Happy Father’s Day: MLB Version

In baseball history, there are many examples of succession of major league experience from father to son, such as Bobby to Barry Bonds as well as Cecil to Prince Fielder (the only father and son tandem to each hit 50 home runs in a season). There are even multi-generational examples, such as grandfather Gus Bell (1950-64) followed by son Buddy Bell (1972-1989) to grandsons David Bell (1995-2006) and Mike Bell (2000). Even more accomplished were grandfather Ray Boone (1948-1960) to son Bob Boone (1972-1990) to grandsons Bret Bell (1992-2005) and Aaron Boone (1997-2009).

The odds of making it to the major leagues is infinitesimally small and for it to occur in successive generations is even more rare. As proud as each of these and other fathers have likely been of their successor baseball sons, there are some examples of more awkward encounters between father and son in the context of sports. In baseball, this theme is exemplified by Eric Young Sr., who was a first base coach for the D-Backs from 2010 through 2012 and had to root against his Colorado Rockies son, Eric Young Jr., when these division foes faced each other 18 times each season. A more infamous version arose on the college basketball court and involved the Bibbys. In 1997, father Henry Bibby coached at USC while son Mike played for the NCAA Champion University of Arizona basketball team. As a result of a long-term estranged relationship, all reports are that this father/son duo never even acknowledged the presence of the other while on the same court.

This year’s MLB Draft involved numerous players who have genetic baseball lineage, such as Roger Clemens’ son, Kacy (drafted by the Astros in the 35th round), or Cavan Biggio (drafted in the 29th round by the Phillies), son of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, or Mike Yastrzemski (drafted in the 14th round by the Orioles), grandson of Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer, Carl. There are even some with a local tie, such as Hamilton High School’s Cody Bellinger (drafted in the 4th round by the Dodgers), son of former major league infielder Clay Bellinger.

The 2013 baseball draft also created a few long-shot opportunities for father and son to play for the same franchise at the same time. Outfielder Torii Hunter Jr. was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 36th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Word is that Torii Jr. will pass on the professional option and attend and play baseball at Notre Dame, but at least for a moment there was the chance of the two becoming teammates in Motown somewhere over the next few years. The ageless Andy Petitte saw his son, Josh, a right handed pitcher out of Texas, drafted in the 37th round of the 2013 draft by the New York Yankees. Again, given the fact that Andy is now 41 years of age, there is almost no chance of them being on the same big league roster at the same time, but it could happen.

I have only been able to find two examples of fathers and sons who have also been baseball teammates. In 1990 and 1991, Ken Griffey Sr. ended his career as a Seattle Mariner and was the teammate of son Ken Griffey Jr (whose own son is now a member of the University of Arizona Wildcat football team). Senior put up some respectable numbers in spot appearances (hitting .377 in 1990 but with only 88 plate apearances and .282 in 1991 with 100 plate appearances) but they paled by comparison with his future Hall of Famer son (who hit .300 or better in those two seasons and for 1990 and 1991, had combined homerun totals of 44 with 180 runs batted in). In 2001, Tim Raines and Tim Raines Jr were teammates for a brief time period with the Orioles. Neither of them posted any numbers of significance but there were at least a few days when they donned the same uniform and sat in the same dugout.

For all of these fathers, I assume that they take as much or perhaps more pride in their sons’ accomplishments as they do in their own careers. But for a moment, let me speak on behalf of all of the rest of us who are fathers of sons. Though you, our sons, may not wear a team insignia on your shirts and may not perform on a ball field, we could not be more proud of you. When you distinguish yourselves in a positive way, whether in your personal or professional lives, we can’t help but burst with pride. So to my son and to all of yours, thank you for the greatest Father’s Day gift you could ever give to us, which is having you as our sons.