Compiled by Richard Cuicchi
This is the eighth in a series of reviews that will take a look at family relationships in each of the thirty major-league organizations.
Baseball has more family relationships than any other professional sport. They existed in the earliest days of the sport in the 1870s, and they are abundant in today’s game, perhaps more so than ever before. Baseball has been called a “generational” sport for several reasons. One of them is that multiple generations of families have been active in the game–grandfathers, fathers, sons, and brothers. And now even some great-grandsons are starting to show up on rosters. Uncles, nephews, cousins and in-laws are part of the extended family of baseball relatives, too.
Baseball bloodlines aren’t limited to just the players. Family trees with a baseball background have commonly included managers, coaches, scouts, owners, executives, front office personnel, umpires, and broadcasters, as well.
The Cleveland Indians were filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:
Buddy Bell was a five-time all-star and six-time Gold Glove Award winner as a third baseman during his 18 major-league seasons, including seven with the Indians. Buddy also managed three major league teams and is currently an executive with the Chicago White Sox. Bell is part of one of only a handful of three-generation players in the history of major-league baseball. His son, David, is the current bench coach of the Cardinals. During David’s major-league playing career that spanned from 1995 to 2006 with six different major-league clubs, he was a career .257 hitter. Buddy’s father, Gus, was a four-time all-star during his nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. Overall, Gus played 15 seasons, ending in 1964. Buddy’s son, Mike, played briefly with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 and now currently works in the front office of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ray Boone was a major league infielder from 1948 to 1960, including all-star seasons in 1954 and 1956. The infielder played for the Indians from 1948 to 1953. His family is also a three-generation major-league baseball family. His son, Bob, is a senior advisor to the Washington Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo. Bob was a major-league catcher for nineteen years (1972-1990), including four all-star and seven Gold Glove Award seasons. Bob also managed in the majors for six seasons, splitting his time between the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds. Two of Ray’s grandsons, Bret and Aaron, had lengthy major league careers as infielders, both of whom had all-star seasons, while another son, Matt, played seven seasons in the minors.
Larry Doby Sr. was the first African-American player in the American League, making his major-league debut for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, barely three months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues. The outfielder went on to have a Hall of Fame career that included seven all-star selections and the runner-up spot in the 1954 American League MVP voting. His son, Larry Jr., played three minor-league seasons in Class A.
Oscar Grimes played nine years in the majors, including his first five with the Cleveland Indians. The infielder was a career .256 hitter between 1938 and 1946. His father, Ray, was a career .329 hitter during his six major-league seasons from 1920 to 1926. His uncle, Roy, played only 26 games in his only major-league season with the New York Giants in 1920. Ray and Roy were one of only eight sets of twins to ever play in the major leagues.
Jim Hegan played fourteen of his seventeen major-league seasons with the Cleveland Indians, earning five all-star selections. The catcher played in the World Series with the Indians in 1948 and 1954. He later became a coach for the New York Yankees. His son, Mike, signed after one year in college at Holy Cross with the Yankees and made his major-league debut with them in 1964, while his father was still coaching. Mike went on to play twelve major-league seasons, including an all-star selection with the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, their only year of existence. Mike later became a broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians.
Orestes “Minnie” Minoso began his major-league career with the Cleveland Indians in 1949. However, it was with the Chicago White Sox that he made most of his impact. The speedy outfielder was runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1951 and was selected an American League all-star in seven seasons. He returned to the Indians in 1958 and 1959. In four different seasons, he finished fourth in the voting for league’s MVP. Altogether, he posted a .298 career batting average, collecting over 1,950 hits. His son, Orestes Jr., played in five minor-league seasons with the Kansas City Royals and White Sox organizations. His grandson, Sam Macias, played in the rookie league for the White Sox farm system in 2013 and 2014.
Ray Narleski pitched for five seasons with the Cleveland Indians, both as a starter and reliever, during 1954 to 1958. He posted a career record of 43-33, with 28 saves and a 3.60 ERA. He is part of a three-generation baseball family. His father, William E. “Bill”, played two seasons for the Boston Red Sox in 1929 and 1930, while his son, Steve, pitched in the Indians’ farm system from 1976 to 1983. Ray’s two brothers, Bill Jr. and Theodore, and his uncle, William L., had minor-league careers.
Russ Nixon was a catcher for twelve major-league seasons, including four with the Cleveland Indians during 1957 and 1960. He managed the Cincinnati Reds from 1982 to 1983 and the Atlanta Braves from 1988 to 1990. His twin brother, Roy, was a first baseman in the Indians farm system from 1953 to 1957.
Fast-forwarding to more recent times, below are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Indians organization during 2016.
Michael Brantley was in his eighth year with the Indians last year, when his season was cut short by injury. The outfielder’s best year was in 2014 when he finished 3rd in the voting for MVP. He is the son of Mickey Brantley, an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners from 1986 to 1989.
Yan Gomes was in his fourth season with the Indians, when he also was injured after 74 games. He was the Silver Slugger Award winner as a catcher in 2014. His brother, Juan, played briefly in the Indians and Miami Marlins organizations last year. Yan is the brother-in-law of Atlee Hammaker, a former major-league pitcher for twelve seasons, including an all-star year in 1983 when led the National League with a 2.25 ERA.
Jeff Manship was in his second season with the Indians last year as a middle relief pitcher. He made his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2009 after being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2006. Jeff’s brother, Matt, played one minor-league season in the Oakland A’s organization in 2006.
Zach McAllister was in his second season as a converted relief pitcher last year, posting a 3.44 ERA. He began his major-league career with the Indians in 2011, after being a 3rd-round selection of the New York Yankees in 2006. Zach’s father, Steve, was a scout in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization last year, after having previously served in the same capacity for the Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels, and Boston Red Sox.
The Indians’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives played professionally, several of them with famous last names in baseball.
Conner Capel was the 5th-round draft choice of the Indians in 2016. He made his professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League. He is the son of Mike Capel, who pitched parts of three major-league seasons during 1988 to 1991.
Joe Sever completed his fifth season as a first baseman in the Indians organization last year, after being drafted in the 21st round in 2012. With Double-A Akron last, he hit .251 with 4 HR and 35 RBI. He is the nephew of John Elway, NFL Hall of Fame player, an outfielder in the New York Yankees organization in 1982.
Luke Wakamatsu was drafted out of high school in the 20th round of the 2015 MLB Draft and finished his second pro season at the Class A level last year. The infielder is the son of Don Wakamatsu, who played part of one major-league season with the Indians in 1991 and was manager of the Seattle Mariners in 2009-2010.
Bradley Zimmer was a first-round draft pick of the Indians in 2014 and has progressed through the Indians farm system, including 37 games with Triple-A Columbus last season. The outfielder is the brother of Kyle Zimmer, a first-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2012, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery in October 2014.
The 2016 Indians had their share of baseball relatives in the dugout and front office, too.
Sandy Alomar Jr. was the first-base coach for the Indians last year. He was Rookie of the Year for the Indians in 1990 and was selected to six all-star teams with them. He was a career .273 hitter in twenty major-league seasons. His brother, Roberto, was a Hall of Fame second baseman during 1988 to 2004. Their father, Sandy Sr., was a major-league infielder from 1964 to 1978 for six different clubs. He had an all-star season with the California Angels in 1970.
Terry Francona, the manager of the Indians, led the team to their first World Series since 1995. He previously won two Series titles as manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007. Francona also had a ten-year playing career as a first baseman and outfielder. His father, Tito, was a major-leaguer player from 1956 to 1970, including six seasons with the Indians. He was an all-star selection in 1961 with the Indians.
Tom Hamilton is a broadcaster for the Indians. His son, Nick, was a minor-league infielder in the Indians organization from 2012 to 2014.
Steve McCatty was a pitching coach in the Indians minor-league system last year, after serving as the pitching coach for the Washington Nationals from 2009 to 2015. He had formerly pitched for the Oakland A’s from 1977 to 1985. His son, Shane, was a pitcher in the Nationals organization from 2009 to 2012.
Brad Mills was the bench coach for the Indians last year, having also served in that capacity with Francona at Boston. He managed the Houston Astros from 2010 to 2012 and was an infielder for the Montreal Expos from 1980 to 1983. His son, Beau, was the first-round pick of the Indians in 2007 and played six minor-league seasons with the organization as a first baseman.
Mike Seghi worked in the Indians front office as director of team travel last year. He is the son of Phil Seghi, the former general manager of the Indians from 1973 to 1985.
Robby Thompson served as a special assistant for the Indians last season. He played second base for the San Francisco Giants from 1986 to 1996, which included two all-star seasons. He was a coach for the Giants, Indians and Seattle Mariners. He had twin sons who also played baseball. Tyler was drafted out of the University of Florida, his father’s alma mater, by the Washington Nationals in the 46th round in 2011. Logan was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2010 and played one minor-league season with them.
Baseball’s Relatives Website
The entire list of 2016 active major and minor league players and non-players can be retrieved at:
Sandy Alomar Sr., a 14-year veteran of the Major Leagues and father of former Major Leaguers Sandy Jr. and Roberto, was recently a guest speaker at the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball awards and scholarship dinner. He spoke about the type of focus that was required to reach the major leagues.
See related story about Alomar at the link for The Vauxhall Advance below:
Former New York Mets player, Lee Mazzilli, was labelled a “phenom” at age 18, being drafted directly out of a Brooklyn high school as a first-round pick in 1973. Three years later, he made his Major League debut with the Mets and made the National League All-Star team within four seasons. Fast forward forty years and Lee’s son, L. J., joined the professional ranks this season as the fourth-round pick of his father’s former team. The Mazzillis are just one example of many incidences of former Major League fathers seeing their sons follow in their footsteps, start to enjoy some success, and pursue making their own name in the sport.
The younger Mazzilli played his first professional season in his father’s home town of Brooklyn for the Mets’ Class-A affiliate. He is playing in ballparks where his father previously coached and managed at the minor league level before becoming manager of the Baltimore Orioles for two seasons. As his career progresses, L. J. will have the advantage of advice from a father who knows what it’s like to play in New York City, as well as having hung around the stadium environment while growing up.
Eric Young Jr. was headed to Villanova on a football scholarship when, after some heart-to-heart discussions with his father, he decided he would make baseball his career profession. Eric Sr. was an experienced advisor, since he was a 15-year veteran of the Major Leagues. Eric Jr. reached the big leagues himself in 2009 with the Colorado Rockies, but got a change in scenery this season, being picked up as a free agent by the New York Mets, where he broke into an everyday outfielder role.
Eric Jr. wound up leading the National League in stolen bases this season and is expected to be a part of the Mets’ rebuilding. His father, who also had a stint with the Rockies, was a similar type of player, excelling on the base paths, accumulating 465 stolen bases over his career. Now a baseball analyst for the Houston Astros’ broadcasts, Eric Sr. relishes the idea of being able to work in games in which his son plays.
After ten Major League seasons as journeyman middle reliever, 36-year-old Jason Grilli had a breakout year in 2013, as he was entrusted with the closer role for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He responded with a league-leading 29 saves and 1.99 ERA by the All-Star break, before suffering an injury that sidelined him for almost six weeks. Jason was a big component of the Pirates’ resurgence as a playoff team in 2013.
Jason’s father, Steve, had also been a Major League pitcher in the 1970’s, but appeared in only 70 games during his four-year career. Hence, he never achieved the success of his son, so he was indeed a proud papa when Jason pitched the final inning for the National League in the All-Star Game in New York this season.
