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 Prominent Again in this Year’s MLB Draft

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

In the MLB Draft in June each year, there are typically a number of drafted amateur players who have a relative in professional baseball. 38 players fit this criteria in 2017.  They represent the latest crop of relatives that are expected to infuse baseball rosters with players who have baseball in their blood lines.

The first occurrences of baseball brothers date back to the sport’s professional beginnings in the 1870s. The first son of a former major-leaguer made his big-league debut in 1903.

Each year there are typically a number of drafted players with intriguing backgrounds that involve family relationships. This year is no exception.  Here’s a review of some of the highlights of this year’s players with family ties in baseball.

Professional baseball is experiencing more and more players with multiple generations in their bloodlines. In the long history of Major League Baseball, there have been only four occurrences of three-generation families.  Several grandsons of major-league ballplayers top the list of players drafted this year and thus offer new opportunities to expand the “three generation” club and possibly initiate a “four generation” list.

Jake Boone, the son of former major-leaguer Bret Boone, was drafted in the 38th round by the Washington Nationals.  If Jake were to eventually reach the major-leagues, he would represent the fourth generation of Boones to play in the big-leagues, the first time that will have ever occurred.  Bret was a three-time All-Star during his 14-year MLB career.  Jake’s grandfather, Bob, was a four-time All-Star during his 19 years, while Jake’s great-grandfather, Ray, made the All-Star team twice during his 13-year career.  Jake’s uncle, Aaron was an infielder in the majors from 1997 to 2009.

Trei Cruz was selected in the 35th round by the Houston Astros, his grandfather Jose Cruz’s old team.  Trei is a third-generation player, since his father, Jose Cruz Jr., was also a major-leaguer.  Trei’s two great-uncles, Tommy and Hector, were former major-leaguers, as well.

Justin Morhardt is the grandson of Moe Morhardt, a major leaguer with the Chicago Cubs in 1960 and 1961.  Justin’s father, Greg, played in the minors and is currently a scout in the Atlanta Braves organization.  Justin was drafted by Braves in the 22nd round.

Riley O’Brien is the grandson of Johnny O’Brien.  Johnny and his brother Eddie made history in the 1950s by becoming only one of nine sets of twin brother to ever play in the majors. They formed the double-play combo for the 1953 Pittsburgh Pirates.  A pitcher from the College of Idaho, Riley was the 8th round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Buddy Kennedy is the grandson of Don Money, who played third base with the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers from 1968 to 1993.  Buddy, also a third baseman, was drafted out of high school in the 5th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Multiple-brother families in the game continue to flourish, as well. The record for most major-league brothers are the Delahantys, who numbered five (Ed, Jim, Tom, Frank, and Joe) in the late 1880s and early 1900s.  Three Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty and Jesus) made history by playing in the same game for the San Francisco Giants in 1963.  Here are a few newly drafted brothers from last week’s draft.

Nick Valaika is the fourth brother in his family to be drafted by a major-league team.  Brothers Chris and Pat have previously reached the major-league level, while Matt played one season in the minors.  Nick was drafted out of UCLA in the 24th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kacy Clemens is the third brother in his family to be drafted.  Kacy, Koby and Kody are the sons of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.  Kacy most recently played for the University of Texas and was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 8th round.  Brother Koby played in the minors for eight seasons, while Kody (drafted in 2015) is currently at the University of Texas.

Cole Bellinger is the second son of Clay Bellinger to be drafted.  Cole’s brother, Cody, is currently a hard-hitting rookie with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Cole was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 15th round.  Father Clay played on two World Series teams with the New York Yankees in 2000 and 2001.

Jordan Wren is the second son of Boston Red Sox executive Frank Wren to be drafted.  The outfielder was selected out of Georgia Southern University by the Red Sox in the 10th round.  Jordan’s brother, Kyle, is currently playing at the Triple-A level for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Other drafted players whose kin have very familiar names include the following.

Darren Baker, the son of Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker, was drafted out of high school by the Nationals in the 27th round.  Darren made the sports news headlines during the 2002 World Series when, as a batboy for his father’s San Francisco Giants team, he was swept up at home plate (as he was attempting to retrieve a bat) by Giants player J. T. Snow to avoid a collision at home plate with a Giants runner coming into score.

Peyton Glavine is the son of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine, who played 22 years in the majors and won two Cy Young Awards.  Peyton was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Angels in the 37th round.  If he doesn’t sign, he will likely attend the University of Auburn next year where he had previously committed to play.

Joe Dunand, a shortstop from North Carolina State University, was drafted in the second round by the Miami Marlins.  He is the nephew of former major-leaguer Alex Rodriguez, who hit 696 career home runs and claimed three American League MVP Awards.

Every year there are usually a handful of noteworthy major-league draftees whose bloodlines don’t include a baseball background.

This year’s list includes outfielder Zach Jarrett.  If that last name sounds familiar, yes, he is from the NASCAR racing family of Jarretts.  Zach, the son of Ned and grandson of Dale, was the 28th round pick of the Baltimore Orioles.  However, Zach has some baseball in his bloodlines, too, since his other grandfather, Jasper Spears, played in the Dodgers organization from 1949 to 1959.

LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson is the son of Kim Mulkey, the highly successful women’s basketball coach at Baylor University.  Robertson was selected in the 4th round by the St. Louis Cardinals

Several current NFL players had relatives drafted by major-league teams this year. Jake Cousins, 20th round pick of the Washington Nationals, is the cousin of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. Colby Bortles, the 22nd round pick of the Detroit Tigers, is the brother of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Demetrius Sims, the 14th round pick of the Miami Marlins, is the brother of Chicago Bears tight end Dion Sims.

Riley Crean is the son of former Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean.  Riley is also the nephew of Jim Harbaugh, the head football coach at the University of Michigan, and John Harbaugh, the head coach for the NFL Baltimore Ravens.  Riley was drafted out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in the 35th round.

A full list of the players from the 2017 MLB Draft with relatives in professional baseball can be viewed at the Baseball’s Relatives website .

Eddie O’Brien, Former MLB Twin Brother, Dies

Eddie O’Brien, a former Major Leaguer and twin brother of Johnny O’Brien, recently died in Seattle. Johnny had also been a Major Leaguer. They played together for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1953 to 1958.

After his playing career, Eddie coached baseball at Seattle University for 14 years, with a record of 276-135. He coached the Major League Seattle Pilots for their one season.

My book about baseball’s family relationships, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, has a chapter about baseball’s twin brothers, including the O’Briens.

See related story about Eddie O’Brien at the link below from the Yakima Herald:
http://www.yakimaherald.com/sports/college/latestcollege/1951281-8/seattle-u-legend-eddie-obrien-dies-at-83