Big League Sons Who Followed Dads’ Footsteps with the Tribe
Bob Toth | On 21, Jun 2020
Children of Major Leaguers often get a unique experience and view of the game of baseball from an early age while also being blessed with some choice genes and skill sets that make them all the more prepared to pursue the national pastime as their career of choice.
While plenty of kids of former big leaguers have failed to reach The Show despite giving it their best down on the farm, others have put together lengthy and successful careers as second generation players.
Six father-son tandems (Jim Bagby and Jim Bagby; Earl Averill and Earl Averill Jr.; Tito Francona and Terry Francona; Buddy Bell and David Bell; Dave Duncan and Shelley Duncan; and Cam Carreon and Mark Carreon) have had the privilege of representing the Cleveland Indians organization on the field during their respective careers.
Probably the most notable and recognizable of the baseball sons in Cleveland were the Alomar brothers – Sandy Alomar Jr. and Roberto Alomar – who both spent quality seasons in town during the 1990s. Both were All-Stars during their time with the Indians after starting their careers in the San Diego Padres organization and Roberto’s efforts concluded with a place in Cooperstown in the Hall of Fame. Father Sandy Sr. spent 15 years in the Majors from 1964 to 1978 with six different organizations before getting into coaching.
Billy Sullivan spent his fifth and sixth big league seasons with the Indians in 1936 and 1937. The versatile utility man played 12 years total over the span of 1931 to 1947. His father, Billy Sullivan, played in parts of 16 different seasons at the MLB level.
Oscar Grimes became a second-generation player, following in the footsteps of Ohio native Ray Grimes, who played in parts of six seasons in the 1920s. The son spent half of his career in Cleveland from 1938 to 1942, playing all four non-catching infield spots.
Ray Narleski broke into the Majors at the perfect time, posting a 2.22 ERA as a reliever for the 1954 American League pennant-winning Indians club in the first of his five seasons in town. A two-time All-Star, he played just one other season after his stint in Cleveland, pitching for Detroit in 1959. His father, Bill Narleski, was an infielder for the Boston Red Sox in 1929 and 1930.
Del Unser spent 15 big league seasons roaming all three outfield spots and first base for five different clubs from 1968 to 1982, including the 1972 season with the Indians. His father, Al Unser, spent four seasons in the Majors with Detroit and Cincinnati from 1942 to 1945.
The senior Ross Grimsley pitched in seven games for the Chicago White Sox in 1951, while the junior Ross Grimsley pitched in parts of eleven seasons, including 14 games of the 1980 season for Cleveland. He was an All-Star and a 20-game winner for Montreal in 1978.
Outfielder Ruben Amaro Jr. played for the Tribe briefly during the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995 in the middle of an eight-year MLB career. His infield-playing father Ruben Amaro, Sr. played eleven years at the big league level, with the pair both spending time with the Philadelphia Phillies and California Angels.
Jaret Wright spent his best big league seasons with the Indians in the late 1990s as well as the early 2000s. His eleven-year career included six seasons with the Tribe. He exceeded the ten years pitched by his father, Clyde Wright, with the California Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, and Texas Rangers from 1966 to 1975.
Catcher Larry Haney spent 12 seasons in the Majors from 1966 to 1978. His son Chris Haney fell just one season short, spending eleven on the big league mound. Two of those came in 1999 and 2000 in Cleveland, when the left-handed pitcher amassed 14 total games of action for the club.
Diego Segui pitched in the Majors for 15 season, while his son David Segui played the same length as a DH, first baseman, and corner outfielder. Eight of those years were with Baltimore, but he did make a quick 57-game stop with Cleveland in 2000, hitting .332 during a career-best season.
Jaime Navarro’s 12-year career came to a close with seven appearances for the Indians in 2000. His father, Julio Navarro, played half as many seasons for the Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, and Atlanta Braves from 1962 to 1970.
Reliever Justin Speier had plenty of opportunity to watch his dad, Chris Speier, play over a 19-year career with five different clubs. The younger Speier pitched 12 years of his own, including a pair in Cleveland’s bullpen in 2000 and 2001.
Pitchers Mike Bacsik and Mike Bacsik had short big league careers. The elder made his big league debut against the Indians in 1975 with the Texas Rangers and pitched until 1980. The son was an 18th round draft pick by the Indians in 1996 and spent three games with the team in 2001. He is better remembered as the pitcher to surrender Barry Bonds’ 756th home run to break Hank Aaron’s record.
Josh Barfield was the Indians’ regular second baseman in 2007 in the second of four seasons on the Major League diamond. He played 130 games that season but just 29 more for the Tribe over the next two. He is the son of long-time big league outfielder Jesse Barfield, best known for his time with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Middle infielder Justin Sellers played the final 17 games of his brief four-year career with the Indians in 2014. His father, Jeff Sellers, also spent four seasons in the Majors, pitching for Boston from 1985 to 1988.
Chris Johnson joined the Indians for a brief cup of coffee in 2015, working in 27 games for the club in his penultimate big league campaign. His father, Ron Johnson, appeared in 22 games over three seasons for Kansas City and Montreal from 1982 to 1984.
Nick Swisher’s time in Cleveland from 2013 to 2015 was a lot of hype and little production. After posting steady numbers throughout his career, his payday with the Indians provided little offense after his first season in town. He equaled the number of All-Star Games played by his father, Steve Swisher, over his nine-year career with one.
Second-gen reliever Ryan Webb outpitched his father Hank Webb by plenty. Dad made 53 appearances from 1972 to 1977 for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. Son had 375 outings in relief with five clubs from 2009 to 2016, including some of his best overall numbers with the Indians in 2015.
Among active players, Michael Brantley is one of a handful of second generation players in the game today. His father, Mickey Brantley, played four years in Seattle before getting into coaching. His son spent ten years in Cleveland before signing with the Houston Astros for the 2019 season.
Delino DeShields Jr. was acquired by the Indians in the offseason as part of the Corey Kluber trade with the Texas Rangers. His father Delino DeShields spent 13 seasons in the Majors with Montreal, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore, St. Louis, and the Chicago Cubs from 1990 to 2002.
Jose Martinez, an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, is the son of former Indians corner infielder Carlos Martinez, fondly remembered for hitting the home run that bounced off of the head of Texas’ Jose Canseco in 1993.
Travis Shaw, a utility man with strong Ohio ties, is with a Toronto Blue Jays club with strong ties to the past. The 2020 season would be his sixth if the season gets under way. His father is Jeff Shaw, whose career began with the Indians in 1990. After three years in Cleveland, the reliever was on the move to four more stops in the next nine years, including two All-Star efforts.
Second generation players are quite popular in the Majors once again, especially in Toronto, where Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. represent fathers Dante Bichette, Craig Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero. Fernando Tatis Jr. looks to have significant staying power for the San Diego Padres. Fellow Padre Cal Quantrill debuted in 2019, 14 years after his father Paul Quantrill pitched his final MLB games. Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson has followed in the far less successful footsteps of his dad, Stu Pederson, who played for Los Angeles in 1985, while teammate Cody Bellinger has already been far more productive than father Clay Bellinger. Other second gen players currently active include Arizona’s Kevin Cron, Baltimore’s Hunter Harvey and Dwight Smith, Detroit’s Austin Romine, Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr., Kansas City’s Adalberto Mondesi, Los Angeles’ Cam Bedrosian, Miami’s Todd Walker and Chad Wallach, Minnesota’s C.J. Cron, Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes, San Francisco’s Dereck Rodriguez, and Seattle’s Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon.
For more on baseball’s family ties in Cleveland, feel free to read more on the baseball father-son duos and the baseball dads to spend time at League Park, Municipal Stadium, or Jacobs Field/Progressive Field during their respective careers.
Photo: Ron Vesely/Getty Images