Wanting to give his son Jacob every chance to succeed in professional ball, Lee May Jr. taught him to switch-hit while he was playing at the college level. It paid off, as Jacob was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the third-round of the June 2013 draft. Lee Jr. had also been a high draft pick in 1986, the 21st overall selection by the New York Mets, and he wound up playing in the minors from 1986-1993. Their bloodlines also include Jacob’s grandfather, Lee Sr., who was a three-time All-Star during his eighteen-year Major League career from 1965-1982. With Jacob’s switch-hitting plus his speed, he projects to be a player more like his father than his grandfather, a power hitter who slugged 354 career home runs in the big league.
Baseball runs deep in another May family. Derrick May Jr. is an outfielder drafted in 2012 by the St. Louis Cardinals, but he chose to attend college over signing. Both his father (Derrick Sr.) and grandfather (Dave) were former Major League players. If Derrick Jr. can reach also the big leagues, their family would be only the fifth three-generation combination in history.
Delino DeShields is an up and coming prospect in the Houston Astros organization. He was a first-round selection out of high school in the 2010 Major League Draft. As a kid, he got a taste of the Major League environment while accompanying his father in big league clubhouses. He got to hang around such stars as Ripken, McGwire, and Sosa, since they were teammates of his father, also named Delino, a thirteen-year veteran of the Major Leagues.
It turns out the younger Delino is a base-stealer in his father’s mold. Now the elder Delino is pulling for his son to gain some maturity on the field so that he can become an integral part of a revitalized Astros franchise.
Kevin Romine has reason to be doubly proud of his baseball family, since he has two sons, Andrew and Austin, who have reached the Major League level. He coached them from the time they played tee ball as children. Kevin had a seven-year big league career as a reserve player for the Boston Red Sox. So when he got calls from Austin, a second-year catcher with the Yankees this season, about helping him with his swing, Kevin was all too ready to provide objective advice. Andrew, who played at Arizona State University like his father, was a fourth-year big leaguer this season with the Angels.
During the 2013 season, George Frazier and his son Parker shared a common dream, more than the normal aspirations of your average father and son. They both had careers in the Colorado Rockies organization. George, a former Major League relief pitcher from 1978-1987, had been a member of the Rockies broadcast team for seventeen years. Parker, a pitcher like his father, came up through the Rockies organization reaching the Triple-A level.
Thus, George waited anxiously for the day when he could do play-by-play with his son on the field for the Rockies. However, their unique dream ended with Parker being traded to the Cincinnati Reds organization during the season. George will have to settle for calling a game with Parker on the opposing side of the Rockies, still destined to be a special moment.
In early April of the 2013 season, big league fathers of several Cleveland Indians were honored at Progressive Field with ceremonial first pitches before the game. Five current Indians, including manager Terry Francona, coach Sandy Alomar Jr., and players Nick Swisher, Michael Brantley, and Zach McAllister, caught tosses from their respective fathers who were wearing their son’s uniform.
Francona’s father, Tito, spent fifteen seasons in the majors from 1956 to 1970. Alomar’s father, Sandy Sr., was an infielder from 1964 to 1978 and then served a long-time big league coach. Swisher’s father, Steve, was a reserve catcher from 1974 to 1982. Brantley’s father, Mickey, was an outfielder for the Mariners from 1986 to 1989. McAllister’s father, Steve, was the only father of this group who did not appear in the majors. However, after a short minor league stint, Steve has been a Major League scout.
For these guys, it was like playing catch in the back yard again. It was probably hard to tell who was more proud—the fathers or the sons.
Naturally, every father wants to see his son have success in life. But it’s an especially proud feeling when the son achieves success in the same profession. Baseball fathers are no different.
These are just a few of the father-son combinations in professional baseball today. I was able to count over 150 such combinations where the son was active in 2013, either in the majors or the minors.
If this article has peeked your interest in baseball’s many family relationships, check out my book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, which contains over 3,500 players, managers, coaches, scouts, owners, executives, umpires, and broadcasters who have a relative in professional baseball. The book can be purchased at http://thetenthinning.com/booksreviews.html.