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 – Los Angeles Dodgers

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

This is the second 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.

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

Norm and Larry Sherry formed one of the few brother batterymates in major league baseball history.  Norm was a backup catcher for the Dodgers during 1959 – 1962.  Larry was one of the Dodgers’ primary relief pitchers during the same timeframe.  In their first game together on May 7, 1960, Norm hit his first major league home run to give the winning decision to his Larry.

Al Campanis was the general manager of the Dodgers from 1968 to 1987, after having briefly played with Brooklyn in 1943.  His son, Jim Campanis, got his major league start as a catcher with the Dodgers in 1966, but was later traded by his father to the Kansas City Royals.

Maury Wills was the speedster shortstop of the Dodgers, who made major league history by breaking Ty Cobb’s record for most stolen bases (101) in 1962.  Wills’ son, Bump, had a six-year major league career with the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs and finished in the Top 10 in stolen bases in five seasons.

Walter O’Malley owned the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1950 to 1979, during which time they won eleven National League pennants and four World Series titles.  His son, Peter O’Malley became co-owner of the Dodgers with his sister Theresa O’Malley Seidler upon Walter’s death.  Peter’s and Theresa’s sons later became part-owners of the San Diego Padres.

Fast forwarding to more recent times, here are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization during 2016.

Corey Seager is one of the hottest young players in all of baseball.  The 22-year-old shortstop turned in a National League Rookie of the Year performance in 2016, while also finishing 3rd in the MVP Award voting.  He is the second of three Seager brothers to reach the majors.  Brother Kyle is a six-year veteran with the Seattle Mariners.  The third baseman had the best season of his career in 2016, posting 30 HR, 99 RBI and hitting .278.  He was selected to the All-Star team in 2014.  Brother Justin completed his fourth year in the Mariners organization, but has yet to have a break-through season.

Joc Pederson is another big part of the Dodgers’ future, completing his second full season with 25 HR and 68 RBI.  His father, Stu, had a “cup of coffee” (eight games) with the Dodgers in 1985 among his twelve professional seasons in the Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.  Joc’s brother, Tyger, was also drafted by the Dodgers, but has spent most of his three pro seasons in the independent leagues.

Adrian Gonzalez, a career .290 hitter, has been the most consistent position player for the Dodgers in their last four seasons winning the NL West Division.  In each of his last eleven major-league seasons, he has played 156 or more games.  He is a five-time all-star selection.  His brother, Edgar, played two seasons for the San Diego Padres in 2008 and 2009, when he was a teammate of Adrian.  Altogether, Edgar put in 15 pro seasons that included time in Mexico and Japan.

Carl Crawford was once one of the bright, young stars with the Tampa Bay Rays, but his four seasons with the Dodgers have largely been a major disappointment.  Injuries have been a big factor in limiting his playing time.  With the Rays, the speedy outfielder led the American League in stolen bases for four seasons and was selected for the All-Star Game in four seasons.  His cousin, J. P. Crawford, is a shortstop who is currently the top prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.  Carl’s uncle, Jack Crawford, played in the California Angels farm system during 1981-1983.

Scott Van Slyke has primarily played as a reserve outfielder in his five seasons with the Dodgers.  He had his best season in 2014 with 11 HR and 29 RBI, while posting a .910 OPS.  His father is Andy Van Slyke, who played thirteen major-league seasons, primarily with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.  Andy’s career includes three All-Star Game selections and five Gold Glove Awards.  Scott has two brothers who also played professionally.  Eric spent one season in the rookie league with the Kansas City Royals organization, before two seasons in the independent leagues.  Brother A. J. was an outfielder/first baseman for four seasons in the Cardinals organization.

Charlie Culberson spent parts of the 2016 season on the Dodgers’ major league roster, after playing for the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies in 2012-2014.  The infielder hit .299 in 34 Dodgers games.  He represents the third generation of his family to play pro baseball.  His grandfather, Leon, a six-year major leaguer primarily with the Boston Red Sox, was a member of the 1946 American League championship team.  His father, Charles, was drafted by the Giants 1984 and spent five seasons in the minors with the Giants and Kansas City Royals organizations.  Charlie’s great uncle, James, spent one minor-league season in the New York Giants organization.

Kenley Jansen, initially a catcher when he started out in pro baseball, was one of the top closers in the National League in 2016.  The 6’ 5”, 270-pound Curacao-born pitcher recorded a 1.83 ERA and 47 saves, while putting up a 0.670 WHIP and almost 14 strikeouts per nine innings.  Although eligible for free agency at the end of last season, Jansen re-signed with the Dodgers to keep their bullpen intact.  Kenley’s brother, Ardley, was an outfielder in the Atlanta Braves organization for seven seasons, but never made a major-league roster.

Louis Coleman was a mainstay in the Dodgers’ bullpen last year, appearing in 61 games, mostly in middle relief.  He was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers after spending five seasons on the Kansas City Royals major-league roster.  Louis is the brother-in-law of Nathan Adcock, who was a former teammate in the Royals organization.  Adcock last appeared in the majors in 2015 with the Cincinnati Reds as a relief pitcher.

Several other Dodgers players, who briefly appeared on their major-league roster during 2016, had relatives that played in the major leagues: Will Venable (son of major leaguer Max Venable), Austin Barnes (nephew of major leaguer Mike Gallego), and Brock Stewart (son of minor leaguer Jeffrey Stewart and brother of minor leaguer Luke Stewart).

The Dodgers’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives were former major-league players: Adam Law will be seeking to become one of the few three-generation players in baseball history to all appear in the major leagues, following father Vance Law and grandfather Vern Law); Cody Bellinger is a promising slugger whose father is former major leaguer Clay Bellinger; Lenix Osuna is the son of former major leaguer Antonio Osuna and cousin of current major leaguer Roberto Osuna).

Off the field, the 2016 Dodgers had their share of baseball relatives, too.

Their broadcast booth was filled with a number of former Dodgers players who had relatives in pro baseball: Nomar Garciaparra (brother of Michael Garciaparra, currently a scout in the St. Louis Cardinals organization); Manny Mota (father of five sons who played pro baseball, including two in the majors); Orel Hershiser (father of Jordan Hershiser, a former minor leaguer, and brother of former Dodgers minor leaguer Gordie Hershiser); Fernando Valenzuela (father of Fernando Valenzuela Jr., a former minor leaguer).  Additionally, Jaime Jarrin is the long-time Spanish broadcaster for the Dodgers.  His son, Jorge, also shares the microphone as a Dodgers broadcaster, while his grandson, Stefan, played briefly as a Dodgers minor leaguer.

Bob Geren is currently the bench coach for the Dodgers.  He has two sons, Bobby and Brett, who were drafted by the Oakland A’s organization, but never signed contracts to play professionally.

Brian Stephenson is a scout in the Dodgers organization, after having pitched for seven league seasons in the Chicago Cubs and Dodgers minor league systems.  His father, Jerry, was a major league pitcher during 1963-1970, ending his career in the Dodgers organization.  His grandfather, Joe, was a major league catcher who played briefly during 1943-1947 and went on to a scouting position with the Boston Red Sox.

Nick Francona works in the Dodgers front office in player development.  Drafted in the 40th round by the Boston Red Sox in 2004, he didn’t sign to play for them, instead serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan.  He is the son of Terry Francona, the current manager of the Cleveland Indians and previous skipper of the Red Sox where his teams captured two World Series titles.  Nick’s grandfather, Tito, played in the majors for nine different teams from 1956 to 1970.  An outfielder/first baseman, Tito hit .363 for the Indians in 1959.

 

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/