#181: 20 Q’s…Dos y Dos

181.1  In the past I’ve been hard on Uncle Wiki…and Uncle Wiki deserves it. The game-plan of Wikipedia is a paradigm for digital-age wrong-headedness: the idea that any one can edit the contents…which is only in theory, since gatekeepers and key-masters will more than likely change it back. There’s an old saying: That which is guarded by all is the first to be stolen. What’s more, their notion of what is true and what isn’t is extremely wobbly…it has to be “verifiable,” by which they mean sourced from a published book or printed article…magazine, newspaper, academic journal. They will come right out and say, astonishingly, “We don’t want truth, only verifiability.” If you’re an expert in some subject, you can surely point to books and published articles that contain errors…and in this dumbed-down day and age, such bloopers are more prevalent than ever before.

181.2  Trouble is, who or what verifies these so-called verifications? Why, for example, would you doubt the authenticity of some collectable doo-dad, but not doubt the accompanying “certificate of authenticity”? Wouldn’t that certificate need it’s own certificate? Leading to what in logic is called an infinite regress…a never-ending chain of verifications of the verifications of the verifications, etc. Not that I’ve heard of anybody doing it, but  there must be a killing to be made in the manufacture of counterfeit certificates of authenticity, nez pah? But then, Wikipedia has trouble following its own guidelines, as many sources of “verification” turn out to be merely web-pages…and you know what they say: Reading it on the web is like hearing it on the telephone…so it goes.

181.3  But……….my point today is that there are even sillier digital enterprises out there, like Yahoo! Answers. Here’s how that works: a question is posed…anyone can answer…these answers are voted on, by anyone, as to which is the most “correct.” Then, to top it off, the original questioner gets to pick which they judge to be the “best answer.” And if that sounds like the student correcting his own test-paper, well duh.

181.4  Still, I thought it would be fun for the next few weeks to look at some kinship queries as fielded by Yahoo! Answers…I’ll provide the correct answers, and also critique the posted answers, bearing in mind that the difference between wisdom and ignorance is that wisdom has its limits  ;) ;) Original postings will be in black italics…my comments in red.


181.5  Question: What is my second uncle’s second cousin to me? Is it even considered family? Im really curious and i have absolutely no idea. Thanks.

181.6   Best Answer: I’ve never heard of a second uncle. Then what you need to do is find out what the heck it means. Old way: dictionary. New way: google it. But do it! But if he is the brother of one of your parents, then his second cousin is also your parent’s second cousin. That would make you and the second cousin: second cousins once removed. This is right as far as it goes…if  he were the brother of one of your parents, then what follows is correct. But he isn’t such a brother, so in the end it’s wrong.

181.7  If this uncle is an uncle by marriage (married to your parent’s sister), then you are not related to him except by marriage, and you are not related to his second cousin, either.  In questions of kinship, this goes without saying…I assume they are asking about blood relatives, unless they indicate otherwise. “Is it even considered family?” hints that maybe this is only by marriage, but there’s no way to tell. Comes to that, there’s no way to tell if the questioner is using the terms “second uncle” and “second cousin” correctly, but we can only assume so and proceed from there. But you don’t have to be related to someone in order to consider them “family.” If he feels like a family member, then he is one, whether you have a common ancestor or not. This is a very generous and cheerful note to end on, except we are talking about family here, biological, genealogical, connected by blood ties…otherwise everybody is everything to everybody else…what fun is that?

181.8  Answer #2: Work out if and who you have as a common blood ancestor, then you can work out if you have any relationship or not……….. I have no problems with “infinite ellipses”…use ‘em myself………..sparingly, but I use ‘em. But this isn’t very helpful, is it? The questioner obviously hasn’t the first idea of how to “work it out.” “second uncle” is not a relationship I have ever heard of…………..  It didn’t happen this time, but I’ve even seen where an answerer will flat out declare there is no such thing as a second uncle, simply because they’ve never heard of it. Pretty ignorant, but in keeping with the ego-driven tenor of the times. Even more “helpful” is when an answerer says: I don’t know, as if anybody cares…

181.9  Answer #3: Second uncle is a confusing term. Only if you let it be, my friend…you have the power! Do you mean a sibling of a parent that was second in birth order? That wouldn’t change anything or be any different than your parent or their other siblings. Well, to state the obvious, how likely is it that the questioner has 3 uncles, and knows how he is related to the 2nd cousin of his first uncle, and to the 2nd cousin of his third uncle, but not to the 2nd cousin of his second uncle? Sheesh. Or do you mean the brother of a grandparent? That’s called a great uncle (or grand uncle by some). Being a sibling of your grandparent, they would have the same cousin relationships as your grandparent.  Again, this is correct as far as it goes, but guessing what “second uncle” means is just that, a guess. And in this case, a wrong one. If you mean the second husband of a parent’s sibling, then their cousins are not related to you. You don’t share a common ancestor. Ditto.

181.10  Answer #4: Your grandfather’s second cousin is Your mom’s/dad’s second cousin once removed. Your second cousin twice removed. Yet again, correct but irrelevant, since that’s not what a second uncle is. If the cousin in question isn’t related to your grandparent, he/she isn’t related to you. You are probably wrong about “second cousin”, too. Completely wrong, since grandparents don’t enter into it…and rather discourteous as well…play nice, sez me.

