The Game of Potsy, and How Potsie Weber Got His Nickname

Once upon a time, during a episode of the 1970s detective series Kojak (affiliate links used in this post), we heard Telly Salavas, playing Lt. Theo Kojak, respond to another officer's urging to hurry up by saying something along the lines of, "What do you think I'm doing here, playing Potsy?"

And our mind immediately went to another 1970s television series, Happy Days, and the character played by Anson Williams. That character's name was Potsie Weber.

Did I just stumble across the genesis of Potsie Weber's nickname? Was he called "Potsie" because of a game named Potsy?

The answer, it turns out, is no. Which you might have guessed by the different spellings of Potsy and Potsie. But asking that question, and then seeking out the answer, did cause us to learn what the game Potsy is, and to learn why Potsie Weber was called "Potsie." So, thanks Kojak!

The Game Named Potsy

So what is the Potsy game? Basically, it's hopscotch. Just about every kid in America and many other places around the world has played hopscotch at some point. Potsy is what the game is called in New York City.

It is common for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to paint hopscotch grids onto park grounds. And that agency's website even includes an explainer on Potsy that states "Potsy is just New Yorker-speak for hopscotch."

The name of the game derives from the name of the object that is tossed into the squares of the hopscotch grid. That object, whatever its form might take, is known as the potsy. From the NYC Parks & Rec website:

"Potsy refers to the object used in the game. Traditionally, potsy is made from three safety pins clipped together, but one can always substitute a rock or a penny or a Parks pager. Now, for those of you that don’t know how to play Potsy, here are the ground rules: Toss potsy into the first box; jump with one foot at a time into every other numbered box until you get to the end (don’t touch the lines); when you get to the end, turn around and come back; on your way back, pick up potsy; throw potsy into the next box and start again."

And the Real Reason Potsie Weber Was Called 'Potsie'

Now let's turn to the Happy Days character of Potsie Weber. And let's be frank: Potsie is a dumb nickname. In the early episodes of Happy Days, it was clear that some of the other characters used "Potsie" more as an insult than as an affectionate nickname — Potsie had just a bit of a loser aura about the character in the early days of Happy Days.

But it was in one of those early season episodes that Potsie once explained how he got his nickname. In the sixth episode of Season 1, another character asked Weber how he got his nickname. And Weber replied:

"They call me Potsie because when I was a young boy I used to like to make things with clay, and one day my mother called me Potsie."
Well, OK then. Young Warren Weber liked to play with clay, and, presumably, was having some fun one day trying to make a clay pot. His mother teasingly called him "Potsie," and that became his nickname for all time.

It would have been better if Potsie had been named after Potsy, wouldn't it?