It’s All Relative: Some Lesser-Known Family Ties in MLB

Baseball is family. The love of baseball, both watching and playing, is passed from one generation to the next, so it is no surprise that Major League Baseball history is full of multi-generational ball-playing families.

When I was a kid, Topps put out a father/son subset in their 1985 set, which included these 13 cards:

Yogi and Dale Berra, 1985 Topps

Yogi and Dale Berra, 1985 Topps

Buddy & Gus Bell
Dale & Yogi Berra
Bob & Ray Boone
Terry & Tito Francona
Terry & Bob Kennedy
Jeff & Bill Kunkel
Vance & Vern Law
Dick & Dick Schofield
Joel & Bob Skinner
Roy & Roy Smalley
Mike & Dave Stenhouse
Steve & Dizzy Trout
Ozzie & Ossie Virgil

There are some famous names there — Yogi Berra is a Hall of Famer, and the Bells and Boones both later added a third generation — but there are also some pretty obscure names, like the Stenhouses and the Trouts (sorry, not that Trout family).

But what is true of all of them? They are all father/son combos who share a last name. What about those family ties that aren’t such a direct route, though? As it turns out, there are quite a few interesting baseball relationships that aren’t readily apparent. You probably know some of these, but if you read this and don’t learn anything new, I’ll eat my hat.

Let’s start with a non-baseball relationship.

Ray Knight was well-known to Reds fans as the man who replaced Pete Rose at third base when Rose went to the Phillies, and he shows up on highlight videos all the time as he scores the winning run for the Mets after Mookie Wilson‘s grounder snuck between Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

But did you know that from 1982 to 2009, Knight was married to Hall of Fame golfer Nancy Lopez?

Nancy Lopez and Ray Knight

Speaking of Bill Buckner, he is not related to current Major Leaguer Billy Buckner. But he is related to Matt Carson, who has spent time in the Majors with the Oakland A’s, Minnesota Twins, and Cleveland Indians.

Carson, whose mother is Buckner’s cousin, is currently at spring training with the Dodgers as a non-roster invitee.

This one doesn’t quite fit the mold of “different last names,” but it is pretty intriguing.

You probably know that Cesar Izturis and Maicer Izturis are brothers, right? Did you know that they were born only seven months and two days apart? It turns out that they are half-brothers with the same father but different mothers.

As far as I have been able to discern, Hall of Famer Duke Snider was not related to me, although he did go to Compton High School with my wife’s grandmother (and former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle).

But Snider was the brother-in-law of Cliff Ditto, a former scout for the San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos, and California Angels who originally signed Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith, Tim Flannery, Randy Jones, and Randy Johnson, among others. Ditto was mentioned by name in Smith’s Hall of Fame induction speech (at the 16:45 mark in the video below).

(Ditto also managed for eight seasons in the Padres’ minor league system, including six seasons in Walla Walla, Washington. No word on whether the Padres thought they were being funny putting a guy named Ditto in a place called Walla Walla.)

Back in 1987, Jose Canseco won the American League Most Valuable Player Award for the Oakland A’s. Coming in second place was Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell.

The next year, Greenwell’s sister gave birth to a little boy and named him Joey. Although Uncle Mike played his entire 12-year career with the Boston Red Sox, Little Joey was raised a New York Yankees fan by his Bronx-born father.

When Joey was 21, he had to change allegiances again when he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. Little Joey is Braves outfielder Joey Terdoslavich.

Wayne Nordhagen shows off what his nephew would call his "Show Hair."

Wayne Nordhagen shows off what his nephew would call his “Show Hair.”

Kevin Millar spent 12 years in the big leagues and was part of the happy-go-lucky Boston Red Sox team that broke the Curse of the Bambino when they won the 2004 World Series. These days, he is the co-host of Intentional Talk on MLB Network.

But once upon a time, Millar was just a little boy looking up to his awesome uncle Wayne Nordhagen, who played eight years in the majors for the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs.

Interestingly, although Nordhagen only played for four major league teams, he was a member of eight different organizations, including five in the calendar year of 1982. He started the year with the White Sox, who traded him to Toronto on April 2. On June 15, the Blue Jays traded him to the Phillies, who then traded him to the Pirates.

One week later, the Pirates traded a player to be named later to the Blue Jays for Dick Davis, the man the Blue Jays had just received from the Phillies in exchange for Nordhagen. Three days after that, on June 25, Nordhagen was sent back to Toronto to complete that deal, marking the second time in ten days that he had been traded straight-up for Dick Davis. Sure, it would have been easier for the Phillies to just trade Davis to the Pirates for Bill Robinson, but where is the fun in that?

