Von Joshua

October 4, 2007

When I was a kid I looked for reflections of some greater undiscovered part of myself in my baseball cards, but in the 1970s the only guy anywhere close to sharing my name and giving me hope that I might someday belong in the world I spent all my solitary hours glorifying was Von Joshua. Von Joshua wasn’t that great, and even though I wasn’t sure if the Joshua in his name was a last name or part of a single official title (like Count Dracula), I knew it didn’t really match my own. Also, my grasp on his identity was slippery: for some reason I always thought of him as the hazy fourth Alou. And then when his disappearance from baseball coincided with the appearance of Von Hayes the fog just increased, distancing any connection between my name and baseball.

As far as I knew there never had been a major league Josh and never would be. On closer inspection now I see that there were a few Joshes in baseball’s earlier eras, but none since a couple journeymen named Josh Billings in the 1920s and no one at all of note besides Josh Devore, who had a brief career as a speedy outfielder for the pennant-winning Giants of the early teens.

Now, however, baseball is lousy with Joshes. So is everything. After taking a victory lap around my apartment to celebrate Josh Beckett’s dominating game 1 shutout of the Angels (i.e., going to the kitchen to look for chocolate, finding none, and stuffing a piece of rye bread with cream cheese into my face instead) I came back to the living room and watched a couple minutes of a show my wife had just switched to, in which the parents of a young tan mousse-haired douchebag were subjecting a woman with fake breasts to a lie detector test. The mousse-haired douchebag’s name was Josh.

“I’m getting together with the rest of the Joshes and voting this douchebag out of our name!” I fumed. But there are so many Joshes now, many of them probably moussed douchebags, that if there ever was a global meeting convened the expulsion votes might end up purging any lingering unmoussed solitary oddballs left over from the earlier less-Josh-heavy days of yore, like me. Banished, I’d have to change my name to some extinct moniker such as Festus or Mortimer or Increase.

But until that day comes when I’m forced to roam the land, a name-exile, I can balance the pain of seeing more and more idiots named Josh with the singular pleasure, the boyhood dream, of watching the most important player on my favorite baseball team turn in performances like the one he had last night.

Go, Josh, go!


  1. 1.  What is it with you and cream cheese?

    For me, Von Joshua will always exist as the guy who made the last outs as a pinch hitter in each of the last two games of the 1974 World Series. Those two at-bats appear in A’s highlight videos all the time. In game four, he grounded into a game-ending, highlight-reel-quality 4-6-3 double play. In game five, he tapped back to Rollie Fingers, who skipped halfway to first base in joy, before remembering he had to throw the ball, and then the celebration began.

  2. 2.  I guess I should also add that the reason I first became interested in sports to begin with was because Ken Stabler became the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders in 1973. I too had never heard of anybody famous or successful with the same name as me, and I quickly got caught up in his heroics.

  3. 3.  I had the exact same problem as a child.

    Baseball Reference shows that before the early nineties, there were 44 IP over two seasons by a guy with my name, earning himself an ERA of 4.90 and a 1.58 WHIP. There’s another guy that hit .179/.246/.217 in 106 ABs. Nothing you’d attempt to associate yourself with as an eight year old.

    So it was sort of cool when I was reading about the minor league prospects on my favorite team a long time ago and there was this guy that had the same first name I did. He even spelled it the same. Maybe he’d make the team for a few days and I’d be able to think sometimes about the guy with my first name played for my favorite team. A little thing to get me through the day.

    He managed to do that. He also managed to inspire more irrational emotion, both positive and negative, than anyone in sports. I can tell people how to spell my name over the phone by making reference to him. It’s very effective. It works just as well in NY and Boston.

    “My first name is Derek, like Jeter…”

  4. 4.  I voted for Jimmy Carter in my kindergarten presidential election in 1980 because he had the same first name as me. That made the election a tie.

  5. 5.  I became a Broncos fan partially (only a small part admittedly) because when I was little the only famous Craig was Broncos QB Craig Morton. I felt validated!

  6. 6.  2 Shall we call you Ken “The Snake” Arneson? 😉

    As a kid I was also a huge Stabler fan. The Snake is a legend down here in Alabama. He currently provides color commentary for the Crimson Tide radio broadcasts.

    Recently, I heard him discussing how different it was to go from playing for the old-school strict disciplinarian Bear Bryant to the new-school easygoing player’s coach John Madden (Madden was only 32 when he became the Raider head coach). They didn’t have many rules: be on time and play hard… that was about it.

    Those Raider teams were fun to watch. I have a question for you, Ken: Do you think Stabler should be in the Hall of Fame?

  7. 7.  1 : “What is it with you and cream cheese?”

    I’m angling for an endorsement deal. “Cream Cheese: It’s not just something to steal from Isla Vista grocery stores anymore.”

    3 : Your namesake was himself named after a famous sports star (and author of the autobiography “I’ve Gotta Be Me” and assister on Bobby Orr’s famously photogenic flying-through-the air Cup-winning goal) Derek Sanderson, was he not?

    5 : I hope you kicked the ass of the kid in your kindergarten named Ronald after the actual elections.

    2 , 6 : Big fan of “The Snake.” Lord, has he aged.

  8. 8.  6 Oh, I don’t know. As a 10-year-old, I’m sure I thought it was obvious he was a Hall-of-Famer. But I never watched him play with an adult’s perspective. There are a lot of things that I thought were great as a 10-year-old that I don’t think are quite so great now. I’d vote for him because I’m nostalgic that way, but I can imagine why a more neutral observer wouldn’t.

  9. 9.  7 They don’t do hockey in South Carolina.

