The Origins Of Fred McGriff's Iconic Nickname 'The Crime Dog'

On December 4, 2022, as MLB reported, the Baseball Hall of Fame's Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee inducted Fred McGriff into the hallowed hall. It was a long time coming — according to the Baseball Almanac, he played his final game in 2004, nearly two decades before the Hall of Fame would honor him. "I finally did it. I've been blessed my whole life. I continue to be blessed. I'm quite honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I want to thank the committee. It's tough to decide on who to vote for and not to vote for. It's a great honor to unanimously be voted in," McGriff said (via MLB).

McGriff's career was certainly Hall-of-Fame-worthy: In 19 seasons with six teams — the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Rays, Cubs, and Dodgers — he racked up a career batting average of .284 and had 493 home runs and 1,550 RBIs. As of December 4, he hadn't decided which team's cap would adorn his head on his plaque.

McGriff is not the first baseball player to have a nickname, nor will he be the last. But his nickname is a bit unusual: "Crime Dog," given to him by an ESPN analyst as a pop-culture reference from the time.

McGruff, the OG Crime Dog

Advertising icons, like Toucan Sam (Froot Loops) or Charlie the Tuna (StarKist), are intended to create an association in the general public's mind, with the goal of selling product — sugary cereal or canned tuna, for example. However, back in 1980, as the National Crime Prevention Council reports, the federal government created a character intended not to move product but to teach Americans about basic crime-prevention tips. The United States had been going through a lengthy period of high crime rates (per Disaster Center), and the feds, keen to get ahead of the game, began a campaign to "take a bite out of crime" — the slogan they came up with. And the mascot for the program was and is McGruff, the Crime Dog (pictured above on a stamp). It's not hard to see how they got there, either: "ruff" is, in English anyway, an onomatopoeic word describing the sound a dog makes.

McGruff, just like crime, was still around in 2022, although his focus had expanded to include cybercrime, bullying, identity theft, and similar crimes that have come into focus in recent years.

Chris Berman Gave The Nickname

As The Gazette reports, Chris Berman (above) was not like the sports announcers who came before him. ESPN, the world's first all-sports cable channel, changed the sports-announcing and sports-broadcasting games (no pun intended) in a number of ways; one of Berman's contributions was to bring some levity to the formerly oh-so-serious business of sports announcing a la Howard Cosell or John Facenda. As the Telegram & Gazette reported, part of Berman's comic shtick consisted of giving punny nicknames to the players, such as calling Bert Blyleven "Bert 'Be Home' Blyleven" (be home by 11, get it?) or Harold "Growing" Baines. You can see where this is going — Fred McGriff was big, Crime Dog McGruff was big, and, as explains, Berman put two and two together, and Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff was born.

Fred isn't the only athlete to have been given the nickname "Crime Dog." As reported, Auburn defensive coach Wesley McGriff has a slightly different version of the name: "Crime Dawg," although he's been reluctant to talk about how he got it.