Contributed by Richard Cuicchi
This is the first of a series of reviews that will take a look at family relationships in each major league organization.
Baseball has more family relationships than any other professional sport. They existed in the earliest days of the sport in the 1870s, and they are abundant in today’s game, perhaps more so than ever before. Baseball has been called a “generational” sport for several reasons. One of them is that multiple generations of families have been active in the game–grandfathers, fathers, sons, and brothers. And now even some great-grandsons are starting to show up on rosters. Uncles, nephews, cousins and in-laws are part of the extended family of baseball relatives, too.
Baseball bloodlines aren’t limited to just the players. Family trees with a baseball background have commonly included managers, coaches, scouts, owners, executives, front office personnel, umpires, and broadcasters, as well.
Indeed, families with a heritage of baseball are similar to those with military, medical, jurisprudence, and agricultural backgrounds. Their professions are often passed down from one generation to the next. Likewise, professional baseball fathers generally want their sons to follow in their footsteps. Brothers grow up pushing each other to excel on the diamond. Once one brother gets drafted by a major league team, then it’s often the case his brother will try to follow.
A look back in history shows many fascinating stories about baseball families. For example:
- the Hairston family, which included a major league father (Sam), three sons (two in the majors—John and Jerry Sr.), and five grandsons (two in the majors—Jerry Jr. and Scott), collectively had professional careers that spanned from 1945 to 2014.
- three Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty, and Jesus) played for the San Francisco Giants in the same game in 1963. The trio had two cousins who followed them in the big leagues, and one of the trio, Felipe, also had four sons to play professionally.
- the Boyer brood included seven brothers that played professionally, including three major leaguers (Cloyd, Ken, and Clete). They then produced three sons who played in the minors.
Numerous players of the 1960s New York Yankees teams had offspring who wound up playing professional baseball. Follow the link below to an article entitled “Sons of the 1960s Bronx Bombers Had Big Shoes to Fill.”
Fast-forwarding to more recent times, here are some highlights of baseball relatives in the New York Yankees organization during 2016.
Brian McCann completed his third season as the Yankees catcher, after seven all-star seasons with the Atlanta Braves during 2005-2013. He was traded to the Houston Astros during the off-season. His brother, Brad, was a minor league first baseman in the Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals organizations during 2004-2007. McCann’s father, Howard, was drafted (8th round) by the Minnesota Twins in 1974, but did not sign. He later played one season in the independent leagues.
Austin Romine got the most playing time in his five-year career with the Yankees in 2016, serving as a backup to Brian McCann. But now that Gary Sanchez has taken over the starting catcher’s job, Romine will likely continue as a reserve. Romine is in one of those rare families that had a father and a brother in major-league baseball. His father, Kevin, was a major league outfielder in the Red Sox organization from 1985 to 1991, when he was also a backup player to regulars like Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and Mike Greenwell. His brother, Andrew, was perhaps the ultimate utility player last season for the Detroit Tigers, as he played every position except catcher.
Mason Williams is a 24-year-old outfielder who played sparingly in his second season with the Yankees. He doesn’t hit for much power, but uses his speed well on the bases and in the outfield. He is the grandson of Walt Williams, who played in the outfield from 1964 to 1975, primarily with the Chicago White Sox. Nicknamed “No Neck”, he made his major-league debut as a 20-year-old with the Houston Colt .45s. He was a career .270 hitter, and logged two seasons with the Yankees before wrapping up his career.
Dustin Ackley was starting his second year with the Yankees in 2016, but his season was cut short in late May due to injury. The outfielder/first baseman had been a regular with the Seattle Mariners after being a first-round draft pick (second overall) in 2009. He is the son of John Ackley, a third-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1979, who never made it out of the minors.
Aaron Hicks played his first season with the Yankees in 2016 after three seasons with the Minnesota Twins. Hicks was primarily a starter in the outfield alongside Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. He batted a meager .217 with 8 HR and 31 RBI. Hicks is the son of Joseph Hicks, who reached the Double-A level with the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals organizations before retiring in 1981.
Kirby Yates. Yates was acquired by the Yankees before the 2016 season to fill a middle relief role in their bullpen. In his third major league season, he made 41 appearances while averaging almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings. However, he posted an ineffective 5.23 ERA and WHIP of 1.452. Yates signed with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2017 season. His brother, Tyler, was a major-league relief pitcher for five seasons during 2004-2009. He had a career 12-17 record with the Braves, Mets, and Pirates.
Chasen Shreve. He was another middle relief pitcher for the Yankees who struggled in 2016, after posting a fine season the year before, including a 6-2 record and 3.09 ERA. He has a brother, Colby, who pitched in the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 2010 to 2013. Both of the brothers were drafted from College of Southern Nevada.
Several other Yankee players, who briefly appeared on the major-league roster during 2016, had relatives that played in the major leagues: Eric Young Jr. (son of Eric Young Sr.), Donovan Solano (brother of Jhonatan Solano), and Ike Davis (son of Ron Davis, a former Yankee)
The Yankees’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top prospects whose relatives were former major-league all-stars: Dante Bichette Jr. (son of Dante Bichette Sr.), Jose Mesa Jr. (son of Jose Mesa Sr.), and Michael O’Neill (nephew of Paul O’Neill).
The Yankees had a number of personnel filling non-playing roles in the organization during 2016.
Brothers Hal and Hank Steinbrenner are the principal owners of the Yankees, having taken over for their legendary father, George Steinbrenner, following his death in 2010.
Tony Pena completed his 11th season as coach for the Yankees, having served as both a base coach and bench coach under managers Joe Torre and Joe Girardi. Pena was manager of the Kansas City Royals during 2002-2005. He also had an 18-year major league career that included five all-star seasons. He has two sons that have played in the majors: Tony Francisco Pena was a shortstop who played from 2006 to 2009 in the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals organizations; and Francisco Antonio Pena is currently a catcher in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Pena also had a brother, Ramon, who pitched briefly with the Detroit Tigers in 1989.
Brothers Lou and Rob Cucuzza have been long-time clubhouse and equipment managers at Yankee Stadium. They previously served with their father, Lou Sr., who also had an extensive career in similar capacities with the Yankees.
Kyle Arnsberg is a coach in the Yankees’ minor league system. He is the son of former Yankees major league player Brad Arnsberg, who is now a minor league coordinator in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Mark Littlefield is a trainer in the Yankees organization. He is the brother of David Littlefield, currently an executive in the Detroit Tigers organization, and Scott Littlefield, currently a scout in the Texas Rangers organization.
Ken Singleton is currently a broadcaster for the Yankees. He previously had a 15-year major-league playing career with the Montreal Expos and Baltimore Orioles. His son, Justin, played for six seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, reaching the Triple-A level.
Baseball’s Relatives Website
The entire list of 2016 active major and minor league players and non-players can be retrieved at: