Spellczechs (and others)

The stories behind hard-to-spell athlete names

Doug Wayne Gwosdz

with 4 comments

Image (c) Baseball-Almanac.com Tale of the tape:

English Pronunciation : Doug Wayne Goosh

First/middle/last names subject to misspelling: Last

Spellczechs degree of difficulty (1 – 5 diamonds, 5 being hardest)♦♦♦♦♦

Valid in Scrabble (name(s) also valid Scrabble words in and of themsel(ves)?: None

Playable in Scrabble (name(s) able to be formed with standard 100-tile English set)?: All

Best Anagram Genius anagram: (None of any quality)

Method for remembering spelling: Acronym phrase

The story:

Doug Wayne Gwosdz was a career backup catcher for the San Diego Padres, batting a putrid .144/.244/.202 (for those of you not familiar with “slash stats”, this refers to batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage) from 1981 through 1984.  He possesses an unremarkable first name (I can find no record of his first name being anything other than Doug.  You didn’t even think to name him “Douglas”, Mrs. Gwosdz?).  He also has a non-descript middle name.   These however are overcompensated by his “consonant jambalaya” of a last name.

Gwosdz appears to be a variant of the “rare to begin with” surname of Gwozdz, and gwozdz would seem to be the Polish word for “nail” (which seems to be a good sign if you aspire to be a major league catcher).

Approximately 17,000 different players have suited up for a Major League Baseball game.  Of those 17,000, about 4,300 of these players had last names of exactly six letters.  Of those 4,300, a mere 330 or so had but ONE vowel in their name.¹ So what Doug lacked in on-field performance, he made up for in alphabetic rarity.

Upon hearing “Goosh”, I can only wish that Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh could have been the real-life batterymate of Gwosdz.   It would have rivaled “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain”.  We could have had “LaLoosh and Gwosdz . . . and the batters go whoosh!”

But anyhow, since Gwosdz’s name is rather short, and there aren’t many subwords, abbreviations or acronyms to be distilled for memorizing the spelling of his name, we can employ what I like to call an “acronym phrase”.  We simply take each letter of his name and start a word with it to make a coherent (and hopefully relevant) phrase.

For example, G-W-O-S-D-Z could stand for:

Got Wiped on Some Drugs, Zoloft”

but in order to enhance the chances of associating the phrase with the athlete, you should try and include the player’s name and/or sport, such as:

Gwosdz Whiffed On Slider Down (in) Zone”

As you can see, sometimes you may have to include a preposition or two to make the sentence flow, but as long as you can keep that aspect straight in your head, then you need only associate “Goosh” with that sentence, and then recall the first letters to correctly spell his name.

¹ I found this out by downloading the fabulous Lahman Database and piecing together the batters and pitchers registers, then using Excel functions to determine the length of the last names and to count the number of vowels.  Yes, I have no life.


Written by dianagram

July 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Baseball

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4 Responses

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  1. Another tidbit about Doug Gwosdz was that Bill James mentioned in one of the 80s Abstracts that the Padres had a freakishly good record for a few years when they started him (which was understandably rare).

    Geoff T.

    July 20, 2010 at 12:37 am

  2. Does this guy really deserve more diamonds than Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen?

    Michael Vogel

    July 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    • Only in the sense that the pronunciation would NOT lead you anywhere near the spelling of the name.


      July 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm

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