Anyway, Nordhagen finished out the season with the Blue Jays, then signed with the Cubs on December 10.

I mentioned before that the 1985 Topps set had the first two generations of two different three-generation families, the Boones and the Bells. There are actually three in there, though.

Dick “Ducky” Schofield spent 19 years playing infield for seven different major league teams, primarily the Pirates. His son, Dick Jr., spent 14 years at shortstop in the 1980s and ’90s, mostly with the Angels.

Ducky’s daughter, Kim, was a track star at the University of Florida who competed in the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials. She married a minor league ballplayer in the Cardinals’ system named Jeff Gowan, and they had a son named Jayson.

Kim and Jeff divorced, and when Jayson was about six years old, she got married again, this time to former big leaguer Dennis Werth. Jayson took Dennis’s last name, and 17 years later he was Jayson Werth, major league outfielder.

If you have seen the 2014 documentary “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” you probably know that actor Kurt Russell played minor league ball for a few years in the 1970s.

What you might not know is that Russell’s sister, Jill, is the mother of Matt Franco, who spent eight years with the Cubs, Mets, and Braves.

That’s right — Matt Franco is not related to fellow former Mets Julio Franco or John Franco, but he is the nephew of Kurt Russell and the grandson of Bing Russell.

Photo credit: Billie Jean King Enterprises. (L to R) Bill Moffitt (father), Randy Moffitt, Betty Moffitt (mother), and Billie Jean King.

Photo credit: Billie Jean King Enterprises. (L to R) Bill Moffitt (father), Randy Moffitt, Betty Moffitt (mother), and Billie Jean King.

On September 20, 1973, female tennis player Billie Jean King faced off against male player Bobby Riggs at the Astrodome in Houston, in what was dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes.” King beat Riggs, cementing her place in athletic history.

On that same day, over on the west coast, the San Francisco Giants were hosting the first-place Cincinnati Reds. In the top of the seventh inning, Giants’ starter Ron Bryant was clinging to a 7-5 lead. After getting Ed Crosby and Pete Rose to start the inning, Bryant gave up a single and a stolen base to Joe Morgan, then walked Tony Perez to put the tying run on base.

With right-hander Andy Kosco coming up, Giants manager Charlie Fox went to his bullpen and called for a right-hander — Billie Jean King’s little brother, Randy Moffitt. Reds manager Sparky Anderson countered with a left-handed pinch-hitter, 23-year-old rookie Ken Griffey.

But September 20, 1073, belonged to the Moffitt/King family, and Randy got Griffey to fly out to center.

There are exactly 450 pitchers who have faced Ian Desmond in more than one plate appearance. Of those 450 pitchers, Desmond has had the most success against Josh Roenicke, going 2-for-3 with a triple and a homer.

Roenicke, of course, is right at home in an article about baseball family ties; his father, Gary, spent 12 years in the majors and is currently a scout for the Orioles, and his uncle Ron played eight seasons and now manages the Milwaukee Brewers.

But Gary and Ron aren’t the reason Josh is here today — Desmond is. In 2006, as a minor leaguer in the Cincinnati organization, Roenicke met Desmond’s sister, Nikki, in Sarasota, Fla., where the Reds had spring training. Four years later, Josh and Nikki got married. Two years after that, Ian began owning his brother-in-law on the field.

Gerrit Cole, Amy Crawford, and Brandon Crawford.

Gerrit Cole, Amy Crawford, and Brandon Crawford.

There were some people — including me — who thought the Pirates should have pitched someone other than Gerrit Cole in their season finale last year. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle chose Cole to start the final game against Cincinnati in hopes of beating out the Cardinals for the NL Central crown and avoiding the wildcard play-in game.

Cole pitched great, but the Pirates bullpen gave up three late runs to lose, 4-1, sending the Bucs to the wildcard game against San Francisco without their best pitcher available.

As you probably recall, the Giants blew out the Pirates 8-0, behind a masterful performance by Madison Bumgarner and an early grand slam by Brandon Crawford.

Would things have turned out differently had Cole been pitching? Well, maybe for Amy Crawford’s stress level. After all, Amy is the younger sister of Brandon Crawford … and the girlfriend of Gerrit Cole.

