A Brief History of Byrons in Baseball
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement - USA TODAY SportsBut first, a brief history of the name. Byron originated as a descriptive term, meaning “at the byres,” or cowshed for those of you not living in England. It was used to describe people who watched over cattle. This morphed into a surname and was made famous by the romantic poet, Lord Byron. Sometime around 1880 parents decided it would be cool to name their kids after the poet, and the name took off. Sadly the name has been losing popularity since it’s height in the 1960s, but maybe Buxton can bring it back into vogue.
There are only five Byrons to precede Buxton and their on-the-field accomplishments don’t amount to much. However, they more than made up for their baseball deficiencies off-the-field (think Hollywood, counterfeit shoes, and paper boxes). We’ll cover our Byrons in chronological order.
Byron Houck – 1912-14, 1918
Houck spent the majority of his career pitching for the legendary Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics where he worked as both a starter and a reliever. He finished his career with a 3.30 ERA which sounds pretty good but was below replacement level (-0.6 WAR). It was a different time.
After his relatively short baseball career ended Houck went on to film some of the silent era’s greatest films as a camera man in Buster Keaton’s production unit. He is also technically a Minnesotan as he was born in Prosper, MN but his family later moved to Portland, Oregon. After two incredibly interesting careers, Houck promptly did a 180 and spent the remainder of his working years selling paper boxes. Paper boxes!
Byron Humphrey – 1938
Our second Byron’s MLB career lasted all of two innings. He spread those innings across two games, giving up five hits and two earned runs as a member of the Boston Red Sox. He might not have fooled many batters, but he did a number on whoever wrote the AP box scores, appearing as Humphreys, Hump’s, and Hump’ys (my personal favorite) in his first game and H’phreys, Humpreys, and Humpries in the second. Sadly, there would never be a third game and Humphrey would go to the grave without ever seeing his name spelled correctly in the box scores.
Byron Browne – 1965-72
Browne has the distinction of having the longest career of any of our Byron’s, but he still finished ever-so-slightly below replacement level with -0.1 WAR as an outfielder. Browne played for four teams in his eight seasons and was one of the pieces in the attempted Curt Flood trade that led to the reserve clause being challenged.
Byron McLaughlin – 1977-80, 1983
McLaughlin played the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners and actually managed a positive career WAR (barely, at 0.4) despite a 5.11 ERA as a starter and reliever. His playing career was rather uneventful but his post-baseball life has been anything but.
This Byron wasn’t slinging no paper boxes, he went straight for the good stuff – counterfeit shoes! McLaughlin was known as a trouble-maker in his playing days, including causing his team to miss a flight due to having a .357 magnum in his bag, alleged spousal abuse, and being arrested for attempting to sell cocaine to an undercover officer. That would bring an end to his playing career but not his life of crime. McLaughlin ran a counterfeit shoe ring, buying large shipments of fake sneakers from Korea and selling them in Mexico, making millions of dollars in the process.
The fun ended when US customs agents and accompanying police officers visited McLaughlin’s Colorado home and issued a warrant for his arrest. McLaughlin managed to escape a 14-year prison sentence by fleeing the US before his sentencing and relocating to France. According to a 2018 Sports Illustrated article he is now believed to reside in Thailand (I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for him) where counterfeit shoes practically grow on trees.
Oh yeah, he was also briefly a member of the Minnesota Twins and he presumably didn’t have enough time to commit any crimes. He was acquired via trade in December 1980 but released at the end of spring training.
Byron Gettis – 2004
Our last pre-Buxton Byron had a short and uneventful career of 21 games as an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals. Gettis appears to have steered clear of a life of crime and he’s now quietly coaching high school football.
Byron Buxton – 2015-?
That brings us to our very own Byron, who is already easily the best Byron on the field with 9.8 career WAR and counting. Off the field Byron seems like the quiet-type likely to spend his post playing days fishing in Georgia or something. But who knows, maybe he’ll rob a bank with his hair on fire, write erotic poetry, or even…sell paper boxes.
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