A Look at Family Ties Through the Cardboard Hobby

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Baseball players with relatives in the game have been around since the beginning of the professional sport. If you count the National Association as the first major-league, brothers Doug and Art Allison and George and Harry Wright played in the inaugural season in 1871.  The first son of a major-leaguer to also play in the majors was Jack Doscher in 1903.  His father, Herm, had been a big-leaguer from 1872 to 1882.

Fast-forwarding to the beginning of the 2017 season, there had been almost 500 brother combinations and nearly 250 father-son combinations to have appeared in the majors. The number of players who are uncles, nephews, cousins, and in-laws of other major-leaguers is prevalent as well.

Throughout the years, baseball cards have contributed to the recording of baseball history, which includes many of the occurrences of family ties in the sport.

However, early baseball cards didn’t typically feature more than one player per card. So while there were numerous instances of family ties in the early days of the sport, they weren’t depicted together on a single card.  Furthermore, the individual player cards in those early years didn’t contain textual biographical information (like today) that might identify players as having a brother in baseball.

The 1872 Warren Studio Boston Red Stocking Cabinets set included individual cards of George and Harry Wright of the champions of the premier season. The Old Judge (N172) set issued by Goodwin & Co. during 1887-1890 was the largest among the early sets, with over 500 different players.  It included individual player cards of several of the early major-league brothers, including Ed and Con Daley, Pat (Tom) and John Deasley, Buck and John Ewing, Art and John Irwin, Dave and Jack Rowe, Orator and Taylor Shafer, Bill and John Sowders, and Gus and John Weyhing.

Jack and Mike O’Neill cards are included in the extremely rare 1904 Allegheny Card Co. set, which is believed to have only been produced as a prototype and never distributed. The 1922 American Caramel (E120) series contains cards of brothers Jimmy and Doc Johnston and Bob and Emil (Irish) Meusel.

The 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 (R321) set contained colored portraits of four players, usually on the same team, on a single 2-3/8” x 2-7/8” card. The set was unique in that card backs form nine different puzzles.  Wes and Rick Ferrell (appearing with Fritz Ostermueller and Bill Werber), Paul and Lloyd Waner (appearing with Guy Bush and Waite Hoyt) exist in this 36-card, unnumbered set.

Among the first sets to produce cards with brothers appearing on the same card in a single photo include the 1936 National Chicle Co. Pen Premiums (R313), a 3-¼” x 5-3/8” blank-backed, unnumbered set that illustrated facsimile autographs. It’s not purely coincidental that this set pictured Wes and Rick Ferrell and Paul and Lloyd Waner, since they were among the first sets of major-league brothers to both be star-quality players.  The Ferrells formed a brother battery for the Boston Red Sox, while the Waners roamed the outfield as teammates for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The smallish Waners are posed in a comical shot on the shoulders of 6-foot-6 teammate Jim Weaver.

1936 National Chicle Waners
1936 National Chicle Co. Fine Pens, Unnumbered

The 1941 Double Play (R330) set would have been the perfect set to show Joe and Dom DiMaggio on the same card, since the set was designed to feature two players on a single card with consecutive card numbers on each card. But that didn’t happen.  Instead the DiMaggios were pictured separately on two cards, Joe with Yankee teammate Charley Keller and Dom with Red Sox teammate Frank Pytlak.

One of the most recognized cards with brothers appearing on the same card is in the popular 1954 Topps set. A card with twin brothers Ed and John O’Brien of the Pittsburgh Pirates is included in the set, which was the first to feature two player photos (a portrait and an action photo) on a card.  The O’Briens, who formed the middle infield combo for the Pirates, are one of only eight sets of twins to ever play in the major-leagues.  They are shown together on the card in a kneeling pose with a bat on their shoulder, minus the action photo.

Bowman came up with a neat concept for its 1955 card design, its last as an independent card producer. Players were portrayed in color photos arranged inside a television set.  Brothers Bobby and Billy Shantz, then playing for the Kansas City A’s, were included on a single card.  An interesting circumstance in that card set involved brothers Frank and Milt Bolling, who were included on separate cards, but the backs of their cards incorrectly contained their brother’s biographical information.  Their cards were later corrected, creating a variation for collectors.

1955 Bowman Shantz
1955 Bowman Card No. 139

The 1961 Topps set included a single card of Larry and Norm Sherry, battery-mates for the Los Angeles Dodgers. For the next fifteen or so years, except for a few occasional years when brothers appeared together on Topps league leader cards (for example, Felipe and Matty Alou in the Topps 1966 and 1968 sets) and in reprint sets, cards showing family relationships were absent from sets.

The first major set to duly recognize players with relatives was the 1976 Topps issue. Five consecutively-numbered cards comprised a subset captioned “Father & Son – Big Leaguers.”  The father-son combos included Gus and Buddy Bell, Ray and Bob Boone, Joe and Joe Coleman, Jim and Mike Hegan, and Roy Sr. and Roy Jr. Smalley.  Each card contained a photo from a previous Topps issue for the father and a photo from the current issue for the son.  Interestingly, three of these family combinations (Bells, Boones, and Colemans) would eventually have a third generation play in the major leagues.

Topps followed up in 1977 with another relatives subset titled “Big League Brothers.” It contained four consecutively-numbered cards that included George and Ken Brett, Bob and Ken Forsch, Lee and Carlos May, and Paul and Rick Reuschel.

The baseball card craze kicked into high gear in the mid-to-late 1980s when new card companies like Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck came onto the hobby scene. They each contributed a few relatives combo cards involving such families as the Niekros, Ripkens and Alomars.  Topps produced its largest family ties subset with thirteen consecutively-numbered cards captioned “Father-Son,” as part of its 1985 base set.  The father-son combos appeared on a single card, with the fathers being pictured in one of their former Topps cards as a player.  A few of the combos were Yogi and Dale Berra, Tito and Terry Francona, Vern and Vance Law, and Dizzy and Steve Trout.

As part of its 1992 base set, Upper Deck issued a subset captioned “Bloodlines Set.” It had seven consecutively-numbered cards that included major-league cousins (Keith and Kevin Mitchell, Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden) in addition to several brothers, fathers and sons. One would expect Ken Griffey Jr. and his father to be in this set, but Upper Deck threw in an extra twist by also including brother/son Craig Griffey, who was in only his second minor-league season.

1993 Bowman Bonds
1993 Bowman Card No. 702

Bowman followed the next year with a four-card subset called “Father and Son,” in which current players Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Moises Alou, and Brian McRae were depicted with their fathers on the same card, while in the same team uniform. The fathers were shown in a larger photo while the sons were pictured in a smaller action shot insert.

In 1994 The Sporting News, in conjunction with MegaCards, did an admirable job of producing a 330-card series featuring photos taken by legendary sports photographer Charles Conlon.  Similar series were produced in the three prior years.  Included in the 1994 series were a dozen cards showing major-league brothers, who had played during 1900 to 1945, on a single card.  For some of the players, it was the only baseball card ever produced with their image.  Cards for Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Wes and Rick Farrell, and Bubbles and Pinky Hargrave contained a single Conlon photo of the players posed together, while the other cards contained separate Conlon images of the brothers.  Some of the lesser known big-league brothers who were depicted in the subset included Andy and Hugh High, Wade and Bill Killefer, and Al and Ivey Wingo.  A burgundy-bordered parallel set was also produced for the 1994 series.

The proliferation of parallel sets contributed to variations of cards showing major-league relatives. For example, brothers Bengie and Jose Molina were depicted together on several 2005 Topps-produced sets, including Base, 1st Edition, Chrome, Chrome Refractor and Chrome Black Refractor.

Similar to the 1992 Upper Deck set with Craig Griffey, the 2003 the Topps Heritage set included a single card of Joe Mauer and his brother, Jake, who was in the minors at the time.

The 2016 Topps Archives set included a subset of seven cards, containing family relationships on a single card, in the same format as the 1985 Topps version of the Father-Son subset. Ray and Bob Boone appeared in the 1985 set, while the 2016 set include Bob and Bret Boone.  Tito and Terry Francona are carried over from the 1985 set, but with different retro card images.  Recent major-leaguer Dee Gordon and his father, Tom, are also included.

2016 Topps Archive Gordon
2016 Topps Archives Card No. FS-GGO

Fortunately for collectors, the majority of cards depicting players with their relatives are very much available and still affordable, except for the older cards prior to 1960. My checklist of baseball cards with multiple relatives can be viewed at https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/baseball-cards/.

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The cards described above primarily address the occurrences of players and their relatives on a single card. Of course, the majority of cards with family ties show the individual players by themselves.

For a couple of years now, I have corresponded periodically with a card collector, Scott, who has a special interest in baseball cards of major-leaguers that had a family member that also played in the majors. Scott’s initial collecting activities go back to when he was eight years old in the late 1970s.  In the mid-1990s his focus on baseball families began to take shape, as he collected cards of some of the more noteworthy families such as the Boones, Bells and Alous.  His collection extends beyond just the multi-player family cards described above.  It also includes single-player cards of fathers, sons and brothers, as well.

Scott says about five years ago he got serious in his attempt to collect a card of every MLB family combination since 1957, the first year Topps standardized on the current card size. It’s an activity he shares with his son.  They have meticulously arranged their collection in a book organized by family  Families with more than two members are in front, and then the book is organized into Fathers-Sons and then Brothers.  Scott especially favors the cards that show close-up shots (versus action shots), so that he can compare the resemblances of father-son and brother combinations.  For example, Scott says Aaron Boone looks remarkably similar to card images of his grandfather, Ray, at the same age.

Scott even goes so far as to make up his own baseball cards of family members, when a player doesn’t have an official card printed by one of the major card companies, usually because the player’s major-league career consisted of only a few games. To do this, Scott finds a photo image of the player on the internet and prints them on card stock.  He’s currently on a quest to find rare MLB images of Stu Pederson (father of current major-leaguer Joc Pederson) and Mike Glavine (brother of Hall of Fame player Tom Glavine) that can be used for home-made cards in his collection.

Scott at Coors Field
Card collector Scott and his children at Coors Field

I’m betting there are quite a few more collectors like Scott who are using baseball cards to learn more about baseball’s many family relationships.

Manning Bowl III Kindles Memories of Baseball’s Sibling Rivalries

Yesterday ‘s NFL contest between the Manning brothers was their third such game in which they went head-to-head as opponents. How often do fans of any sport get to see two high-performing professional players, who also happen to be brothers, face off as competitors in the same game? In the Mannings’ case, they have both led their teams to Super Bowl championships and currently rank among the best quarterbacks in professional football. Baseball has a long history of sibling confrontations on the field. The most recent one occurred in May of this year, when Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays hit a double off of his brother Cory of the Atlanta Braves. It was the first time they had played in the same game since high school.

Many of us have experienced seemingly intense rivalries with our siblings while playing pickup games in our back yards or on neighborhood sandlots. Indeed, they are some of our best memories, despite being unheralded moments. However, can you imagine the emotions of two brothers who are competing against each other on a big stage such as a major league stadium?

Let’s take a look at some of the earlier occurrences of siblings as opponents in the big leagues.

Jesse and Virgil Barnes were the first pair of brothers to face each other as starting pitchers in the major leagues on May 3 1927. In all, they opposed each other ten times, with Jesse winning five contests and Virgil three.

Phil and Joe Niekro each had long careers in the majors, and consequently they wound up pitching against each other nine times in the regular season. Forty years after the Barnes’ first occurrence, Phil (with the Braves) outdid Joe (with the Cubs), 8-3, on July 4, 1967. In 1979, the Niekros tied for the National League lead in wins with twenty-one. Phil defeated Joe for his 20th win that season. Joe hit only one home run in his 22-year major league career, and that was off brother Phil on May 29, 1976. While the Niekros may have beat up each other as opponents from time to time, they wound up as the brother combination with the most combined wins (539) in major league history.

On the other hand, a contemporary pair of pitching brothers with the Niekros, Gaylord and Jim Perry, faced each other only one time in their combined thirty-nine seasons of pitching. They were opponents on July 3, 1973, in a game between the Indians and Tigers. Gaylord took the loss for the Indians.

Brothers Stan and Harry Coveleski pitched for different major league teams in the American League from 1916 to 1918, but they refused to start against each other. However, they did wind up pitching in a game on Labor Day in 1916, when Stan was knocked out of the game in the first inning by the Tigers and Harry pitched in relief later in the game.

Greg and Mike Maddux were the first rookie brothers to pitch against each other in the same game on September 29, 1986. Greg (with the Cubs) defeated Mike (with the Phillies), 8-3.

In a specially arranged move, Detroit Tiger Pat Underwood made his major league debut on May 31, 1979, against his brother Tom of the Toronto Blue Jays. Pat was a 1-0 winner his debut, yielding only three hits in eight and one-third innings, while Tom pitched a complete game in the loss.

Furthermore, there have been numerous instances of major league brothers opposing each other as batter versus pitcher.

Alex Gaston of the Boston Red Sox broke up brother Milt’s (with the St. Louis Browns) no-hitter in 1926, hitting a single with one out in the ninth inning.

The St. Louis Browns’ Rick Ferrell almost broke up kid brother Wes’ no-hitter on April 29, 1931; but the official scorer ruled Rick’s at-bat an error, and Wes claimed his pitching gem the Cleveland Indians. On July 19, 1933, in a game between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, Wes Ferrell (with the Indians) yielded a home run to brother Rick (with the Red Sox) in the fourth inning. Wes also hit a home run in the same inning. This was the first time brothers on opposing teams homered in the same game. As a footnote, pitcher Wes wound up with more career home runs than his catcher brother.

On May 6, 1885, Philadelphia pitcher Ed Daily faced his brother Con (with Providence) in Con’s first major league at-bat. Ed hit Con causing him to be removed from the game.

Following are additional occurrences of major league siblings opposing each other in the same game.

Additional brothers to hit home runs for opposing teams include: Al and Tony Cuccinello (1935), Joe and Dominic DiMaggio (1950), Graig and Jim Nettles (1972, 1974), Hector and Jose Cruz (1981), Bret and Aaron Boone (1999, 2000), and Felipe and Cesar Crespo (2001).

Clete and Ken Boyer competed against each other in the 1964 World Series, with the Yankees and Cardinals, respectively. In Game 7, they each hit home runs. They had played against each other professionally for the first time in Game 1.

On September 4, 1988, Donell Nixon led off for the San Francisco Giants, and his older brother Otis led off for the Montreal Expos, marking one of the few times in major league history that brothers led off a game for opposing teams.

On April 5, 1993, Cal Ripken Jr. and brother Billy played their first game as members of opposing teams. They had previously played together with the Orioles from 1987 to 1992 as the middle infield combo.

These and other accounts of brothers who played with and against each other in the major leagues are included in my book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, in a chapter titled “Teammates and Opponents.” The book can be purchased at http://thetenthinning.com/store.html.

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.