Harmon Killebrew. Carl Yastrzemski. Bob Feller. Bill Mazeroski. They were among some of the greatest stars of yesteryear. Although they hung up their cleats several decades ago, they are still impacting the game of baseball today. But that lasting impact has been through their descendants, who have followed in the footsteps of their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers, and are currently active within the same sport.
The game is filled with abundant examples of family ties. In 2016, there were over 700 players in the majors and minors who have a relative in baseball. Furthermore, there were over 800 managers, coaches, scouts, executives, and front office personnel who had a relative in baseball. As expected, many of them currently playing are brothers or sons of current or recent baseball players, managers or coaches. But one might be surprised to know how many are also players whose grandfathers, great uncles, or great-grandfathers donned the uniform and spikes many years before them.
For these families, baseball has been a profession, not unlike families with multiple generations of doctors, lawyers, farmers, or military servicemen. Moreover, the roles of the relatives extend beyond the playing field to include jobs like broadcasters, umpires, groundskeepers, clubhouse personnel, and front office positions.
Baseball became a lifelong profession for many players who were able to translate their skills and experience on the field to post-playing careers as managers, coaches, scouts, and player development executives. Hence, it was only natural they would encourage their sons and grandsons to follow in their footsteps in some aspect of the sport, even if not as a player. Now we are seeing examples of daughters of baseball professionals pursuing careers in the sport.
There are many examples of fathers who got their chance to player minor league baseball following high school or college, but were never quite good enough to land a spot on a major league roster. So they wound up fulfilling their own dream by encouraging their sons at an early age to pursue a professional career.
Then there are cases where a father or grandfather had a substantial major league career and their son or grandson was drafted by a major league organization, usually in a late round as a courtesy pick, because the son or grandson didn’t actually project to have the skills of a potential major leaguer. The draftee usually doesn’t wound up pursuing a pro career.
An over-arching factor for many of these family relationships in baseball is the strong loyalty or preference within the baseball community to hire and promote family members. Again, similar to families of lawyers and doctors, the baseball pedigree of a father, uncle, or grandfather is often a consideration by hiring organizations, because they know the family’s history and background.
Scanning the current list of active players, as well as people in non-playing roles within the game (such as managers, coaches, scouts, and front-office personnel), shows some interesting baseball backgrounds.
The great-great nephew of legendary player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, from the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” scandal team which threw the 1919 World Series, is currently a prospect in the Texas Rangers organization. His name is also Joe Jackson, and he was a fifth-round draft selection of the Rangers in 2013.
Related to another famous event in baseball history, Kyle Gaedele played in an independent league in 2016, after having spent four seasons in the San Diego Padres organization. Kyle is the great-nephew of Eddie Gaedel, the legendary midget who appeared in a game for the St. Louis Browns in 1951 as a stunt by then-owner Bill Veeck.
Garland Buckeye pitched in the majors for five seasons during 1918 to 1928. He is the great-grandfather of current Boston Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz, as well as Drew’s brother, Stu, who appeared in three major league games in 2012. The brothers attained big league status even though their father, Michael, and uncle, Patrick, weren’t successful in landing a spot on a major league roster after having brief careers in the minor in the 1980s.
Charlie Culberson, who currently plays in the infield for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the grandson of Leon Culberson, who largely got his opportunity to play in the majors for the Boston Red Sox during World War II when Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio were in the military service. In the 1946 World Series with the Red Sox, Culberson was involved as the outfielder in the play in which the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter made his dramatic “mad dash” from first base to score on a hit that won Game 7 of the Series. The elder Culberson also had a brother who played pro baseball in 1947.
Mickey Moniak was the first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016. His grandfather, Bill Moniak, played briefly in the Boston Red Sox minor league organization, where he received batting tips from the great hitter Ted Williams.
Bill Freehan and Al Kaline were all-star teammates in the 1960s and 1970s with the Detroit Tigers. Their grandsons also pursued major league careers with the Tigers organization after attending college. Freehan’s grandson, Blaise Salter, is a current minor leaguer, while Kaline’s grandson, Colin Kaline, was a former prospect.
There have only been a handful of families in major league history with three generations (grandfather, son, and grandson) of major league players, including the Bells, Boones, Hairstons and Colemans. However, there have been numerous families over the years that have come close to achieving this distinction.
For example, Ryan Ripken is currently playing in the minors with the Washington Nationals organization. He is the son of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and grandson of Cal Ripken Sr., who managed Baltimore Orioles teams in the 1980s that included his sons Cal Jr. and Billy. As a side note, Ryan’s teammates with minor league club in Hagerstown included Mariano Rivera III and Cody Dent, sons of former majors Mariano Rivera and Bucky Dent, respectively. Ryan’s brother, Patrick, is currently playing for North Carolina State University.
