A Look at Family Ties Through the Cardboard Hobby

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Baseball players with relatives in the game have been around since the beginning of the professional sport. If you count the National Association as the first major-league, brothers Doug and Art Allison and George and Harry Wright played in the inaugural season in 1871.  The first son of a major-leaguer to also play in the majors was Jack Doscher in 1903.  His father, Herm, had been a big-leaguer from 1872 to 1882.

Fast-forwarding to the beginning of the 2017 season, there had been almost 500 brother combinations and nearly 250 father-son combinations to have appeared in the majors. The number of players who are uncles, nephews, cousins, and in-laws of other major-leaguers is prevalent as well.

Throughout the years, baseball cards have contributed to the recording of baseball history, which includes many of the occurrences of family ties in the sport.

However, early baseball cards didn’t typically feature more than one player per card. So while there were numerous instances of family ties in the early days of the sport, they weren’t depicted together on a single card.  Furthermore, the individual player cards in those early years didn’t contain textual biographical information (like today) that might identify players as having a brother in baseball.

The 1872 Warren Studio Boston Red Stocking Cabinets set included individual cards of George and Harry Wright of the champions of the premier season. The Old Judge (N172) set issued by Goodwin & Co. during 1887-1890 was the largest among the early sets, with over 500 different players.  It included individual player cards of several of the early major-league brothers, including Ed and Con Daley, Pat (Tom) and John Deasley, Buck and John Ewing, Art and John Irwin, Dave and Jack Rowe, Orator and Taylor Shafer, Bill and John Sowders, and Gus and John Weyhing.

Jack and Mike O’Neill cards are included in the extremely rare 1904 Allegheny Card Co. set, which is believed to have only been produced as a prototype and never distributed. The 1922 American Caramel (E120) series contains cards of brothers Jimmy and Doc Johnston and Bob and Emil (Irish) Meusel.

The 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 (R321) set contained colored portraits of four players, usually on the same team, on a single 2-3/8” x 2-7/8” card. The set was unique in that card backs form nine different puzzles.  Wes and Rick Ferrell (appearing with Fritz Ostermueller and Bill Werber), Paul and Lloyd Waner (appearing with Guy Bush and Waite Hoyt) exist in this 36-card, unnumbered set.

Among the first sets to produce cards with brothers appearing on the same card in a single photo include the 1936 National Chicle Co. Pen Premiums (R313), a 3-¼” x 5-3/8” blank-backed, unnumbered set that illustrated facsimile autographs. It’s not purely coincidental that this set pictured Wes and Rick Ferrell and Paul and Lloyd Waner, since they were among the first sets of major-league brothers to both be star-quality players.  The Ferrells formed a brother battery for the Boston Red Sox, while the Waners roamed the outfield as teammates for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The smallish Waners are posed in a comical shot on the shoulders of 6-foot-6 teammate Jim Weaver.

1936 National Chicle Waners
1936 National Chicle Co. Fine Pens, Unnumbered

The 1941 Double Play (R330) set would have been the perfect set to show Joe and Dom DiMaggio on the same card, since the set was designed to feature two players on a single card with consecutive card numbers on each card. But that didn’t happen.  Instead the DiMaggios were pictured separately on two cards, Joe with Yankee teammate Charley Keller and Dom with Red Sox teammate Frank Pytlak.

One of the most recognized cards with brothers appearing on the same card is in the popular 1954 Topps set. A card with twin brothers Ed and John O’Brien of the Pittsburgh Pirates is included in the set, which was the first to feature two player photos (a portrait and an action photo) on a card.  The O’Briens, who formed the middle infield combo for the Pirates, are one of only eight sets of twins to ever play in the major-leagues.  They are shown together on the card in a kneeling pose with a bat on their shoulder, minus the action photo.

Bowman came up with a neat concept for its 1955 card design, its last as an independent card producer. Players were portrayed in color photos arranged inside a television set.  Brothers Bobby and Billy Shantz, then playing for the Kansas City A’s, were included on a single card.  An interesting circumstance in that card set involved brothers Frank and Milt Bolling, who were included on separate cards, but the backs of their cards incorrectly contained their brother’s biographical information.  Their cards were later corrected, creating a variation for collectors.

1955 Bowman Shantz
1955 Bowman Card No. 139

The 1961 Topps set included a single card of Larry and Norm Sherry, battery-mates for the Los Angeles Dodgers. For the next fifteen or so years, except for a few occasional years when brothers appeared together on Topps league leader cards (for example, Felipe and Matty Alou in the Topps 1966 and 1968 sets) and in reprint sets, cards showing family relationships were absent from sets.

The first major set to duly recognize players with relatives was the 1976 Topps issue. Five consecutively-numbered cards comprised a subset captioned “Father & Son – Big Leaguers.”  The father-son combos included Gus and Buddy Bell, Ray and Bob Boone, Joe and Joe Coleman, Jim and Mike Hegan, and Roy Sr. and Roy Jr. Smalley.  Each card contained a photo from a previous Topps issue for the father and a photo from the current issue for the son.  Interestingly, three of these family combinations (Bells, Boones, and Colemans) would eventually have a third generation play in the major leagues.

Topps followed up in 1977 with another relatives subset titled “Big League Brothers.” It contained four consecutively-numbered cards that included George and Ken Brett, Bob and Ken Forsch, Lee and Carlos May, and Paul and Rick Reuschel.

The baseball card craze kicked into high gear in the mid-to-late 1980s when new card companies like Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck came onto the hobby scene. They each contributed a few relatives combo cards involving such families as the Niekros, Ripkens and Alomars.  Topps produced its largest family ties subset with thirteen consecutively-numbered cards captioned “Father-Son,” as part of its 1985 base set.  The father-son combos appeared on a single card, with the fathers being pictured in one of their former Topps cards as a player.  A few of the combos were Yogi and Dale Berra, Tito and Terry Francona, Vern and Vance Law, and Dizzy and Steve Trout.

As part of its 1992 base set, Upper Deck issued a subset captioned “Bloodlines Set.” It had seven consecutively-numbered cards that included major-league cousins (Keith and Kevin Mitchell, Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden) in addition to several brothers, fathers and sons. One would expect Ken Griffey Jr. and his father to be in this set, but Upper Deck threw in an extra twist by also including brother/son Craig Griffey, who was in only his second minor-league season.

1993 Bowman Bonds
1993 Bowman Card No. 702

Bowman followed the next year with a four-card subset called “Father and Son,” in which current players Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Moises Alou, and Brian McRae were depicted with their fathers on the same card, while in the same team uniform. The fathers were shown in a larger photo while the sons were pictured in a smaller action shot insert.

In 1994 The Sporting News, in conjunction with MegaCards, did an admirable job of producing a 330-card series featuring photos taken by legendary sports photographer Charles Conlon.  Similar series were produced in the three prior years.  Included in the 1994 series were a dozen cards showing major-league brothers, who had played during 1900 to 1945, on a single card.  For some of the players, it was the only baseball card ever produced with their image.  Cards for Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Wes and Rick Farrell, and Bubbles and Pinky Hargrave contained a single Conlon photo of the players posed together, while the other cards contained separate Conlon images of the brothers.  Some of the lesser known big-league brothers who were depicted in the subset included Andy and Hugh High, Wade and Bill Killefer, and Al and Ivey Wingo.  A burgundy-bordered parallel set was also produced for the 1994 series.

The proliferation of parallel sets contributed to variations of cards showing major-league relatives. For example, brothers Bengie and Jose Molina were depicted together on several 2005 Topps-produced sets, including Base, 1st Edition, Chrome, Chrome Refractor and Chrome Black Refractor.

Similar to the 1992 Upper Deck set with Craig Griffey, the 2003 the Topps Heritage set included a single card of Joe Mauer and his brother, Jake, who was in the minors at the time.

The 2016 Topps Archives set included a subset of seven cards, containing family relationships on a single card, in the same format as the 1985 Topps version of the Father-Son subset. Ray and Bob Boone appeared in the 1985 set, while the 2016 set include Bob and Bret Boone.  Tito and Terry Francona are carried over from the 1985 set, but with different retro card images.  Recent major-leaguer Dee Gordon and his father, Tom, are also included.

2016 Topps Archive Gordon
2016 Topps Archives Card No. FS-GGO

Fortunately for collectors, the majority of cards depicting players with their relatives are very much available and still affordable, except for the older cards prior to 1960. My checklist of baseball cards with multiple relatives can be viewed at https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/baseball-cards/.

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The cards described above primarily address the occurrences of players and their relatives on a single card. Of course, the majority of cards with family ties show the individual players by themselves.

For a couple of years now, I have corresponded periodically with a card collector, Scott, who has a special interest in baseball cards of major-leaguers that had a family member that also played in the majors. Scott’s initial collecting activities go back to when he was eight years old in the late 1970s.  In the mid-1990s his focus on baseball families began to take shape, as he collected cards of some of the more noteworthy families such as the Boones, Bells and Alous.  His collection extends beyond just the multi-player family cards described above.  It also includes single-player cards of fathers, sons and brothers, as well.

Scott says about five years ago he got serious in his attempt to collect a card of every MLB family combination since 1957, the first year Topps standardized on the current card size. It’s an activity he shares with his son.  They have meticulously arranged their collection in a book organized by family  Families with more than two members are in front, and then the book is organized into Fathers-Sons and then Brothers.  Scott especially favors the cards that show close-up shots (versus action shots), so that he can compare the resemblances of father-son and brother combinations.  For example, Scott says Aaron Boone looks remarkably similar to card images of his grandfather, Ray, at the same age.

Scott even goes so far as to make up his own baseball cards of family members, when a player doesn’t have an official card printed by one of the major card companies, usually because the player’s major-league career consisted of only a few games. To do this, Scott finds a photo image of the player on the internet and prints them on card stock.  He’s currently on a quest to find rare MLB images of Stu Pederson (father of current major-leaguer Joc Pederson) and Mike Glavine (brother of Hall of Fame player Tom Glavine) that can be used for home-made cards in his collection.

Scott at Coors Field
Card collector Scott and his children at Coors Field

I’m betting there are quite a few more collectors like Scott who are using baseball cards to learn more about baseball’s many family relationships.

Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball: New York Mets

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

This is the ninth in a series of reviews that will take a look at family relationships in each of the thirty major-league organizations.

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.

The New York Mets were filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:

Lenny Dykstra began his major-league career with the Mets in 1985 and was a key member of their World Series championship team in 1986.  He was a .278 hitter with 116 stolen bases in his five seasons with the Mets.  He played the balance of his 12-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies ending in 1996.  His son, Cutter, was an outfielder with Washington’s Double-A Harrisburg affiliate last year, while his son, Luke, was an infielder currently in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Dwight Gooden was National League Rookie of the Year for the Mets in 1984, while also finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting.  In his eleven seasons with the Mets, he posted a 157-85 record, including 23 shutouts and 1,898 strikeouts.  Gooden pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees in 1996 and finished his career in 2000.  Gooden is the uncle of Gary Sheffield, who posted 509 HR, 1,676 RBI, and .292 BA in 22 major-league seasons.

Todd Hundley spent nine of his fourteen years in the major leagues with the New York Mets.  The catcher posted all-star seasons with them in 1996 and 1997 and compiled 202 HR and 509 RBI during his entire career.  Todd’s father, Randy, was also a major-league catcher for fourteen seasons, primarily with the Chicago Cubs.

Al Leiter had the most productive years of his career with the Mets during 1998 to 2004.  He won 95 games and posted a 3.42 ERA.  He started his major-league career with the New York Yankees in 1987 and pitched on two World Series winning teams, with Toronto in 1993 and Florida in 1997.  Al’s brother, Mark, pitched in eleven major-league seasons, compiling a career record of 65-73.  His brother, Kurt, pitched in four minor-league seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization.  Al’s nephew, Mark Leiter Jr., is currently pitching in the Philadelphia Phillies’ farm system.

Frank “Tug” McGraw had the breakout of his career in 1969 as a reliever on the Mets’ first-ever division winning team, when he posted a 9-3 record, 12 saves and 2.24 ERA.  The popular Mets’ rallying cry, “Ya Gotta Believe,” is attributed to McGraw.  Altogether, he pitched nine seasons with the Mets and the remainder of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies.  The two-time all-star played for the Phillies in their 1980 World Series defeat of the Kansas City Royals.  Tug’s brother, Hank, played twelve minor-league seasons in which he hit 161 HR and 666 RBI, but never appeared in the big leagues.  Tug’s son is Tim McGraw, the award-winning singer, songwriter, and actor.

Jesse Orosco pitched eight of his twenty-four major-league seasons with the Mets, where he compiled a 44-44 record, 2.73 ERA and 144 saves.  He recorded the save in the 1986 World Series Game 7, in which the Mets’ defeated the Boston Red Sox.  The lefty currently holds the major-league record for games played (1,252) by a pitcher.  Jesse’s son, Jesse Jr., pitched in the minors and independent leagues from 2008 to 2011.

Joan Whitney Payson was the first owner of the New York Mets franchise and the first woman owner of a major-league baseball team without inheriting the team.  She was married to Charles Payson, who later took over the team after Joan died.  Joan’s daughter, Linda de Roulet, served as president of the Mets from 1976 to 1979.

Mookie Wilson played ten seasons with the Mets from 1980 to 1989.  He is often remembered for hitting the ground ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series won by the Mets.  During his 13-year career, he had a .274 batting average and 327 stolen bases.  Mookie is the uncle and stepfather of Preston Wilson, who played ten major-league seasons.  Preston’s best year was in 2003 when he led the National League in RBI with 141 and made the all-star team with Colorado.  Mookie’s brother, Johnny, played six minor-league seasons with the Mets and Detroit Tigers organizations from 1982 to 1987.

Fast-forwarding to more recent times, below are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Mets organization during 2016.

Travis d’Arnaud completed his fourth season with the Mets last year, after having been the first-round draft selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007 and spending three seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system.  The catcher has a career .245 batting average.  His brother, Chase, was an infielder with the Atlanta Braves last season, his fifth major-league campaign.

Erik Goeddel was a relief pitcher for the Mets in 36 appearances last season.  H was in his third major-league season, after being selected out of UCLA in the 24th round of the of the 2010 MLB.  His brother, Tyler, made his major-league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016 as an outfielder.

Robert Gsellman made his major-league debut with the Mets last year, posting a 4-2 record and 2.42 ERA in eight starts.  He had been the 13th-round selection of the Mets in the 2011 MLB Draft.  His father, Bob, was a catcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 1984 to 1986.

Addison Reed appeared in 80 games as a relief pitcher for the Mets last year, compiling a 4-2 record and 1.97 ERA.  He had previously pitched for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.  His brother, Austin, pitched in the Chicago Cubs organization from 2010 to 2014.

Neil Walker was having an outstanding season (23 HR, 55 RBI, and .282 BA) in his first year with the Mets last year before missing the last month of the season due to injury.  He had previously played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2009 to 2015, which included a Silver Slugger Award for second basemen in 2014.  His father, Tom, was a major-league pitcher for four teams from 1972 to 1977, compiling an 18-23 record.  Neil’s brother-in-law, Don Kelly, has been a major-league infielder/outfielder from 2007 to 2016, most recently with the Miami Marlins.  Neil’s uncle, Chip Lang, pitched parts of two seasons for the Montreal Expos from 1975-1976.

Zach Wheeler has missed the last two seasons with the Mets due to arm problems, but posted 18 victories in the prior two seasons.  He was a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 2009 MLB Draft.  His brother, Adam, pitched in the New York Yankees’ minor-league system from 2001 to 2004.

The Mets’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives played professionally, several of them with famous last names in baseball.

