Trio of Franco Brothers Playing for Rare Place in History

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Picture this: on the baseball highlights show one evening, the sports anchor mentions that Wander Franco hit a game-winning home run for his team.  Well, which Wander Franco was it?

Initially that may sound like a foolish question, but it turns out to be a legitimate one, since there’s actually a trio of current professional baseball brothers with the same first and last name, Wander Franco. The Dominican Republic-born brothers are still in their early careers, but if they ever get to the big leagues at the same time, they would likely cause a fair amount of confusion for baseball followers who will be challenged to keep them differentiated.

The pick of the litter of the ball-playing Franco brothers is the youngest, Wander Samuel, who at age 17 is already projected to be the next teen phenom in the majors. He was the Number 1 overall international pick of 2017 by the Tampa Bay Rays and proved in his debut season in 2018 that the Rays were correct in their assessment of his potential.  The switch-hitting shortstop recorded a slash line of .351/.418/.587 at the rookie-league level, while posting 11 HR and 57 RBI in 61 games.  He was named Player of the Year in the Appalachian League.  The Rays’ investment of $3.85 million to sign Franco looks like it may turn out to be a sound one.

22-year-old Wander Alexander played in the San Francisco Giants organization last season at the Single-A level. He is also a switch-hitter that plays both corner infield positions.  His numbers weren’t too shabby either, as his slash line consisted of .314/.351/.519.  He was originally signed by the Houston Astros as a teenager and spent four seasons in the low minors before being dealt to the Giants.

Wander Javier is the “old man” of the bunch at 23 years old. The third baseman also currently plays in the Giants organization, after starting his career with the Kansas City Royals.  Playing at the Single-A level in 2018, he showed a tendency to strike out a lot, but also knocked in 65 runs while posting a .271 average.  He was named Offensive Player of the Year for his team.

Reportedly the brothers’ father (yes, his first name is also Wander) had a brief stint in the Chicago White Sox minor league system, although that isn’t substantiated in Baseball-Reference.com. In any case, he taught them the fundamentals of the game, and they were also influenced by uncles Erick and Willy Aybar, both of whom had major-league careers.

If the three Franco brothers wind up in the majors at the same time, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Altogether there have been only 20 sets of brothers in baseball history that were comprised of three or more major-leaguers. Perhaps the most famous trio of brothers were the DiMaggios (Joe, Vince, and Dominic), who played at the same time in the late 1940s.  Each of them attained all-star status during their respective careers.

There were the Boyer brothers (Cloyd, Ken, and Clete) in 1955, and the Cruz brothers (Jose, Tommy, and Hector) played in the 1970s. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Delahanty, Mansell, and O’Neill brothers were among the first families with three or more siblings to play in the majors at the same time.

More recently, the Molina brothers (Bengie, Jose, and Yadier) played simultaneously during the 2004-2010 timeframe. Among the three brothers, all of whom were catchers, they have played a total of 43 seasons, with Yadier still active.  Each of them has at least one World Series ring.

However, the rarest occurrence of three brothers playing at the same time happened when the Alou brothers (Felipe, Jesus, and Matty) actually appeared in the same game on September 10, 1963, for the San Francisco Giants. In that game, they made all three outs in the 8th inning, with Matty and Jesus making pinch-hitting appearances.  On September 15, the three Alous manned all three outfield positions late in the game.

But there have been countless sets of multiple brothers who didn’t make it.

So it’s still a bit early to predict whether all three Franco brothers will reach The Show, since they have yet to prove themselves beyond the low minors. Based on history though, the odds are against them; but don’t count them out just yet.

 

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New Book About DiMaggio Brothers Provides In-Depth View

A new book, “The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream,” provides a chronological review of the lives of Vince, Joe, and Dominic DiMaggio, including their time after their baseball careers.

See the story about the book at the below link to Lancaster Online: <http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/901821_Triple-play–the-DiMaggios–story-.html

Manning Bowl III Kindles Memories of Baseball’s Sibling Rivalries

Yesterday ‘s NFL contest between the Manning brothers was their third such game in which they went head-to-head as opponents. How often do fans of any sport get to see two high-performing professional players, who also happen to be brothers, face off as competitors in the same game? In the Mannings’ case, they have both led their teams to Super Bowl championships and currently rank among the best quarterbacks in professional football. Baseball has a long history of sibling confrontations on the field. The most recent one occurred in May of this year, when Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays hit a double off of his brother Cory of the Atlanta Braves. It was the first time they had played in the same game since high school.

Many of us have experienced seemingly intense rivalries with our siblings while playing pickup games in our back yards or on neighborhood sandlots. Indeed, they are some of our best memories, despite being unheralded moments. However, can you imagine the emotions of two brothers who are competing against each other on a big stage such as a major league stadium?

Let’s take a look at some of the earlier occurrences of siblings as opponents in the big leagues.

Jesse and Virgil Barnes were the first pair of brothers to face each other as starting pitchers in the major leagues on May 3 1927. In all, they opposed each other ten times, with Jesse winning five contests and Virgil three.

Phil and Joe Niekro each had long careers in the majors, and consequently they wound up pitching against each other nine times in the regular season. Forty years after the Barnes’ first occurrence, Phil (with the Braves) outdid Joe (with the Cubs), 8-3, on July 4, 1967. In 1979, the Niekros tied for the National League lead in wins with twenty-one. Phil defeated Joe for his 20th win that season. Joe hit only one home run in his 22-year major league career, and that was off brother Phil on May 29, 1976. While the Niekros may have beat up each other as opponents from time to time, they wound up as the brother combination with the most combined wins (539) in major league history.

On the other hand, a contemporary pair of pitching brothers with the Niekros, Gaylord and Jim Perry, faced each other only one time in their combined thirty-nine seasons of pitching. They were opponents on July 3, 1973, in a game between the Indians and Tigers. Gaylord took the loss for the Indians.

Brothers Stan and Harry Coveleski pitched for different major league teams in the American League from 1916 to 1918, but they refused to start against each other. However, they did wind up pitching in a game on Labor Day in 1916, when Stan was knocked out of the game in the first inning by the Tigers and Harry pitched in relief later in the game.

Greg and Mike Maddux were the first rookie brothers to pitch against each other in the same game on September 29, 1986. Greg (with the Cubs) defeated Mike (with the Phillies), 8-3.

In a specially arranged move, Detroit Tiger Pat Underwood made his major league debut on May 31, 1979, against his brother Tom of the Toronto Blue Jays. Pat was a 1-0 winner his debut, yielding only three hits in eight and one-third innings, while Tom pitched a complete game in the loss.

Furthermore, there have been numerous instances of major league brothers opposing each other as batter versus pitcher.

Alex Gaston of the Boston Red Sox broke up brother Milt’s (with the St. Louis Browns) no-hitter in 1926, hitting a single with one out in the ninth inning.

The St. Louis Browns’ Rick Ferrell almost broke up kid brother Wes’ no-hitter on April 29, 1931; but the official scorer ruled Rick’s at-bat an error, and Wes claimed his pitching gem the Cleveland Indians. On July 19, 1933, in a game between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, Wes Ferrell (with the Indians) yielded a home run to brother Rick (with the Red Sox) in the fourth inning. Wes also hit a home run in the same inning. This was the first time brothers on opposing teams homered in the same game. As a footnote, pitcher Wes wound up with more career home runs than his catcher brother.

On May 6, 1885, Philadelphia pitcher Ed Daily faced his brother Con (with Providence) in Con’s first major league at-bat. Ed hit Con causing him to be removed from the game.

Following are additional occurrences of major league siblings opposing each other in the same game.

Additional brothers to hit home runs for opposing teams include: Al and Tony Cuccinello (1935), Joe and Dominic DiMaggio (1950), Graig and Jim Nettles (1972, 1974), Hector and Jose Cruz (1981), Bret and Aaron Boone (1999, 2000), and Felipe and Cesar Crespo (2001).

Clete and Ken Boyer competed against each other in the 1964 World Series, with the Yankees and Cardinals, respectively. In Game 7, they each hit home runs. They had played against each other professionally for the first time in Game 1.

