Contribute by Richard Cuicchi
Father’s Day is a good time to recall some of the all-time best Major League Baseball father-son duos.
There have been over 250 combinations of fathers and sons to play in the majors since Jack Doscher became the original second-generation player in the majors in 1903. They represent about 2.5% of the 19,500+players to ever play in the big leagues. Almost 30 of the sons were still active at the end of the 2018 season, and already six more made their debuts this season.
One would think sons of major leaguers have an advantage over other prospective professional players, because of their name. That’s probably true. A player with the last name of Biggio or Yastrzemski would likely attract a baseball scout’s attention more than a player with a last name like Smith or Jones.
In fact, when many sons of major leaguers were growing up, they spent time with their dad in the clubhouse or during pre-game warmups and batting practice. From that perspective, they have an advantage of being more comfortable in the major-league environment once they get there. For example, during the heyday of the Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” teams of the 1970s, sixteen Reds players had sons who went on to play professional baseball, including the sons of Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, Lee May, and Hal McRae. Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was like a second home to their kids.
Furthermore, sons of major-league fathers probably had better access to advanced coaching when they showed potential in their developmental years in the sport. They also had ready access to a father who could advise them how to handle the mental side of the game, such as how to deal with being in a hitting slump or recovering from an injury.
However, having the same last name as a major league father obviously doesn’t guarantee success for a son aspiring to a professional baseball career like his father. Sons of major leaguers usually have more pressure to excel. Some of the second-generation players have struggled as much against their family name as they did against the opposition. For example, sons who didn’t measure up to their father’s Hall of Fame careers include Eddie Collins Jr., Tim Raines Jr., Ed Walsh Jr., George Sisler Jr., and Joe Wood Jr.
Former major leaguer Moises Alou, son of former major-league player and manager Felipe Alou, perhaps said it best, “If you can’t hit, field, and throw, it doesn’t matter who your father is.
So who were the best father-son duos in the majors? Who were those sons that managed to become good enough to follow in their father’s footsteps and have a respectable career themselves? The Bonds and Griffey duos are the most recognizable, but the rest of the list may not be as obvious.
Below are the Top 10 duos ranked by their combined Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Pairs were eliminated where one of the players didn’t have a substantial major league career. (For example, Pete Rose had a WAR of 79.7, but his son played in only 11 career major-league games and actually had a negative WAR.) Fathers are listed first in the below combinations.
Bobby (57.9) and Barry (162.8) Bonds
Total WAR 220.7. Barry has the fourth-highest WAR in baseball history, which makes their ranking practically uncontested by any other duo. He was a seven-time MVP for the Pirates and Giants and was selected to 14 all-star games. He has a slash line of .298/.444/.607 and holds the major-league record for most career HRs (762). His father Bobby finished in the Top 4 for MVP voting twice and was a three-time all-star selection. He was noted for his combination of power and speed, connecting for 331 (107th all-time) career home runs and swiping 461 bases (51th all-time). Both players were outfielders.
Ken Sr. (34.5) and Ken Jr. (83.8) Griffey
Total WAR 118.3. Ken Jr. fulfilled his potential as the overall Number 1 of the MLB draft in 1987, by hitting 630 HRs (7th all-time) and 1,836 RBIs (16th all-time) while posting a career slash line of .284/.370/.538. A thirteen-time all-star selection for Seattle and Cincinnati, he was a near-unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Ken Sr. was a member of two World Series championship teams with the Reds. He posted a career batting average of .297 and was selected as an all-star in three seasons. The father-son duo, who were both outfielders, became the first to play in a major-league game as teammates in 1990.
Felipe (42.2) and Moises Alou (39.9)
Total 82.1. Felipe was the best of three brothers that all played in the majors at the same time. A three-time all-star selection, he led the league in hits twice and in runs scored once. A career .286 hitter with 206 HRs and 852 RBIs, he played for the 1962 World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Moises finished third in the MVP voting twice, when he played for Montreal and Houston. He was a six-time all-star who had a .303 career batting average with 332 HRs and 1,287. Moises was a key member of the 1997 Florida Marlins that won its first World Series. He was one of only a few major-leaguers to have played for his father as manager, when they were with Montreal.
