“These are not real names,” the comedian George Carlin once wailed. “Want to hear a real name? Eddie. Eddie is a real name. Whatever happened to Eddie?”
Well, Eddie Butler pitches for the Chicago Cubs, and Eddie Rosario plays outfield for the Minnesota Twins. But, yes, we’ve mostly replaced all the Eddies, too.
Please understand this wasn’t my doing. On their first date, my dad told my mom that he someday wanted to name a son Tyler, after his great-uncle, a teacher who wrote American history textbooks in the 1940s. That was rather bold — for the name choice, I mean.
According to the Social Security Administration, Tyler did not even crack the top 300 for boys’ names until 1970. When I was born, in 1975, it ranked 205th. But by 1992 it had stormed into the top 10, and remained there through 2000. So this Tyler boom is really just beginning.
We can’t claim Ty Cobb, whose given name was Tyrus — even though Pete Rose named a son Tyler in Cobb’s honor. Our pioneer was Tyler Green, the first player who went by Tyler to reach the major leagues, for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993. He pitched in an All-Star Game, and Clippard has done so twice.
We’re still searching for our first superstar, though. We could make a full team of Tylers, but we wouldn’t be very good. We would mostly have extraordinary depth in unproven starting pitchers.
Anderson and Glasnow, Duffey and Skaggs … Lyons and Danish and Pill — oh my! Tyler Flowers, who is having a fine season for the Atlanta Braves, would catch them, but our ace, Tyler Chatwood of the Colorado Rockies, was the major league leader in walks going into Wednesday’s games.
Our second baseman, Tyler Saladino of the White Sox, is hitting .200 and out with back spasms. Our best setup man, Tyler Thornburg of the Boston Red Sox, is lost for the year with thoracic outlet syndrome. Poor Ty Kelly, our utility infielder, was cut by the Mets after one at-bat this April. He floated on waivers to the Toronto Blue Jays, who sold him to the Phillies, the worst team in baseball. He’s hitting .195.
Our right fielder, Tyler Naquin — a rookie star for Cleveland last season — has played just six games in the majors since the Indians benched him for Game 7 of the World Series. They lost, of course. As far as I can tell, only one Tyler has played for a World Series winner — Tyler Johnson, a middle reliever for the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.
Frankly, guys, I expect more. This isn’t how to start a movement. But, again, we’ve bought in bulk. We are bound to have a breakthrough soon enough.
When I talk to these Tylers about our name, they smile and play along, but I know they can’t really relate. I’m a relic. When I was growing up, the only Tylers referenced to me were the actress Mary Tyler Moore, the running back Wendell Tyler or Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. These current Tylers grew up surrounded by other Tylers.
It will not last forever. Tyler is not the new Michael, an annual top-10 name since 1943, or David, which has ranked in the top 20 every year since 1928. Tyler has declined in popularity each year of this decade, plunging last year to 91st, our lowest spot in 35 years.
Robert overtook us in 2013, and while we’re still far ahead of Gary, Lawrence or Ronald, the trend line is ominous. This is our moment, fellas. I never made it out of high school ball, and you’ve gotten all the way to the majors. It’s a great start. Now make me proud.
And if you don’t, my birth certificate gives me the right to bail on you. Tyler is actually my middle name. My real first name is John.