Announcing “The Most Memorable Names Project”

If you are a loyal reader of the VORG, you know I love baseball player names.  I love to anagram them, figure out their Scrabble score, calculate their percentage of vowels and host a 512-name NCAA-like tournament to determine the best name of all time.

Occasionally, I’ve written profiles on players with great names.  These are NOT the “best” players per se, or the ones with the best nickname.  They’re just the ones that pique your interest for one reason or another.  Maybe they sound funny, or strange, or have odd spellings, or sound dirty.

After I wrote a few more of these, I got the notion that there might be a book in this kind of profiling.  After presenting informal proposals to a few folks in the publishing biz, it became apparent that this idea wasn’t quite “saleable” on the mass market (at least at the present time).  But in the meantime, I thought I should pursue the research behind and writing of profiles anyway.

So, I’m going to continue the project and publish the profiles here as I complete them.  I encourage you to offer feedback, be it additional biographical information on the player (especially genealogy . . . names of player’s parents, spouses, children), corrections, suggestions for additional factoids to be included in each profile, etc.

Let’s begin “The Most Memorable Names Project”!

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BILLY JO ROBIDOUX

  • Birth name: William Joseph Robidoux
  • Pronunciation: ROH’-bih-doh
  • Position: First baseman / LeftfielderBilly-Jo-Robidoux
  • Height/Weight: 6′ 1″, 200 lb.
  • Born: January 13, 1964 in Ware, MA
  • Years active in the Majors: 1985-1990
  • Family tree: father George, mother Rosemary, brothers David and Jimmy, sister Kathi
  • Etymology: According to the book “Dictionary of American Family Names” by Oxford University Press, Robidoux is a French name probably from an altered form of the personal name Robardeau, a pet form of Robert.  The first Robidoux recorded in Canada was from Burgos in Spain, and seems to have been in Canada from around 1664. He bore the secondary surname L’Espagnol.
  • Bio: A highly touted prospect in the Brewers organization, Robidoux hit .342 with 46 doubles and 23 homers in 133 games in Double-A in 1985 before making the jump all the way to Milwaukee.  He suffered a nagging knee injury in his rookie year of 1986, which dogged him for the rest of his career.  He played bits of six seasons for the Brewers, White Sox and Red Sox, amassing a mere 26 extra-bases hits in 547 plate appearances to go along with a .209 batting average.   Robidoux had been signed by longtime scout Tom Bourque, who stated in a 2008 interview with Baseball Prospectus:

Billy Jo was a big, thick-bodied guy, and if he had signed five years later they would have had him with a personal trainer. What he would do is go home, just like everybody else back then, after the baseball season and not work out, and then go like crazy in January. His problem was that he got tight, and it led to some injuries. If he’d have signed a few years later, he probably would have had a better career, because he would have taken care of his body better.

  • Best day (by WPA):  October 6, 1985 2-4 with two homers and four RBI in a 9-6 Brewers win.
  • The wonder of his name: Guys named “Billy Jo” are the types you imagine having a couple of cold ones with at the corner watering hole.  But you don’t often find “Billy Jo”s in Massachusetts.  Combine that with the rhyming of “Jo”, “Ro” and “doux” in rapid succession, and you have a moniker full of joy for public address announcers and fans alike.
  • Not to be confused with: Billy Joe Hobert (former NFL quarterback and one-time minor league player with the White Sox), Joseph Robidoux (established the Blacksnake Hills Trading Post that eventually developed as the town of St. Joseph, Missouri).
  • Scrabble acceptability: “Billy” is a short club.  “Jo” is a sweetheart.
  • Fun anagrams: “I oil jurybox . . . bold!”
  • Ephemera: He is the only person from Ware High School to ever be drafted by a major league team and is the only “Robidoux” to ever play professional baseball.  One of only 12 Major Leaguers with at least 15 alphabetic (non-punctuation) letters in his “playing name” to have neither an A or an E in it. (The others are: Fritz Von Kolnitz, Scott Munninghoff, Billy Southworth, Bobby Livingston, Jimmy Bloodworth, Jimmy Uchrinscko, John-Ford Griffin, Johnny Grodzicki, Johnny Hutchings, Johnny Ostrowski and Julius Willigrod).  As of 2010, he was working for the highway department in his hometown and umpiring high school baseball games.

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27 thoughts on “Announcing “The Most Memorable Names Project”

  1. Wow. I can’t believe Billy Jo Robidoux was your first one. One of my favorite names of all time. I have a bizarrely distinct memory of talking with my best friend’s dad about him on the first day of second grade, in 1987 (or maybe even first grade, in 1986), and trying to persuade him that Robidoux was the next big thing.

    • it’s actually Van Lingle Mungo – just go through the Van Lingle Mungo song, lots of good names there. Everybody in “Ball Four”. Shooty Babbit. Pokey Reese. Middle infielders usually have great names…

  2. Great project! There are so many good ones. Names ending in “o”: Sixto Lezcano, Cesar Geronimo, Joe Charbonneaux. Names with alliteration: Frankie Frisch, Willie Wilson, Bobby Bonds. One syllable last names: Mel Ott, Tommy John, John Jay (see also, names with alliteration).

  3. Great to be reminded of all these old names…. Arquimedez Pozo definitely one of the best. Wonder which of the early Anglo-Saxon names sound funniest to a Hispanic ear? There’s an ethnic component… names imply historical trends, immigrant arrivals… some of the French and Italian names… we become familiarized, but Joe DiMaggio has a nice ring, yet a little strange… how about Napoleon Lajoie? Then there are interesting combos… I always used to smile about the battery when Ike (Delock) pitched to (Russ) Nixon for the Sox.

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