Ralph Branca is best known as the pitcher who gave up the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to Bobby Thomson on October 3, 1951, to win the pennant for the Giants. More recently, Branca was portrayed by Hamish Linklater in the movie “42” — he was the teammate who awkwardly asked Jackie Robinson to shower with him.

On January 8, 1977, Branca’s daughter Mary married another former Dodger: Bobby Valentine. The manager who snuck back into the dugout in a fake mustache after being ejected from a game is the son-in-law of the pitcher who gave up one of the most famous home runs in baseball history.

(Incidentally, while neither Branca nor Thomson ever made the Hall of Fame, October 3, 1951, was a momentous day in the life of someone who did — it’s the day Dave Winfield was born.)

Helen Callaghan was often called “The Ted Williams of Women’s Baseball.” Helen played for the Minneapolis Millerettes and the Fort Wayne Daisies in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), the league portrayed in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.”

Helen played five years in the AAGPBL as a center fielder; her sister Marge was a third baseman and her teammate.

Helen played her final game in 1949; almost 12 years later, her son Casey Candaele was born. Casey went on to play nine years in the majors with the Montreal Expos, Houston Astros, and Cleveland Indians, and he and Helen are the only mother/son duo to both play professional baseball.

Lou Boudreau was a Hall of Fame shortstop who spent nine years as a player/manager for the Cleveland Indians. While with Cleveland, he invented what came to be known as the “Boudreau Shift,” wherein he would play most of his infielders on the right side of the infield when pull hitter Ted Williams came to bat. Boudreau would later be Williams’s teammate and manager in Boston.

In 1960, Lou had his final managing gig with the Chicago Cubs. During his time in Chicago, his daughter Sharyn met her future husband, a high school pitcher by the name of Denny McLain. McLain, of course, is the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season, going 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA to win the American League Cy Young and MVP Awards in 1968 for the Tigers.

Denny and Sharyn are married to this day, although they were divorced for a while during one of his stints in prison.

That’s two in a row with tangential ties to Ted Williams. Let’s make it three.

Williams was a very good pitcher in high school — like most great players, he was the best at whatever position he happened to be playing. His catcher was a kid named Roy Engle. The two remained friends for years, and Roy ran Ted’s baseball camp from 1960 to 1973.

In 1978, the Angels drafted Roy’s son, Dave Engle. The next year, he was part of the trade that brought Rod Carew to California from the Minnesota Twins. Engle’s lifelong association with Hall of Fame hitters continued in 1980 when, while playing for the Toledo Mud Hens, he beat out another one — Wade Boggs — for the International League batting title, .307 to .306.

During his time in Toledo, Engle met and married a local girl named Cindy Schumann. Soon after, when he had made it to the big leagues with the Twins, his teammate Tom Brunansky saw a photo in Dave’s locker of Cindy and her sister, Colleen. Brunansky was smitten and confiscated the picture; after the 1985 season, he and Colleen were married.

And thus, two young men who were drafted by the Angels and traded to the Twins became brothers-in-law when they married their angels who happened to be twins. (Sorry. Cindy and Colleen are not actually twins, as far as I can tell, but they really should be.)

Rick Miller. Red Sox media photo.

Rick Miller. Red Sox media photo.

In 1970, Rick Miller was playing for Pawtucket in the Red Sox minor league system. He met a nice girl named Janet, the younger sister of Pawtucket’s catcher. Three years later, Miller finally played his first full season in the majors, once again as teammates with Janet’s brother. More importantly from a personal standpoint, he and Janet were married.

Janet’s brother had become a star by then, having won the 1972 AL Rookie of the Year Award. He would eventually hit one of the most famous home runs in postseason history and be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000. Janet Miller, wife of Rick Miller, was born Janet Fisk, sister of Carlton Fisk.

(Interesting note about Fisk: despite his great career, he only led the league in anything two times: his 13 hit-by-pitches led the American League in 1980, his last year in Boston; and during his Rookie of the Year season of 1972, he led the league with … nine triples!)

One last story: Greg Booker grew up in Burlington, N.C., around the corner from a nice girl named Kristi. They went to school together from kindergarten through high school, and he was good friends with her and her brothers.

When Booker came home to visit just before his junior year at Elon College, he dropped by Burger King to see Kristi at work. He was surprised by what he discovered. “It was like, she even looked good in a Burger King suit. I had to say it: ‘So when are we going out?'”

Fifteen months later, when Greg was a struggling first baseman in the Padres minor league system, he and Kristi were married.

Greg converted to pitching full-time and earned a spot on the roster in San Diego. In May of 1989, his seventh season with the Padres, he was nearly traded to the Cubs for shortstop Shawon Dunston, but that deal fell through. The next month, on June 29, he was traded to Minnesota for pitcher Fred Toliver.

This trade is relatively unremarkable, except that the man who traded Booker was Padres manager and GM “Trader Jack” McKeon — Kristi McKeon Booker’s father.

Let’s end with a list of several more relationships that you might not be aware of:

  • Former catcher and current Blue Jays broadcaster Gregg Zaun is the nephew of former catcher and two-time World Series champion Rick Dempsey.
  • Former shortstop and manager Dale Sveum and famous helmet-wearer John Olerud are cousins.
  • Yangervis Solarte, who started 2014 as Alex Rodriguez‘s replacement at third base in New York before being traded for current replacement Chase Headley, is the nephew of fellow infielder Ronny Cedeño.
  • Former Oriole Ken Singleton is the cousin of NBA player/coach Doc Rivers.
  • Red Sox youngster Mookie Betts is the nephew of former Royals infielder Terry Shumpert.
  • Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins is the cousin of former big league outfielder Tony Tarasco.
  • Former Expos reliever Mel Rojas is part of the Alou clan — nephew of Matty, Jesus, and Felipe, and cousin of Moises.
  • Willie Harris, who went 2-for-2 for the White Sox in the 2005 postseason, is the nephew of Ernie Riles, who went 0-for-9 for the Giants in October 1989.
  • Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello is the grandson of former infielder Sam Dente, who got one MVP vote for the 1950 Washington Senators despite a slash line of .239/.286/.299 (53 OPS+).
  • Dave Magadan, who spent 16 seasons as a major leaguer, is the cousin of managerial great Lou Piniella.
  • Former A’s and Brewers manager Ken Macha is the cousin of Hal Newhouser, the only pitcher in history to win back-to-back MVP Awards (1944-45 for the Tigers — and he finished second in 1946). Although they are first cousins, Macha was born 29 years after Newhouser — and four years after Prince Hal’s second MVP season.
  • Ray Lankford, who once got MVP votes for the Cardinals in a season when he led the league in both strikeouts and caught stealing, is the nephew of former Orioles catcher Carl Nichols, who spent parts of six seasons in the majors and never had a single stolen base attempt.
  • Matt Herges‘s sister Marci married his former Dodger teammate Todd Hollandsworth.
  • Dan Driessen, a lesser member of the legendary Big Red Machine in Cincinnati in the 1970s, is a cousin of Gerald Perry, an All-Star for the ridiculously bad 1988 Braves.
  • Jose Rijo, who has the rare distinction of falling off the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility twice, was once married to the daughter of Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. (Rijo received 0.2 percent of the vote in 2001, made a comeback and pitched 44 games for the Reds from 2001-02, then received zero votes in 2008 to fall off the ballot again.)
  • Tom Candiotti‘s sister married his former teammate Brad Wellman.
  • Phillies slugger Domonic Brown is the nephew of former Indians and Twins All-Star  Jim “Mudcat” Grant, one of only 15 African American pitchers to win 20 games in a season and the second pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series.
  • Former Mets and Expos shortstop Hubie Brooks is a cousin of tragic relief pitcher Donnie Moore.
  • Former first-round pick Gordon Beckham is the son-in-law of Scott Fletcher, who also played infield for the White Sox (and five other teams across 15 seasons).
  • Possible future Hall of Famer Gary Sheffield is the nephew of a guy who once looked like a lock for Cooperstown, Dwight Gooden.
  • Former Rangers catcher Bob Johnson, who showed a lot of power in the minors but never found success in three big league seasons, is the nephew of Hall of Fame Cub Ernie Banks.
  • You might know that Greg Vaughn is cousins with fellow masher Mo Vaughn, but did you know that he is also a cousin of former weak-hitting Braves shortstop Jerry Royster?
  • Josh Harrison, whose career-high 14-game hitting streak ended on the last day of the 2014 season, is the nephew of John Shelby, a .239 career hitter who somehow had a 24-game hitting streak for the 1988 World Champion Dodgers.

One Response

  1. Mort

    Where is Wayne Nordhagen these days? I collect autographed baseball cards from the early 80s and haven’t seen / heard from him in years.


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