The Nickname Game: The Road Runner
players of 1970s vintage were known as “Roadrunner,” including Pirates
teammates Gene Clines and Manny Sanguillen, but only one man became the true “Roadrunner”
(or “Road Runner,” to be completely accurate).
honor belongs to former Braves, White Sox, and Angels outfielder Ralph “The
Road Runner” Garr. For those who saw Garr play, the name made obvious sense.
Garr, a slashing line drive batter who hit to all fields, could flat-out fly
around the bases. Of all his contemporaries, only one may have been faster.
That was Mickey Rivers, who actually began his pro career in the Braves’
organization at virtually the same time as Garr. Rivers was traded to the
Angels as part of the Hoyt Wilhelm deal, but Garr remained with the Braves long
enough to win the 1974 National League batting title–with a remarkable average of .354
became almost as well known for the “Road Runner” nickname as the original
Looney Tunes cartoon figure created by Chuck Jones. The Braves’ public
relations department gave Garr the nickname after he arrived in the big
leagues; in fact, the Braves so wanted to market Garr that they wrote to Warner
Brothers, Inc. to receive official permission to use the nickname and the catch
phrase “Beep! Beep!” in promotional efforts.
Brothers, through its agent, Licensing Corporation of America (LCA), came to a
history-making agreement with the Braves. “Our contract with the Braves makes
Ralph the first licensed nickname to our knowledge anywhere in the world,” said
Jay Emment, who was the chairman of LCA at the time. The unusual agreement also
made it illegal for any other athlete to use the nickname. (That agreement was
probably unenforceable in reality, but Clines’ “Roadrunner” appellation did
seem to fade into disuse.) Curiously, Garr’s officially certified nickname was
never once included in any of his entries in the Baseball Register from 1969 to 1981.
Baseball Register might not have recognized it, but just about everybody else
remembers Ralph Garr as the “Road