Baseball Dads in Cleveland Who Helped Start Family Tradition in MLB
Bob Toth | On 21, Jun 2020
Baseball has often been been characterized as a father-and-son sport, which may be a bit unfair to all of the baseball moms out there watching, cheering, coaching, and keeping score at little league games across the nation each year.
But given that no woman has played Major League Baseball to date, there is a clear connection for some ball players drawing a direct path from their childhoods to baseball diamonds across the country while pursuing the lucrative careers of the professional baseball player.
Six combinations of fathers and sons have played in a Cleveland uniform during their respective careers (although none of those experiences have been simultaneously; that lone honor goes to the Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. tandem while with the Seattle Mariners in 1990 and 1991). The Bagby’s, Averill’s, Francona’s, Bell’s, Duncan’s, and Carreon’s have all passed on their baseball careers in Cleveland to their next generation offspring (in the case of the Bell’s, they actually marked the second and third generation within baseball following Gus Bell beginning the family business in MLB).
Plenty of other father-and-son combinations have had ties to Cleveland during their playing careers. The following list of fathers (excluding the aforementioned six families) spent time playing with Cleveland’s American League club and also had sons reach the Major League level (while playing elsewhere across the country).
Peaches Graham began his big league career with the Cleveland Bronchos in 1902, playing twice for the club. His son Jack Graham spent two years in the Majors in 1946 and 1949 for the Giants, Dodgers, and Browns.
Catcher Howard Wakefield played 36 games for the Naps in 1905 and 1907, sandwiched around a year with the Washington Senators during his three-year career. His son, Dick Wakefield, found more success, spending nine years with Detroit, the New York Yankees, and the New York Giants from 1941 to 1952. He was an All-Star during a breakout season in 1943.
Pitcher Glenn Liebhardt spent his entire career with the Naps from 1906 to 1909, winning as many as 18 games in 1907. His son Glenn Liebhardt pitched in 31 games over three different seasons from 1930 to 1938 for the Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Browns.
Center fielder Jim Eschen’s career was brief, as he played just 15 games for the Indians in 1915. But it proved to be three games longer than his son, Larry Eschen, who spent just 12 games in the Majors as a middle infielder for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1942.
Guy Morton was a member of the Cleveland pitching staff from 1914 to 1924, spending all eleven years of his big league time in town. His son, Moose Morton, had just one big league at bat and struck out in a pinch-hit effort for the Boston Red Sox in 1954.
Smoky Joe Wood’s career was split in two, as he began as a successful pitcher for many years with the Red Sox before later moving to the outfield for Cleveland from 1917 to 1922 (he made just seven trips to the mound for the Indians). His son, Joe Wood, also represented the Red Sox on the mound, but did so in just three games in 1944.
One of the more productive fathers on the list was Hal Trosky, who ended his career atop the offensive leaderboard for the Indians in quite a few categories as one of the best first basemen in team history. He played with Cleveland from 1933 to 1941 before ailments caught up to him, but he did return in 1944 and 1946 with the Chicago White Sox. His son, Hal Trosky, later pitched a pair of games with the White Sox in 1958.
George Susce concluded his eight-year MLB career with four seasons with the Indians, catching once in 1941, twice in 1942, and three times in 1943 before closing out his days with 29 games played in 1944. His son, George Susce, pitched for five years with Boston and Detroit from 1955 to 1959.
Ray Boone was the patriarch at the top of a unique family dynamic in baseball history. After spending his first six seasons with the Indians from 1948 into the 1953 season, he became a two-time All-Star for the Detroit Tigers before concluding a 13-year career. His son, catcher Bob Boone, was a four-time All-Star over 19 seasons and had two sons reach the Majors in Aaron Boone and Bret Boone. Aaron spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Indians at the tail end of his 12-year career.
Bob Kennedy, another member of the 1948 championship club, also had a son make it to the Majors. An outfielder by trade, he played with the Indians from 1948 to 1954 before he was dealt to Baltimore. His son, Terry Kennedy, spent 14 years behind the plate for four clubs from 1978 to 1991, making four All-Star teams.
Jim Hegan, a teammate of both Boone and Kennedy during their entire time in Cleveland, spent 14 of his 17 MLB seasons with the Indians and made five All-Star teams. His son Mike Hegan spent 12 seasons of his own as a first baseman and outfielder for three clubs and later returned home to Cleveland and served as a voice of the Tribe on broadcasts until his death on Christmas in 2013.
