When I decided to start this blog in the dead of winter, I didn't have a job and my social life was a barren wasteland. Needless to say, I had spare time to spare. Now I suddenly find myself (mostly) gainfully employed and my social calender has a little more ink splashed upon it and my blogging has suffered for it. While most people would blame my short attention span for blog abandonment, rest assured, I have not left Starting Nine on the side of the road, nor do I plan to. I just gotta prioritize my time these days and this poor cardblog has suffered for it. Oh for the days when I spent all my time in my pajamas waiting for the phone to ring and I had hours to sit and think of something to write about.
Anyway, yesterday was Father's Day, which is usually a rough day emotionally for me. For the most part, I grew up without a father - and the brief time he was around was not exactly Ozzie and Harriet quality parenting - so having a designated greeting card day allocated to remind me of that fact is not my idea of a good time. One nice thing we did in my family a while ago is we decided, since my poor mother was the only parent, she got both holidays in celebration....and we still all get her cards and gifts on Father's Day. And since she somehow kept me and my siblings out of prison and the morgue, it seems the least we can do.
Baseball has a rich tradition of fathers and sons, so it seems like the perfect day to showcase the good the bad and the ugly of baseball families. First off is the absolute epitome of father/son perfection, the Griffeys.
Ken Griffey Sr. was the first player in major league history who got to play with his son at the same time he was still active. They upped the ante when, in 1990, they became teammates and got to play together on the Mariners for a year and a half. Then they put the cherry on top of the feel-good story when they hit back to back homers on September 14, 1990. To me, that is the alpha and omega of father/son feats in major league history.
Bobby Bonds is probably the best father who is also the second best player in his family.
Bobby Bonds was a player way ahead of his time. He was a speedy power hitter who struck out a ton. These kinds of players were all the rage in the 1980's, but Bobby played all through the 1970's, for seemingly every team in the league at one point or another. He retired in 1981 with 332 homers, 461 steals and 1757 strikeouts. Then, in 1986, his boy Barry came up with the Pirates. Now, I was way ahead of the curve in hating Barry Bonds, so the less said about him in my world, the better. If he had retired in 1999 with his 445 homers, 460 steals, .288 average and tiny head, he would be a first ballot hall of famer. Instead, he took his jerk factor and multiplied it by 10 by injecting himself with lots of B-12 and ruined a bunch of great records. Man, all I can say is, fuck Barry Bonds.
On the other end of the jerk spectrum is Pete Rose.
I was never a Pete Rose guy, but I could understand those who were. Rose was never the most talented player or greatest athlete, but he played his ass off. Sadly, his nickname Charlie Hustle now applies more to his gambling and lying about it then to his play on the diamond. His kid, who was on a 1982 Fleer card with his dad at the age of 12, is also a disgrace even though he worked his ass off. Even less talented than his father, Pete Rose Jr. played for a decade in the minors and then got himself a cup of coffee with his dad's hometown Reds in 1997. Sure, it was probably a publicity stunt, but he made it. He played in the minors for another decade, until he was busted for selling steroids. So both father and son have been in federal prison. Classy family.
And then there is Yogi Berra...
...Yogi could never be described by anyone as anything other than loveable. Everyone loves Yogi Berra. Being a swell guy does not guarantee having a fine son, unfortunately. Dale Berra was a fringe player, and there is nothing wrong with that, but he was also a junkie and a dealer, and in the end, there is something tremendously wrong with that. I wonder if Dale and Pete Jr. had the same parole officer?
As an aside, let's cover my favorite Father's Day moment:
...granted, it was done 11 years before I was born, but Jim Bunning throwing a perfect game on Father's Day is pretty damn sweet, even if it was against my Mets. Jim Bunning has seven kids, so he knows a thing or two about being a father.
Right now, the best player with the worst kid recently in the majors is probably Phil Niekro.
Phil was the master of the knuckleball and won 318 games in about 1000 years in the majors. Plus, Niekro looked old and paternal even on his earliest cards. His kid, Lance knocked around for the Giants for a few years and then tried to reinvent himself as a knuckler as well. That didn't go so well. He is currently a free agent and coaching for a college in Florida.
The best "son" in the majors right now is no doubt Prince Fielder, son of the titanic Cecil.
I always had a soft spot in my heart for Cecil Fielder. He was a big dude who hit the ball a long way. It took him forever to establish himself in the majors, with a detour to Japan thrown in there as well, and he fell off the cliff just as quickly as he rose to fame. He was grand and larger than life and played ball like every game was gonna be his last, I always loved Cecil. Then he showed himself to be a bit less jolly and more of a lunatic when it comes to his relationship with his son. They are estranged, a nice way of saying Prince wants nothing to do with his dad. So sad. Other than the Griffeys, it seems all these father son stories are kind of a bummer in one way or another.
Post script- Some people believe in the triplet (game used, autograph, rookie card); I like the quad (game used bat, game used jersey, auto, rookie card). I have a great Quad of the Fielders:
I never did find a jersey card of Cecil to complete his quad, so I have Prince in there to pinch hit. I also love that the autograph I have from him is from his Japanese days. That bat card didn't scan well, it is actually quite shiny and the 1986 Donruss rookie of Cecil is a great looking card. I was never one for the 1986 Donruss design, but the Blue Jays cards look great with that border and you get that great 80's BJ logo not once but twice. I'll have to scan and bring out some more of my quads to help keep this blog going.