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 – Boston Red Sox

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

This is the third of 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.

Red Sox history is filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:

Ken Brett had just turned 19 years old when he made two appearances in the 1967 World Series with the Red Sox.  He went on to pitch for the Red Sox in three more seasons as part of his 14-year career that ended in 1981.  Ken’s brother, George, was a Hall of Fame third baseman for the Kansas City Royals that led the American League in hitting in three different decades.  Ken had two other brothers, John and Robert, who played only one season in the minors.

Roger Clemens won 192 games and three Cy Young Awards in his 13-seasons with the Red Sox.  Over his 24-year career, he won a total of 354 games and is currently 3rd all-time in strikeouts.  Altogether he garnered seven Cy Young Awards during his career.  Roger had three sons involved in baseball.  Koby played in the minors for eight seasons in the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.  His sons, Kacy and Kody, were drafted out of high school by the Astros, but both opted to attend the University of Texas where they are currently playing baseball.

Dom DiMaggio is part of one of the most famous trio of baseball brothers in history.  His brother, Joe, a Hall of Famer player with the New York Yankees from 1936 to 1951, was a 13-time All-Star and winner of the American League MVP Award three times.  Dom’s brother, Vince, was a two-time All-Star during his ten major-league seasons.  Dom played for the Red Sox during 1940 – 1953, when he was selected to All-Star teams in seven seasons. All three brothers played in the outfield.

Dave Sisler pitched in four seasons for the Red Sox in the 1950s.  He is the son of Hall of Fame player George Sisler Sr. who twice hit over .400 en route to a .340 career batting average.  Dave’s brother, Dick, was a member of the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies “Whiz Kids” that won the 1950 National League pennant.  The first baseman logged eight seasons with the Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds.  A third Sisler brother, George Jr., played four minor-league seasons before becoming a general manager for several minor-league clubs and then president of the International League from 1966 to 1976.

Fast forwarding to more recent times, here are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Boston Red Sox organization during 2016.

Mookie Betts has emerged as one of the Red Sox’s brightest stars, finishing second in the American League MVP voting last year, only his second full season. He hit 31 HR and 113 RBI while posting a .318 batting average and 26 stolen bases.  He is the nephew of Terry Shumpert, a 14-year veteran infielder who primarily played for the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies.  Terry had a career .252 batting average.  Mookie’s cousin is Nicholas Shumpert, the 28th round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2016.  Nicholas played his first pro season at the rookie league level last season.

Xander Bogaerts is another young star that came up through the Red Sox farm system and ranks among the best shortstops in the game.  In an all-star season last year, he had career-highs with 21 HR and 89 RBI while batting .294.  His twin brother, Jair, played two seasons in the Dominican Summer League for the Red Sox organization in 2010 and 2011.  There have been only eight sets of twins where both brothers played in the major leagues.

Craig Kimbrel came to the Red Sox last year after five seasons with the Atlanta Braves and one with the San Diego Padres.  In four of his years with the Braves, he led the National League in saves.  Overall, he has posted 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a WHIP of 0.949.  Craig’s brother, Matt, was drafted by the Braves in 2012, and he spent three seasons at low levels in the Braves farm system

Drew Pomeranz joined the Red Sox staff in July last year after earning an all-star selection with the San Diego Padres during the first half of the season.  He has pitched for six seasons that included stints with the Colorado Rockies and Oakland A’s.  Drew’s brother, Stu, had a brief appearance in the majors with Baltimore in 2012. Their great-grandfather was Garland Buckeye, a major-league pitcher during 1918 – 1928, primarily with the Cleveland Indians.  Buckeye compiled a 30-39 record.  Their father, Mike, was a minor-league pitcher from 1988 to 1992, after being selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 13th round of the 1988 MLB Draft.  Their uncle, Patrick, played one season in the Chicago White Sox organization in 1983.

Rick Porcello earned the American League Cy Young Award last year, in his second season with the Red Sox and eighth overall year in the majors.  The 27-year-old posted a career best 22-4 record and 3.15 ERA.  Rick’s grandfather was Sam Dente, a major-league infielder from 1948 to 1955.  Dente posted a career .252 batting average for five teams.  Rick’s brother, Jake, was a late-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2009, but did not sign.

Travis Shaw became the starting third baseman for the Red Sox in his second season with them.  He hit 16 HR and 71 RBI to along with a .242 batting average.  His father is Jeff Shaw, who spent 12 seasons in the big leagues as a relief pitcher and earned two all-star selections.  Travis was traded by the Red Sox to the Milwaukee Brewers over the winter.

Other Red Sox major leaguers in 2016 that had relatives in pro baseball include: Deven Marrero, whose cousin Chris Marrero also plays in the Red Sox organization; Sean O’Sullivan whose brother Ryan O’Sullivan played in the independent leagues; Robbie Ross whose father Chuck Ross pitched in the Red Sox organization in the 1970s; Joe Kelly, son-in-law of former major leaguer Derek Parks; and Pablo Sandoval whose brother Michael played in the Twins and Giants organizations during 1999 – 2010.

The Red Sox pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives were former major-league players: Jake Cosart, Boston’s third-round pick in 2013, is the brother of current major leaguer Jarred Cosart and grandson of Ed Donnelly, who pitched briefly for the Chicago Cubs in 1963; Teddy Stankiewicz, a second round pick of the Red Sox in 2013, is the son of former major leaguer Andy Stankiewicz, while his brother Drew was in the Philadelphia Phillies organization last year; Yomar Valentin is the son of former major leaguer Jose Valentin and nephew of former major leaguer Javier Valentin; Tate Matheny, a fourth round pick of the Red Sox in 2015, is the son of current St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

The 2016 Red Sox had their share of baseball relatives in the dugout, too. Manager John Farrell is the father of three sons who have been in pro baseball.  Luke Farrell is currently a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization.  Jeremy Farrell is a minor-league coach in the Chicago Cubs organization, while Shane Farrell is a scout with the Cubs.  John’s father, Thomas, was also a minor-league pitcher for the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s.

Bench coach Torey Lovullo is the father of Nick Lovullo who made his pro debut in the Red Sox organization in 2016.  Torey was named the new manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks over the winter.  First base coach Ruben Amaro Jr. is the son of Ruben Amaro Sr., former major league infielder who primarily appeared with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1960s.  Ruben Jr.’s brother, David, played one minor-league season with the Cubs in 1984.  Two of his nephews were drafted by the Phillies.  Third base coach Brian Butterfield is the son of Jack Butterfield, who was an executive and scout with the New York Yankees.  Assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, Sr. is the father of Miguel and Victor who were both drafted by the Red Sox.  Victor Jr. is currently a scout in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.  Victor Sr.’s brother, Ahmed, played four minor-league seasons in the Cardinals organization.

In the Red Sox front office, Frank Wren is the senior vice-president of baseball operations.  His son, Kyle, played at the Triple-A level in the Milwaukee Brewers organization last year.  His son, Jordan, was drafted by the Red Sox in the 36th round, but did not sign. Carl Yastrzemski, one of the all-time Red Sox great players, is currently a player development consultant with the team.  His grandson, Mike, played outfield at the Triple-A level in the Baltimore Orioles organization last year.  Carl’s son, Mike, was also a minor-league outfielder in the mid-1980s.

Lee May Jr. is a minor-league coach in the Red Sox organization.  Like Yastrzemski, he is part of a three-generation baseball family.  His father, Lee May Sr., was a three-time all-star first baseman during 18 major-league seasons, primarily with the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles.  Lee Jr.’s son, Jacob, is currently an outfielder in the Chicago White Sox organization playing at 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:

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

 

 

Teen-Ager Ken Brett’s Improbable Emergence in the 1967 World Series

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Twenty-year-old Los Angeles Dodger Julio Urias made history in the NLCS by becoming the youngest pitcher to start a post-season game. The Dodgers hurler, who made his major-league debut in 2015, didn’t get past the fourth inning against his Chicago Cubs opponent, but it was still nonetheless a significant event for such a young, relatively inexperienced player.

Turning the calendar back almost fifty years, another young stud pitcher had an improbable post-season appearance. Ken Brett of the Boston Red Sox made two relief appearances in the 1967 World Series, when it was only 21 days after he had turned 19-years-old.  He had made his regular season major-league debut only eleven days earlier.  Most young, aspiring baseball players are still dreaming of being successful in professional baseball, much less actually playing in baseball’s biggest showcase.

Brett was a first-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1966, shortly after his graduation from high school. He was called up by the Red Sox in September 1967 after winning 14 games and posting a 1.95 ERA in the minors.  A hard-throwing left-hander, he impressed veteran major leaguers who compared him to established fire-ballers of the day such as Sandy Koufax and Sam McDowell.  Brett made his major league debut on September 27 when he pitched two innings against the Cleveland Indians.

When Brett joined the Red Sox in 1967, they were embroiled in one of the most exciting pennant races ever. They wound up beating out Detroit and Minnesota by one game to win the American League title, but Brett hadn’t initially been expected to be on the World Series roster.  However, a spot opened up for Brett when a late-season arm injury sidelined Sparky Lyle, and Bill Landis was called up for military service.

The Red Sox faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, a repeat match of the two teams in 1946. With the Cardinals leading the Series 2-1, Brett saw his first action in Game Four, becoming the youngest pitcher to ever make a World Series appearance.  The Cardinals were holding a decisive 6-0 lead, when Brett entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, as the fifth Red Sox pitcher of the game.  He allowed only one baserunner in retiring the Cardinals with no runs.

The Red Sox evened the Series with victories in the next two games, setting up a showdown in Game Seven. However, the Cardinals took an early lead they never relinquished.  Brett got another appearance in the ninth inning when he came into the game with the bases loaded and two outs and induced a groundout to end the inning.

Brett appeared to be headed for a promising major-league career. However, two weeks after the Series, he began a six-month tour of duty in the Army, as the Vietnam War was well underway.  When he returned to baseball following his military service in 1968, he injured his elbow, perhaps trying to come back too soon after his layoff.  The injury plagued him for the rest of his career.

He never did reach his full potential, even though he played in fourteen major-league seasons. He finished his career with an 83-85 won-lost record and 3.93 ERA in 349 games.  He wound up playing for ten different major-league teams, with his best season coming in 1974 with Pittsburgh when he was selected for the National League All-Star Team.  Brett retired from baseball in 1981 at age 32.

Ken Brett was the older brother of George Brett, the Hall of Fame third baseman for the Kansas City Royals from 1973 to 1993. They had two brothers, John and Bobby, who played briefly in the minor leagues.

Here are a few more World Series trivia items regarding players’ ages. The youngest player ever to appear in a World Series was third baseman Freddie Lindstrom, who was 18 years, 10 months and 13 days, in 1924 with the New York Giants.  Andruw Jones was the Atlanta Braves’ starting centerfielder in the 1996 World Series at 19 years, 5 month, and 28 days.  He batted .400 and hit two home runs in his first Series.  Don Gullett was slightly older (19 years, 6 months, and 2 days) than Brett when he made his first of three World Series relief appearances in 1970 with the Cincinnati Reds.