Sons Don’t Always Follow in their Fathers’ Baseball Footsteps

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.

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Sons of the 1960s Bronx Bombers Had Big Shoes to Fill

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

The New York Yankees dynasty that began in the early 1920s continued into the 1960s with five consecutive American League pennants from 1960 to 1964. Included in the streak were World Series championships in 1961 and 1962.

Those teams featured some of the greatest Yankee legends of the all-time, including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Roger Maris. In addition to these renowned players, several other regulars and backups on these Yankee teams had sons who eventually played professional baseball themselves.

It’s not unusual for sons to try to follow their father’s professions. For example, how many families have produced multiple generations of doctors, lawyers, farmers and soldiers?  It’s been no different for the sons of baseball players.

But it does seem a bit remarkable that so many of the Yankee players of this era had sons who went on to follow in their father’s baseball footsteps. Altogether, fourteen Yankee players produced 21 sons that pursued professional baseball careers.

For the sons of the Yankee players, one might say they were born into baseball because of the environment in which they were raised. A few of the sons were legitimate pro prospects coming out of amateur baseball at the high school and collegiate levels.  However, several of them only got a shot a pro baseball because of their father’s name and Yankee background, especially those sons who signed as undrafted free agents or as late-round draft picks.  A couple of the sons had significant major league careers, but most of the progenies didn’t make it past the low minors.

Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle came from a family of ballplayers from Oklahoma. His two younger brothers, Ray and Roy, and a cousin, Maxie, managed to get tryouts with the Yankees organization, but lasted only a couple of minor league seasons, having nowhere near the talent of “The Mick.”  But their shortfalls didn’t deter Mickey from encouraging one of his sons, also named Mickey, to try his hand at the game.  One can only imagine the pressure on a son named Mickey Mantle trying to break into the game.  The younger Mickey played only 17 games for a Class A team in the Yankees organization in 1978 and quickly gave up the game.

One of the best catchers of all time, Yankee Hall of Famer Yogi Berra produced three sons who went on to play professional sports. His oldest son, Laurence, was a catcher in the New York Mets organization, but wound up playing only a total of 22 games during the 1971 and 1972 seasons.  His son, Tim, however went in the direction of football, becoming the 17th round draft pick of the Baltimore Colts in 1974.  Tim played one season for the Colts, primarily as a punt returner.

Dale Berra had the most significant career of Yogi’s sons, as he had an 11-year career in the majors spanning 1977 to 1987. However, the shortstop didn’t have his dad’s hitting ability.  His career batting average was a meager .236, to go along with 49 home runs and 278 RBI.  In 1985 and 1986, Dale also played for the Yankees, when his father was a coach for the team.

The son of Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford, Eddie, was an excellent college shortstop at the University of South Carolina, where Whitey’s former teammate Bobby Richardson was the head coach. Eddie became the first round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 1974 Major League Draft.  Although never a great hitter in the minors, he reached the Triple-A level before quitting baseball.

Roger Maris made his mark in Yankee history with his historic 61 home run season in 1961 and his two American League MVP campaigns in 1960 and 1961. His son, Kevin, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals organization as an undrafted free agent in 1982.  However, it turned out Kevin didn’t have the same propensity for hitting as his father did, since the infielder played only one minor league season in which he managed to hit only .111 in 33 games.

As the slick-fielding third baseman on those Yankee teams, Clete Boyer was one of seven brothers who played baseball professionally. Two of them, Ken and Cloyd, also played in the majors.  Clete had two sons, Brett and Mickey, who pursued professional careers.  Mickey, named after Mickey Mantle, played one season in the Oakland A’s organization, while Brett played five seasons in the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants minor league organizations, never rising above Class A level.

Tom Tresh was slated to be the heir apparent to Tony Kubek as the New York Yankee shortstop in the 1960’s, and he lived up to expectations as the American League Rookie of the Year in 1962. Tom’s father, Mike, had been a former major leaguer during the late 1930s and 1940s.  Tom’s son, Mickey (also named after Mickey Mantle), attempted to become a third-generation major leaguer in the Tresh family, but he fell short after playing four minor league seasons in the Yankees and Detroit Tigers organizations.

Mel Stottlemyre broke in with the Yankees in 1964 and proceeded to play 11 seasons, winning 20 or more games in three seasons on his way to compiling 164 career wins. Among his three sons that played professional baseball, the most prominent was Todd, who won 138 career major league games over 13 seasons during 1988 to 2002.  Mel Jr. had 13 major league appearances in 1992 with the Kansas City Royals, while he also pitched a total of six seasons in the minors.  Jeffrey pitched four minor league seasons in the Seattle Mariners organization from 1980 to 1983.

Bill Stafford pitched for the Yankees from 1960 to 1965. As a member of the starting rotation, he won 14 games in each of the 1961 and 1962 seasons when the Yankees won World Series titles.  His son, Mike, was the 41st round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays out of Ohio State University in 1998.  A relief pitcher, Mike appeared in four minor league seasons that also included stints with the Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers.

Pitcher Stan Williams had two seasons with the Yankees as a spot starter and reliever in 1963 and 1964. His son, Stan Jr., was a 38th round pick by the Yankees from the University of Southern California in 1981.  He played two minor league seasons in the Yankees farm system before leaving baseball.

Once touted as the Yankees’ potential center field replacement for Mickey Mantle whose injuries had begun to slow him down considerably, Roger Repoz wound up being a platoon player who was ultimately traded by the Yankees. He had two sons that pursued pro baseball, albeit resulting in brief careers.  Craig was a third baseman who spent six minor league seasons in the Mets and Padres organizations from 1985 to 1990.  Jeff pitched sparingly in two seasons in Low A and Rookie League levels in 1989 and 1990.

Several other players who made brief appearances for the early 1960s Yankee teams also had sons in professional baseball. The fathers included Deron Johnson (sons Dom and D. J.), Billy Gardner (son Billy Jr.), Lee Thomas (sons Scott and Deron), and Bill Kunkel (sons Kevin and Jeff).  Of this group of sons, only Jeff Kunkel made it to the major leagues.

Although the son of 1963 American League MVP Elston Howard wound up not playing professional baseball, Elston Howard Jr. did play at the collegiate level at Dade Community College in Florida and the University of Alabama. When Elston Jr. was not drafted by a major league team, he didn’t pursue a pro baseball career.

Looking back in baseball history, the Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” teams of the 1970s had a similar circumstance as the New York Yankees teams of the 1960s. Sixteen Reds players during their championship era produced 23 sons that went on to play professional baseball.  Nine of the sons reached the major league level, most notably Ken Griffey Jr.

The 1960s Yankee fathers probably had visions of their sons being the next generation of Bronx Bombers who would continue the dynasty. For the most part, however, the offspring of these Yankee players didn’t come close to measuring up to their father’s productive major league careers. Perhaps Moises Alou, the son of a major leaguer and a former major leaguer himself, said it best, “If a player can’t hit, field, or throw, it doesn’t matter who his father was.”

In many respects, the shoes which the Yankee sons were trying to fill were much too big to expect similar results as their fathers.