The start of the 1979 season served as a good reminder of the interesting and significant role brothers have played in major league baseball. First there was Jesus Alou, back for his 15th season in the Big Time. This gives the three Alou brothers (Felipe 17 and Matty 15) a record 47 manyears in the majors.
Then there was Gaylord Perry, 40 years old, a Cy Young Award winner like his brother Jim, who is adding to the pitching laurels of baseball's best family pitching duo. Another 40-year-old starting the 1979 season was Phil Niekro, who is pitching as hard as ever but is being upstaged a little by his kid brother Joe, who is finally carrying his share of the family load in his 13th year in the majors.
On April 7, 1979, Ken Forsch of Houston pitched a no-hit, no-run game against Atlanta to duplicate the no-hitter hurled by his brother Bob of the Cardinals against the Phils on April 16, 1978. Although there have been several cases of one brother achieving this milestone - such as Frank Pfeffer, Jesse Barnes, Paul Dean, Phil Niekro, and Gaylord Perry - it marks the first time that two brothers have hurled no-hitters.
On May 31, Pat Underwood made his major league debut pitching for Detroit against Toronto. On the mound for the Blue Jays was his older brother Tom. They both hurled zeros for seven innings, but Pat won out 1-0 with relief help in the ninth. This was one of the relatively few cases where pitching brothers faced each other in a regulation game. Less unusual was the case of brothers Mickey and Dick Mahler pitching in the same game for the Atlanta Braves on April 20 and again on May 7.
With this introduction, based on early 1979 happenings, we will go back all the way to the Wright Brothers - in this case George, Harry, and Sam - to review specific aspects of brother combinations. Since 1876 there have been more than 275 brother combinations as players. There has been one family group of five players - the Delahantys; one of four – the O'Neills; 13 of three members; and the remainder of two. The latter group includes six sets of twins who made it to the Big Time.
In a list of 275 plus combinations, it is easy to see that in many cases neither brother made much contribution. In other cases, the contribution was very one sided. Most baseball fans can quickly pick out the stars among such brothers as Christy and Henry Mathewson, Joe and Johnny Evers, Al and Honus Wagner, Mack and Zack Wheat, and Bill and George Dickey.
Our primary concern in this article will be on brothers where more than one made a significant contribution and more specifically where brothers compiled impressive combined statistics. One way to get a handle on this subject is to treat separately the pitcher-catcher combinations, the brothers who were both pitchers, and those who were non-pitchers.
This may tend to downgrade somewhat those combinations where one brother was a pitcher and the other an infielder or outfielder. Examples include Jesse and Lee Tannehill and Ken and George Brett, but Lee, with a .220 lifetime batting average, and Ken, with a 78-81 lifetime won-lost record, really have not contributed that much. Now, if Wild Bill Donovan and Patsy Donovan had been brothers, the combined credentials would be pretty impressive. The SABR Biographical Research Committee has reaffirmed that Bill and Patsy were NOT brothers. While we are on that subject, we should note that the Committee also has come up with enough demographic data to show that Chick Stahl and Jake Stahl were NOT brothers.
There have been 15 brother batteries on the same major league team since 1876. A number of these made little more than token appearances, but we will cite the full list for the record. The pitcher is listed first.
Will and Deacon Jim White, Boston NL 1877
Cincinnati NL 1878-79
Ed and Bill Dugan, Richmond, AA 1884
Pete and Fred Wood, Buffalo, NL 1885
Dick and Bill Conway, Baltimore AA 1886
John and Buck Ewing, New York PL 1890
New York NL 1891
Mike and John O'Neill, St. Louis NL 1902-03
Tom and Homer Thompson, New York AL 1912
George and Fred Tyler, Boston NL 1914
Milt and Alex Gaston, Boston AL 1929
Wes and Rick Ferrell, Boston AL 1934-37
Washington AL 1937-38
Mort and Walker Cooper, St. Louis NL 1940-45
New York NL 1947
Elmer and Johnny Riddle, Cincinnati NL 1941; 1944-45
Pittsburgh NL 1948
Bobby and Billy Shantz, Philadelphia AL 1954
Kansas City AL 1955
New York AL 1960
Jim and Ed Bailey, Cincinnati NL 1959
Larry and Norm Sherry, Los Angeles NL 1959-62
Not on the list, surprisingly, are the twins Claude and Clarence Jonnard, pitcher and catcher, respectively, who each spent six years in the majors in the l920s, but never played on the same team. The three Sadowski brothers pitchers Ted and Bob, and catcher Eddie - never got together either in the 1960s.
The Ferrells and Coopers were easily the top brother batteries in major league history. This is not meant to downgrade the Whites. Will White was almost a one-man mound staff for the Red Stockings in 1879 when he started a record 75 games and completed all of them. Actually, Deacon Jim caught only 59 of those games because he also played in the outfield and at first base. In fact, Jim caught no games in 1880, and after that spent much of his time at third base. Consequently, they were not a battery very long. The Ewings also might have developed into a good battery, but pitcher John hurt his arm in 1891 while leading the NL with a 21-8 won-lost record. He never pitched after that.
Wes Ferrell six times won 20 or more games in a season, and his brother Rick caught more games, 1806, than any other backstop in the American League. They were together five years, being traded from the Red Sox to the Senators midway in the 1937 season. They had a couple of interesting experiences while they were playing for different teams. On April 29, 1931, Wes pitched a no-hitter for the Indians over the Browns. Rick was the St. Louis catcher and he smacked a ball off his brother which some thought was a hit. However, it was officially ruled an error and Wes had his no-hitter.
Ironically, Wes the pitcher hit more lifetime home runs (38) than Rick did in his long career (28). However, on July 19, 1933, when Rick was with the Red Sox, he hit a fourbagger off Wes. This was one of the rare instances when one brother connected off another. It also happened to be one of those unusual games where each brother connected, as Wes belted one off Henry Johnson.
Mort and Walker had three exceptional years together as pitcher and catcher - 1942-43-44. They were St. Louis Cardinal World Series batteries on all three pennant-winning teams. They were NL All-Star game batteries in 1942 and 1943, and in 1943 and 1944 Walker was the catcher and Mort one of three pitchers on The Sporting News Annual All Star Major League
Teams. It is hard to imagine a higher level of attainment for two brothers than that.
There have been more than 60 pitching brothers in the majors since 1876. We have to generalize on the exact number because some of those who pitched, such as the twins Eddie and Johnny O'Brien, also played at other positions. A remarkable number pitched on the same teams, if for ever so briefly a period. They are listed below:
Larry and Mike Corcoran, Chicago NL, 1884
Matt and Mike Kilroy, Baltimore AA, 1888
John and Arthur Clarkson, Boston NL, 1892
Frank and John Foreman, Cincinnati NL, 1896
Christy and Henry Mathewson, New York NL, 1906-07
Harry and Howard Camnitz, Pittsburgh NL, 1909
Grover and Louis Lowdermilk, St. Louis NL, 1911
Vean and Dave Gregg, Cleveland AL, 1913
Jesse and Virgil Barnes, New York NL, 19 19-23
Johnny and Phil Morrison, Pittsburgh NL, 1921
Ted and Homer Blankenship, Chicago AL, 1922-23
Dizzy and Paul Dean, St. Louis NL, 1934-3 7
Alex and Walter Kellner, Philadelphia AL, 1952-53
Eddie and Johnny O'Brien, Pittsburgh NL, 1957
Lindy and Von McDaniel, St. Louis NL, 195 7-58
Dennis and Dave Bennett, Philadelphia NL, 1964
Phil and Joe Niekro, Atlanta NL, 1973-74
Jim and Gaylord Perry, Cleveland AL, 1974-75
Paul and Rick Reuschel, Chicago NL, 1975-78
Mickey and Dick Mahler, Atlanta NL, 1979
Many of these brothers actually worked in the same game, one as a starter and the other in relief. This includes the Mathewsons, Barnes' Deans, O'Briens, McDaniels', Reuschels, Niekros and Mahiers. Jesse and Virgil Barnes did this on several occasions with Virgil usually in relief. Rogers Hornsby did not discriminate between them, at least on one occasion. In a game between the Cards and Giants on September 24, 1922, Hornsby completed a record NL home run year by hitting his 41st off Jesse and his 42nd off Virgil.
