The people (and pets) named after Nomar Garciaparra

The Boston Red Sox are an extension of family across New England, and that cosy familiarity results in colloquial expressions of endearment. If Red Sox Nation loves a player, they will be addressed by their first name, as if a prodigal son or beloved sibling. Such homely appellations show a player has arrived. More, they have been accepted, and their daily travails will be monitored through a prism of partisan sentimentality.

Cy. Tris. Ted. Rico. Mo. Trot. Manny. Pedro. Mookie. Xander. Throw in Papi and Yaz – and, yeah, you get the picture. There is an intimacy between Red Sox players and their adoring public that is difficult to replicate in any other city.

Yet despite all the stars and heroes, the champions and Hall of Famers, there may be no more beloved mononymous Red Sox icon than Nomar Garciaparra, the shortstop whose 1990s peak captured the New England milieu while symbolising its zeitgeist.

A six-time All-Star, two-time batting champion and American League Rookie of the Year, Garciaparra was worshipped by Red Sox fans. But perhaps more pertinently, Nomar became a rare baseball star to transcend the sport. With dashing good looks and an air of natural confidence belying a deep neurotic mystery, Nomar became known across America, an intriguing node in mainstream pop culture.

His unique name was central to the phenomenon, of course – the harsh Boston accent lending itself to lyrical cries of cartoonish devotion. “NOMAH!” fans yelled, almost facetiously, adding a fresh twist to the tired ‘pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd’ trope so often used to ridicule Boston. Saturday Night Live even parodied the “NOMAH!” sensation – Pat ‘Sully’ Sullivan, a stereotypical Masshole played by Jimmy Fallon, using the shortstop’s name as a cryptic catchphrase.

Sure, there was more to Nomar Garciaparra than a memorable name spoken in a comically exaggerated accent. There was the twitchy pre-pitch routines, where Garciaparra drew in the dirt, fiddled with his batting gloves and tapped his toes while twirling a frantic bat. There was the punishing workout routine and total dedication to excellence. And, of course, there was the preternatural skill, which Ted Williams likened to that of Joe DiMaggio.

Nevertheless, for me, the statistics, accolades, awards and records were always secondary to the cultural impact of Nomar Garciaparra. Much of that impact was ephemeral, like kids wearing his number five in Little League, or imitating his famous batting stance, or wearing his trademark wristbands. Yet some of the Nomar legacy is permanent, such as the people who were named after him. Yes, you read that correctly – the people who were named after him. That is how beloved Nomar truly was, and is, among Red Sox fans. And I have long yearned to explore that dynamic.

I first recall reading about this trend – a marked uptick in newborn babies named Nomar across New England in the late-1990s – many years ago. I forget where I first read it – perhaps in an old Red Sox book, or maybe in the Boston Globe online, once my internet homepage. Anyhow, it was mentioned almost in passing – connective filler in a loquacious Dan Shaughnessy column, perhaps – but I have always remembered it. I have always wondered about it. And so recently, I indulged that curiosity by delving down the Nomar Garciaparra rabbit hole, in search of his many namesakes.

Certainly, the name itself is peculiar and rare. Nomar. It is a quirky, innovative anadrome – literally Ramon spelled backwards. Who is Ramon? Nomar’s father, a Mexican-American graphic designer who welcomed his famous son in July 1973 while residing in Whittier, California. Contrary to popular wisdom, Nomar is actually the middle name of Ramon’s prodigious offspring. His first name is Anthony. Yet to all, he became – and remains – Nomar, Red Sox ethos incarnate.

My initial search for people named Nomar began with a brilliant – if obscure – blog called Nancy’s Baby Names, ‘which has been offering visitors fun, fact-based baby name content since 2006.’ Citing data from the US Social Security Administration (SSA), Nancy says that, incredibly, no children named Nomar were registered the US between 1800 and 1997. However, 12 newborn Nomars were logged in 1998 – surely inspired by the reigning American League Rookie of the Year. A further 17 Nomars were registered in 1999, and the quota climbed to a 2004 peak of 41, coinciding with the Red Sox’ famous World Series win.

The graph below, and the tabular data feeding it, tells a fascinating story.

Year

Nomar name registrations, US

1996

0

1997

0

1998

12

1999

17

2000

30

2001

26

2002

24

2003

35

2004

41

2005

31

2006

37

2007

31

2008

27

2009

23

2010

22

2011

22

2012

22

2013

18

2014

24

2015

24

2016

19

2017

18

2018

26

2019

7

2020

15

2021

16

2022

10

2023

9

 
Source: US Social Security Administration.

 

Keen to separate causation and correlation, I dug more into the SSA data, which is conveniently filtered by state, with one important caveat: annual instances of a given name below five are not tracked. Still, this allowed me to see Nomar Hotspots – those states with the most people named Nomar registered in any given year. I quickly ran an SSA report based on name data through 3 March 2024 and identified the following Nomar Hotspots in New England – presumably most linked to the Red Sox’ contemporaneous star:

  • 6 Nomars in Massachusetts, born in 2003.
  • 5 Nomars in Connecticut, born in 2004.

Interestingly, though, I also found a Nomar Hotspot of six in New York state in 2004 (school could not have been easy for those tortured kids), plus 21 Nomars in Arizona between 2004 and 2007; 131 Nomars in California between 2000 and 2021; and 42 Nomars in Texas between 2000 and 2014. The California Nomars were particularly interesting – especially the 37 born between 2006 and 2008, when Garciaparra played for the Dodgers – but the New England Nomars remained my key focus. For practical purposes, they were the only people most likely named after Garciaparra I could reasonably hope to find and contact.

For a while, I contemplated drilling down another level to further identify those 11 New England Nomars. I tinkered with Ancestry.com and preliminary social media outreach, but ultimately decided against pestering these innocent people. Invading their privacy felt unethical, and explaining my niche preoccupation with their name seemed complicated. And so, I settled for unearthing the raw data, and left everything else to the imagination.

Nevertheless, on a lighter note, while trawling social media – performing a simple X search for ‘named after Nomar’ – I found fifteen dogs, eight cats, three fish, one horse, one rubber duck, one teddy bear, one nondescript ‘stuffed animal,’ and one ice cream named after Nomar Garciaparra. I also encountered an old deli near Trenton, New Jersey, named after Nomar during his minor league stint in the town. That is a whole lot of love for a bygone ballplayer.

Indeed, time waits for no man, and Garciaparra is now no longer the only Nomar in MLB history. In 2016, mercurial outfielder Nomar Mazara debuted with the Texas Rangers, and while he never fulfilled his enormous potential, many casual fans mistakenly thought the Dominican was named after Garciaparra. That is actually incorrect, and in a 2015 interview with Lone Star Ball, Mazara said his parents just liked the unusual name.

Still, all these years later, I find it remarkable – and quite frankly insulting – that the Red Sox have not yet retired Nomar’s vintage jersey number. Yes, Garciaparra endured a steep decline after a 2001 wrist injury, and frayed relationships led to him being traded in 2004, but that does not alter his pre-millennium status as the darling of New England sports. It is immediately jarring whenever I see somebody wearing #5 for the Red Sox – from Rocco Baldelli, Nick Punto and Allen Craig to Kevin Pillar, Kike Hernández and, today, Vaughn Grissom. It does not look right, and those in charge should be embarrassed by their careless disregard for team history.

However, even greater recognition has been bestowed upon Nomar by a certain section of the rabid Red Sox fanbase, and what greater honour exists than having other humans named after you? That has to be a thrill for Nomar Garciaparra, whose inimitable peak is all too often ignored. That has to vindicate his enormous contribution to Boston sports folklore. And that has to be the ultimate symbol of his popularity, which remains unsurpassed in intensity if eclipsed in pure duration.


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