only a few of their real names. See how many you do.
Squash, Tarzan, Chippy, Big Head, Tonto, Weasel, Smitty, Minner, Digger, Pikey, Sarge, Cosmo, Chicken, Moo Moo, Moo Cow, Detroit, Squirrel, Toke, Geronimo, Hot Dog, Butters, Swimmy, Ape, Gabby, Snapper, Tuffy, Tubby, Worm, Wormsy, Spindles, Curly, Yipper, Shoemaker, Mattress, Babe, Ziggy, Yogi, Bumsy, Bing, Migsy, Bonesy, Bubbles, Socks, Buster, Corpy, Freshy, Wolf, Fatso, Muscles, Beefy, Lumpy, Streaky, Buzzy, Booty, Weiner, Brownie, Bouncer, Slick, Silky, Porky, Sudsy, Skeets, Danky, Buster, Bubby, Beastie, Mugsy, Piccolo and Trotters.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.