    The answer to inevitable question of how I became a Yankees fan when I was living in South Carolina is that my parents moved there from NY. Grandma remained in NY and took me to Yankees games when I’d visit every summer until we moved back.

    Until the emergence of Derek Jeter, I was voluntarily or involuntarily affiliated by name with the following real or fictional people:

    1. Derek and the Dominoes
    2. Derek Rickman
    3. Derek Bell (the racer, not the baseball player)
    4. Bo Derek
    5. Derek Smalls

    2 There was a time that I called myself Kenny in an attempt to be associated with Kenny Roberts, who I thought was more important than Lincoln, Jefferson, Jesus, Mohammed, and Ghandi at the time. I still will fill out forms that I think will eventually lead to undesirable junk mail as Kenny Roberts. Probably not a cool thing to send Kenny Roberts all of my junk mail, I guess.

  10. 10.  Number of Joshes or Joshuas in Baseball Prospectus’ Player Search: 40

    Number of Brents in Baseball Prospectus’ Player Search: 16. The only ones of note, at least from my glance, are Brent Mayne, Brent Gates (the only players to amass more than a paltry 10 Career WARP), and Brent Lillibridge, a somewhat touted prospect.

    So I wonder if it would have an impact on me to have a rooting interest in a player, or one with a baseball card, at least, who bore my name. I just had to deal with most people knowing of no one else named Brent except Brent Musburger, whom I was not overly fond of as an announcer while growing up.

  11. 11.  10 : Stay tuned for (at some point) the Cardboard Gods profile of slackjawed Padre Brent Strom.

  12. 12.  padres’ reliever heath bell’s cousin drake stars on the nickelodeon show drake & josh. it’s for kids.

  13. 13.  Despite the fact that the lead singer for N’Sync shares my last name, I’ve never felt an urge to be a fan of his. While Cameron Diaz was his main squeeze I thought about transference, but I could remain a non-fan.

  14. 14.  The world is filled with Phil’s so I took to rooting for people born on my birthday.

    JtD and Jose Lopez are not helping.

  15. 15.  At least Von Joshua was a starter for a couple of years with the Giants. All I had for my namesake was backup catcher Phil Roof! I’m glad to see Phil Hughes starting to make a name for himself. The image of you getting together with the other Joshes to vote the douchebag out conjured up memories of the old NYNEX commercial with the Herbs. What was with those hats anyway?

  16. 16.  Stabler played baseball, too. IIRC someone drafted him. THe only baseball Jon that predated me was somne guy that played a few games in the ol’ American Association. Jon Matlack came on the scene three years after I did.

  17. 17.  Another Josh here.

    The name became mildly popular in the 1970’s and since then has really taken off, hitting the top 5 among male names in the US since about the 1980’s. There are so many little brats out there named Joshua or Josh these days — I liked it better when I had a less common name.

  18. 18.  “Moussed Douchebags” — not half-bad as a band name, for some latter-day incarnation of the spirit moving bands like the Dictators, Dead Milkmen, like that.

  19. 19.  16 You are correct. He turned down minor-league contract offers from the Yankees and Astros to play football at Alabama in 1964.

    The first draft was in 1965. In 1966 the Yankees drafted him in the 10th round (190th overall). In 1967 the Mets drafted him in the 11th round (155th overall) of the January secondary draft. In 1968 the Astros drafted him in the 2nd round (24th overall) of the January draft.

    Rumor has it that he was close to actually signing with the Astros at one point, but decided to pursue football instead.

  20. 20.  19 Funny coinkydink: I was flipping around during a commercial in the DBacks-Cubs game, and saw ESPN2 interviewing Ken Stabler at an Alabama high-school football game.

  21. 21.  14 Mike here, so I did the birthday thing too. Red Rolfe is about the best I can do.

    12 I have an 11 year old, so I get Drake and Josh inflicted on me on a pretty regular basis. They were both on another Nickelodeon show with Amanda Bynes a few years ago, a sketch comedy show which was actually much funnier. It’s not bad, though, really-the little sister is played by Miranda Cosgrove, who was in School of Rock.

    1 I love cream cheese, and have the body to prove it. I look more or less like an out of shape John Kruk. (No, that’s not redundant.)

  22. 22.  Two words: Kurt Bevacqua.

  23. 23.  My first name was always way too common, but I always latched on to players with the last name Jordan. When Michael came on the scene in NC and Chicago, I required no other name sake, for all time. Damn that dude is still a God! Most unbelievable athlete I’ve EVER seen. No one bigger than MJ.

  24. 24.  When I talk to my kids about MJ, I always refer to him as the kids’ “Uncle Michael”. They do it now too.

  25. 25.  re: 18

    The goaltender for the star-crossed, Madison Square Garden-based New York Raiders franchise during the inaugural season of the World Hockey Association in 1972-73 was one Ian Wilkie.

    Make of this what you will, Brer Wilker.

  26. And am I the only one who had to look up “Kenny Roberts?”

    We don’t do motorcycle racing in New York.

  27. ramblinpete: I’m with you. How can someone be so well known in one sport and completely unknown to virtually all other sports fans?

    Josh: I share the same initials as Tom Seaver and for most of his career his playing weight on the back of his cards was 206 which was my street number so I always knew we had a secret connection….or maybe the 206 just connected me to Bruce Boisclair’s batting average.

  28. Damn.

    “October 4, 2009, 7:04 PM ET CHICAGO — The disappointed Chicago Cubs wasted little time making a change, dropping hitting coach Von Joshua after Sunday’s season finale while offering him a similar spot at Triple-A.”

    You always wonder what these guys are up to now… Well, hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll later, the Cubs have found their problem!

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