Mike Tresh, who backed up Hegan with the Indians in 1949, wrapped up his 12 years in MLB in Cleveland after eleven with the White Sox. His son, Tom Tresh, played big league ball from 1961 to 1969, making two All-Star teams and playing five different positions.
Chuck Tanner spent eight years in the Majors from 1955 to 1962, including the 1956 and 1960 seasons with the Indians. His son, Bruce Tanner, made it to the MLB level in 1985, pitching ten times for the Chicago White Sox in his only season with the club (a decade after his father’s last season at the helm on the southside).
Marty Keough’s time in Cleveland was short, as the outfielder spent just 65 games with the Indians in 1960 during an eleven-year career. His son Matt Keough made it nine years as a big league pitcher for five different teams.
John O’Donoghue was an All-Star for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, the year before moving on to Cleveland. He spent the next two seasons with the Indians in the middle of his nine-year career. His son, John O’Donoghue, made eleven big league appearances with Baltimore in 1993.
Dick Ellsworth pitched in 63 games for the Indians during the 1969 and 1970 seasons as part of his 13-year career. In 1988, his son Steve Ellsworth made it to the Show and pitched in eight games for the Red Sox.
Ed Crosby was an infielder across six seasons, including his final three with the Indians from 1974 to 1976. His son, Bobby Crosby, picked up the mantle later, spending eight years in the Majors for three teams while winning the 2004 American League Rookie of the Year Award with the Oakland Athletics.
Dave LaRoche became an All-Star reliever while pitching for the Indians in the mid-70’s. A member of the club from 1975 to 1977, he was named to the Midsummer Classic in the latter two seasons to highlight his 14-year career. Two more LaRoches reached the Majors down the road, with brothers Adam LaRoche (12 years) and Andy LaRoche (six years) each spending some quality time on the diamond.
Bill Laxton’s final two Major League games came in relief with the Indians in 1977. His son, Brett Laxton, made just nine appearances in the Majors for Kansas City and Oakland in 1999 and 2000 respectively.
Fred Kendall spent 12 years behind the plate in the Majors, working primarily as a catcher for the Padres, Red Sox, and Indians (1977). His son, Jason Kendall, picked up that catcher’s mitt and exceeded his father’s efforts, spending 15 seasons in the Majors with five different clubs.
Bobby Bonds played for the Indians in 1979, his 12th of 14 big league seasons. He was out of the game midway through the 1982 season and that summer, his son Barry Bonds was drafted for the first of two times. Drafted sixth overall the second time in 1985, he debuted in 1986 for Pittsburgh and became a seven-time MVP, a 14-time All-Star, and the all-time home run king for the Pirates and San Francisco Giants in a career blemished by steroid allegations.
Utility man Jose Escobar spent just ten games in the Majors, with all coming for the Indians in 1991 at the age of 30. His son Edwin Escobar was briefly in the Indians organization between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but never pitched for the club. The Escobar family tree, however, has remained active in baseball throughout the 21st century, as Jose is an uncle to former MLB pitchers Vicente Campos and Kelvim Escobar, infielder Alcides Escobar, and current rising star Ronald Acuna Jr.
Tony Pena arrived in Cleveland just in time for some fun at the end of his career, serving as the team’s backup backstop from 1994 to 1996 during the glory years of the organization. His sons Francisco Pena and Tony Pena followed his path to the Majors, although only Francisco did so as a catcher. He was in camp with the Cincinnati Reds this spring.
Jeff Russell was acquired by the Indians in 1994 to help bolster the bullpen for a playoff push that never happened due to the strike. He spent the final two years of his 14-year career back in Texas. His son, James Russell, became a big league reliever as well and was with the Indians for spring training in 2017.
Journeyman pitcher Terry Clark pitched six seasons in the Majors for seven different teams, including four games for the Indians in 1997. His son, first baseman Matt Clark, played 16 games in the Majors for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014 in his only action at that level.
Finally, slugger Cecil Fielder saw his 13-year career come to an end with 14 games with the Indians in 1998. His son, Prince Fielder, later became a prolific slugger with Milwaukee, Detroit, and Texas until a significant back injury knocked him out of the game for good in 2016.
For more on baseball’s family ties in Cleveland, feel free to read more on the baseball father-son duos and the baseball sons to spend time at League Park, Municipal Stadium, or Jacobs Field/Progressive Field during their respective careers.
Photo: 1976 Topps