Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there and to those who “have one on the way”. What better day to take a look at the Yankees’ Father-Son combinations that played in the Major Leagues than today? In some cases, only one member of the family played on the Yankees but they all had an impact on Major League Baseball.
Following in the footsteps of a father that played in the Major Leagues is not an easy thing, especially if your father is in the Baseball Hall of Fame and was as famous as Yogi Berra was. But, that’s the “burden” that Dale Berra took on when he became a Major Leaguer with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1977.
Dale, who recently released his memoir, “My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Baseball and Family”, had an average career in the sport. But, he did win a World Series ring as a member of the 1979 Pirates, “We are Family” team, and led the league in intentional walks (IBB) in 1983. (He hit in front of the pitcher for all but two of the IBB).
Yogi became the Yankees manager in 1984 and the following winter, Dale was acquired from Pittsburgh (along with Jay Buhner…we’re not going back down that rabbit hole…and Alfonso Pulido) for Steve Kemp, Tim Foli, and cash.
Yogi got the opportunity to manage his son. Blessing or a curse? We’ll never know.
Just 16 games into the 1985 season, George Steinbrenner fired Yogi and replaced him with Billy Martin v4.0. Both father and son were devastated. (We’re not going down the George-Yogi rabbit hole either.)
Dale played 90 games over two seasons with the Yankees, putting up his normal numbers (a .622 OPS), and was released in July. Houston signed him in August and he played his final Major League season with the Astros in 1987.
He may not have had his father’s career, but Dale got to call himself a Major Leaguer for parts off 11 seasons.
The Son surpasses the Father
It’s every father’s wish that his son can do better in life than he did, even if his life was wonderful. In terms of baseball, Ken Griffey Sr. had a wonderful life. His 19-year career saw Sr. win two World Series championships with the Reds (’75-’76), earn three All-Star appearances, and put up a .296/.359/.431 slash line, with 200 stolen bases.
After nine seasons in Cincy, Sr. was traded to the Yankees in Fall ’81 for a pair of minor leaguers. He played 4+ seasons in the Bronx, at times showing flashes of his brilliant play from his younger days.
Griffey’s best play in NY came in the 1983 season when he hit .306/.355/.437, stole six bases in seven attempts, and scored 60 runs. Griffey’s ’83 season is even more impressive when you consider that he was the regular first baseman, a position he had never played before in the Major Leagues.
One overlooked fact about Griffey is that he never struck out more than 69 times in a season. In fact, Griffey twice matched, or came close to matching, total walks in a season to total strikeouts in a season.
Sr. could also make some wall climbing catches in left field, a portend to Jr.’s future defensive prowess.
Jr. burst on the scene in Seattle as a 19-year old in 1989 and one year later became teammates with his Dad.
On September 14, 1990, the Mariners’ starting lineup showed Sr, batting second and playing left field. Next to him in centerfield and right behind him in the lineup, was Jr.
In the top of the 1st inning, with a man aboard, Sr. launched a two-run HR to center field off California Angeles starter Kirk McCaskill. Moments later, Jr. stepped into the box and sent McCaskill’s offering into the left-field seats. The duo became the first (and only) father-son duo to play on the same team, let alone homer in the same game. And, they to hit back-to-back blasts to boot.
Jr. quickly established himself as the best player in the game. Before injuries affected his play, it appeared that he would be the player to break Roger Maris‘ single-season home run record of 61 and Hank Aaron‘s career mark of 755 home runs. Jr. hit 56 home runs in back-to-back seasons (’97-’98) and went on to hit 630 home runs for his career.
Jr. collected 10 Gold Glove Awards, an AL MVP trophy (’97), and was a 13-time All-Star. In no surprise, Jr. was a first ballot Hall of Fame selection when he garnered 99.3% of the vote (remarkably three voters left him off their ballot).
Which Alou are you?
The Alou family has given much to baseball. Brothers Felipe Alou, Matty Alou, and Jesus Alou once manned the same outfield for the San Francisco Giants. Felipe and Matty both played for the Yankees in the 1970s.
Felipe’s career topped that of his brothers’. He played with six organizations over 17 seasons in the Majors. He twice topped 200 hits in a season for the Atlanta Braves, leading the NL both times, and finished 5th in the NL MVP voting in 1966.
Felipe’s son, Moises Alou, followed in his father’s footsteps with a 17-year career of his own. Not only that, but he got the chance to play for his father in both Montreal and San Francisco. The younger Alou collected more than 2,100 hits, 300 home runs, and 1,200 RBI, and was a six-time All-Star.
Moises had the unfortunate bad luck to be part of the 1994 Expos’ team that seem fated for the playoffs when a work stoppage ended the season, and as a member of the 2003 Chicago Cubs team that had its postseason in part derailed by the infamous Steve Bartman-incident. As you may or may not recall, it was Moises that was poised to catch a foul ball when Bartman interfered with the potential out in Game 6 of the NLCS. The Miami Marlins rallied to win the game and went on to capture the pennant and the World Series title.
Yankees’ Father-Son: Not all Make it
Mickey Mantle, a man who needed no introduction after an 18-year Hall of Fame career, was a Dad to four boys. It included his namesake, Mickey Mantle Jr., who played one unmemorable season (1978) in the minor leagues for the Alexandria (VA) Dukes, a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate.
Graig Nettles was one of the best hitting/fielding third baseman in Yankees and American League History. His son, Jeff Nettles, shared both a position and a birthday with his famous Dad. The younger Nettles played with the local Somerset Patriots in the independent Atlantic League and spent some time in the Royals and Orioles organizations.
Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford‘s son Eddie Ford was a 1974 first-round draft pick (20th overall) by the Boston Red Sox. The shortstop reached as high as Triple-A but didn’t hit enough to make it to the Majors.
Other Notable Yankees Father-Son Families
Roy Smalley Jr. played shortstop for the Yankees from 1982-1984 as part of a 13-year career. His Dad’s career spanned 11 seasons as a National League shortstop.
2003 ALCS hero and current Yankees manager Aaron Boone is part of a three-generational baseball family. His grandfather Gus Boone and his father Bob Boone preceded he and his brother Bret Boone.
1962 AL Rookie of the Year Tom Tresh played shortstop and outfield in 8+ seasons for the Yankees before injuries derailed his career. His Dad, Mike Tresh, spent all but one year of his 11-year career as a catcher for the Chicago White Sox.
First baseman Mike Hegan wore the pinstripes in 1964, 1966-1967, and 1973-1974. His father, Jim Hegan, was a Major League catcher for 18 years and was a member of the Yankees coaching staff for over a decade, including part of the time his son was on the squad.
Infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. only played 45 games for the Yankees in his 16-year career. But, those games were for the 2009 team that won the franchise’s 27th World Series title. With the Yankees up 1-0 in the ALCS, Hairston singled to start the 13th inning and came around to score the game-winning run. His brother Scott Hairston patrolled the outfield for 11 seasons and six organizations. Their Dad, Jerry Sr., played for 14 seasons in the bigs, all but 51 games of which were as a member of the White Sox.
But, we’re not done yet. Jerry Sr.’s father, Sam Hairston, played catcher in the Negro Leagues, minor leagues, and four games for the 1951 White Sox team. Okay, follow me now. Jerry Sr.’s brother, Sam’s son, and Jerry Jr. and Scott’s uncle, John Hairston, played three games for the 1969 Chicago Cubs.
Here’s to more Hairstons in baseball and once again, Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads and Dads-to-be!