Monday, October 20, 2014

The Ultimate Baseball Name: Gehrig

In my Nameberry post on baseball names, I neglected to mention a biggie: Gehrig.


Lou Gehrig, of course, was the Yankees first baseman who played 2,130 consecutive games and only broke his streak because he was stricken with a fatal disease.

The man who called himself "The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" when he knew he was going to die before reaching age 40.

The man who was the first player to have his number (4) retired.

The man who inspired the nation to fly flags at half-staff when he died.

So it's obvious why people would want to name their children in honor of him. And using the name "Lou" doesn't really do the trick. (Lou Gehrig's birth name was actually Henry Louis, and his nickname was once "Buster," though few remember that now.)

So Gehrig has become a baby name.

Former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling named his son Gehrig (and his son is now a pitcher too).

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Pat Neshek also named his son Gehrig, though the boy died within a day of being born (a tragic fate for a tragic name).

The rest of America, meanwhile, has been warming to the name over the past two decades.


Though Gehrig has never ranked in the top 1,000 of the Social Security database, there were 43 babies named Gehrig in 2003. It hasn't reached that peak since then, but the name appears to be threatening to go on another rally (it's up in each of the past three years).

And as BuboBlog's Sacramento correspondent Ellen points out, the name sounds similar to the Jarrod/Jarrett/Jared names that are already rampant in the major leagues. Maybe that could give it a boost.

Still, the association with the disease may make it a tough sell for some parents. It's also interesting to note that Gehrig was nowhere to be found in the baby-name databases in 1939 (the year Lou Gehrig retired) and 1941 (the year he died).

As I've mentioned before, people didn't care for surname-style names in the middle of the 20th century. Even one of the most inspiring stories in all of baseball wasn't quite inspiring enough to sway parents back then.

We'll see if today's parents are willing to give it a shot.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Giving Your Kid a Baseball Name

With the World Series starting this week (go Giants!), I did a post for Nameberry on mining major-league rosters for baby-name ideas.


One of my biggest findings was how many players go by initials: There are eight AJs, two BJs, two CCs, three CJs, a DJ, a JA, a JB, a JD, two JJs, a JP, a JT, an RA, an RJ and two TJs on active rosters. (See the full post here.)

There also are six Caseys — a disproportionately high number. Clearly some of the parents of those kids were inspired by "Casey at the Bat."

This would support the idea of names determining destiny. These parents gave their children "baseball names," then sure enough, the kids became professional baseball players.

The most extreme example of this may be Robinson Cano, the former Yankee who now plays for the Mariners.


He was named after Jackie Robinson, a move that ultimate led to him landing a $240 million contract last year. Nice work, parents.

Of course, Cano's dad also played pro baseball, so Robinson clearly inherited some genetic gifts.

In other words, this naming strategy may not work for everybody.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

We Need a Structural Engineer in This Family

Roosevelt Island's arts festival was nearly rained out on Saturday. Fortunately, the afternoon was relatively dry, providing a pleasant showcase for art, music and crafts.

We took advantage of the fort-building station to create a towering edifice honoring New York's history of groundbreaking architecture.


Unfortunately, our structure — standing in view of the Empire State Building — didn't quite prove worthy.



I'm just grateful Lucy escaped in time.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Subway-Themed Coat Rack

Kelly found a coat rack that seems perfect for any New York apartment. It looks like a subway map, with red, yellow and light-blue lines and hooks that resemble station stops.


The $40 item, designed by Alan Wisniewski for Umbra, is a fun addition to our home. But I'm sad that it doesn't include our neighborhood F line, which is orange.

In fact, wait a minute...

What subway network is this supposed to be exactly? New York doesn't have a light-blue line. (The ACE lines are more of a darker blue.)

Is this actually Atlanta?


I suppose it also could be the Muni Metro.


Civic Center was my old stop, and it serves both the light-blue K and the red T. So I'll be sure to hang my coat on the peg where those two lines intersect.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Bringing Autumn Indoors

In springtime, Kelly helped usher in the season by putting a blossoming tree on the wall.


Now that it's fall, she gave the branch some tumbling leaves.


Decorating the apartment to mark the season has become a fun tradition for us. The kids also made deciduous trees out of lunch bags and tissue paper.


With these colorful trees around, you can barely tell we're not in the middle of Vermont.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Three-Year-Old Gets Elsa Dress, Loses Mind

Alice's grandmother gave her an Elsa dress that lights up and plays "Let It Go."


Her reaction was pretty much what you would expect.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

What Is a Unisex Name?

In case you missed it, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis had a baby this week and named her Wyatt.

According to People magazine, the couple really likes "unisex names" and that's why they settled on a traditional boys' name for their daughter.

Wyatt Earp
Now, I think people can call their kids anything like they like and I have no issues with Wyatt for a girl. But I question the terminology here. Wyatt is not a unisex name.

I checked the Social Security database, and Wyatt was given to boys 99.8 percent of the time in 2013.

A good rule of thumb is if a name was given to less than 90 percent of one gender, then it's unisex. (Elliot qualifies, incidentally. It's 83 percent male.) Nameberry had a handy post on this topic last year.

You could argue that certain names have a historical unisex status. Take Lindsey/Lindsay, which used to be a boys' name. It is now 99 percent female, but I still think it counts as unisex.

Wyatt isn't historically a unisex name and it isn't one now.

So here's my message to celebrity parents: Feel free to name your kids whatever, but don't corrupt the language in the process.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Celebrating Giants Baseball in New York

The San Francisco Giants blew out the Pittsburgh Pirates last night in a one-game playoff, meaning they now advance to the National League division series against the Washington Nationals.

New York Giants caps, circa 1941 (left) and 1947-1957 (right).

As I've mentioned before, it's not always easy to root for the Giants here in New York. First of all, you have to constantly clarify that you don't mean the football team. And even when San Francisco makes it to the World Series, you have to watch it on a little television in the corner of the bar.

When I moved to the Big Apple two years ago, I purchased a 1947-1957 replica New York Giants cap — an effort to support my team without drawing a lot of attention to myself. I've worn the hat so much that I decided to buy another New York Giants cap, this one modeled after a version from the 1941 season. (The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958.)

Back when I got the first one, I worried that I was selling out by touting an NY logo. Well, this latest hat is probably even worse. It doesn't have modern Giants colors and could easily be mistaken for a nontraditional Mets hat.

Here's one I didn't buy: the 1914 version, which really just looks like a Yankees cap. (I'd rather be mistaken for a Mets fan than a Yankees supporter any day.)


Fortunately, I still have plenty of regular San Francisco Giants caps in my arsenal — as I demonstrated in possibly the lamest Vine of all time.


Kelly has instituted a buy-a-new-hat, throw-out-an-old-one policy, but I'm hoping I can hang on to most of these for a little while longer.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Time-Lapse of Learning to Walk

When my two older children learned to walk, I made videos to document the occasion.

Here is Elliot's...


...and Alice's.


With Lucy, I wanted to try something a bit more ambitious (I figured this was my last chance to document the milestone).

So I set up a camera in the living room and filmed her in the same spot attempting to walk.

Over and over.

This was the result. (As you can surmise from the Christmas tree in the background, it took me a while to edit the video.)



It was a lot of work, but totally worth it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

When U.S. Presidents Could Make Their Names Go Viral

I wrote another Nameberry post, this one on presidential surnames that became baby names. As elucidated earlier this week, presidents like Roosevelt used to be able to persuade legions of parents to adopt their names.


That hasn't been the case for quite some time. Since Kennedy, presidents have rarely exerted much influence on baby-naming choices. (Reagan has become more popular for girls in recent years, but you could argue it's a variant of Regan. My boy Bill Shakespeare did most of the grunt work on making that one a hit.)

Interestingly, our very first president has a surprisingly out-of-favor name. Only 11 babies were named Washington last year. What gives? It seems like it would be more common.

By this measure, Washington is the least popular of the four Mount Rushmore presidents.


Here's how many kids in 2013 (girls and boys) were named after each president on Mount Rushmore:
Lincoln: 4,071
Jefferson: 411
Roosevelt: 49
Washington: 11

You'd think the father of our country (who ironically had no children) would have more allegiance.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Two Classic Cases of Surnames as First Names

We've been watching the Ken Burns documentary "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History." The miniseries is fascinating for many reasons, but it's particularly interesting to me for its depiction of New York in the early 1900s and its cavalcade of names from our family: Elliot, Alice, Lucy, Eleanor — they're all there.

Here's one first name I didn't expect to encounter: Turner.



I wrote last month about how using surnames as first name was more popular a century ago than you might expect, but I neglected to mention the New York Times reporter and editor Turner Catledge. His bylines are featured in the Ken Burns documentary.

Catledge was born in 1901, when the surname-as-first-name trend was still going strong. (It died out by the middle of the 20th century before making a resurgence in modern day.)

Turner was the 555th most popular baby name of 1901. It ranked higher than Jason, Kirk or Jordan.

There's one name that was far more popular, though: Roosevelt itself.

It was 167th that year. Roosevelt peaked in 1905, a testament to the popularity of Teddy Roosevelt. (The name enjoyed a resurgence in the 1930s during the FDR administration, but never reclaimed those highs.)

Currently, Turner is more popular than Roosevelt. It ranks 886th, whereas Roosevelt hasn't appeared in the top 1,000 since 1993.

Maybe the Ken Burns documentary will change that? Time will tell.