Ten of the most underrated father-son combos in Major League history
10 underrated and interesting father-son MLB combos
When you think of the Avengers, you're probably thinking of names like Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow and Iron Man. Maybe, after you've gone through a half dozen members, you will come upon Ant-Man. After all, a man who can shrink himself down to a size that lets him slip into any space almost undetected while controlling the billions of ants in the world is pretty powerful.
Scott Lang, the star of this summer's Ant-Man, is defined not just by being a hero, but by the love he has for his daughter, Cassie. When Lang gets out of jail, his goal is to turn around his life to support Cassie and become a better father and role model.
Today, in honor of Ant-Man, we take a look at 10 of the most underrated fathers and their big league offspring. Forget the duos like Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr. and Bobby and Barry Bonds -- today we examine the cruelly overlooked.
10. Hank and Ryan Webb
Hank Webb, 1972-77: 7-9, 4.31 ERA, 169 IP, 4.8 BB/9, 3.8 SO/9
Ryan Webb, 2009-Active: 17-18, 3.25 ERA, 343 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 6.4 SO/9
There may be no father and son duo who quite capture the spirit of the perpetually down-on-his-luck Scott Lang quite like the Webbs. While it's a difficult thing to even reach the Major Leagues and stay there, this family holds two distinct (and, well, not very glamorous) records.
Drafted in the 10th round by the Mets in 1968, Hank's claim to fame came in 1974 when he would take the loss in the longest game in National League history: A 25-inning loss that the Mets dropped to the Cardinals, 4-3. But even Webb's loss is out of the ordinary.
Entering in the top half of the 25th, Webb surrendered a leadoff single to Bake McBride. He then threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt that allowed McBride to take off. The speedy Cardinal, who had already swiped a base earlier in the game, would wind up circling the bases, scoring on another error by catcher Duffy Dyer. Welcome to the history books.
As for the younger Webb, his career has been a little more successful, having pitched roughly twice as many big league innings as his father. However, Ryan also holds the current record for most games finished without a save at 90.
9. Floyd and Brian Bannister
Floyd Bannister, 1977-1992: 134-143, 4.06 ERA, 2,388 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 6.5 K/9
Brian Bannister, 2006-2010: 37-50, 5.08 ERA, 667 1/3 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 5.2 K/9
While Floyd may seem an interesting choice on a list of underdogs, having been selected first overall in the 1976 draft, it makes a little more sense when you realize he was picked in front of players like Alan Trammell (2nd round), Rickey Henderson (4th round) and Wade Boggs (7th round). Even that is being a bit unfair to Floyd, though: His 26.9 rWAR was second-highest in the first round that year, ahead of Mike Scioscia and behind only Bruce Hurst. Floyd was even elected to an All-Star game in 1982 when he led the league with 209 strikeouts.
His son, Brian, would have a bit more of a difficult time in the big leagues. Not blessed with the same above-average stuff as his father, Brian became a cult hero as he embraced the relatively-new advanced metrics that sprang up from the birth of the PitchFX in 2006 (coincidentally, the year of Bannister's debut). Using the system (which you could even say is similar to a suit powered by Pym particles), Bannister looked to boost his ground-ball percentage by utilizing PitchFX's data to double check his approach. As the pitcher said:
Unfortunately for all baseball nerds everywhere, advanced stats can't do everything, and Bannister was out of the Majors by 2010 -- even if his legacy lives on in pitchers like Brandon McCarthy who look to gain the scientific edge.
Oh yeah, and this father-son team don't just share baseball. Brian runs a photography studio out of Arizona which Floyd helps manage.
8. Steve and Nick Swisher
Steve Swisher, 1974-1982: 1,577 PA, .216/.279/.303, 20 HR, 124 RBI, 4 SB
Nick Swisher, 2004-Active: 6,156 PA, .251/.351/.450, 241 HR, 786 RBI, 13 SB
Through his 12-season, four-team MLB career, Nick Swisher has done two things consistently: Hit dingers and bro out. From 2005 to 2013, Swisher hit no fewer than 21 home runs in a season and was always among MLB's broiest, even in the most casual interviews (Swisher referring to ex-teammate Brett Gardner as "still flexing it up" is a career highlight for both of them).
Nick's father Steve had a similar career, playing nine seasons for three teams, though he didn't quite have his son's power -- Steve hit 20 homers, total. But both Swishers were All-Stars in their respective times, Steve in 1976 and Nick in 2010.
The Swishers also gifted the world what is perhaps the only photographed instance of a former MLB All-Star cutting the hair of his future MLB All-Star son:
7. Dave LaRoche and Andy and Adam LaRoche
Dave LaRoche, 1970-1983: 65-58, 3.53 ERA, 1,049 1/3 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 7.0 SO/9
Adam LaRoche, 2004-Active: 6,066 PA, .263/.340/.470, 251 HR, 862 RBI, 13 SB
Andy LaRoche, 2007-2013: 1,336 PA, .226/.304/.336, 22 HR, 113 RBI, 8 SB
While Dave LaRoche had a long and successful career, gaining election to two All-Star games, he's known far more for his LaLob: A 20-foot high arcing eephus pitch that he used to get outs towards the end of his career. It's the Monet of pitches -- all soft strokes and endless beauty.
And while Andy LaRoche didn't have a long career despite being a highly regarded prospect, twice being ranked in the top-20 Major League prospects by Baseball America, his brother Adam has had an interesting Major League saga, too. After all, Adam was first seen as a pitching prospect before the Braves took a chance on his bat.
Since then, he's done his own version of the LaLob: smashing baseballs in lollypop arcs out into the ether with regularity.
Though Andy didn't spend much time in the Majors, he and Adam did share a pretty great family bonding moment together. While the two were both playing with the Pirates in 2009, they homered in the same game. It was the first time two brothers went deep in the same game for the Pirates since Paul and Lloyd Waner pulled it off in 1938.
6. Ross and ... Ross Grimsley
(The younger Grimsley ... before he grew out his hair)
Ross Grimsley Sr.: 0-0, 3.86 ERA, 14 IP, 6.4 BB/9, 5.1 SO/9
Ross Grimsley Jr.: 124-99, 3.81 ERA, 2039 1/3 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 3.3 SO/9
Though the elder Grimsley only had a 14-inning career across seven appearances for the White Sox in 1951 (and racking up 129 wins in the Minor Leagues), he made sure people would know the name Ross Grimsley thanks to his son.
The long-haired and mustachioed younger Grimsley (at least, once he was traded from the Reds to the Orioles) soon became known as Scuz or Crazy Eyes. Why? Well:
Some believed he doctored the baseball with grease hidden in his long hair. Though that, perhaps, was simply because Grimsley wouldn't shower during winning streaks, giving his hair a natural ball-doctoring effect. Grimsley didn't stop there -- he would also wear turquoise-colored contact lenses and consorted with a witch who would supply him with good luck charms. At least, he did until Reds manager Sparky Anderson told him to stop before he was branded as "crazy" by the rest of the baseball world.
Oh yeah, his changeup was once reported to come in at 42 mph.
5. Lance McCullers and Lance McCullers Jr.
Lance McCullers Sr., 1985-1992: 28-31, 3.25 ERA, 526 1/3 IP, 4.3 BB/9, 7.6 SO/
Lance McCullers Jr., 2015-Active: 2-1, 2.32 ERA, 31 IP,
Sticking with same-named fathers and sons, we come to the McCullers. Oddly enough, the two of them were both drafted 41st overall -- the senior being picked up by the Phillies in 1982.
While playing with Goose Gossage on the Padres from 1985 to '87 and the Yankees in 1989, the elder McCullers, who also pitched with a handlebar mustache, picked up the adorable name "Baby Goose." How the two of them didn't release a children's book called "Goose and Baby Goose Meet Goose from Top Gun," we'll never know.