On September 4, 1988, Donell Nixon led off for the San Francisco Giants, and his older brother Otis led off for the Montreal Expos, marking one of the few times in major league history that brothers led off a game for opposing teams.

On April 5, 1993, Cal Ripken Jr. and brother Billy played their first game as members of opposing teams. They had previously played together with the Orioles from 1987 to 1992 as the middle infield combo.

These and other accounts of brothers who played with and against each other in the major leagues are included in my book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, in a chapter titled “Teammates and Opponents.” The book can be purchased at http://thetenthinning.com/store.html.

Baseball Relatives Prominent in the Mid-Summer All-Star Classic

This year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 16 in New York will mark eighty years since the first mid-summer classic. In my book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, I noted that the All-Star Game is just one of many themes in understanding how baseball’s family relationships have permeated the game over the years. This year’s All-Star teams will be no exception.

Before I delve into the history of baseball’s relatives as participants in the All-Star Game, I’d like to quickly review the beginnings of this event in 1933. The game was initially conceived to be a one-time charity event in conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. It was suggested by Chicago Tribune sports editor, Arch Ward, not by the officials associated with Major League Baseball. From the very beginning, it was proposed that the fans be allowed to vote on the roster of players. Naturally, that idea caught on because the fans saw an opportunity to see a “dream team” collection of baseball’s star players of the day. However, some of the Major League owners were skeptical of the inaugural game, because they were concerned it would set a precedent of continuing to be a charity event, if the game was repeated as an annual occurrence.

Of course, the annual game did continue. With the exception of the war year 1945, there has been an All-Star game each year since 1933. During the years 1959-1961, there were actually two All-Star games played each year.

Eighty years ago, the first All-Star game included brothers Rick and Wes Ferrell. Other players on the All-Star squads, Bill Dickey, Paul Waner, and Tony Cuccinello, also had brothers who played in the big leagues. All-Star Earl Averill would have a son who was a major leaguer.

The 2013 All-Stars will likely include Robinson Cano, Yadier Molina, Prince Fielder, and Justin Upton, each of whom has a relative in Major League Baseball. In 2011, when Cano participated in the Home Run Derby competition prior to the All-Star game, his father Jose, a former Houston Astros player in 1969, pitched to his son. Fielder’s father, Cecil, had been an All-Star selection for three years in the early 1990s.

The three DiMaggio brothers (Joe, Dominic, and Vince) made twenty-two All-Star teams between them. From 1936 to 1952, at least one DiMaggio brother played on an All-Star team, except for 1945 when the game was cancelled due to travel restrictions during World War II. Joe and Dominic were teammates on All-Star teams on six occasions, but only once did they appear as starters in the same game.

In 1942, Mort and Walker Cooper were starting battery mates, the only such combination in All-Star history. They were both starters, representing the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1943 as well.

When Buddy Bell appeared in the 1973 All-Star Game for the American League, he and his father Gus became the first father-son combination to appear in the mid-summer classic.

In the 1990 All-Star Game, brothers Sandy and Roberto Alomar were selected to play, while their father Sandy , Sr. was named a coach for the American League. Sandy and Roberto Alomar are the only set of brothers to appear as both teammates and opponents in All-Star Game contests.

The only father-son combination to be named Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game were Ken Griffey, Sr. (1980) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (1992).

Family Ties can be purchased at http://thetenthinning.com/store.html.

New Book About the DiMaggio Brothers

There is a new book about Joe, Dom, and Vince DiMaggio, the best trio of Major League Baseball brothers in history. The book, The DiMaggio’s: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream, was authored by Tom Clavin.

Baseball America has a review of the book at the following URL: http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/the-dimaggios-brings-trio-of-baseball-brothers-stories-together/

Dom DiMaggio Played in the Shadow of Baseball HOF Brother

Dominic DiMaggio was a seven-time All-Star himself, but he often took a back-seat to brother Joe’s performance with the New York Yankees. Some historians believe Dom was a better centerfielder than the “Yankee Clipper.”

Below is a link to a story about the brother rivals from The New York Times: