Ranking the best father-son combos in MLB history

Contribute by Richard Cuicchi

Father’s Day is a good time to recall some of the all-time best Major League Baseball father-son duos.

There have been over 250 combinations of fathers and sons to play in the majors since Jack Doscher became the original second-generation player in the majors in 1903.  They represent about 2.5% of the 19,500+players to ever play in the big leagues.  Almost 30 of the sons were still active at the end of the 2018 season, and already six more made their debuts this season.

One would think sons of major leaguers have an advantage over other prospective professional players, because of their name.  That’s probably true.  A player with the last name of Biggio or Yastrzemski would likely attract a baseball scout’s attention more than a player with a last name like Smith or Jones. 

In fact, when many sons of major leaguers were growing up, they spent time with their dad in the clubhouse or during pre-game warmups and batting practice.  From that perspective, they have an advantage of being more comfortable in the major-league environment once they get there.  For example, during the heyday of the Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” teams of the 1970s, sixteen Reds players had sons who went on to play professional baseball, including the sons of Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, Lee May, and Hal McRae.  Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was like a second home to their kids.

Furthermore, sons of major-league fathers probably had better access to advanced coaching when they showed potential in their developmental years in the sport.  They also had ready access to a father who could advise them how to handle the mental side of the game, such as how to deal with being in a hitting slump or recovering from an injury.

However, having the same last name as a major league father obviously doesn’t guarantee success for a son aspiring to a professional baseball career like his father.  Sons of major leaguers usually have more pressure to excel.  Some of the second-generation players have struggled as much against their family name as they did against the opposition.  For example, sons who didn’t measure up to their father’s Hall of Fame careers include Eddie Collins Jr., Tim Raines Jr., Ed Walsh Jr., George Sisler Jr., and Joe Wood Jr.

Former major leaguer Moises Alou, son of former major-league player and manager Felipe Alou, perhaps said it best, “If you can’t hit, field, and throw, it doesn’t matter who your father is.

So who were the best father-son duos in the majors?  Who were those sons that managed to become good enough to follow in their father’s footsteps and have a respectable career themselves? The Bonds and Griffey duos are the most recognizable, but the rest of the list may not be as obvious.

Below are the Top 10 duos ranked by their combined Wins Above Replacement (WAR).  Pairs were eliminated where one of the players didn’t have a substantial major league career. (For example, Pete Rose had a WAR of 79.7, but his son played in only 11 career major-league games and actually had a negative WAR.)  Fathers are listed first in the below combinations.

Bobby (57.9) and Barry (162.8) Bonds

Total WAR 220.7.  Barry has the fourth-highest WAR in baseball history, which makes their ranking practically uncontested by any other duo.  He was a seven-time MVP for the Pirates and Giants and was selected to 14 all-star games.  He has a slash line of .298/.444/.607 and holds the major-league record for most career HRs (762).  His father Bobby finished in the Top 4 for MVP voting twice and was a three-time all-star selection.  He was noted for his combination of power and speed, connecting for 331 (107th all-time) career home runs and swiping 461 bases (51th all-time).  Both players were outfielders.

Ken Sr. (34.5) and Ken Jr. (83.8) Griffey

Total WAR 118.3.  Ken Jr. fulfilled his potential as the overall Number 1 of the MLB draft in 1987, by hitting 630 HRs (7th all-time) and 1,836 RBIs (16th all-time) while posting a career slash line of .284/.370/.538.  A thirteen-time all-star selection for Seattle and Cincinnati, he was a near-unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.  Ken Sr. was a member of two World Series championship teams with the Reds.  He posted a career batting average of .297 and was selected as an all-star in three seasons.  The father-son duo, who were both outfielders, became the first to play in a major-league game as teammates in 1990.

Felipe (42.2) and Moises Alou (39.9)

Total 82.1.  Felipe was the best of three brothers that all played in the majors at the same time.  A three-time all-star selection, he led the league in hits twice and in runs scored once.  A career .286 hitter with 206 HRs and 852 RBIs, he played for the 1962 World Series champion San Francisco Giants.  Moises finished third in the MVP voting twice, when he played for Montreal and Houston.  He was a six-time all-star who had a .303 career batting average with 332 HRs and 1,287.  Moises was a key member of the 1997 Florida Marlins that won its first World Series.  He was one of only a few major-leaguers to have played for his father as manager, when they were with Montreal.

Gus (15.4) and Buddy Bell (66.3)

Buddy Bell (66.3) and David Bell (15.3)

Total WAR 81.7 and 81.6.  Buddy is actually part of three father-son duos, including one with his father Gus and two with sons David and Mike.  A career .281 hitter, Gus was a four-time all-star selection with the Cincinnati Reds as an outfielder.  David was an infielder for 12 seasons, appearing in the World Series with San Francisco in 2002.  Buddy was the best of the three generations as a five-time all-star and Gold Glove winner at third base in six consecutive seasons.  He batted .279 with 201 HRs and 1,106 RBIs.  There have been only four occurrences of three-generation families in major-league history.

Sandy Sr. (10.5) and Roberto (67.1) Alomar

Total WAR 77.6.  Roberto is a Hall of Fame second baseman who was selected to 12 consecutive all-star teams and won 10 Gold Glove awards.  He was a career .300 hitter with 200 HRs, 1,135 RBI, and 474 stolen bases.  He won two World Series rings with Toronto.  Sandy Sr. was an all-star selection for one of his 15 seasons.  The infielder hit only .245 with only 13 HRs during his career.  Sandy Sr. had another son, Sandy Jr., who played 20 seasons in the majors, but didn’t have near the productive career as his brother Roberto.

Tony Sr. (69.2) and Tony Jr. (5.2) Gwynn

Total WAR 74.4.  Tony Sr. was a Hall of Fame outfielder who won eight batting titles, while compiling a career .338 average and collecting 3,141 hits.  He was selected as an all-star in fifteen seasons, while capturing five Gold Glove awards and seven Silver Slugger awards.  He appeared in two World Series for San Diego.  Tony Jr. was an outfielder during eight major-league seasons after being drafted in the second round of the 2003 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.  It turned out he couldn’t hit like his father, as his career batting average was 100 points less.

Jose Sr. (54.4) and Jose Jr. (19.5) Cruz

Total WAR 73.9.  Jose Sr. had a career slash line of .284/.354/.420 in his 20 major-league seasons (19 with Houston).  The outfielder was in the Top 8 for National League MVP voting on three occasions.  An all-star selection in two seasons, he had 1,077 RBI and 317 stolen bases.  Jose Jr. was the third overall selection of the 1995 MLB Draft by the Mariners and went on to play 12 major-league seasons.  Ironically, he was traded during his rookie season in which he was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year honors.  A Gold Glove winner as an outfielder with the Giants in 2003, he was a career .247 hitter with 204 career HRs.

Mel Sr. (43.1) and Todd (22.9) Stottlemyre

Total WAR 66.0.  Mel Sr. won 15 or more games for the Yankees during six seasons, while totaling 164 career wins.  A five-time all-star selection, he posted an impressive career 2.97 ERA.  He started three games for the Yankees in the 1964 World Series against St. Louis.  Todd pitched for 14 major-league seasons during which he posted double-digit wins in eight seasons and compiled 138 career wins.  He was a member of two World Series championship teams with Toronto.  Mel Sr. had another son, Mel Jr., who pitched in one major-league season.

Yogi (59.8) and Dale (5.5) Berra

Total WAR 65.3.  Yogi was one of the most accomplished catchers of all time.  The Hall of Famer was a member of 10 World Series championship teams with the Yankees.  He hit 358 HRs and 1,430 RBIs, while being selected to 15 all-star teams during his 19-year career.  He was voted the American League MVP in three seasons.  Dale was a first-round draft selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975.  He was infielder for 11 major-league seasons, but fell well short of playing up to his father’s standards.  He hit a meager .239 with only 49 career home runs.

The next five father-son combos (also ranked by WAR) include George Sr. (56.3) and Dick (8.0) Sisler; Dizzy (49.6) and Steve (13.3) Trout; Maury (39.7) and Bump (16.5) Wills; Bob (27.4) and Bret (22.8) Boone; and Gary Sr. (30.4) and Gary Jr. (14.2) Matthews.

There are three sons of Hall of Famers currently playing in the majors:  Cavan Biggio (Craig), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Vladimir Sr.), and Dereck Rodriguez (Ivan).  They obviously have big shoes to fill, but may ultimately have the best chances to break into the all-time list of most prolific father-son duos.

Advertisements

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/