Maybe the junior McCullers will pick up an adorable, fowl-themed nickname, and then the triumvirate will be complete. It may be difficult, though, as the elder McCullers pitched primarily from the pen while the younger one has made quite the impact in five Major League starts. He's posted a 168 ERA+ and tossed a complete game since his debut on May 18:
And it's all thanks to "Baby Goose." Before he was drafted in 2012, Junior said:
4. Phil, Joe and Lance Niekro
Phil Niekro, 1964-1987: 318-274, 3.35 ERA, 5,404 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 5.6 SO/9
Joe Niekro, 1967-1988: 222-204, 3.59 ERA, 3,584 1/3 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 4.4 SO/9
Lance Niekro, 2003-2007: 535 PA, .246/.288/.421, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 0 SB
Phil Niekro's 21-20 record in 1979 makes him the last player to win and lose 20 games in a season, while his and Joe's 539 combined victories are the most for two brothers. Not too surprising: After all, the family has a monopoly on the knuckleball the way the Vanderbilts dominated the railroad industry.
As Bob Uecker said of striking out against Phil's knuckler:
Though Lance Niekro tried to make a go of it as a slugging first baseman, even he could not resist the siren's call of the knuckler: He soon took up the family pitch, tossing 33 2/3 innings in rookie-ball in 2009.
Perhaps most amusingly, though, Joe Niekro hit one big league home run in his career ... and it came against his brother Phil on May 26, 1976.
Or, well, actually the most amusing moment is probably this. But hey, Scott Lang had his run-ins with the law, too.
2. Ducky and Dick Schofield and Dennis and Jayson Werth
'Ducky' Schofield, 1953-1971: 3,545 PA, .227/.317/.297, 21 HR, 211 RBI, 12 SB
Dick Schofield, 1983-1996: 4,928 PA, .230/.308/.316, 56 HR, 353 RBI, 120 SB
Dennis Werth, 1979-82: 172 PA, .209/.341/.302, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB
Jayson Werth: 2002-Active: 5,212 PA, .274/.368/.465, 188 HR, 671 RBI 123 SB
The Schofields were not the most fortunate of Major Leaguers. The elder, nicknamed Ducky, played for 19 years and received over 3,500 plate appearances without an All-Star appearance (though he did pick up a World Series ring with the Pirates in 1960.)
Meanwhile, his son, who did not receive a fun nickname, played for 14 years and picked up over 4,500 PA without an All-Star game (although, he did pick up an MVP vote in 1986 when he hit a career-high 13 home runs). While Dick also picked up a World Series ring thanks to his time with '93 Blue Jays, he never got to play in the series thanks to a broken arm he picked up earlier that year. (Fun fact: Schofield is also tied with Rob Deer and Mark Belanger for most seasons with 400+ AB and 100 or fewer hits with four.)
There may just be a curse on the family: Jayson Werth, who is a stepson of Dennis Werth, nephew of Dick and grandson of Ducky has only one All-Star appearance despite seven different seasons with a 120 OPS+ or greater.
His beard alone should have made more than one All-Star appearance:
1. The Hairstons
Sam Hairston, 1951: 7 PA, .400/.571/.600, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB
Jerry Hairston, Sr, 1973-1989: 2023 PA, .258/.362/.371, 30 HR, 205 RBI, 4 SB
John Hairston, 1969: 4 PA, .250/.250/.250, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB
Jerry Hairston Jr., 1998-2013: 4,967 PA, .257/.324/.368, 70 HR, 420 RBI, 147 SB
Scott Hairston, 2004-2014: 2,660 PA, .242/.296/.442 106 HR, 313 RBI, 36 SB
And finally, we get to the greatest family of Major Leaguers out there: The Hairstons. You need a family tree just to keep track of them all:
And that's neglecting all of the Hairstons out there who were professional ballplayers, but didn't reach the Major Leagues, like Johnny Hairston, Sam Hairston Jr., John Hairston Jr., Bobo Hairston, Jeremiah Hairston, Phillipe J. Hairston, and Meatpack Hairston. (Only the last four are made up.)
Despite five big leaguers, the team of Hairstons has only combined to have four seasons with more than 400 at-bats -- and those are split entirely between Scott (one) and Jerry Jr. (three).
Not that the family doesn't have plenty of history in the game: Sam Hairston played for seven years in the Negro Leagues before signing with the White Sox, and Hairston Sr. had one great game against the Twins on Oct. 4, 1981 when he hit a grand slam and drove in six runs including the game-winning two-run single to give the White Sox a 13-12 win.
And, like all good brothers, Scott and Jerry Jr. played together on the Padres, leading to a few moments where one would drive in the other: