Mariners Bring Back “Big Maple”, Best “Big” Nicknames of All-Time
By now, you may have heard that the Seattle Mariners have reunited with starting left-handed pitcher James Paxton after signing him to a one-year, $8.5 million contract after becoming a free agent. The M's traded him to the New York Yankees at the traded deadline in the summer of 2018.
The 32 year-old Paxton, a native of Ladner, British Columbia, is nicknamed "Big Maple" due to his physical stature (6' 4") and his roots being in Canada. Paxton is the only person to throw a no-hit game in Canada and also been born in that country in May of 2018.
He might, however be best remembered for an American Bald Eagle mistaking him for a maple tree on Opening Day at a game in Minnesota also in 2018.
This got me to thinking about other sports stars that carry a nickname that includes the moniker "Big". Here are some of my favorites with, startlingly, a disproportionate amount having been members of Seattle professional sports teams.
1.) Randy "Big Unit" Johnson
Standing at a menacing 6'10" and commanding a 102 MPH fastball, Johnson carved out a Hall of Fame pitching career which included a Cy Young award-winning season with the Seattle Mariners. Like Paxton, ironically, he might also be best remember for his interaction with a bird when pitching a game in Toronto, Canada.
2.) Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins
Perkins, a college teammate at the University of North Carolina with Michael Jordan, was a prolific three-point shooter despite being a big man (6'9").
3.) Jordan "Big Play" Babineaux
While Babineaux wasn't a household name during his playing days with the Seattle Seahawks, he had a knack for coming up big when the Hawks needed it most. No more so than in Seattle's 2006 playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys when Tony Romo botched the hold on a potential game-winning field goal attempt.
4.) "The Big Dipper" - Wilt Chamberlain
When you're the only player in the history of the NBA to score 100 points in a single game, you get a big nickname.
5.) Oscar "The Big O" Robertson
One season, Robertson AVERAGED a triple-double!
6.) Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas
He may now be known as the TV pitchman for testosterone-enhancing products but Thomas put enough hurt on opponents during his MLB career to earn induction into the Hall of Fame.
7.) Tim "The Big Fundamental" Duncan
The Purdue Boilermaker teamed with "The Admiral", David Robinson, to form the Twin Towers that propelled the San Antonio Spurs to a decade-plus of sustained success.
8.) Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry
Like Babineaux, Horry was never the star on his particular team but he, too, always stepped up big when the pressure was on.
9.) "Big Daddy" Don Garlits
A legend in auto racing, Garlits was the first person to ever drive a race car over 270 MPH.
10.) Gary "Big Hands" Johnson
An outstanding defender for many years in the NFL, it's not hard to figure out how he got his nickname.