A Tale of Two Griffeys: One Very Good, One Dominant

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

There have been nearly 250 father-son combinations to play in Major League Baseball. History shows that it’s pretty rare for both the father and the son to excel on the diamond at a high level comprising leadership in batting or pitching categories, all-star selections, and post-season appearances.

Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Tony Perez, and Earl Averill had major-league sons with marginal success as big-leaguers themselves, while Joe Wood and Ed Walsh’s sons were in the majors only long enough for the proverbial “cup of coffee.” Pete Rose’s son spent 21 years in the minors, but managed to get into only 11 games in the Big Show. The sons of Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle never made it out of the low minor leagues.

On the other hand, there are a few good examples of father and son careers that were both highly successful. One of those was Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. was simply one of the best players in baseball history. In 1998 The Sporting News came up with their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players of all time which included Griffey Jr. who was then only 28 years old.  He joined legendary players such as Ruth, Aaron, Cobb, Williams, Mays, Musial, and DiMaggio.  The ultimate honor for a baseball player is his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Griffey Jr. came closest of any player to being a unanimous Hall of Fame inductee in 2016, garnering 99.3% of the baseball writers’ votes.

Griffey Jr. had the distinction of being the first player in history to appear with his father in the same major-league game. 19-year-old Griffey Jr. and his 40-year-old father, Ken Sr., were teammates with the Seattle Mariners in 1990 when they first played together on August 21.  Three weeks later they hit back-to-back home runs in the same game.

While the Mariners’ roster featuring both Griffeys may have been somewhat of a publicity stunt at the time, Griffey Sr.’s own career was nothing to sneeze at. His performance is often overshadowed by his son’s superstardom.  Even though he wasn’t a Hall of Famer like his son (Griffey Sr. received a meager 4.7% of the votes in his only year of eligibility in 1999), Griffey Sr. did manage to log a few All-Star seasons and claim two World Series rings.

Here is more background and comparison of the careers of the two outstanding players.

Both Griffeys were born in Denora, PA, which was also the birthplace of Stan Musial. Griffey Jr. shares the same birthday as Musial.

Griffey Sr. began his professional career at age 19 in 1969, being drafted in the 29th round by the Cincinnati Reds.  However, he didn’t make his major-league debut until August 25, 1973 at age 23.  Griffey Jr. was the first overall pick in the 1987 MLB Draft by Seattle when he was 17 years old and made his major-league debut on April 3, 1989.  Griffey Jr. went on to play in 22 big-league seasons, while his dad recorded 19 seasons.  Both were outfielders.

Griffey Sr.’s career slash line (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage) was .296/.359/.431 compared to Junior’s .284/.370/.538. The biggest contributor to their difference in Slugging Percentage was Junior’s 630 career home runs, currently sixth on the all-time leader list.  Griffey Sr.’s highest season was 21 home runs, as he managed to hit only 152 during his career.  Junior led the American League in round-trippers in four seasons and hit 40 or more in seven seasons.  Griffey Sr. had the edge over his father in Batting Average, as he compiled nine seasons with .300 or better.

Griffey Jr. was selected to 13 All-Star teams while his father appeared on three, including an All-Star Game MVP Award in 1980. Griffey Jr. also captured the award in 1992.

In addition to Junior, Griffey Sr. had another son, Craig, who took up a pro baseball career from 1991 to 1997. Craig appeared in seven minor-league seasons in the Mariners and Reds organizations but managed to reach the Triple-A level for only a handful of games.  Griffey Jr.’s son, Trey (Ken Griffey III), pursued football over baseball as his sport of choice.  He wound up playing wide receiver for the University of Arizona for four seasons, had tryouts with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, but has yet to make an active NFL team roster.  With no expectation of pursuing a pro baseball career, Trey was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 24th round of the 2016 MLB Draft as a tribute to his father (Griffey Jr.’s uniform number with the Mariners was 24.).

Griffey Sr.’s biggest claim to fame, and perhaps his most significant accomplishment over his son, came as a member of the fabled Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” teams in the early-to-mid 1970s. He helped the Reds win the World Series in 1975 and 1976.  Junior played on three post-season teams, two with Seattle and one with the Chicago White Sox, but his teams reached the American League Championship Series only once.

Griffey Jr. attained a peak salary of $12.5 million in four seasons with Cincinnati. He earned a total of $151.7 million during his career.  Of course the economics of baseball were different when Griffey Sr. was playing.  He collected a little over $10 million during his entire career, with his highest annual salary being $1.15 million for Atlanta in 1987.

The Griffeys rank among the top major-league father-son duos for combined career performances. They lead all pairs in career hits, and rank second all-time behind Barry and Bobby Bonds in games played, runs scored, home runs, and RBI.

In addition to the Bondses, other successful major-league father-son combos include Felipe and Moises Alou, George and Dick Sisler, Gus and Buddy Bell, and Mel and Todd Stottlemyre.

Former big-league stars Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Craig Biggio and Dante Bichette currently have sons in the low minors trying to follow in their father’s footsteps. Perhaps one of these will be successful in forming the next great MLB father-son duo.



Trio of Alou Brothers Made History in 1963

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

On September 13, 1963, brothers Felipe, Jesus, and Matty Alou made baseball history when they played in the same outfield for the San Francisco Giants. At the time, the occasion may have been a promotional gimmick by the Giants, since Matty and Jesus were at the beginning of their careers, surrounded by uncertainty they would be sticking around with the Giants much longer since they were competing for regular jobs with their older brother and future Hall of Famers, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.  Regardless, the feat hasn’t occurred again since.

As it turned out though, all three Alou brothers wound up having significant careers in the major leagues, altogether encompassing 47 seasons. Felipe and Matty became all-stars, Matty won a batting championship, and Jesus was a member of two World Series championship teams.  Felipe also had a 10-year managerial career.

The Alous’ extended baseball family eventually included other major leaguers, nephew Mel Rojas and cousin Jose Sosa. Felipe had several sons who also played professional baseball, including Moises who became a major league all-star himself.  Mel Rojas’s brother and son were minor leaguer players.

Following is a look back at the careers of the history-making Alou brothers.

Felipe Alou

Felipe began his baseball career with very humble beginnings. Born into a poor family in the Dominican Republic, gloves made out of strips of canvas and bats lathed from scrap wood were his first exposure to baseball.  While he excelled in baseball and track as a youngster, it was his parents’ desire that become a doctor.  In fact, he enrolled in the university for one year with his tuition paid by the state.  But it soon became evident he would not have enough money for the books, clothing and food required to stay in school.

After attracting attention in the Pam American Games, the New York Giants signed him to a contract at age 20 and sent him to Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the Evangeline League. He immediately became controversial because this league did not allow black players at that time.  His mother was a white native of Spain and his father was black.  However, the Louisiana governor’s office declared he was black, forcing the Giants to ship him to the Florida State League after only five games at Lake Charles.

Felipe was the first of the three Alou brothers to play in the major leagues. Considered an everyday, consistent player, he played 17 total seasons, primarily with the Giants and Braves.  He broke in with the Giants on June 8, 1958, their first year on the West Coast.  It was at a time when Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda were getting all the attention on the club.  However, Felipe hit .316 and a career-high 98 RBI for the NL pennant-winning Giants in 1962.

After being traded to Milwaukee in 1964, he led the National League in at-bats and hits in 1966 and 1968. He finished second in batting average to his brother Matty in 1966, the only time this happened in major league history.  That same year, he hit a career-high 31 home runs.   He appeared in the first League Championship Series in 1969, when Atlanta faced the New York Mets.

Felipe was often placed in the batting lineup as a leadoff hitter. On two occasions, July 26-27, 1965, and August 9-10, 1966, he hit leadoff home runs in consecutive games.  He is among the career leaders in leadoff home runs with 20. He combined with four other Giants players to hit consecutive home runs in the 9th inning of a game on August 31, 1961.  On another occasion, April 30, 1961, he hit one of eight homes in a game by Giants players against the Braves.  In 1968 he had a 22-game hitting streak with the Braves.

At the end of the 1969 season, Felipe was traded to the Oakland Athletics and finished his career in the American League by 1974. During his career, he made the All-Star team three times.  Felipe was one of only three players in history to play for the Milwaukee Braves and Brewers teams.  Hank Aaron and Phil Roof were the others.

Felipe spent twelve years managing in the minor leagues, as well as many seasons of winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He became the first Dominican manager in the majors when he succeeded Tom Runnells of the Montreal Expos in May 1992.   He had previously coached at every level in the Expos organization.  Although he was noted for his low-key approach, his philosophy of managing was simple:  “Don’t be afraid to fail.  Play to win, don’t play not to lose.”  His initial Montreal clubs included his son, Moises, and nephew, Mel Rojas.

Felipe resurrected the Expos franchise, finishing first or second in four of his first five seasons. He was selected the National League Manager of the Year in the strike-shortened season of 1994.  He led a young Expos team to the best record in the majors that year, but unfortunately the team did not play in the post-season, because of the strike.

