Contributed by Richard Cuicchi, 07/24/2016
In his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech, Ken Griffey Jr. mentioned his father’s Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970s, known as the “The Big Red Machine.” as some of the best in baseball history. Griffey acknowledged his father’s role in his development as a player and as a person. It’s likely some of Junior’s fondest memories are hanging out in a major league clubhouse with his father.
In a related story about the prevalence of children of Reds players from those teams who went on to play professional baseball, following is a chapter excerpted from my book “Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives” published in 2012.
Sons of the “Big Red Machine”
The Cincinnati Reds teams of the early-to-mid-1970s are noted as one of the more famous teams in baseball history. The “Big Red Machine,” led by Sparky Anderson, was comprised of some of the game’s best individual players of that era: Rose, Bench, Morgan, Foster, Perez, Griffey, and Concepcion. They went to the World Series in 1970, 1972, 1975, and 1976, winning back-to-back world championships in 1975 and 1976.
Little did anyone know that these teams would produce a bevy of future professional baseball players. Sixteen players (fathers) on those teams had sons who would later play professional baseball at some level. Five of the sons were first-round draft picks by major league clubs: Brian McRae (1985), Lee May, Jr. (1988), Ken Griffey, Jr. (1987), Ed Sprague (1988), and Eduardo Perez (1991).
The sons were sometimes referred to as “Little Red Machine.” Tony Perez once commented, “They were wild. You had to keep after them. But they were good kids.” In any case, they learned the winning feeling hanging around the clubhouse of their famous fathers. This situation is a prime illustration of the sons of major leaguers excelling because of the environment in which they were raised.
Marty Brennaman (himself the progenitor of a baseball broadcasting family) was the Reds broadcaster during those years and some of his most endearing memories revolve around the players’ kids, who would congregate around the Reds’ clubhouse. They added to the excitement the Reds team was generating. “Little Pete was about as obnoxious a kid as you’d find,” Brennaman said. “But he grew up to be as fine a young man as I’ve ever known. They were all like that: loud and running around like water bugs. They were so brash it was incredible. But you’ve got to remember, they were all small then, not at an age where you would call them responsible. Riverfront Stadium was like their second home. That made it special. It was like a family in that clubhouse.”
Twenty-plus years later, several of these sons of the Big Red Machine made history in a spring training game. On March 27, 1997, in a game between Cincinnati and Texas, the Reds’ lineup included Pete Rose, Jr., who batted leadoff and played third base; Dave Concepcion, Jr., playing shortstop and batting second; and Eduardo Perez, son of Tony Perez, playing first base. In that same game, there were additional “family ties.” Aaron Boone, younger brother of Reds regular second baseman Bret, played second base; and Stephen Larkin, younger brother of Reds regular shortstop Barry, played in the DH position.
Below is a list of the father-son combinations from the “Big Red Machine” era.
|Father||Reds Years||Son||Son’s Playing Career|
|Pedro Borbon, Sr.||1970–1979||Pedro Borbon, Jr.||Major league (1992–2003)|
|Tony Cloninger||1968–1971||Darrin Cloninger
|Minor league (1983–1985)
Minor league (1983–1985)
|Dave Concepcion||1970–1988||Dave Concepcion, Jr.||Minor league (1995–1996)|
|Ed Crosby||1973–1973||Bobby Crosby||Major league (2003–2010)|
|Terry Crowley||1974–1975||Terry Crowley
|Minor league (1986–1992)
Minor league (1991–1995)
|Cesar Geronimo||1972–1980||Cesar Geronimo, Jr.||Minor league (1995–1998)|
|Ken Griffey, Sr.||1973–1981||Ken Griffey, Jr.
|Major league (1989–2010)
Minor league (1991–1997)
|Tommy Helms||1964–1971||Ryan Helms
Wes Helms (nephew)
|Minor league (1994–1995)
Minor league (1990–1992)
Major league (1998–2010)
|Julian Javier||1972–1972||Stan Javier||Major league (1984–2001)|
|Andy Kosco||1973–1974||Andrew Kosco
|Minor league (1986–1990)
Minor league (1988–1996)
|Lee May||1965–1971||Lee May, Jr.||New York Mets first round draft pick (1988).|
|Hal McRae||1968–1972||Brian McRae||Major league (1990–1999)|
|Tony Perez||1964–1976||Eduardo Perez
|Major league (1993–2006)
Minor league (1990)
|Pete Rose||1963–1978||Pete Rose, Jr.||Major league (1997)|
|Ed Sprague||1971–1973||Ed Sprague||Major league (1991–2001)|
|Woody Woodward||1968–1971||Matt Woodward||Minor league (1998–1999)|
It was truly a “family affair” in the Reds organization during those years. Additionally, the following Reds players, scouts, and executives were part of the heyday of the “Big Red Machine,” and they also had relatives in professional baseball.
|Reds Affiliate||Reds Years||Relationship||Relative||Relative’s Career|
|Bob Bailey||Player (1976)||Son of||Paul “Buck” Bailey||Minor Leagueplayer (1939–1940)|
|Larry Barton, Sr.||Reds scout (1970–1979)||Father of||Larry Barton, Jr.||Reds scout (1970–1979)|
|Jack Billingham||Player (1972–1977)||Cousin of||Christy Mathewson
|Major League player (1900–1916)
Major League player (1906–1907)
|Joe Bowen||Reds director of scouting||Brother of||Rex Bowen||Pirates director of scouting; Reds special assistant|
|Marty Brennaman||Reds broadcaster (1974–2011)||Father of||Thom Brennaman||Major League broadcaster for Reds, Cubs, Diamondbacks, FOX network|
|Dan Driessen||Player (1973–1984)||Uncle of||Gerald Perry||Major League player (1983–1995)|
|Doug Flynn||Player (1975–1977)||Son of||Robert Douglas Flynn, Sr.||Minor League player|
|Phil Gagliano||Player (1973–1974)||Brother of||Ralph Gagliano||Major League player (1965–1965)|
|Ross Grimsley, Jr.||Player (1971–1973)||Son of||Ross Grimsley, Sr.||Major League player (1951)|
|Junior Kennedy||Player (1974–1981)||Brother of||Jim Kennedy||Major League player (1970)|
|Bob Howsam||Reds GM (1966–1977)||Father of||Edwin Howsam||Reds area scouting supervisor|
|Lee May||Player (1965–1971)||Brother of||Carlos May||Major League player (1968–1977)|
|Bill Plummer||Player (1970–1977)||Son of||William Plummer||Minor League player (1921–1927)|