The Los Angeles Dodgers released a recent promotion that featured a sketch of third baseman Justin Turner, who was decked out in a beret and blouse while holding a paintbrush in front of an easel. The legend identified Turner as “The Artful Dodger”, an allusion to a character in the famous Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist.
For all of us who caught the reference right away, I offer a comprehensive list of baseball players who share a name with a character from Dickens’ writings.
First base: Wally Pipp
Young Lou Gehrig replaced him for what was meant to be someday, but history tells us the Iron Horse stayed there for the next 2,632 games. In the beautiful novel Great expectations, Pip was the protagonist who was bequeathed a fortune from an unknown benefactor.
Second base: Jason Bates
He played five seasons for the Colorado Rockies in the ’90s, while Charley Bates was a member of the thieves gang of Oliver twist.
Shortstop: Barry Larkin
The Hall of Fame shortstop has spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds. Miss Larkins was the first love of David Copperfield, a beautiful girl who ended up marrying a soldier in the book.
Third base: Tommy Lastella
Hitting a .284 combined over the past two seasons, he has helped the Chicago Cubs to back-to-back National Western League championships. When you drop the first letter of her last name, it matches the posh girl Pip falls hopelessly in love with Great expectations.
Left Field: Danny Heep
Uriah Heep was a clerk of Mr. Wickfield in David Copperfield, while the baseball player was a constant hitter for the Astros and Mets over a ten-year Big League career.
Center field: Fred Snodgrass
He spent nine years primarily with the New York Giants until leaving the game in 1916, and Augustus Snodgrass appears in Pickwick papers as a club member named after the title of the novel.
Right field: Al Oliver
As if his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates hadn’t been impressive enough, Oliver went to the Texas Rangers and won the American League batting title. His last name is of course the first name of young Mr. Twist in the title of Dickens’ novel to become a huge hit on Broadway.
Catch: Bill Plummer
Dickens’s Cricket on the hearth was centered around the Plummer family, and in the 1970s Bill served as Johnny Bench’s backup on the Big Red Machine.
Starting pitcher: Bob Sykes
He was a southpaw who played for the Tigers and Cardinals in the ’70s and’ 80s, while Bill Sikes was a boy that Oliver Twist fought with but then befriended.
Relief pitcher: Hi Jasper
This right-hander who was among the pens for the White Sox, Cardinals, and Indians in the second decade of the 20th century, but Mr. Jaspers was the lawyer who ultimately married the female protagonist in Dark house.