Contributed by Richard Cuicchi
NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Jared Goff, forsakes baseball heritage
When the Los Angeles Rams selected Jared Goff as the overall first pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, perhaps more than anyone else his father, Jerry, was well aware of the impact of the occasion.
Jerry Goff had some prior experience with pro sports drafts himself, since he was the third-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 1986 Major League Baseball Draft. His career was comprised primarily of over 900 minor league games over twelve seasons, although he did manage to appear in 90 major league games with the Montreal Expos, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Houston Astros. It’s likely that the biggest moment of his nondescript major league career came in his last game when he hit a home run. He toiled for a dozen years and never made the big bucks as a baseball player.
The younger Goff was a three-sport standout in high school, but wound up deciding on football when he went to the University of California at Berkeley to play quarterback. His career decision has now paid off, since he stands to sign for a substantial bonus and will likely be a starter within a couple of years.
In an interview on the MLB Radio Network, the elder Goff said he never pushed Jared towards baseball, although he was a standout shortstop through high school. Ultimately, Jared showed better skills in football, and Jerry fully supported his son’s pursuit of the sport at the college level.
The vast majority of relatives of professional baseball players pursue baseball rather than choosing another professional sport. As an indicator of this situation, over 800 professional baseball players, managers, and coaches in 2015 had a relative in pro baseball. When considering the relatively few number of major leaguers whose sons choose professional football as a career, Jared Goff is in select company as the NFL’s No. 1 pick this year.
A look at a few of Jared Goff’s predecessors
Prior to Goff, the most notable son of a former major league player to pursue professional football was Tom Mack. His father, Ray, had been a second baseman during nine major league seasons from 1938 to 1947. Ray primarily played for the Cleveland Indians which included an all-star season in 1940. Tom was the No. 2 overall pick of the 1966 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, and went on to an NFL Hall of Fame career as an offensive guard with the Rams for 13 seasons.
Ernie Koy Jr. was an 11th-round pick of the New York Giants in the 1965 NFL Draft. He had been a standout running back at the University of Texas and became a punter and halfback for the Giants from 1965 to 1970. Ernie’s father, Ernie Sr., had been an outfielder for four National League teams from 1938 to 1942, when he compiled a career .279 batting average in 558 games.
Lee Riley Sr. was in the major leagues for only a cup of coffee (four games) in 1944, when most of the regular players were in the military service during World War II. His son, Lee Jr., had a more substantial career in the NFL and AFL as a defensive back from 1955 to 1962 for the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Detroit Lions and New York Titans. However, another son of Lee Sr. would become more recognizable. Pat Riley was the highly successful player and coach in the NBA.
New York Yankee immortal Yogi Berra also had sons who chose different paths in professional sports. Tim Berra was the 17th round draft pick of the Baltimore Colts in 1974, but played only one NFL season as a receiver/punt returner. Dale Berra played for eleven seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The shortstop/third baseman posted a .236 career batting average in 853 games. Yogi had another son, Laurence, who played sparingly for two seasons in the New York Mets organization.
Cory Harkey is the son of Mike Harkey, a former major league pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and four other teams during 1988 to 1997. Mike is currently the bullpen coach for the New York Yankees. Cory has been a tight end for the Los Angeles Rams for the past four seasons after attending UCLA.
A future in pro football?
There are several sons of former major leaguers who are currently playing football at the college level. Perhaps we’ll see a few of them in the NFL soon.
Trey Griffey may have the best baseball lineage of all time. He is the son of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and grandson of Ken Griffey Sr., a three-time all-star and owner of a .296 career batting average over 19 seasons. Yet Trey chose football as his primary sport. He is currently a senior wide receiver for the University of Arizona.
Torii Hunter Jr. was drafted by the Detroit Tigers out of high school in 2013, but chose to attend Notre Dame instead, where he currently plays both football and baseball for the Fighting Irish. The wide receiver will be a starting senior in the coming season, while he has been a back-up outfielder on the baseball team. Torii’s father, Torii Sr., was a five-time all-star and nine-time Gold Glove outfielder during his twenty years in the major leagues.
After leading his high school team to two state baseball championships, Patrick Mahomes chose to play football in college. He is currently one of the nation’s leading college quarterbacks at Texas Tech. In 2015 he completed his sophomore season with over 4,600 yards passing and 36 touchdowns. Patrick is the son of Pat Mahomes, who had an eleven-year career as a major league pitcher, primarily as a relief specialist, during 1992 to 2003.
Dante Pettis is currently a junior wide receiver and punt returner for the University of Washington. His father is Gary Pettis, a veteran of eleven major league years which included five Gold Glove awards as an outfielder. Gary is currently a coach for the Houston Astros.