Rick, as the starter, and Paul Reuschel pitched in the same game for the Cubs on many different occasions from 1975 to 1978. The starter and the relief man strongly resembled each other in build and the casual fan had to be reminded which one of the huge hurlers was on the mound. Their biggest joint effort came on August 21, 1975 when they beat the Dodgers 7-0. Rick went 6 1/3 and Paul finished out the shutout, the first ever by two brothers.
For two brothers pitching on the same club, primary recognition must go to Dizzy and Paul (Daffy) Dean for their efforts in 1934-35. Paul won 19 each season while Diz was overpowering with 30 and 28 victories. On September 21, 1934, with the Cardinals shutting out the Dodgers twice, Diz took the opener 13-0, giving up only three hits. In the nightcap, Paul pitched a no-hitter, winning 3-0. That fall in the World Series, they each won two games over the Tigers.
The list of brothers pitching against each other is much shorter. Over the years there has been a natural reluctance to go head to head as starting hurlers. Actually that never happened until major league baseball was nearly 50 years old.
As noted above, the Foreman brothers were together on the Cincinnati team in 1896. However, at the start of the season, John (Brownie) Foreman pitched briefly for Pittsburgh. In fact on April 18, 1896 he pitched against Cincinnati and was leading 8-6 when he was knocked out in the seventh inning. Frank Foreman came in to pitch the ninth for the Reds who pulled out the victory. Actually, they were not opposing each other at the same time.
On September 4, 1916 in the first game of a Labor Day doubleheader, Stan Coveleski started for Cleveland, but was bombed out in 2/3 of an inning by Detroit. In the seventh the Tigers brought in Harry Coveleski, who also pitched 2/3 of an inning and gave up no runs. The Coveleski boys never wanted to face each other and that was the closest they came to confrontation.
Earlier we stated that the Barnes brothers pitched together on the Giants 19 19-23. In the latter year, Jesse was traded to Boston and two years later to Brooklyn. From 1923 to 1927 Jesse and Virgil met ten times in NL games, five times as starters and five times in relief. There were no spectacular contests; in fact they never pitched complete games against each other. The closest was on June 25, 1926, when Jesse of the Dodgers beat Virgil of the Giants 7-4, with the latter leaving for a pinch hitter after seven. In these games, Jesse won five and lost three. Virgil was three and four.
The Niekro brothers faced each other six times, and these were more interesting games. Phil, with Atlanta, won the opener 8-3 on July 4, 1967, when Joe was a rookie with the Cubs. On April 23, 1968, Joe came out on top 10-4. After being traded to San Diego, Joe beat his older brother 1-0 in a great mound duel on July 13, 1969. Phil came back to win 10-4 on September 26, 1969. After a hiatus when Joe was in the American League and they were pitching together for Atlanta 1973-74, Joe moved to Houston where he next met Phil on May 29, 1976. Joe won this one 4-3 and had the distinction of hitting his first major league home run off his brother. Phil, laboring hard last year to win his 20th game, came up against Joe on September 26, 1978. It was a bitter disappointment to Atlanta fans as Joe beat him 2-0 with ninth inning relief help from Ken Forsch. In the head-to-head confrontations, Joe has four victories to two for Phil.
The Perry brothers faced each other only once, on July 3, 1973, when Jim was with the Tigers and Gaylord with the Indians. The Tigers won 5-4 after Jim had left the game. Gaylord didn't finish either, but took the loss.
The Forsch brothers have never faced each other as starting hurlers. However, on July 21, 1974, Bob of the Cardinals won a complete game victory over the Astros, who had relief in the last two frames from Ken. The latter gave up three runs but did not lose. As noted earlier, Pat and
Tom Underwood faced each other as starters on May 31, 1979.
