Men Whose Names Were Unfortunate in Retrospect

Names, as I read once somewhere, are powerful things.  Without them, it’d be impossible to google yourself.

Ego-surfing is a basic American right, up there with drive-thrus and Words With Friends.  We deserve to know, at any moment, where each of us stands in the social order.  And yet many men, even among the celebrities who hit balls with sticks and throw balls past people with sticks, have had their identities stripped from them.  The men listed below are exceptional.  They beat the odds and became professional baseball players, only to become afterthoughts, exceeded not only in fame but in the very vocation they spent a lifetime training for.  It’s a tragedy when stories have been silenced by other, better stories.  Please take a few moments to mourn these forgotten semi-heroes through the power of hastily-wrought prose:

Randy Johnson, 3B

Search for “Randy Johnson Braves” on Google and the first site you’ll see is not poor Randall Glenn Johnson of Escondido, California, but an article about how the Braves let the other Randy Johnson get away, failing to sign him in 1982 as a fourth-round pick out of high school.  How unwanted can you make a man feel?  Randall was actually a pretty solid part-timer for the Braves in the early 80s, earning 2.3 WAR in three seasons before heading off to Japan.  Even his mustache is a strong, yet ultimately inferior, performance.

Jose Bautista, SP

Until 2009, Jose Joaquin Bautista probably resigned himself to sharing a disambiguated Wikipedia page.  He went 6-15 with a 4.38 FIP his rookie season and never eclipsed that level of success again, despite sticking to the league for nine years.  A year and a half has changed this.  Googling “Jose Bautista”-orioles brings up the supernatural Jose Bautista first, thanks to sixteen games played with them as a rule 5 pick in 2004.  The first page also links to an article called “Jose Bautista Used to Play for the Orioles.”  It is not about Jose Joaquin Bautista.  No one would write an article about how Jose Joaquin Bautista used to play for the Orioles.

Mike Stanton, RP, and Mike Stanton, RP

The first edition of Mike Stanton is best remembered by the testimonial he graciously delivered for the chiropractic services of Seattle-based Dr. Craig Tuttle.  The second edition pitched in more games than anyone not named Orosco, won a few World Series rings, and is doomed to be similarly forgotten.  This is all because of the third Mike Stanton, whose first name isn’t even Michael but Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton.  You wonder if he goes by Mike just to spite the other two.

Mike Tyson, 2B

Tyson proves that perhaps anonymity isn’t always such a curse.  Searching “Mike Tyson”-Cubs actually nets you a first page full of sites about the light-hitting, full-mustached infielder.  Most of the listings are there to sell the interested party editions of Mike Tyson’s baseball cards, none of which are worth the cost of shipping.  None of the sites mention, to my knowledge, Tyson fruitlessly waiting by the phone, hoping against hope for a cameo in the Hangover Part Two.

Alex Gonzalez, SS, and Alex Gonzalez, SS

These men have both had long baseball careers, and as such they probably deserve individual recognition for their accomplishments.  I will not give it to them.  To prevent myself from confusing the two, I long ago decided to ignore them both.  Gonzalez A played thirteen seasons for six different teams; Gonzalez B has played twelve seasons with five different teams.  Both played for the Blue Jays.  Both wielded inconsistent but generally decent gloves, both had trouble with the strike zone, both had decent pop in their bats.  Google justifiably calls it a draw: the first link goes to the disambiguated Alex Gonzalez Wikipedia page.




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Patrick Dubuque writes for NotGraphs and The Hardball Times, and he served as former Bill Spaceman Lee Visiting Professor for Baseball Exploration at Pitchers & Poets. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.


13 Responses to “Men Whose Names Were Unfortunate in Retrospect”

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  1. Chuck Hussel says:

    The Padre Pedro Martinez & The 1-R’d Derek Bell, would like a word.

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    • reillocity says:

      There was indeed a time when the more talented Pedro was known to many as Pedro J. Martinez, in order to avoid confusion with the lefty reliever Pedro A. Martinez.

      The Twins also had a Randy Johnson of their own that played contemporaneously with the Braves’ Randy Johnson.

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  2. Bronnt says:

    Of course, most of the top responses for “Randy Johnson Braves,” are about how the pitcher version threw a perfect game against the Braves in 2004

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  3. Big Jgke says:

    Alex Gonzalez The First may not have had the most distinguished career, but at least he was featured in an SI article on the next great shortstops in baseball:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1009523/index.htm

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  4. steex says:

    No love for the Ryans Braun? That was my first thought.

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  5. Mac says:

    Did you know feared slugger Frank Thomas first appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover in 1958? Ironically the sub-header started “Nobody knows him”.
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1002596/index.htm

    The man not nicknamed Big Hurt was a three time All-Star, playing his best years as a LF for the Pirates in the 50’s. Like the other Thomas, he was a feared HR hitter.

    Fun fact: Thomas was in the Opening Day lineup for the inaugural season of the New York Mets (1962). Other notable names on the card that day were Richie Ashburn, Gil Hodges, Don Zimmer, Felix Mantilla, Gus Bell (of the baseball Bells), and Roger Craig.

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    • Uncle Casper says:

      The original Frank Thomas was actually a supporting player in the famous “Yo La Tengo” story, which should be wikipeidaed by anyone who doesn’t know it.

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  6. anon says:

    jeff zimmerman?

    /snark

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  7. Dash says:

    When I saw “Randy Johnson” I thought you were going to go for double-entendre names.

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  8. DJ says:

    True story – Mike Tyson (the infielder) is now a new car salesman at dealership in St. Louis (Bommorito Nissan, I believe). If you go in for a test drive and talk to Tyson, he will pull out a giant stack of his own baseball cards from his desk and autograph one for you.

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  9. Dave G. says:

    How about the guy that used to play for the Pirates, Jim Morrison? Very unfortunate name for him at the time.

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  10. Hot fashion news, I’ll keep it.

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