HOF Inductee Griffey One of the “Sons of the Big Red Machine”

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi, 07/24/2016 

In his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech, Ken Griffey Jr. mentioned his father’s Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970s, known as the “The Big Red Machine.” as some of the best in baseball history. Griffey acknowledged his father’s role in his development as a player and as a person.  It’s likely some of Junior’s fondest memories are hanging out in a major league clubhouse with his father.

In a related story about the prevalence of children of Reds players from those teams who went on to play professional baseball, following is a chapter excerpted from my book “Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives” published in 2012.

Sons of the “Big Red Machine”

The Cincinnati Reds teams of the early-to-mid-1970s are noted as one of the more famous teams in baseball history. The “Big Red Machine,” led by Sparky Anderson, was comprised of some of the game’s best individual players of that era: Rose, Bench, Morgan, Foster, Perez, Griffey, and Concepcion. They went to the World Series in 1970, 1972, 1975, and 1976, winning back-to-back world championships in 1975 and 1976.

Little did anyone know that these teams would produce a bevy of future professional baseball players. Sixteen players (fathers) on those teams had sons who would later play professional baseball at some level. Five of the sons were first-round draft picks by major league clubs: Brian McRae (1985), Lee May, Jr. (1988), Ken Griffey, Jr. (1987), Ed Sprague (1988), and Eduardo Perez (1991).

The sons were sometimes referred to as “Little Red Machine.” Tony Perez once commented, “They were wild. You had to keep after them. But they were good kids.” In any case, they learned the winning feeling hanging around the clubhouse of their famous fathers. This situation is a prime illustration of the sons of major leaguers excelling because of the environment in which they were raised.

Marty Brennaman (himself the progenitor of a baseball broadcasting family) was the Reds broadcaster during those years and some of his most endearing memories revolve around the players’ kids, who would congregate around the Reds’ clubhouse. They added to the excitement the Reds team was generating. “Little Pete was about as obnoxious a kid as you’d find,” Brennaman said. “But he grew up to be as fine a young man as I’ve ever known. They were all like that: loud and running around like water bugs. They were so brash it was incredible. But you’ve got to remember, they were all small then, not at an age where you would call them responsible. Riverfront Stadium was like their second home. That made it special. It was like a family in that clubhouse.”

Twenty-plus years later, several of these sons of the Big Red Machine made history in a spring training game. On March 27, 1997, in a game between Cincinnati and Texas, the Reds’ lineup included Pete Rose, Jr., who batted leadoff and played third base; Dave Concepcion, Jr., playing shortstop and batting second; and Eduardo Perez, son of Tony Perez, playing first base. In that same game, there were additional “family ties.” Aaron Boone, younger brother of Reds regular second baseman Bret, played second base; and Stephen Larkin, younger brother of Reds regular shortstop Barry, played in the DH position.

Below is a list of the father-son combinations from the “Big Red Machine” era.

Father Reds Years Son Son’s Playing Career
Pedro Borbon, Sr. 1970–1979 Pedro Borbon, Jr. Major league (1992–2003)
Tony Cloninger 1968–1971 Darrin Cloninger

Mike Cloninger

Minor league (1983–1985)

Minor league (1983–1985)

Dave Concepcion 1970–1988 Dave Concepcion, Jr. Minor league (1995–1996)
Ed Crosby 1973–1973 Bobby Crosby Major league (2003–2010)
Terry Crowley 1974–1975 Terry Crowley

Jimmy Crowley

Minor league (1986–1992)

Minor league (1991–1995)

Cesar Geronimo 1972–1980 Cesar Geronimo, Jr. Minor league (1995–1998)
Ken Griffey, Sr. 1973–1981 Ken Griffey, Jr.

Craig Griffey

Major league (1989–2010)

Minor league (1991–1997)

Tommy Helms 1964–1971 Ryan Helms

Tommy Helms

Wes Helms (nephew)

Minor league (1994–1995)

Minor league (1990–1992)

Major league (1998–2010)

Julian Javier 1972–1972 Stan Javier Major league (1984–2001)
Andy Kosco 1973–1974 Andrew Kosco

Bryn Kosco

Minor league (1986–1990)

Minor league (1988–1996)

Lee May 1965–1971 Lee May, Jr. New York Mets first round draft pick (1988).
Hal McRae 1968–1972 Brian McRae Major league (1990–1999)
Tony Perez 1964–1976 Eduardo Perez

Victor Perez

Major league (1993–2006)

Minor league (1990)

Pete Rose 1963–1978 Pete Rose, Jr. Major league (1997)
Ed Sprague 1971–1973 Ed Sprague Major league (1991–2001)
Woody Woodward 1968–1971 Matt Woodward Minor league (1998–1999)

It was truly a “family affair” in the Reds organization during those years. Additionally, the following Reds players, scouts, and executives were part of the heyday of the “Big Red Machine,” and they also had relatives in professional baseball.

Reds Affiliate Reds Years Relationship Relative Relative’s Career
Bob Bailey Player (1976) Son of Paul “Buck” Bailey Minor Leagueplayer (1939–1940)
Larry Barton, Sr. Reds scout (1970–1979) Father of Larry Barton, Jr. Reds scout (1970–1979)
Jack Billingham Player (1972–1977) Cousin of Christy Mathewson

Henry Mathewson

Major League player (1900–1916)

Major League player (1906–1907)

Joe Bowen Reds director of scouting Brother of Rex Bowen Pirates director of scouting; Reds special assistant
Marty Brennaman Reds broadcaster (1974–2011) Father of Thom Brennaman Major League broadcaster for Reds, Cubs, Diamondbacks, FOX network
Dan Driessen Player (1973–1984) Uncle of Gerald Perry Major League player (1983–1995)
Doug Flynn Player (1975–1977) Son of Robert Douglas Flynn, Sr. Minor League player
Phil Gagliano Player (1973–1974) Brother of Ralph Gagliano Major League player (1965–1965)
Ross Grimsley, Jr. Player (1971–1973) Son of Ross Grimsley, Sr. Major League player (1951)
Junior Kennedy Player (1974–1981) Brother of Jim Kennedy Major League player (1970)
Bob Howsam Reds GM (1966–1977) Father of Edwin Howsam Reds area scouting supervisor
Lee May Player (1965–1971) Brother of Carlos May Major League player (1968–1977)
Bill Plummer Player (1970–1977) Son of William Plummer Minor League player (1921–1927)
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