In summary on pitching brothers, the Perrys are easily the best family pitching combination in major league history. Jim closed out with 215 victories and Gaylord had 266 at the start of the 1979 season. Their superiority is challenged only in number of 20-win seasons. They have seven (five for Gaylord and two for Jim). Stan Coveleski had six and Harry in his brief career had three. The only category that the Perrys have not been able to dominate is complete games and that is because pitching has changed considerably since 1900. Jim Galvin pitched 639 complete games and his brother Lou, up briefly with St. Paul in the Union Association in 1884, had three for a combined total of 642. Here are the records for the most noteworthy and balanced of the brother pitching combos, with statistics on active hurlers through the 1978 season. An asterisk indicates season leadership in the specific category.
The majors are currently a little weak in non-pitching brother combinations. However, the continued presence of Jesus Alou, now limited to pinch hitting, is a reminder that it was not always that way. In fact, there were two examples of long service on the same team, the Sewells and Waners. Joe and Luke Sewell were both with the Indians from 1921 to1930. Luke was a good catcher, but was weak at bat, hitting only .259 in a period when batting averages were quite high. In the meantime, Joe, with wonderful bat control, was compiling a lifetime average of .312 while playing short and third.
Paul and Lloyd Waner were both immediate successes at the plate for the Pirates. Paul was leading the NL with a .380 bat mark in his second year in 1927. As a rookie, Lloyd finished third that year (after Rogers Hornsby) with a .355 mark. He had 223 hits to 237 for Paul. The National League has not had two players with that many hits in the last 40 years, say nothing about teammates or brothers.
Although outmanned by the three DiMaggio brothers and the three Alous, the Waners still had the most career hits for one family, as well as the most triples. Although neither was a long ball hitter - and this was particularly true of Lloyd, who once hit 198 singles in a season - they did accomplish some unusual home run feats. Three times they hit home runs in the same game - twice in the same inning. The last time, on September 15, 1938, they clipped Cliff Melton of the Giants for back-to-back homers in the fifth inning at the Polo Grounds. This was the only time brothers hit successive home runs.
Other brothers who homered for one team in the same game included Henry and Tommy Aaron, three times for the Milwaukee Braves in 1962; Tony and Billy Conigliaro, who did it twice for the Red Sox in 1970; Felipe and Matty Alou, once for the San Francisco Giants in 1961; and Jesus and Matty Alou, once for the Giants in 1965.
The three Alou brothers achieved a unique milestone on September 15, 1963, exactly 25 years after the Waner achievement, when all three played briefly together in the San Francisco outfield. This necessitated the "benching" of Willie Mays.
In 1966 Matty and Felipe finished first and second in the NL batting race, a feat even the Waners were unable to achieve. Matty, with the Pirates, hit .342, and Felipe, who led the league in hits, runs scored, and total bases, hit .327 for Atlanta.
The only two brothers to win batting titles were Dixie Walker, who hit .357 with the Dodgers in 1944, and Harry, who hit .363 with the Cards and Phils in 1947. Similarly, the only brothers to win RBI titles were Emil Meusel with the New York Giants in 1923, and Bob with the New York Yankees in 1925. No two brothers ever won home run titles.
Other than the Coopers, who were on The Sporting News Annual Major League Teams in 1942 and 1943, the only other brothers to make the team were Joe (eight times) and Dom DiMaggio in 1946. The only brothers to win "Gold Glove" awards, instituted by The Sporting News for fielding excellence in 1957, were the Boyers. Ken won five titles at third base for the NL and Clete won at the same position in 1969. All three DiMaggios probably would have been cited had this award been in force in the 1930s and 1940s.
Most of the combined career records for brothers are now shared by the three Alous, the three DiMaggios, and the two Waners. The five Delahantys, who formerly held the mark for the most years, now qualify only for the most entries. In spite of the long career of Steve O'Neill, that family of four players never accumulated significant statistics. The home run record for brothers is held by Henry (755) and Tommy (13) Aaron. The stolen base mark is held by Honus (722) and Al (4) Wagner. The records of some of the more long service brother combinations are carried below.
+ A third brother, Tommy, had one at bat in majors.