Sports encyclopedia editor checking in… William Van Landingham is indeed the longest surname in MLB history. That’s actually 14 characters, including the space between the “n” and the “L”. There is also a fellow named John Van Benschoten who is currently playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s also 14 characters. There have been 179 major league players with three letter surnames.
If you include punctuation marks, the longest name in NFL history (16 characters) belongs to Hawaian born Chris Fuamatu-Ma’Afala, currently with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hyphenated surname Nate Hobgood-Chittick also has 16 characters. Twelve football players had 14 letter surnames, including Pittsburgh quaretrback Ben Roethlisberger and Cincinnati receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (not to mention Kansas City coach and former player Marty Schottenheimer). There have been 210 players with 3-letter surnames.
Longest player names in the NBA… Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Butch van Breda Kolff, and Jan van Breda Kolff. Forty-four players with three-letter last names (including my all-time favorte hoopster, the 7’-7" Dinka warrior Manute Bol).
In the NHL, the longst names (14 letters) belonged to center John Brackenborough and defenseman Phil Von Stefenelli. Plenty of three-letter names, including alltime greats Bobby Orr and Patrick Roy.
NASCAR drivers don’t wear their names on their back in the same way, but the longest name I find is 15 characters: Elliott Forbes-Robinson. Lothar Motschenbacher and J.C. Van Landingham each have 14 letters.
So far as I know, no athlete with a two-letter surname has ever appeared in one of these five major sports.