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Bring on the Ugueth

Expos' wacky handles make the jerseys sing

With a surname like mine, I've always felt buoyant upon uncovering a pro athlete with an unusual moniker. Could be because it seems like, in sports, there are 30 Chad Curtises for every Biff Pocoroba.

That's why I've always held a soft spot for the Montreal Expos. Year after year, this team enlisted prospects beloved by public address announcers everywhere. Even their stars Ñ Warren Cromartie, Hubie Brooks and today's megatalent, Vladimir Guerrero Ñ have had unusual names that might invite snickers from nonbaseball fans.

The greatest collection of Expo names, though, came in 1971. That was the first year I followed baseball, and the Expos, playing in a foreign country with a bunch of oddly named players, seemed a lot more exotic than, say, the frumpy Phillies of the day (Roger Freed, anyone?).

Here are a few of my Expo favorites:

John Boccabella

As he strode to bat, the crowd would rumble in appreciation at the French-accented PA announcer's dramatic and exaggerated pronunciation: 'John É Bock-ah-BELLLLL-ah!' The Jarry Park faithful would roar, then quietly settle back in their seats to watch Boccabella inevitably ground out to the pitcher.

Boots Day

Born Charles Frederick Day, this owner of baseball's Wimpiest Name Ever was actually fairly tough, if a bit on the small side (he was listed at 5-9, 160). Boots today is a St. Louis Cardinals bench coach.

Jim Gosger

Pitcher-writer Jim Bouton says Gosger did a great Porky Pig impression.

Coco Laboy

The King of the Amusing Baseball Names. Too bad the only baseball cards I can find use his given, more dignified name: Jose. Coco Laboy could actually play a little bit: He hit 18 home runs and had 83 RBIs in 1969, his rookie year. He then hit 10 home runs over the next four years, and the Expos said bye-bye, Laboy.

Gary Sutherland

OK, not all old Expos had odd names. Gary Sutherland is a great name.

Bobby Wine

A sort-of-funny name for a very weak (.215 lifetime average) middle infielder.

Other Expo classics include Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd, Milton Bradley, Barry Foote, Pepe Frias, Bombo Rivera, F.P. Santangelo, Razor Shines (voted Most Popular Expo on one fan site, even though he only batted 81 times in the majors; he hit .185) and Ugueth Urbina.

And, keep in mind that the '71 team Ñ make your own jokes Ñ included catcher John Bateman, outfielder Jim Fairey and infielder Rich Hacker. Not to mention, of course, former New York Met Ron Swoboda.

Ñ Andy Giegerich