The Thing about Billy Jo Robidoux
Ever heard of Dusty Napoleon? What about Rowdy Hardy, or Scott Schwindenhammer? Well, you have now, and reaching its conclusion is the 5th annual Minors Moniker Madness contest put on by MiLB, in which 64 of the wildest monikers compete for the distinction of best name in minor league baseball.
It reminds me of how much fun it was hearing the name Billy Jo Robidoux (Ro-be-doe) announced with zeal from the loudspeakers at old County Stadium in Milwaukee. My Dad worked out of Wisconsin for several years in the 80s, and so each summer as the school year let out, I would expand my passion for baseball (and the Toronto Blue Jays) to include a little love for the Milwaukee Brewers, a.k.a The Brew Crew, a team of many a talented player, and a perennial near-contender in the old AL East. But it was their names that captured this imagination:
Bill-y Jooooo Rooooo-bi-doooooux!
Man, this guy must be something, I thought.
He wasn’t. Robidoux, once a highly touted prospect in the Brewers organization, played bits of six seasons for a total of 468 major league at bats. Despite a talent for taking walks, he failed in four of six seasons to land on the right side of the Mendoza line. But to my young mind, it was as if a great name could lead to a great career and the poignant delivery of that name related somehow to the player’s ability.
I had become so accustomed to the names of Willie Upshaw, Jesse Barfield, Damaso Garcia, Garth Iorg, Rance Mulliniks and Rick Leach that hearing those of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie, Juan Nieves, Danny Darwin, and Billy Jo Robidoux, was like opening up a fresh pack of baseball cards or trying on a new batting glove.
These were good baseball names, energized by an announcer’s gusto. Syllabic exaggeration injected excitement to an already fun experience, and with the contagious reverberations of the Brewers theme song “Keep turning up the heat,” which almost rivalled the golden hit single “OK Blue Jays” of 1983, a kid couldn’t help breaking into some variation of the hokey pokey.
Thinking of our times at County, I’m reminded of my baby brother wearing a big Brewers batting helmet, eating ice cream scooped into tiny souvenir batting helmets, and my Mother in the grandstands, dizzying from an onslaught of vertigo. She would descend, but stay at the ballpark, often ending up in better seating than the rest of the family. I would sit anywhere as long as I could see the field and hear the commentator name those names. My Dad got hooked too. He not only parroted the call of the Robidoux at the stadium, but while we played catch in front of his apartment, and even out of context…..
It once saved me after I nearly broke a window throwing the hardball wildly in the general direction of my Dad. For a moment he looked pissed, until he heard the sweet sound of my…..
“Bill-y Jooooo Rooooo-bi-doooooux!”
The MiLB contest got me thinking that for posterity, I ought to compile my personal list of the best 80s names in baseball. A few that creep to mind now, mainly for their association with a distinct moment of Blue Jay heartbreak, are Doyle Alexander, Brett Saberhagen, and Steve Balboni. But we’ll discuss the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals another day. Today I remember the old Milwaukee Brewers.
You had me at Rooooo-bi-doooooux!