Joey Fregosi Jr. was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2016, and he is the son of Jim Fregosi Jr., currently a special assistant with the Houston Astros. Joey’s grandfather, Jim Fregosi Sr., was a six-time all-star as a major league player and a manager for fifteen seasons with the Angels, Phillies, White Sox, and Blue Jays.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell is part of a three-generation baseball family. His father, Thomas Farrell, pitched briefly in the minors for the Cleveland Indians in the mid-‘50s. John, himself, pitched in eight seasons in the majors before pursuing a career in coaching and managing. John’s three sons carried on the baseball heritage for the Farrell family. Luke pitched at the Triple-A level in 2016 for the Kansas City Royals organization, while Jeremy currently serves as a minor league coach in the Chicago Cubs organization. A third son, Shane, was a late-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, but never played professionally. Instead, he has continued his baseball career as a scout in the Cubs organization.
Multi-generation baseball families are filled with examples that extend beyond the playing field.
The MacPhail family could easily make a claim for being the “first family” of baseball, but not because of their play on the diamond. Instead, they have supplied baseball with executives for four generations. Andy MacPhail, current president of the Philadelphia Phillies, is a third-generation family member. He now has two sons, Drew and Reed, who are working their way through professional baseball in staff positions. Andy’s father was Lee MacPhail Jr., the former president of the American League and executive in the Yankees and Orioles organizations. Andy’s grandfather was Larry MacPhail, who was a part-owner and executive of the New York Yankees and a general manager with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds organizations. Andy’s brothers, Bill and Lee III also held front-office positions in pro baseball. His nephew, Lee IV, currently works in the front office for the Seattle Mariners. Larry and Lee Jr. are the only father-son combinations in Baseball’s Hall of Fame who did not play the game.
Jack Dunn IV also comes from a long line of players, owners, and executives who had involvement with the Baltimore Orioles for over one hundred years. He is currently a limited partner in the ownership group of the Orioles. His great grandfather, Jack Dunn Sr., played in the major leagues from 1897 to 1904 and then wound up owning and managing the Baltimore Orioles when it was one of the premier minor league franchises in the early 1900s. His grandfather, Jack Dunn Jr., briefly played for the Orioles teams during 1914 to 1919. His father, Jack III, was the long-time traveling secretary for the Orioles after it had become a major league franchise.
Roger Bossard is a third-generation groundskeeper with the Chicago White Sox. His father and grandfather also held the same position with the Chicago White Sox. Roger’s son, Brandon, may break the chain of groundskeepers, however, by becoming a major league player. He was drafted by the White Sox in 2016. The Cucuzza family, including Lou Sr. and his two sons, have managed New York Yankee clubhouses and equipment rooms since the 1980s.
Chip Caray is a third-generation broadcaster, following his father Skip, with the Braves, and grandfather Harry who had a long career with the Cardinals, White Sox and Cubs. Chip’s half-brother, Josh, is currently a broadcaster for a Tampa Bay Rays minor league team.
Although no longer active, the Runge family (Ed, Paul, and Brian) provided three generations of major league umpires. In 2016, brothers Bill and Tim Welke were active umpires, while Brian Gorman and Hunter Wendelstadt are second-generation umpires. Umpire Jim Wolf is the brother of former major league player Randy Wolf, and John Hirschbeck’s brother, Mark, was a major league umpire until recently.
In the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, Trey Griffey was drafted in the 24th round by the Seattle Mariners, although he had not played baseball since he was a youth. Trey is the son of Ken Griffey Jr., a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee in 2016, and is the grandson of Ken Griffey Sr., a veteran of nineteen seasons in the majors. Trey’s draft selection was actually a special tribute to Griffey Jr, who wore uniform number 24 while playing for the Mariners, since Trey currently plays college football at the University of Arizona.
After over 140 years of professional baseball, women still have not substantially penetrated the sport. However, one significant event involving women occurred in 2016, when Amanda Hopkins was hired as a professional scout by the Seattle Mariners organization. Her interests in baseball stemmed from her father Ron, who has been a scout and executive for several major league organizations and is currently a special assistant for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Amanda’s brother, Ross, was a 40th round selection of the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, but didn’t sign a professional contract.
Lauren Holland is a front-office executive with the Atlanta Braves. Her father, John, is the clubhouse manager for the Braves.
A few other women have helped break the gender barrier in baseball through their marriage to men who come from baseball families. One current example is Katie Haas, a front-office executive for the Boston Red Sox. Her husband, Danny Haas, is a special assistant for the Baltimore Orioles after having been a player and coach. Danny is one of several members of the Haas family which has been involved in baseball since the 1950s.
Professional baseball has more family relationships than any sport in the United States. This season demonstrated that this trend is definitely continuing.