Funny how the mind plays tricks on us when we get to a certain age. For years I’ve had etched in my memory that the first major league baseball game I attended was a matchup between the Mets and Astros at Shea Stadium back in 1972. What I remembered most clearly from that day was an extremely long trip to the ballpark (that included a car, train, subway and path ride), that I got to pick one friend to join us (Ricky Ruffino from the down the street), that my father almost careened over a railing in pursuit of a foul ball, and that Teddy Martinez had a big day at the plate. Oh, and that the starting pitchers were Jim McAndrew for the Mets and Ken Forsch for the Astros. In my mind, those facts were incontrovertible.
Here’s where it gets tricky. I decided to look up the boxscore on Baseball Reference.com (my new all-time favorite website), and refresh my memory on the more minute details of my first ever game that presently escape me. Well it seems that while Forsch did start one game against the Mets in 1972, it was against Jon Matlack for the Mets. I know Matlack didn’t start “my” game, because I also vividly recall having to mask my disappointment that it was one of the Mets “other” starters (McAndrew) on the hill for us that day (any fellow Mets fans from those days understand what I mean by “other”). To cement my certainty that the ’72 game wasn’t the one I was looking for, I only had to see that Buddy Harrelson started at short for New York and that Teddy Martinez didn’t even get into the game.
So I moved it back a year and checked our tilts against the ‘Stros in 1971. Sure enough, there was Forsch starting a Sunday afternoon game in late July. It made perfect sense, as my family would have likely only made the trip from New Jersey to Flushing on a weekend, plus there was Teddy Martinez starting at short and going 3-4 that day. The ah hah moment for me, though, was that the game’s starting pitcher for my Mets was Gary Gentry, not McAndrew.
Yeah, I recall not liking Gentry much as a kid, and yeah he was one of the “other” starters of the staff (meaning he wasn’t Tom Terrific or Jerry Koosman). There isn’t the time right now to go into how if I had known then as I watched Gentry start my maiden MLB voyage that that same Gary Gentry would be the guy the Mets would choose to hold onto the following spring, when ultimately deciding to part ways with Nolan Ryan, I would have hated him even more, and this whole sketchy memory issue would be moot. But Nolan was still on the roster in 1971, and Gentry was just one of the “other” starting pitchers (although he had clinched the Mets first division title back in September of 1969 with a shutout of the Cardinals).
This McAndrew/Gentry realization shook me for a variety of reasons. One, I tend to conclude that anything I remember is a stone-cold-lock of a fact. Two, in my baseball fandom rearview mirror, I had for years been somewhat critical of my parents that it took them all the way to the 1972 season to get me out to Shea (1971 was actually about right as I think about it now, as I had arrived on my Mets lifetime bandwagon in 1970). And three, what if I didn’t have the Ken Forsch part of the equation right? I mean, I had McAndrew wrong, so why was I right on Forsch, an unremarkable innings-eater for forgettable Astros ball clubs throughout the ’70’s?
The answer is because he had a brother. Bob Forsch of the Cardinals. A slightly better (yet still unremarkable, other than for throwing a no-hitter — on opening day I think?) version of Ken who came on the MLB scene a couple of years later. As a kid I was always fascinated by brothers in the big leagues. I didn’t have a brother, and the idea just seemed so cool. So Ken Forsch being a part of that fraternity of MLB brothers is what allowed me to correct and galvanize the proper details and memories of that first game of mine all those years ago. And for the record, the game in question was played July 25th, 1971 (the day after my mom’s birthday, which I’m sure made the day even more fun and festive for us). Attendance was 28,776 (still riding the championship attendance spike from ’69 for sure), and the Mets won, 7-6. Cleon Jones (pre-mustache) hit his 10th homer for the Mets and Joe Morgan hit one out for the Astros (how do I NOT remember that??).
Anyway, the whole experience got me thinking about who were the best brother combinations, BY POSITION, in MLB history. And like most posts on this blog, my conclusions are simply based on my memory, biases and personal preferences. In doing some cursory research on this topic, I learned that there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of brothers that have played professional baseball at the highest level.
Narrowing it by position whittles it down considerably, but also poses some unique challenges, such as the fact that I couldn’t come up with a first baseman brother tandem, or one for shortstop. I tried to shoehorn Carlos May (alongside brother Lee) onto first, but he really was an outfielder throughout his career. Similarly, it just doesn’t seem right to put Billy Ripken at short just for the sake of getting Cal in the lineup. Billy was a second baseman (and probably a career minor leaguer if Cal wasn’t his big brother).
The lineup is pitching heavy with lots of outfield options, but the infield is limited, with a couple of obscure selections (even if they are personal favorites) rounding out the squad. So here goes my All Baseball Bro squad by position:
Catcher: The Molinas. No surprise here. Even if I’ll never forgive Yadier for taking Aaron (effing) Heilman deep to win the 2006 NLCS for the Cards over my Mets, he is a stud and his big brothers would both start for the Mets today if they were in their prime. No real competition, although I briefly wondered if Frank Torre ever caught? Doesn’t matter — three Molinas lap the field and then some.
First Base: Open, but did you know Dick Allen had a brother who played major league ball? I sooo hoped he had also played some first base, but alas he was an outfielder. And in an ultimate twist of nepotism fate, he finished his career with the White Sox alongside brother Dick (or was he Richie then?), where he hit .143 in 1972 and .103 (not a typo) in 1973. Yup, Hank Allen. You can look it up.
Second Base: This was a tight one between two capable yet mostly forgotten brother pairs — the Andrews brothers and the Doyles. I opted for the Andrews brothers simply to bring up the ’73 World Series. Mike Andrews joined the A’s at the tail end of the ’73 season (18 AB’s) to provide depth in the infield. He was at the end of his career, but in his prime had some highly productive years, mostly for the Red Sox. So he gets in Game 2 and boots a couple of balls for errors in the 12th inning, directly leading to the A’s 10-7 loss, evening the series one game apiece. The teams then had an off day to travel cross country back to New York for Game 3, but A’s owner and nefarious villain, Charlie Finley, tries to “fire” Andrews for his transgressions at second before he can board the plane back east. The A’s players pushed back, the press had an awesome story to fill in the off day void, and Andrews became the only A’s player to receive applause during introductions at Shea once he was reinstated for the beginning of the 3rd game. He retired at the conclusion of the series, but he got his ring. His brother Rob came up a couple of years later and played second for the Astros and Giants. Apologies to Denny and Brian Doyle, but the Andrews/Finley saga is just too much fun.
Shortstop: Open, but maybe the Seagers make this one happen one day?
Third Base: The Boyer Brothers by a landslide. Ken did it all for some tremendous Cardinals teams of the 1960’s, while his brother Clete had one of the all-time great gloves at the hot corner for some solid Braves teams (plus you just gotta include a dude named “Clete” whenever possible). Honorable mention to Graig Nettles and Jim Nettles. Needed a little more from Jim, though, to get in this conversation more seriously.
Outfield: This one is fun. You have to start with the gold standard — Joe, Vince and Dom DiMaggio. Joltin’ Joe has had plenty written about him, but take a look at Dom’s stats when you have a minute. From 1941 to 1951 the youngest Dimaggio brother absolutely mashed AL pitching for the Sawx. And Vince (the oldest) had some big power years for the Pirates before anyone was paying attention. Hard not to follow up the Dimaggio Boys with the Waners. Big Poison (Paul) and Little Poison (Lloyd) are both enshrined in Cooperstown, the only pair of brothers to be so honored (nuff said). From here I’d go to the Alou’s (see the Molina’s above). The fact that the three of them actually started together for the Giants in the outfield in the early-’60’s is just plain amazing, but they put up numbers, too. Matty was among the league leaders in hits and batting multiple years in the late-’60’s and early-’70’s, and Jesus (as a kid I couldn’t get over the fact that there was a ballplayer actually named “Jesus”) was a solid fourth outfielder for multiple teams over a long and successful career. Felipe, the eldest, who also appropriately had the most power in his bat, finished up with over 2100 hits and 200+ dingers. Not to mention he went on to be an outstanding manager when his playing days were over. The Alou’s are a no-brainer to round things out.
Here’s the thing, this position is deep with bro’s. We’ve got the Uptons with some big-time numbers. The Conigliaros have quite a story to tell. And who would ever want to leave out the Canseco boys? Jose and Ozzie…SMH. And speaking of discrepancy of talent among brothers, no list of outfield brothers is complete without Hank and Tommie Aaron. Just for good measure we’ll add on the Gwynns — Hall of Famer and all-time great Tony, and his brother Chris, who must have been holding the door for his big bro when they were giving out the batting gloves up in the sky.
Pitchers: Talk about depth. Let’s start with the Hall of Famers with strong brothers right beside them: Gaylord and Jim Perry; Greg and Mike Maddux; Phil and Joe Niekro; Dizzy and Paul Dean (don’t think he really called himself Daffy); and of course Christy and Henry Mathewson. The Mathewsons warrant a closer look through that nepotism lens once again, as poor Henry only lasted two seasons — in 1906 he went 0-1 while appearing in only two games (he did complete one of them), and in 1907 he only got into one game, logging merely an inning. His addition to the big club roster in ’06 by the New York Baseball Giants coincidentally (or maybe not) followed the third of three successive 30-win seasons by big brother Christy. That’s called leverage.
Then there’s the soon to be HOFer Pedro Martinez and his big brother Ramon (no slouch himself); Rick and Paul Reuschel; Andy and Alan Benes; Jeff and Jared Weaver; and the aforementioned Forsch brothers. In the pen there isn’t much to add, but I will add in those knuckle headed Mahler brothers, who always seemed to be throwing at Mike Piazza back in the ’90’s, just because.
If I was forced to select a five-man rotation out of this embarrassment of pitching brother riches, I’d have to go with the Mathewsons, Maddux’s, Perrys, Deans and Martinez’s. Henry Mathewson can throw the BP.
And since by definition we have at least two brothers manning each position, I suppose we could always throw both Boyers on the left side and go without a shortstop, and maybe an extra Dimaggio, Molina or Alou could cover first for us.