Gus (15.4) and Buddy Bell (66.3)
Buddy Bell (66.3) and David Bell (15.3)
Total WAR 81.7 and 81.6. Buddy is actually part of three father-son duos, including one with his father Gus and two with sons David and Mike. A career .281 hitter, Gus was a four-time all-star selection with the Cincinnati Reds as an outfielder. David was an infielder for 12 seasons, appearing in the World Series with San Francisco in 2002. Buddy was the best of the three generations as a five-time all-star and Gold Glove winner at third base in six consecutive seasons. He batted .279 with 201 HRs and 1,106 RBIs. There have been only four occurrences of three-generation families in major-league history.
Sandy Sr. (10.5) and Roberto (67.1) Alomar
Total WAR 77.6. Roberto is a Hall of Fame second baseman who was selected to 12 consecutive all-star teams and won 10 Gold Glove awards. He was a career .300 hitter with 200 HRs, 1,135 RBI, and 474 stolen bases. He won two World Series rings with Toronto. Sandy Sr. was an all-star selection for one of his 15 seasons. The infielder hit only .245 with only 13 HRs during his career. Sandy Sr. had another son, Sandy Jr., who played 20 seasons in the majors, but didn’t have near the productive career as his brother Roberto.
Tony Sr. (69.2) and Tony Jr. (5.2) Gwynn
Total WAR 74.4. Tony Sr. was a Hall of Fame outfielder who won eight batting titles, while compiling a career .338 average and collecting 3,141 hits. He was selected as an all-star in fifteen seasons, while capturing five Gold Glove awards and seven Silver Slugger awards. He appeared in two World Series for San Diego. Tony Jr. was an outfielder during eight major-league seasons after being drafted in the second round of the 2003 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. It turned out he couldn’t hit like his father, as his career batting average was 100 points less.
Jose Sr. (54.4) and Jose Jr. (19.5) Cruz
Total WAR 73.9. Jose Sr. had a career slash line of .284/.354/.420 in his 20 major-league seasons (19 with Houston). The outfielder was in the Top 8 for National League MVP voting on three occasions. An all-star selection in two seasons, he had 1,077 RBI and 317 stolen bases. Jose Jr. was the third overall selection of the 1995 MLB Draft by the Mariners and went on to play 12 major-league seasons. Ironically, he was traded during his rookie season in which he was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year honors. A Gold Glove winner as an outfielder with the Giants in 2003, he was a career .247 hitter with 204 career HRs.
Mel Sr. (43.1) and Todd (22.9) Stottlemyre
Total WAR 66.0. Mel Sr. won 15 or more games for the Yankees during six seasons, while totaling 164 career wins. A five-time all-star selection, he posted an impressive career 2.97 ERA. He started three games for the Yankees in the 1964 World Series against St. Louis. Todd pitched for 14 major-league seasons during which he posted double-digit wins in eight seasons and compiled 138 career wins. He was a member of two World Series championship teams with Toronto. Mel Sr. had another son, Mel Jr., who pitched in one major-league season.
Yogi (59.8) and Dale (5.5) Berra
Total WAR 65.3. Yogi was one of the most accomplished catchers of all time. The Hall of Famer was a member of 10 World Series championship teams with the Yankees. He hit 358 HRs and 1,430 RBIs, while being selected to 15 all-star teams during his 19-year career. He was voted the American League MVP in three seasons. Dale was a first-round draft selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975. He was infielder for 11 major-league seasons, but fell well short of playing up to his father’s standards. He hit a meager .239 with only 49 career home runs.
The next five father-son combos (also ranked by WAR) include George Sr. (56.3) and Dick (8.0) Sisler; Dizzy (49.6) and Steve (13.3) Trout; Maury (39.7) and Bump (16.5) Wills; Bob (27.4) and Bret (22.8) Boone; and Gary Sr. (30.4) and Gary Jr. (14.2) Matthews.
There are three sons of Hall of Famers currently playing in the majors: Cavan Biggio (Craig), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Vladimir Sr.), and Dereck Rodriguez (Ivan). They obviously have big shoes to fill, but may ultimately have the best chances to break into the all-time list of most prolific father-son duos.