Baseball Relatives Prominent in the Mid-Summer All-Star Classic

This year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 16 in New York will mark eighty years since the first mid-summer classic. In my book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, I noted that the All-Star Game is just one of many themes in understanding how baseball’s family relationships have permeated the game over the years. This year’s All-Star teams will be no exception.

Before I delve into the history of baseball’s relatives as participants in the All-Star Game, I’d like to quickly review the beginnings of this event in 1933. The game was initially conceived to be a one-time charity event in conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. It was suggested by Chicago Tribune sports editor, Arch Ward, not by the officials associated with Major League Baseball. From the very beginning, it was proposed that the fans be allowed to vote on the roster of players. Naturally, that idea caught on because the fans saw an opportunity to see a “dream team” collection of baseball’s star players of the day. However, some of the Major League owners were skeptical of the inaugural game, because they were concerned it would set a precedent of continuing to be a charity event, if the game was repeated as an annual occurrence.

Of course, the annual game did continue. With the exception of the war year 1945, there has been an All-Star game each year since 1933. During the years 1959-1961, there were actually two All-Star games played each year.

Eighty years ago, the first All-Star game included brothers Rick and Wes Ferrell. Other players on the All-Star squads, Bill Dickey, Paul Waner, and Tony Cuccinello, also had brothers who played in the big leagues. All-Star Earl Averill would have a son who was a major leaguer.

The 2013 All-Stars will likely include Robinson Cano, Yadier Molina, Prince Fielder, and Justin Upton, each of whom has a relative in Major League Baseball. In 2011, when Cano participated in the Home Run Derby competition prior to the All-Star game, his father Jose, a former Houston Astros player in 1969, pitched to his son. Fielder’s father, Cecil, had been an All-Star selection for three years in the early 1990s.

The three DiMaggio brothers (Joe, Dominic, and Vince) made twenty-two All-Star teams between them. From 1936 to 1952, at least one DiMaggio brother played on an All-Star team, except for 1945 when the game was cancelled due to travel restrictions during World War II. Joe and Dominic were teammates on All-Star teams on six occasions, but only once did they appear as starters in the same game.

In 1942, Mort and Walker Cooper were starting battery mates, the only such combination in All-Star history. They were both starters, representing the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1943 as well.

When Buddy Bell appeared in the 1973 All-Star Game for the American League, he and his father Gus became the first father-son combination to appear in the mid-summer classic.

In the 1990 All-Star Game, brothers Sandy and Roberto Alomar were selected to play, while their father Sandy , Sr. was named a coach for the American League. Sandy and Roberto Alomar are the only set of brothers to appear as both teammates and opponents in All-Star Game contests.

The only father-son combination to be named Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game were Ken Griffey, Sr. (1980) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (1992).

Family Ties can be purchased at http://thetenthinning.com/store.html.

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Upton Brothers Rekindle Awareness of Paul and Lloyd Waner

There aren’t too many current baseball fans who remember the specifics of the careers of Paul and Lloyd Waner, brother teammates who starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the late 1920s and 1930s. Their nicknames were “Big Poison” and “Little Poison,” respectively, for good reason. Based on their career batting averages and on-base percentages, they were indeed “poison” to opposing teams’ pitchers, and each of their careers landed them a spot as a member of the elite Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet they were often overshadowed by other popular stars of their era—names such as Ruth, Gehrig, Ott, Terry, Greenberg, and Foxx.

However, the Waner name has recently re-surfaced in baseball news, because B. J. and Justin Upton, the current brother tandem of the Atlanta Braves, are being already lobbied by baseball writers and analysts for the category of “best brother teammates,” as a result of reaching a few hitting milestones shared with that the Waners and other brother combinations.

If you recall my TheTenthInning.com blog post of February 17, I wrote about the big splash the Uptons were predicted to make in Atlanta, after both were traded the Braves during the offseason. Indeed, they have caused a lot of stir there—especially Justin, who has hit twelve home runs in the first twenty-four games for the Braves. After a very slow start, B. J. now has three home run contributions of his own. Their presence has definitely helped to propel the Braves into an early lead in the National League East Division.

Justin and B. J. each homered in the same game for their first time on April 7, when they both hit dingers in the 9th inning to tie and then win the game. The last set of brothers to hit home runs in the same inning was 1996, when the Ripken brothers did it. On April 23, the Uptons slugged back-to-back home runs in a game against the Colorado Rockies, with the only other time in history involving Paul and Lloyd on September 15, 1938. So far this season, the Uptons have homered in the same game on three different occasions, the same number of times the Waners did it over 16 years as teammates.

Why aren’t the Waner brothers more well-known today? For one reason, they played most of their careers in Pittsburgh, which at the time would have been the equivalent of what is now referred to as a “small market” team. If Paul and Lloyd had played their careers in cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, or St. Louis, they might likely be more recognized for their achievements. Another factor was that Pittsburgh was often a “middle of the pack” team in the National League pennant races during the Waners’ years. The Waner brothers made only one World Series appearance, in 1927, which was very early in their careers.

Furthermore, Paul and Lloyd were not considered flashy players during their day, on or off the field—they just went about their business of playing ball. Even though they were excellent players of their time, they didn’t play for perennial champions and weren’t considered gate attractions or newsworthy players, when compared to some of their contemporaries. Those factors likely contribute to their often being overlooked when recalling the great players of the game.

However, the Baseball Hall of Fame recognized the achievements of Paul in 1952. When he ended his career in 1945, he was only the 7th player to amass more than 3,000 hits. By the way, there are still only 28 players in all of baseball history to reach this level. He led the National League in batting average in three seasons and was its MVP in 1927, as well as runner-up in 1934. In two other seasons, he hit .368 and .370 and still did not win the batting titles those years. He was literally a hitting machine.

Lloyd was selected for the Hall of Fame in 1967, by vote of the Veteran’s Committee, although his career was not as illustrious as his brother’s. Lloyd accumulated 2,459 career hits and finished with a .316 batting average. He was voted to the All-Star team only once, compared to Paul’s four selections. However, I believe if Lloyd were coming up for election to the Hall of Fame today, there is a high probability he would not be voted in, since he compares with more recent players such as Al Oliver, Bill Buckner, Bill Madlock, and Johnny Damon, who are not likely to get inducted into the Hall by today’s standards.

Together, Paul and Lloyd hold career records in several offensive categories for brother combinations. They lead all brother tandems in Games Played (4,541), Hits (5,611), Runs (2,827), and Batting Average (.326). Their combined performances in these categories top the numbers of other prolific brothers such as the DiMaggios, Ripkens, Boyers, Alomars and Alous.

While the Upton brothers’ relative youth (B. J. is 28 years old and Justin is 25) and their performance to date suggest they may be on a track to eventually be considered among the “best brother combinations,” I believe their youth may also work against them. It remains to be seen whether they can sustain the types of productive years and relative success they have enjoyed thus far in their respective careers. Certainly, they have a long way to go to be in the same league as the oft-forgotten Waners.

Contributing Writer: Richard Cuicchi