The Expos operated with a lean budget and as a result the players were consistently among the lowest paid in the league. Yet Alou was noted for being somewhat of a miracle worker by getting the most out the talent dealt him.  However, with the Expos competing in the same division with the best National League team of the ‘90s, the Atlanta Braves, they could never rise above a mediocre status.

He became the manager of the San Francisco Giants for 2003 and promptly led them to a NL West Division title by winning 100 games, their most since 1993. He managed the Giants for three more seasons before becoming a special assistant to the Giants’ general manager.

During his playing career, Felipe compiled a .286 batting average, 2,101 hits, 985 runs, 206 home runs, and 852 RBI. He was a three-time All-Star and finished fifth in the National League MVP voting in 1966, when he had a career year leading the league in hits, runs, and total bases.  As a manager, his career record was 1,033 wins and 1,021 losses.

In addition to major leaguer Moises Alou, Felipe had three other sons who played baseball professionally. Luis Rojas was signed by the Orioles. Jose Alou played in the Expos organization, while Felipe Alou Jr. played in the Royals organization. He also had another nephew, Francisco Rojas, who played in the major leagues.

Jesus Alou

Jesus was the youngest of the three Alou brothers who played in the major leagues. He was signed by the Giants as a 16-year-old and began his professional career in 1959 as a pitcher.  He converted to an outfielder and made his major league debut on September 10, 1963, with the San Francisco Giants.

He played a total of six seasons with the Giants, hitting .298 and .292 in two of those seasons. Like his brother Matty, he was not known as a power hitter, with 9 home runs and 52 RBI in 1965 being his career best in each of those categories.

When the National League expanded after the 1968 season, Jesus was drafted by the Montreal Expos from the expansion player list, but they traded him to Houston for the 1969 season.

He played three full seasons and part of a fourth for the Astros, and then was traded to Oakland just in time to help them into the World Series in 1973. In 1974 as a reserve outfielder, he again appeared with Oakland in their third straight World Series.  He played for the Mets in 1975, sat out for two years, and then completed his career with two more years at Houston.  Beginning in 1972 he was frequently filling a pinch-hitter role and finished his career with 82 pinch-hits.

Jesus got six hits in a game on July 10, 1964, against the Cubs. Each of his hits came off a different pitcher.  On July 17, 1966, he equaled a National League record when he grounded into a double play three times in the second game of a doubleheader.

For his career, he hit for a .280 average and produced 1,126 hits, 32 home runs and 377 RBI. When he got his 1,000th career hit with the Astros in 1972, it made the Alou brothers the only major league trio to get over 1,000 hits in their careers.  In 1979, he was a coach for the Houston Astros.

Matty Alou

Matty followed his older brother’s footsteps with the San Francisco Giants when he made his major league debut on September 26, 1960. He spent six seasons with the Giants as a reserve player, primarily because the Giants’ outfield was already crowded with such hitters as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Harvey Kuenn, and his brothers.

Matty was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1965 season, and he immediately became a star as a full-time player. He led the National League in hitting (.342) in 1966, beating out his brother Felipe, who finished in second place.  That year he was part of a .300-hitting outfield with Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente.  Matty would go on to be among the top ten in his league in batting average and top five in hits for five more seasons.  He is one of eight major league players who got 200 hits in a season (1970) and still batter under .300.

Following his five-year stint with the Pirates, he played with the Cardinals, A’s, Yankees and Padres, still managing to hit well.

Matty retired after the 1974 season with a .307 career batting average, 1,777 hits and 236 doubles. He had very little power, as he hit only 31 home runs and 427 RBI over fifteen seasons.  In fact, in 1968 he went an entire season (558 at-bats) with no home runs.

Matty appeared in World Series games with the Giants in 1962 and Oakland A’s in 1972. He was a National League All-Star in 1968 and 1969.  Following his major league career, he played three years for the Taiheiyo Club Lions in Japan.


Baseball Is A Family Affair For Rojas

Luis Rojas is the manager of the Savannah Sand Gnats, the New York Mets affiliate in the South Atlantic League. His bloodlines include some big-time major leaguers. His father is Felipe Alou, a 17-year veteran player in the big leagues and a former major league manager for 14 seasons with the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants. His brother is former major league all-star Moises Alou.

Luis learned a lot from both his father and his brother and led to his eventually taking a minor league manager’s job following his own playing days. He hopes to take the family name to another step.

See related story about Luis Rojas at the link below from WSAV.com: