A Tale of Two Griffeys: One Very Good, One Dominant

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

There have been nearly 250 father-son combinations to play in Major League Baseball. History shows that it’s pretty rare for both the father and the son to excel on the diamond at a high level comprising leadership in batting or pitching categories, all-star selections, and post-season appearances.

Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Tony Perez, and Earl Averill had major-league sons with marginal success as big-leaguers themselves, while Joe Wood and Ed Walsh’s sons were in the majors only long enough for the proverbial “cup of coffee.” Pete Rose’s son spent 21 years in the minors, but managed to get into only 11 games in the Big Show. The sons of Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle never made it out of the low minor leagues.

On the other hand, there are a few good examples of father and son careers that were both highly successful. One of those was Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. was simply one of the best players in baseball history. In 1998 The Sporting News came up with their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players of all time which included Griffey Jr. who was then only 28 years old.  He joined legendary players such as Ruth, Aaron, Cobb, Williams, Mays, Musial, and DiMaggio.  The ultimate honor for a baseball player is his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Griffey Jr. came closest of any player to being a unanimous Hall of Fame inductee in 2016, garnering 99.3% of the baseball writers’ votes.

Griffey Jr. had the distinction of being the first player in history to appear with his father in the same major-league game. 19-year-old Griffey Jr. and his 40-year-old father, Ken Sr., were teammates with the Seattle Mariners in 1990 when they first played together on August 21.  Three weeks later they hit back-to-back home runs in the same game.

While the Mariners’ roster featuring both Griffeys may have been somewhat of a publicity stunt at the time, Griffey Sr.’s own career was nothing to sneeze at. His performance is often overshadowed by his son’s superstardom.  Even though he wasn’t a Hall of Famer like his son (Griffey Sr. received a meager 4.7% of the votes in his only year of eligibility in 1999), Griffey Sr. did manage to log a few All-Star seasons and claim two World Series rings.

Here is more background and comparison of the careers of the two outstanding players.

Both Griffeys were born in Denora, PA, which was also the birthplace of Stan Musial. Griffey Jr. shares the same birthday as Musial.

Griffey Sr. began his professional career at age 19 in 1969, being drafted in the 29th round by the Cincinnati Reds.  However, he didn’t make his major-league debut until August 25, 1973 at age 23.  Griffey Jr. was the first overall pick in the 1987 MLB Draft by Seattle when he was 17 years old and made his major-league debut on April 3, 1989.  Griffey Jr. went on to play in 22 big-league seasons, while his dad recorded 19 seasons.  Both were outfielders.

Griffey Sr.’s career slash line (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage) was .296/.359/.431 compared to Junior’s .284/.370/.538. The biggest contributor to their difference in Slugging Percentage was Junior’s 630 career home runs, currently sixth on the all-time leader list.  Griffey Sr.’s highest season was 21 home runs, as he managed to hit only 152 during his career.  Junior led the American League in round-trippers in four seasons and hit 40 or more in seven seasons.  Griffey Sr. had the edge over his father in Batting Average, as he compiled nine seasons with .300 or better.

Griffey Jr. was selected to 13 All-Star teams while his father appeared on three, including an All-Star Game MVP Award in 1980. Griffey Jr. also captured the award in 1992.

In addition to Junior, Griffey Sr. had another son, Craig, who took up a pro baseball career from 1991 to 1997. Craig appeared in seven minor-league seasons in the Mariners and Reds organizations but managed to reach the Triple-A level for only a handful of games.  Griffey Jr.’s son, Trey (Ken Griffey III), pursued football over baseball as his sport of choice.  He wound up playing wide receiver for the University of Arizona for four seasons, had tryouts with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, but has yet to make an active NFL team roster.  With no expectation of pursuing a pro baseball career, Trey was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 24th round of the 2016 MLB Draft as a tribute to his father (Griffey Jr.’s uniform number with the Mariners was 24.).

Griffey Sr.’s biggest claim to fame, and perhaps his most significant accomplishment over his son, came as a member of the fabled Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” teams in the early-to-mid 1970s. He helped the Reds win the World Series in 1975 and 1976.  Junior played on three post-season teams, two with Seattle and one with the Chicago White Sox, but his teams reached the American League Championship Series only once.

Griffey Jr. attained a peak salary of $12.5 million in four seasons with Cincinnati. He earned a total of $151.7 million during his career.  Of course the economics of baseball were different when Griffey Sr. was playing.  He collected a little over $10 million during his entire career, with his highest annual salary being $1.15 million for Atlanta in 1987.

The Griffeys rank among the top major-league father-son duos for combined career performances. They lead all pairs in career hits, and rank second all-time behind Barry and Bobby Bonds in games played, runs scored, home runs, and RBI.

In addition to the Bondses, other successful major-league father-son combos include Felipe and Moises Alou, George and Dick Sisler, Gus and Buddy Bell, and Mel and Todd Stottlemyre.

Former big-league stars Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Craig Biggio and Dante Bichette currently have sons in the low minors trying to follow in their father’s footsteps. Perhaps one of these will be successful in forming the next great MLB father-son duo.

 

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Melvin Upton Jr. gets new life with Indians

Melvin Upton Jr. was once a star-level player with Tampa Bay, and then his career took a downturn after signing a lucrative contract with the Atlanta Braves.  The low point of his career came last year, when he signed a minor-league deal with the San Francisco Giants.  However, due to a thumb injury, he played only 12 games at the Triple-A level.

Upton recently signed a minor-league contract with the Cleveland Indians, with the hopes of getting back to the big leagues.

Upton’s brother, Justin, re-signed with the California Angels for the 2018 season. In 2013-14, the brothers played together with Atlanta.

For more information about Melvin Upton Jr.’s signing with the Indians, follow the link below from fangraphs.com:

https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/melvin-upton-signs-with-makes-sense-for-indians/

 

Frank Lary dies at age 87

Frank Lary, former major-league pitcher from 1954 to 1965, recently died at age 87.  Known for his propensity to defeat the New York Yankees, he played for the Detroit Tigers in 11 of his 12 seasons.  He recorded double-digit wins in seven consecutive seasons, including a career-high 23 in 1961.  Overall, his win-loss record was 128-116.

Frank’s brother, Al, pitched in the Chicago Cubs organization from 1951 to 1964, playing parts of two major-league seasons in 1954 and 1962.

For more information about Frank Lary, follow the link below from tuscaloosanews.com:

http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/news/20171214/major-league-standout-frank-lary-of-northport-dies-at-age-87

David Bell Continues Family Tradition in Baseball

David Bell is part of a rare three-generation family that has played major-league baseball.  There are only four instances of this occurring in the history of the game.  He recently landed a front-office job with the San Francisco Giants.

David played in the majors from 1995 to 2006.  He is the son of Buddy Bell, a third baseman who played in the majors from 1972 to 1989.  David’s grandfather, outfielder Gus Bell, played from 1950 to 1964.  David’s brother, Mike, played in one major-league season in 2002.  Except for Gus, the family members continued their baseball careers after their playing days.

David was recently named the Vice President of Player Development for the Giants, after serving as a minor-league manager and big-league coach.

Mike currently holds the same job as David with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Buddy has previously been the manager of the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, and Kansas City Royals.

For more information about David Bell’s career, follow the link below from sfgate:

http://www.sfgate.com/giants/article/Changes-begin-Giants-hire-David-Bell-as-VP-of-12294439.php

Stenhouse Brothers Follow Dad in Pro Baseball

One of the highlights of Dave Stenhouse Sr.’s career was being selected for the American 1962 All-Star Game as a member of the Washington Senators.  It was his rookie season that ended with an 11-12 record and 3.65 ERA.  His major-league career included two more seasons with the Senators.  His sons also had professional baseball careers.

Dave Sr.’s son, Mike, was also a major-league player for five seasons (1982-1986) with the Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins, and Boston Red Sox.

Dave Stenhouse Jr. was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 5th round of the 1982 MLB Draft.  The catcher played six seasons in the Blue Jays farm system, reaching the Triple-A level, but never advancing to the major-leagues.

Follow the link below from Baseball America that provides an update on the Stenhouse family:

https://www.baseballamerica.com/columnists/now-stenhouse-family/#1QlSy1xwJ2mmG8mJ.97

The Search for Baseball’s Relatives Continues

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Some of you already know one of my special interests in baseball research is identifying all the professional baseball players, managers, coaches, scouts, executives, broadcasters, owners, front office personnel, umpires, and clubhouse staff who have a relative that was also in some capacity in pro baseball. I just completed my annual compilation and have posted the results on my Baseball Relatives website https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/family-ties-2017-season/.

The process involved in the compilation activity requires arduous and time-consuming research. But I believe it results in one of the most comprehensive databases of baseball relatives information that I’m aware of.  My sources of information are primarily based on the major league team media guides, Major League Baseball websites, selected baseball magazines, and searches of the internet for current articles in newspapers and posts on blogs and websites.

My entire database now has over 7,400 individuals (all years) representing over 12,000 relationships. That’s more than double the number I had initially identified in my Family Ties book through the 2011 season.  The increase stems from the six additional seasons since the book was published, as well as the inclusion of additional minor league players and major league non-players I have discovered since then.

Some of the more noteworthy relatives from the 2017 season include the following:

  • Jake Boone was drafted out of high school in the 38th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. If he were to eventually make it to the majors, he would become part of the first four-generation family of major leaguers. His family tree includes great-grandfather Ray Boone, grandfather Bob Boone, and father Bret Boone. His uncle, Aaron Boone, was also a major-leaguer.
  • Trei Cruz was drafted out of high school in the 35th round of the draft by the Houston Astros, the team his grandfather (Jose) and father (Jose Jr.) previously played for. Two of his grandfather’s brothers, Hector and Tommy, also played in the majors.
  • Several Hall of Famers have relatives coming up through the ranks. Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson, Mike Yastrzemski, is playing at the Triple-A level in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Harmon Killebrew’s grandsons, Chad and Grant Hockin, are both pitchers in the low minors. Cal Ripken Jr.’s son, Ryan, is a first baseman now playing in the Orioles organization where his father starred. Tom Glavine’s son, Peyton, was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels, but will attend college instead of signing a pro contract.
  • During the recent World Series between the Astros and Dodgers, two sons of former major leaguers were on center stage. Dodgers first baseman, Cody Bellinger, is the son of Clay Bellinger, who played on two World Series teams with the New York Yankees. Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. is the son of Lance McCullers Sr., who pitched for seven seasons in the majors.
  • This season’s Toronto Blue Jays minor league team Dunedin in the Class A Florida State League featured the sons of three former major-league stars. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s father was a 16-year major leaguer, American League MVP in 2004. Shortstop Bo Bichette’s father, Dante Bichette, was a four-time all-star with the Colorado Rockies. Second baseman Cavan Biggio is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. Additionally, Dunedin outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s father was a star player and manager in Cuban professional leagues, while his brother currently plays for the Houston Astros.
  • Kacy Clemens, the son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, made his professional debut in the Toronto Blue Jays organization this year. He is Clemens’ third son to be drafted by a major-league team. Koby played in the minors and independent leagues for ten seasons. Kody was drafted by the Astros out of high school in 2015 and currently plays at the University of Texas. Note the first names of Clemens’ sons all begin with “K”, the significance being his second-place ranking on the list of all-time strikeout leaders.
  • Luke Farrell, the son of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, made his major-league debut as a pitcher with the Kansas City Royals. John later took a day off from the Red Sox during the season in order to watch his son pitch in a big-league game.
  • Satchel McElroy, an outfielder in the Cincinnati Reds organization, is the son of former major-league pitcher Chuck McElroy. He is named after Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, who was a Negro League teammate of his grandfather Sylvester Cooper. Satchel’s brother C. J. is an outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The brothers are the nephews of Cecil Cooper, former major-league player and manager.
  • Patrick Valaika is in his second big-league season with the Colorado Rockies. He has three brothers (Matt, Chris, and Nick) who also played professionally, with Chris having also played in the majors from 2010 to 2014.
  • Stephen Drew, who played for the Washington Nationals in 2017, and brothers J.D. and Tim were all former first-round draft picks in the MLB Draft—Stephen (2004), J.D. (1997 and 1998), and Tim (1997).
  • Zach Garrett was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2017 and made his pro debut with Aberdeen in the Orioles minor league system. His baseball lineage includes grandfather Jasper Spears, who was an infielder in the Dodgers organization from 1949 to 1959. However, Zach’s more notable family members include NASCAR race drivers who happen to be grandfather Dale Jarrett and father Ned Jarrett.
  • 94-year-old Red Schoendienst still works for the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a special assistant. His major-league career has included time as a player, coach, manager and front office consultant with the Cardinals, starting in 1945. Schoendienst has five brothers who played professionally in the 1940s. His son, Kevin, was also a minor-leaguer for two seasons in the Cubs organization.

I’m always on the hunt for new entries in my Family Ties database. Of course, the newer, up-and-coming players aren’t as hard to find because so much information is now available on the internet.  Finding the older players is more challenging, but every once in a while I’ll discover a new instance, for example, when doing research in old newspapers and magazines for my SABR book projects.  For me, it’s sort of like finding that rare silver dime in a huge pile of coins.

 

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Aims to Follow His Brother to the Majors

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is the younger brother of Houston Astros first baseman Yuliesky (Yuli) Gurriel, who helped the Astros capture their first-ever World Series ring.

He continues the baseball tradition set by brother and his father, Lourdes Sr., who was a prominent player and coach in Cuban professional baseball.

Lourdes Jr. signed a major-league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in November 2016 in a deal worth $22M over seven years.  The 23-year-old split his first professional season with Class A Dunedin and Class AA New Hampshire in the Blue Jays system.

To read more about Lourdes Gurriel Jr. follow the link below from The Sporting News:

http://www.tsn.ca/gurriel-jr-rode-highs-lows-of-brother-s-world-series-chase-1.904896