Gavin Cecchini was drafted out of high school by the Mets in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft and made his major-league debut with the Mets on September 11, 2016.  His brother, Garin, a fourth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2010, played at the Triple-A level for the Milwaukee Brewers last season.  Garin appeared in 13 games for the Red Sox during 2014 and 2015.

Ricky Knapp was an eighth-round pick of the Mets in 2013 and recorded a 13-6 record at all three levels of the minors in the Mets’ system last year.  Ricky’s father, Rick, pitched in the minors from 1983 to 1987, primarily for the Texas Rangers’ farm system.

  1. J. Mazzilli was the fourth-round pick out of the University of Connecticut by the Mets in 2013. Last year he split the season between the Triple-A and Double-A levels, hitting a combined .239 with 5 HR and 43 RBI. He is the son of Lee Mazzilli, a former outfielder with the Mets for ten seasons and an all-star for them in 1979.  Lee was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles in 2004-2005. L. J.‘s uncle, Don, played minor-league ball in the San Francisco Giants’ system in 1982-1983.

Tyler Pill completed his sixth minor-league season in the Mets organization last year.  He has a career record of 38-29.  His brother, Brett, played in three major-league seasons with the San Francisco Giants before spending the last three season playing in Korea.

Natanael Ramos signed as an 18-year-old out of Venezuela in 2011 and has played in the Met’s low minors since then.  His brother, Wilson, was a catcher with the Washington Nationals last year, where he hit 22 home runs, 80 RBI and .307 average; was selected to the National League all-star team; and collected the Silver Slugger Award for catchers.  Wilson’s brother, David, is a relief pitcher in the Nationals farm system.

Paul Sewald pitched for the Mets’ Triple-A club last year, his fifth with the organization.  He was selected by the Mets in the 10th round of the 2012 MLB Draft.  His brother, Johnny, has been an outfielder in the Houston Astros organization since 2015.

The 2016 Mets had their share of baseball relatives in the dugout and front office, too.

Sandy Alderson is the general manager of the Mets.  He was previously an executive with the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres, as well as executive vice president for baseball operations with the MLB Commissioner’s Office.  His son, Bryn, is currently a scout in the Mets organization.

Ricky Bones is the bullpen coach for Mets.  He had an eleven-year major-league pitching career as a starter and a reliever for seven different clubs.  He posted one all-star season in 1994.  He is the cousin of Ricky Ledee, who was an outfielder for ten major-league seasons during 1998 to 2007.

Ron Darling is a broadcaster for the Mets, in addition to being a studio host for MLB Network.  He won 99 games for the Mets during 1983-1991 and was a member of the 1986 World Series champion Mets.  His brother, Edwin, was a first baseman in the New York Yankees farm system 1981-1982.

Rusty Staub is a club ambassador for the Mets, after having been a player and part of their broadcast team during his baseball career.  He began his major-league career at age 19 and played a total of 23 seasons in the big leagues, including stints with the Mets from 1972-1975 and 1981-1985.  He recorded 2,716 career hits and is the only player in baseball history to ever record more than 500 hits for four different clubs.  He was a six-time all-star selection.  His father, Ray Sr., played minor-league baseball in 1937-1938, while his brother, Ray Jr., was an outfielder in the Houston Astros organization in 1962-1963.

Tim Teufel was the third base coach for the Mets last year.  His 11-year major-league playing career included a stint with the Mets from 1986 to 1991.  He will be a minor league instructor and club ambassador for the Mets in 2017.  His son, Shawn, pitched four minor-league seasons with the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets from 2010 to 2013.

Fred Wilpon is chairman of the board and CEO of the Mets and has had an ownership stake in the club since 1980.  His family currently holds the majority ownership of the club.  Fred’s brother, Richard, is also partner/director of the club, while his son, Jeff, is the COO, in addition to a partner/director role.  Fred is the grandfather of Bradley Wilpon, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 36th round of the 2014 MLB Draft.

 

Baseball’s Relatives Website

The entire list of 2016 active major and minor league players and non-players can be retrieved at:

https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/2016-family-ties/