Are you paying attention to the “Junior” sensations, Vladdy and Fernando? These second-generation phenoms are the talk of baseball.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is putting up monster stats: 27 homers, 69 runs batted in, a 1.118 OPS. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a two-way star, with 26 homers, 57 runs batted in, a 1.089 OPS, and a glove that flashes predicted gold leather.
Vladdy’s father is a Hall of Famer who not only finished with a whopping .931 career OPS, but also swiped 181 bases and featured a dazzling arm. Let the record show there has yet to be a father-son player Hall of Fame duo. (Executives Larry and Lee MacPhail are both enshrined, however.)
Fernando Tatis Sr. fell far short of becoming a Hall of Famer, but he had a solid 11-year career for five big league clubs. What he does have is a place in baseball history, because on April 23, 1999, he became the only player to hit two grand slams in the same inning.
Second-generation players are sprouting up all over the place. The Blue Jays feature three in their everyday lineup. In addition to Vladdy Jr., they have Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig, and Bo Bichette, son of four-time All-Star Dante.
Any discussion of great father-son duos in baseball history must begin with the Bonds family. Anyone remotely familiar with baseball is aware of Barry Bonds, the most controversial player of the last half-century. He would have coasted into the Hall of Fame following his 2007 retirement (“forced departure” is probably more like it) were it not for the widespread belief that his late-career exploits had been fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.
He was the offspring of Bobby Bonds, a power/speed threat (332 homers, 461 stolen bases) who was a borderline Hall of Fame candidate himself. After a nice career in San Francisco, where his friendship with Willie Mays led him to ask the Say Hey Kid to be his first-born son Barry’s godfather, he embarked on a Tour of America that included playing for seven teams in seven seasons, and led to his being immortalized by Terry Cashman in his classic baseball anthem, “Talkin’ Baseball”:
Well, now it’s the ’80s/And Brett is the greatest/And Bobby Bonds can play for everyone.
The Bondsmen dwarf the field when it comes to statistics. Between them, Bobby and Barry played 4,835 major league games, with 1,094 homers, 975 stolen bases, and an OPS a shade over .900.
Who’s next? Well, how about the Griffeys? Once again, anyone conversant with baseball in the last 50 years knows of Ken Griffey Jr., a drop-dead Hall of Famer whose exploits include 13 All-Star nods and 10 consecutive Gold Gloves.
But Ken Griffey Sr. wasn’t bad, either. He played 2,097 big league games in a 19-year career that culminated in a dream scenario on Sept. 14, 1990, when he and his kid hit back-to-back homers against the Angels. Who among us can begin to comprehend that level of parental satisfaction?
Daddy was a three-time All-Star and a significant member of the vaunted mid-’70s Big Red Machine. Savvy Red Sox fans know he doubled home the winning run in Game 2 of the 1975 World Series.
A third intriguing father/son duo was the Fielders, Daddy Çecil and son Prince, who may have been the ultimate chip off the ol’ block. Twelve-year-old Prince first attracted our attention one day while visiting Dear Ol’ Dad at Tiger Stadium. Taking a little batting practice with — ready for this? — Tiger third base coach Terry Francona on the mound, young Prince parked one into the upper deck. Yup, I said 12. He was instantly placed on everyone’s radar screen.
Cecil himself got everyone’s attention in 1990 when he hit 51 homers. The last man to hit 50 before Cecil was George Foster with 52 in 1977. I remember jumping off my couch watching Cecil launch one in a TV game. It inspired me to write a column on tape-measure homers.
Prince Fielder hit 50 homers himself in 2007, making the Fielders the only father/son members of the 50-Homer Club. Now here comes the kicker: Both Fielders finished their careers with 319 home runs. Nope, you can’t make this stuff up, folks. One more thing: On the subject of stolen bases, the Bondsmen had a comfortable 975-20 edge over the lumbering Fielders.
Other notable father/son combos include the three-generation Bells, starting with father Gus, a sadly forgotten ’50s center fielder overshadowed by Mays and Duke Snider, and featuring son Buddy, a five-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glover, and grandson David, who played 1,403 big league games and now manages the Reds.
I certainly don’t wish to slight the three-generation Boones, consisting of grandfather Ray, son Bob, and grandsons Bret and Aaron. We also could cite the Alous (daddy Felipe and son Moises) and the Alomars (daddy Sandy and sons Roberto — a Hall of Famer — and Sandy Jr.)
Notice anything missing? Yup, pitchers. The hurlers have not been so well-represented in the father/son category. Perhaps the best duo was the Stottlemyres. Daddy Mel was a five-time All-Star with a 164-139 lifetime record and an impressive 2.97 ERA. He later made his mark as a highly respected pitching coach. Son Todd was a solid starter with a 138-121 lifetime record and a 4.28 ERA.
And no, Medford and Natick, I haven’t forgotten the Colemans, Joe Sr. and Joe Jr. But Junior was far superior, putting up two 20-win seasons in a 15-year career.
Anyway, Vladdy, you have a ways to go before we can equate you to your Pop. Go get ‘em.
Bob Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.