181.11  My Answer: The term “second uncle” is rarely seen in English but it does exist…taken from the Spanish term “tio segundo” referring to your parent’s first cousin, what genealogists in English call your “1st cousin once removed ascending.”

To then figure somebody’s “Xth cousin’s Yth cousin,” you take whichever number X or Y is larger. So your parent’s 1st cousin’s 2nd cousin would also be your parent’s 2nd cousin. In English, you call that your “2nd cousin once removed ascending” or more simply, again from Spanish, your “third uncle.”

181.12  The second part of my answer addresses what was the ultimate question: how to determine how your cousin’s cousin is related to you. The first part confirms that there is indeed such a thing as a “second uncle,” and it’s now up to the original questioner to see if that’s what they meant. If you’re interested, this topic is covered here and here, with real-life examples of the “second uncle” usage in English. Chart 638  compares English (black) and Spanish (green) terminology…then translates the Spanish into English (red), a goal to shoot for IMHO…

chart 638jpg

181.13  Really, the Spanish terminology has a lot going for it…it recognizes that what I call your “numbered” or “straight” cousins…that is, your 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, etc. …are of your generation, descended from common ancestors by the same number of steps as you are. They are in fact the only cousins you have…removed cousins are somebody else’s cousins…and the Spanish logic is to not call them yours if they aren’t yours…sure, language isn’t always logical, but it’s nice when it is! As you can see in Chart 638, this simplifies kinship immensely…and also reflects everyday practice, where your parent’s 1st cousin is sort of an uncle to you, in the same way your parent’s sibling is. Can English change? It does all the time…like the recent “issues” replacing “problems”…but only if enough people care about streamlining English kinship terminology and start using the “new” terms. More next week…

wicked ballsy


“Cups and Saucers” is a one-act musical satire dating back to the Gilbert & Sullivan era, altho not written by them. The fashion in those days was to give the patron a long night at the theater, so the main performance would come after one or more shorter “curtain-raisers”…the way movies used to be preceded by cartoons and newsreels. This sketch poked fun at the Victorian fad for collecting china sets, and the lyrics are from a song paradoxically called “Foo Choo Chan was a Merchant of Japan.”

What to make of the “Conan relation” mentioned in the final 2 lines? This term comes from the 1984 movie “Conan the Destroyer,” where the character Malek refers at one point to his “brother’s sister’s cousin”…an odd way to put it since his brother’s sister is also his sister, and his sister’s cousin is also his cousin. Here we also have double Conans…your brother’s 2nd aunt (i.e., the 1st cousin of one of your parents) would also be your 2nd aunt…and her sister would also be a 2nd aunt to you and your brother. So “sister of my brother’s 2nd aunt” just means “my 2nd aunt.”

“On my grandmother’s side” means this 2nd aunt is the niece of one of your grandmothers…but “by an uncle” doesn’t make much sense…an uncle would be a parent’s brother, and any 1st cousin of your uncle would thus also be 1st cousin to your parent. It could distinguish which of your grandmothers is involved, if only one of them had a son who could be your uncle…but there are simpler ways to say that. My guess is these lines weren’t thought out logically…it’s just relationships strung together to make it sound comically complicated…and keep the meter of the song!


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#180: Why…Because…I Don’t Care…

180.1  The left-fielder, center-fielder, and shortstop…all traded away for players to be “named” later…ha ha. The shortstop was sometimes called I Don’t Give a Darn or I Don’t Give a Damn, depending on the sophistication of the crowd A&C were performing the skit for. No right-fielder is mentioned….in a board game that came out in 1978, he is called Nobody. At any rate, today we wrap up our summer salute to baseball with a couple of hits, misses, and interesting bits.

180.2  Last week I mentioned Phil Roof and his extended family…brothers, cousins, sons, and nephews…12 in all in pro baseball…as far as baseball dynasties go, I know of none larger. I thought it only fitting to try to sketch the clan out, and met with some success.

chart 635

180.3  And while it might be a macabre, or even morbid, thing to say…it is still true that an on-line genealogist’s best friend is the published obituary. I found 2 that tied all the census data neatly together. Not that there weren’t a few tantalizing puzzles…the obituary of Phil’s cousin the nun, Sister Mary Jeanette for example. Those were her first and middle names at birth, altho the obit said she was formerly known as Sr. Mary Odelia, which as you can see from Chart 635  was her aunt’s name. The names of all her siblings were listed, except there was no “Rose E.” but instead a “Mariette.” Then again, given names can mutate thru a person’s lifetime in ways inexplicable to outsiders, a lesson to remember.

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180.4  This next one involves 3 Hall of Famers from the turn of the century, and it’s a toughie. Several of my investigations began at this interesting site: Largest Baseball Families…and here’s what they had to say:

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On the contrary, it is not  “likely” that Keefe and Kelley, cousins of the Hacketts, were also cousins to the Hacketts’ cousins the Clarksons…knowing nothing else, the odds are only 50/50, which is hardly “likely.” This injudicious assumption is forgetting that, unless one or both of our parents were an only child, we all have 2 sets of unrelated 1st cousins. From census records and other sources, we find the fathers’ names (Chart 636, top row) and the mothers’ maiden names (middle row)…and it doesn’t look very promising…

chart 636

180.5  The Clarksons’ mother and the Hacketts’ father both being Hacketts is solid enough…but add in Keefe’s and Kelley’s parents, and we find no apparent siblings, at least not based on surnames. Previous marriages? Possible, but no mention of any that I can find. Thus some of the parents must be either half-siblings to each other…and hence the ball-players are half-1st cousins…or else 1st cousins or more distant…making the ball-players 2nd cousins or further. But even that “solid” Clarkson-Hackett cousin connection is not all that it seems.

inset 2A

180.6  Here is data gleaned from census records…1850 in yellow, 1860 in green, 1870 in pink. Now look at 1870…for John and Dad Clarkson (Walter wasn’t born yet) to be 1st cousins to Walter and Mortimer (spelled here “Murtagh”), their parents Ellen Hackett Clarkson and Walter Clarkson Sr. would have to be siblings…trouble is, there is a 34 year difference in ages. True, if you trace Walter Clarkson Sr. back, his ages are given as 60-40-35 when you’d expect them to be 60-50-40…but numerous other sources give his year of birth as 1810, so we can take 60 in 1870 to be correct. 34 year age difference? You have a child at age 14, another at age 48? Not impossible by human standards, but not likely either.

180.7  What’s more, looking at 1850, for Walter Sr. age 40 to be Ellen’s brother, he’d have to be the son of Ellen’s father, John Hackett age 45…d’oh! What is more likely is that John and Walter Sr. were brothers, and Ellen is Walter Sr.’s niece. This would make Walter Jr. and Mert Hackett 1st cousins to Ellen, and 1st cousins once removed to her sons, the 3 Clarkson brothers.

180.8  I might also mention that one source gives Ellen Hackett as the daughter of Walter Sr., which would make Walter Jr. and Mert Hackett the uncles, not “cousins” of the Clarkson brothers…for what that’s worth.

180.9   Moving along…I have found that the more contemporary the family, the harder they are to trace on-line…after all, federal census data released to date only goes up to 1940. But two I remember from a couple decades back seemed worth investigating…first, that Dwight Gooden was Gary Sheffield’s uncle, despite being only 4 years older. And that turned out to be 100% correct…

chart 637

180.10  …which is not to say it isn’t complicated. Dwight’s father Dan Gooden had 3 sons by his first marriage…he then met Ella Mae Jones, who was married with a daughter Mercedes. Ella divorced her husband and married Dan…they had daughter Betty…then quite a long time later Dwight came along. In his biography he said he felt like an only child, his sisters (actually sister and half-sister) being so much older. In this biography he calls his mother “Ella Mae Jones” but gives no name for her first husband, nor last name for her daughter Mercedes. He mentions Mercedes’ son only as Derrick and  her husband only as the mysterious “Uncle G.W.” Notice that while G.W. is Dwight’s half-sister’s husband, he’s presumably old enough to be called “uncle.”

180.11  We know Derrick’s last name is Pedro since he played a couple of seasons of Minor League ball…his mother is called “Mercedes Pedro” when she is quoted in a 1987 article about Dwight’s drug use. It would suggest G.W. was also a Pedro, except that in a 1989 article about Dwight’s 4-year-old adopted brother Derrick Lavorn Gooden being struck by a car, Dwight’s grandmother is identified as “Mercedes Pedro.” This happened in Tampa, and the entire clan…Goodens (including a grandmother), Sheffields, and Pedros were living in 3 adjacent houses, So the surnames don’t fit together that well…but for now I’m simply reporting, not trying to guess the family dynamics of it all.

180.12  And none of this effects Dwight Gooden being Gary Sheffield’s uncle…they lived together as children, until Dwight’s sister married Harold Jones, whom Gary considers his father. His biological father Mr. Sheffield, who was said to have worked in a pool hall, was not married to Betty…he invited her to live with him, but the teenager declined, instead living with her parents, brother Dwight, and half-sister Mercedes.

180.13  Much of these facts are in the public record because both Dwight and Gary were Major Leaguers, and stars to boot. Not so with our other uncle/nephew pair, Orsino Fiorello Hill and Darryl Eugene Strawberry. Notice in passing that both Gooden and Strawberry have the same middle name, and had their best years as teammates with the Mets…in fact, you will sometimes find it suggested that they were related, but they were not.

inset 33180.14  Orsino Hill was an outfielder and had a 12-year career in the Minors, 1982-1993…reaching high as Triple-A but never got the call. Thus there isn’t that much about his family out there…except that he was Darryl’s uncle. His son Derek Hill was chosen by the Tigers 23rd overall in the 2014 amateur draft…and he’s called Darryl’s “cousin,” so that checks. Orsino was born February 2, 1962 in Inglewood CA…Darryl Strawberry March 12, 1962 in Los Angeles…an uncle only 38 days older than his nephew. Darryl’s father was named Henry Strawberry, and his mother Ruby…presumably she was Ruby Hill…it would have been Orsino Strawberry if he had been an uncle on Darryl’s father’s side. Unless, again, we’re dealing with half-siblings rather than full siblings…but I have nothing on Orsino’s parents, so that’s where it rests for now.

180.15  Except to mention that Darryl’s older brother Michael H. Strawberry, born in 1960, played 67 games over 2 seasons in the early 1980s, reaching only as high as A-ball. Plus there’s another family of baseball Sheffields, but not related to Gary. They’re from Tullahoma, Tennessee, two highly coveted pitchers, the sons of Travis and Misty Sheffield, who were both ballplayers in school. Jordan Sheffield was picked last summer by the Red Sox but opted to go to college at Vanderbilt…younger brother Justus was drafted this June, antagonized about joining Jordan at college, but decided to sign with Cleveland. They say they’re asked if they’re related to Garry Sheffield “at least once a day,” and insist they are not…but you know genealogy…”not related” could mean 5th cousins, and they simply don’t know it. And their father’s 1st cousin Tony Sheffield spent 5 years in the Red Sox farm system in the 1990s, plus 3 more years with independent teams.

180.16  Speaking of the Red Sox…as I’ve said many times, the use of Sr./Jr. and II/II/IV after names varies with families. Usually Jr. is reserved for a son…II used when the namesake is something else…a nephew, a younger cousin. Case in point is Richie Conigliaro…younger brother of Major Leaguers Tony and Billy. He named his 2 sons Anthony and William, known as Tony C. II and Billy C. II after their uncles. Both are now in their early teens, love playing ball, and are well aware of the heritage their names represent.

inset 4180.17  But here’s something that might strike you as odd: if you go to this website: The Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame  you will find, along with Rod Carew, Tony Perez, Manny Mota, Juan Marichal, and many others…the name of Ted Williams.That’s because while Teddy’s father was of Irish and Welsh extraction, his mother was Mexican…or at least Mexican enough to satisfy this particular organization. While he was alive, Ted kept his heritage under wraps…in his autobiography, he devoted only a few sentences to it, opining that if he had had a Hispanic surname, pro ball would have been much harder for him.

180.18  This much we know: Ted Williams’ mother was named Micaela “May” Venzor, born in 1891, second of 8 children to Pablo Venzor and the former Natalia Hernandez. On Ted’s birth certificate it said May was born in El Paso but it appears more likely it was Chihuahua, Mexico…the family moved from there to Santa Barbara CA in 1907…Ted was born in San Diego in 1910. Some members of Ted’s mother’s family considered themselves Mexicans, but others did not, calling themselves, as did Ted himself, “Basco”…originating in the Basque region of Spain…a culture and ethnicity distinct from Spanish and also from French, as the Basque region stretches into southern France…one uncle preferred to call himself French Canadian. Ironically, it was another uncle, Saul Venzor, who taught Ted to play. But as to Mexico, some Venzors claimed that the family was “just passing thru” and considered being labelled Mexican a slur. Interesting….read more here.


180.19  And finally…yes, in 1952 at age 20 former NY governor Mario Cuomo played one season of Minor League ball with the Brunswick Pirates, Class-D Georgia-Florida League. He appeared in 81 games, hit one homer, batted .244…and decided to stick with law school. Upper Deck was hip to this and devoted a card to it in their 1994 American Epic series…it showed a team photo and I for one couldn’t pick him out…so this picture is from when he was at St. John’s University.



wicked ballsy


Newspapers used to love to run pictures of nuns and baseball…either cheering in the stands, or meeting  players, or even trying to take a swing in their flowing habits…here with Rocky Colavito.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#179: Tomorrow Pitching to Today

179.1  …yeah, we got a couple of “days” on the team…if it makes sense to Abbott & Costello, who am I to argue? But today we look at some bands of brothers…and if we start by limiting it to the Major Leagues, the kings of the hill are the Delahanty brothers.

179.2  5 of them, all played in the Bigs, and that’s a record…well, today everything is a “record,” but there you go. Big brother was Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, born in 1867…16 seasons, 1888-1903. He was a true superstar of his era, batting over .400 3 times and finishing with a career average of .346. He lead his league in slugging percentage 5 times and hit 101 career home runs…to put that in perspective, when Babe Ruth became the career HR leader in 1921, he did so by passing Roger Connors’ total of 138. Ed was an outfielder with a rifle arm and fleet on the base paths as well…and by all accounts, something of a hothead….leading to his mysterious demise during the 1903 season.

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179.3  That he fell to his death on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls on July 2, 1903 is beyond dispute. Question is, did he stumble, did he jump, or was he pushed? We do know he was put off a train on the bridge that night for drunken and rowdy behavior…and there was a scuffle with an elderly watchman who, according to court testimony, took him for a smuggler. There’s even been a book written investigating the incident, but we’ll probability never know for certain. He did ruffle some serious feathers by jumping from the established National League to the upstart American League, and encouraging his fellows to do the same. Curiously, the body of a local farmer was also found under the falls shortly thereafter…minus the $1500 relatives said he had left home with.

179.4  But as to the brothers, here are their years of birth and number of games played in the Majors…Tom (1872, 19)…Joe (1875, 270)…Jim (1879, 1186, 13 seasons)…and Frank (1882, 287). Runners-up are the 4 O’Neill brothers, whose cumulative Big League careers spanned 1901-1928. Steve O’Neill was a catcher for 17 seasons, mostly with the Cleveland Indians…his 3 brothers had much shorter careers…Jack and Jim were also catchers, and Mike was a pitcher, appearing in just 32 games.

179.5  Next, we drop down to trios of brothers…still a rare occurrence…I count just 18 examples. And besides the Alous (see Related How Again? #176), only the Wright brothers…George, Harry, and Sam…were teammates, albeit briefly, with the Boston Red Caps in 1876, the first year of the National League. George was their star shortstop…manager Harry appeared in just one game as an outfielder, brother Sam in just 2 games at shortstop. Now no trio of brothers played in more games than the Alous, 5129…compared to 4245 for the DiMaggios…all 6 had careers of at least 10 years.

179.6  Still, the DiMaggios were the most successful brother trio, voted to a total of 22 All-Star Games, to the Alous’ 5…for the record: Joe 13, Dom 7, Vince 2…versus…Felipe 3, Matty 2, Jesus 0. Interestingly, the DiMaggios, all of whose middle names were Paul, did not appear together in an All-Star game. Vince’s only 2 appearances were 1943-44 when Joe was away in the military.

inset 2

179.7  Also interesting to note that the 3 baseball DiMaggios were the youngest of 9 siblings…their 2 older brothers followed in their father’s footsteps as fishermen plying their trade off the coast of San Francisco. Vince disappointed Papa by running off to join the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, with Joe soon to follow. They were reunited in a Los Angeles Angels/S.F. Seals Old-Timers game in August of 1956…Joe and Vince were Seal teammates for 2 years, brother Dom “The Little Professor” was a Seal 4 seasons later. 2 bits of DiMaggio trivia..Joe’s famous 1941 hitting streak of 56 games was actually 57…he doubled in the All-Star Game, going 1/4 and scoring 3 runs…TBT, he was an All-Star in each of his 13 seasons, the only player to never not be an All-Star pick. And do you remember the Major League team he coached for 1968-69? Actually, hitting instructor…answer in today’s wicked ballsy.

179.8  Other brother trios likely remembered by Baby Boomer fans, including combined years active…and again with year of birth and number of Big League games…

Sadowski 1960-66   Ed, C (1931, 217)…Ted, P (1936, 43)…Bob, P (1938,115)

Paciorek 1963-87  John (1945, 1)…Tom (1946, 1392)…Jim (1960, 48)

Allen 1963-77   Hank (1940, 389)…Dick/Richie (1942, 1749)…Ron (1943, 7)

Cruz 1970-88   Jose Sr. (1947, 2353)…Tommy (1951, 7)…Hector/”Heity” (1953, 624)

Edwards 1977-83   twins (1952)  Marshall (160)…Mike (317)…Dave (1954, 321)

Perez all P 1980-2000   Pascal (1957, 207)…Melido (1966, 243)…Carlos (1971, 142)

Molina 1998-2014   Bengie (1974, 1362)…Jose (1975, 13th season)…Yadier (1982, 11th season)

179.9  I should mention that the Perez brothers from the Dominican Republic played under their mother’s name, their father being Juan Pablo Gross. Then we have the Boyers…first up was Cloyd born in 1927, a pitcher from 1949-55 and teammate with brother Kenton his final season with the Cardinals…Ken was born in 1931 and played 15 seasons at third base. Cletis/”Clete,” born in 1937, also patrolled the hot corner, for 16 seasons.  And dig those cool 1955 Bowman Color TV cards…the blonde wood was especially prized as I recall…and those umpire cards? On the trading block you couldn’t give them away! But remember, we’re only considering Major Leaguers here…if we expand that to include Minor Leaguers…

inset 3

179.10  …we add 4 more Boyer boys, for a total of 7 pro ballplayers, which I would say is pushing the limit of how much athletic talent one family can produce. That’s 7 sons and 7 daughters…one daughter died in infancy…of Vern and Mabel Boyer, Alba, Missouri…and yes, some of the girls played ball with their brothers. They are, with year of birth, games in the Minors, and position… Wayne (1930, 55, P)…Lynn (1935, 138, 1B)…Ron (1944, 627, 3B)…and Len (1946, 580, Inf/Of). They were Cardinal farm-hands except NY Yankee Ron, also the only one to briefly reach Triple A…Wayne and Lynn never got out of D-ball, back when there was such a thing…Len peaked at Double A. Then the second generation too, as Ken’s son Dave and Clete’s son MIckey had short Minor League careers…Dave 5 seasons, Mickey just 1.

179.11  Other 5-brother pro baseball families include the Roofs from Paducah…Phil and Gene played in the Majors…David, Adrian, and Paul in the Minors. Notable spread in ages…Adrian born in 1936, Gene in 1958. Their cousin Eddie Haas also made it to the Show…his brother Lou played in the Minors, as did an assortment of sons and nephews for a total extended family dynasty of an even dozen. And Hall of Famer Eddie Murray was the 8th of 12 siblings…and all 5 boys played pro ball…Rich for 2 years with Giants, batting .216 in 56 games…oldest brother Charles hit 121 homers in 7 minor league season, reaching Triple A but no further…Venice and Leon had briefer Minor League stints.

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179.12  And a salute to the 5 Bankhead brothers who played Negro League ball. Only Dan Bankhead made it to the Majors…becoming the first black pitcher in August of 1947 with the Dodgers, and hitting a home run in his first at bat. Brother Sam was the first black manager in the Minors, as player-manager with the Farnham Pirates of the Class-C Provincial League in Quebec in 1951. Fred spent 13 years in the Negro Leagues, appearing in one all-star contest…Garnett and Joe had brief pro baseball careers.

179.13  Finally, 2 other interesting cases of brothers. An article written in 2012 said of the some 18,000 Major Leaguers down thru history, 974 had careers that lasted a single game. That sounds like a high figure to me…but of those, the strangest stats line must belong to Robin Young’s older brother Larry. He’s credited with one game pitched, and no other stats…a big fat 0 in every other category. What’s odd about that is by rule a pitcher introduced into a game has to face at least one batter…and that batter would show up in the pitcher’s stats somewhere, as a hit, a walk, something…only exception would be if he reached on an error and the pitcher was immediately yanked…or maybe 2 batters, 2 connective errors? Still, there is a little used stat called batters faced, and Larry Yount has a 0 there too.

179.14  That’s because there is an exception to the one-batter rule in the case of an injury, and that’s precisely what happened to hapless Larry. With the Houston Astros trailing Atlanta 4-1 on September 15, 1971 in the Astrodome, he was called in to pitch the top of the 9th. Warming up on the mound, he felt his elbow stiffen and was replaced without facing a batter. Of course one might argue that this shouldn’t count as a game appearance, but baseball has ruled that it does…mind you, they can always change this at some point in the future, like when they redefined no-hitters and perfect games several years ago…in which case Larry Yount really would be O-U-T-out. Robin made his debut with the Brewers 3 years later in 1974.

179.15  And while I’m thinking of it, Earned Run Average is computed by dividing earned runs by innings, then multiplying by 9 to get average runs per game. An out is considered a fraction of an inning…if a pitcher leaves with one out, he gets 1/3 of an inning…2 outs, 2/3 of an inning. No outs means no innings pitched, and if you were to give up say 5 runs, your ERA would be figured with 5/0…except that division by 0 is mathematically impossible. Some publications and websites call this an “infinite” ERA, but that’s unofficial…baseball officially says you simply don’t have an ERA at all.

179.16  My humble suggestion would be to consider that 3 outs, if taken as strike outs, amount to 9 strikes…so in this sense a strike is the smallest “fraction” of an inning. So give the pitcher with no outs credit for 1/9 of an inning pitched…implying that he threw at least one strike, which obviously isn’t true in Larry Yount’s case! But doing it that way, Doc Hamann becomes the all-time ERA leader at 486.00….6 runs, 7 batters faced, no outs…taking Joe Cleary off the hook, whose 7 runs in 1/3 inning gave him an ERA of 189.00

inset 5

179.17  And as for Mookie Wilson, it just goes to show you how stultifyingly ignorant some people are, about kinship or just in general. The fact that Preston Wilson is both Mookie’s step-son and nephew leads people to ask: Did he marry his own sister? Wha–? No, he married Preston’s mother Rosa Gilbert…Preston James Richard Wilson’s father was Mookie’s brother Richard. The exact details are elusive on the internet, but it was hardly a secret…the marriage ceremony took place at home plate of Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi before 1200 fans…this was in 1978, 2 years before his debut with the Mets.

179.18  For the record, Mookie is actually William Heyward Wilson…the story goes that as an infant he called milk “mookie,” altho at least one article claims he himself doesn’t know the origin of the nickname. He had 5 brothers besides Richard: Stebia, Collis, Daniel, John, and Philip…the last 2 played in the Minors…plus 5 sisters. In the dedication to his autobiography, Richard is mentioned as “the late.” Preston was named after his maternal grandfather Preston Hicks…and they were apparently III and IV respectively…Preston’s son died in 2001 at age 10 days, and was named Preston Wilson V. Yes, I noticed that all of Mookie’s in-laws are named Hicks except his wife…I could guess why but it would only be a guess…ain’t genealogy fun, sez me.

179.19  …not to be confused with Travis Sentell “Gookie” Dawkins, whose 15-year Minor League career was highlighted by several “cups of coffee” in the Bigs. Or Nehames “Pookie” Bernstine, who went coffee-less, and whose claim to fame, other than being the older brother of NFL running back Rod Bernstine, is that he isn’t Jewish. Seriously…years ago an article ran in The Sporting News about a father and son who collected the autographs of Jewish ballplayers, and were disappointed with Pookie, but accepted his John Hancock none the less. Or Tookie Gilbert, first baseman for the NY Giants in the early 1950s. Should we include the various Cookies, from Lavagetto to Rojas? Probably not, as the “oo” is pronounced differently…consider the 2 ways you say “oo” in “good food.” And seems to me there was once a Nookie or Nukie but the net can’t find him…I must have imagined it.

170.20   But then this story broke just the other day: Red Sox rookie outfielder Mookie Betts… born Markus Lynn Betts in 1992, the year after Mookie Wilson’s final season…says his parents nicknamed him after NBA guard Daron Oshay “Mookie” Blaylock…yeah, but — oh, never mind. Next week, we wrap up our salute to baseball with a few more genealogical pop-ups and line-drives…see yez…


wicked ballsy


Yup, the newly transplanted Oakland A’s…and there he is, schmoozing with Mr. You-Know-What-Month…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved



#178: I Don’t Know’s on Third

178.1  Our third baseman’s name is monumentally appropriate since of the 3 baseball family trees I tackled this week, I was able to come up with a definite finding on none of them…so yeah, I don’t know. I’d like to think maybe somebody will read this and clue me in. You might wonder why I simply don’t try asking those relevant relatives who are still living. 3 reasons: first, everybody is privacy crazy these days, so I’d just as soon not intrude. Second, even family members sometimes don’t know what’s what in their own family. And third, one’s mother’s maiden name is often used as a password or similar internet security check…so I try to do it all with “independent sources.”

178.2  This website Baseball’s Largest Families proved a useful starting point…especially since they don’t limit it to just major leaguers, but include all pro ballplayers, majors and minors. They list 8 in the Aaron/Lucas family dynasty…it should be 9, and the one they miss is one I knew about even before the internet, since I was following baseball quite closely at the time, the early 1980s.

chart 627

178.3  As you can see in Chart 627, only Hank Aaron and his brother Tommie played major league ball…I couldn’t put my finger on years of birth for the youngest 3 siblings. 2 of Hank’s brothers-in-law (by his first wife) are cited for their contributions to baseball off the playing field…Bill Lucas is noted as the first black General Manager…with the Atlanta Braves from 1976 until his untimely death in 1979. But both he and his brother Robert played as well…Bill was in the Braves farm system for 6 seasons…Robert for 9 seasons, mostly with the Angels, reaching AAA in 1963 but batting just .048 in 9 games. Son Bill Jr. is the one they leave out…he and his 1st cousin, Hank’s son Lary, were teammates in the low minors in 1981-82…and yes, that’s Lary with one L, presumably to go along with Gary, his twin brother who died soon after birth.

chart 628

178.4  So that’s 6 of the 9…the other 3 pose something of a dilemma. Wilmer Aaron, his brother Melvin, and Melvin’s son “Ging” all had undistinguished careers in the minors. They are universally said to be related to Hank, and I have no doubt of that…how is the question. (A) and (B) below are from baseball-reference.com…and together they say that Wilmer and Melvin were Hank’s “cousins” and Melvin’s son Oginga was Hank’s 3rd cousin. Press coverage when Ging made is minor league debut in 1999 also said 3rd cousin…but as the genealogically savvy among you understand, the father of your 3rd cousin is your father’s 2nd cousin…so he’s your father’s “cousin,” not your “cousin.”

inset 1

178.5  Still, further digging shows that when Wilmer was drafted in 1971 he was called Hank’s 2nd cousin…and today as a successful high school baseball coach the media routinely calls him 2nd cousin.Taken all together, it’s obvious not everybody is using their kinship terminology collectedly…perhaps nobody is! Hooking up Wilmer and Melvin’s branch of the family with Hank’s would have solved it, but I was unable to do so. My best guess as to what’s happening is shown in Chart 629

chart 629

178.6 …which is to say, I’m assuming they’re right about 2nd cousins and wrong about 3rd cousins. There are other scenarios…unfortunately, the relative ages don’t make any of them more likely than the others. To me, putting Melvin and Wilbur in the same generation as Hank just seems the most sensible thing to do…but not by much. And without question it is totally inconsistent to correctly say your father’s 1st cousin’s son is your 2nd cousin, then incorrectly say your 2nd cousin’s son is your 3rd cousin, when in reality it’s your father’s 2nd cousin’s son who is your 3rd cousin…that’s why I call it a “hybrid”…half right, half wrong, as per Chart 630.

chart 630

178.7  But then that’s typical…there are a hundred ways to be wrong and only one way to be right. At any event, we know Hank Aaron was named after his grandfather “Papa Henry”…who was actually a Jr., his father being Henry Sr. Thus Chart 631 ties it together as best I can for now…I can find no evidence of any siblings in Gerald and Henry Jr.’s generation…but it would have to look like this for Henry to be 2nd cousins with Melvin and Wilmer.

chart 631

178.8  OK, one more thing…humor me…I thought it would be fun to sketch out one of those other scenarios, that of Melvin being Hank’s 2nd cousin, while Melvin’s son is literally Hank’s 3rd cousin. As you can see in Chart 632, all it would take is for Melvin to marry his father’s 2nd cousin…and yes, that would also make Melvin a 3rd cousin to his own son, but when you marry your 2nd cousin once removed ascending, you have to expect things like that…see why it’s important to get this stuff right in the first place?

chart 632

178.9  Research topic #2 was the Reggie Jackson/Barry Bonds connection and I ultimately got stuck on that one too. People on the web say they are “distant cousins”…you have to chuckle when they add “I think maybe twice removed”…duh…WHAT twice removed? Since they never say Reggie is related to Barry’s father Bobby Bonds, it must be thru Barry’s mother’s side. That’s something pretty basic that sometimes catches people…assuming that if you’re related to the son, you must be related to the father…forgetting the mother!

chart 633

178.10  Now both Reggie’s father and grandfather married Puerto Rican women, which is where the “Martinez” comes from…there is no mention of Hispanic blood in Barry’s family so the connection is likely thru the Jacksons. But as you can see in Chart 633, Jacksons aren’t showing up in Barry’s mother’s family. It’s frustrating…his grandmother Floydia’s maiden name remains elusive, as does Reggie’s grandfather’s first name. Now you’d think an unusual name like that would be easy to trace…I found a handful of Floydias that were possible geographical and chronological matches, but couldn’t nail any down. Were she the sister of Reggie’s grandfather, Reggie and Barry would be 2nd cousins…hence the “twice removed”?…or if Barry’s 2G grandmother Louisella were a Jackson, something like 4th cousins, but at this point I simply don’t know. The connection could even be thru Reggie’s grandfather’s mother’s side…help?

178.11 Finally, we have the Mo Vaughn/Greg Vaughn connection…Uncle Wiki and many inset 2others say simply “cousins”…some say “2nd cousins” or “distant cousins.” This stands as a good exercise in net-trolling…and an initial google came up with Mo’s parents’ first names and Greg’s mother’s maiden name. So far, so good. A connection came from a third party, who said that Mo’s uncle is Greg’s grandfather. We’ll call this relative “Unc”…and he’s either a Vaughn or a Reynolds…

178.12  …making Greg and Mo 1st cousins once removed…Mo is Greg’s father’s…or mother’s…1st cousin.

chart 634

What’s interesting is this connection came from an interview with Leon Brown, who played one season with the NY Mets in 1976…his older brother Curtis Brown Jr. played one game with the Montreal Expos in 1973. The reason it came up at all is that Leon says Unc is also his uncle…trouble is, Leon’s parents are Curtis Brown Sr. and Ruby Banks. This raises the possibility of halfs instead of fulls. For example, did you notice anything strange about Chart 627? Hank Aaron’s mother’s maiden name is definitely Pritchett…in fact, he played with an amateur team in Mobile AL called Pritchett Athletics…while her brother, his uncle, is Bubba Underwood, who taught Hank the game, and was himself a ballplayer with a Negro League semi-pro team in Mobile. The different last names could mean step-siblings, but I’m guessing half-siblings, sharing a mother and with different fathers.

178.13  So…Unc could be the half-brother of either Curtis Brown Sr. or Ruby Banks…inset 3making him Leon’s half-uncle. He could also just be married to a sister of either of Leon’s parents, making him an uncle in that sense. Or he could be an approximate uncle, being the 1st cousin instead of the sibling of one of the parents.  Then of course, Unc could be a Brown or a Banks, and still related to the 2 Vaughns. For the record, Brown also says he is the cousin of James Mouton, an outfielder with several teams from 1994-2001…Brown was born in 1948 and is from Sacramento, as is Greg Vaughn…Mouton was born in Denver in 1968 but went to high school in Sacramento.

178.14  But pending  the exact identity of Unc, we do have another key piece of evidence: numerous sources say Greg Vaughn and former baseball star Jeron Kennis “Jerry” Royster are “cousins”…Royster is also a “cousin” to former NFL defensive back Derrick Scott “Ricky” Reynolds…and Reynolds is a “cousin” to Greg Vaughn. Royster was born in 1952, Reynolds in 1965, both in Sacramento…notice we’re getting a grouping of relatives in Sacramento, with Mo Vaughn the odd man out in Connecticut. And tantalizingly, another Leroy Vaughn married a Deborah Ann Reynolds in Sacramento in 1965…Greg’s parents?…just dunno.

178.15  But let’s try working it out and see where it leaves us…we have 3 cousin relationships which we will assume are 1st cousins, full not half…Greg to Jerry…Jerry to Ricky…and Ricky to Greg. Good mental exercise, to limber up the gray cells, sez me. And of these 3, we only know one mother’s maiden name…Greg’s mother is a Reynolds.

178.16  So one of the cousin relationships is set…Ricky’s father and Greg’s mother are siblings. That leaves Jerry, who, to be a 1st cousin of Greg, has a mother who is either a Vaughn or a Reynolds. If it’s a Vaughn, Ricky’s mother would have to be a Royster, right? So while the 3 would be cousins, they wouldn’t be all cousins together as a group…2 would attend the Vaughn Christmas party (Greg and Jerry)…2 the Royster party (Jerry and Ricky)…and 2 the Reynolds party (Greg and Ricky)…in a sort of tag-team fashion.

178.17  On the other hand, if Jerry’s mother is a Reynolds, then Ricky’s mother could be a Smith or anything…the 3 cousins would be related thru one family, the Reynolds…2 sisters and a brother. And how does this help us with Greg and Mo’s relationship? Well, the fact they Greg is always mentioned as a “cousin” of Jerry Royster, but Mo isn’t, suggests 3 things: Jerry’s mother isn’t a Vaughn…hence Jerry, Ricky, and Greg are related thru the Reynolds…hence Mo isn’t related to Greg thru the Reynolds, but thru the Vaughns,  the left side of Chart 634.

178.18  And when you think about it, for Mo and Greg to be related thru the Reynolds (the right side of Chart 634), it would mean a woman (Mo’s mother)  and her niece (Greg’s mother) married unrelated men named Vaughn…possible in theory, but seemingly ruled out by the Greg/Jerry/Ricky cousin connection.

178.19  At any rate, that’s as much as the net is telling us so far…their real family tree could be completely different…and nothing would give me more pleasure than to revise this whole scenario and get it right! Next week, less wear and tear on the old cerebrum with bunches of baseball brothers…see yez in 7…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#177: Between Innings…Class of ’97

177.1  Compared to the NFL and NBA college drafts, the baseball amateur draft is hopelessly dull…because the systems of player development are so different. For football and basketball, a lot of kids out of college are ready-to-go…some can make a significant impact in their first pro season. With baseball, it’s a mix of high school and college players…many of the former choose to go to college and are later drafted by a different team…with the latter, many collegiate stars still need some seasoning in the minors before they join the Big Club.

177.2  So unless there are some really promising picks, about the only way to make this into a news story is to cherry-pick a small group of draftees with something in common: they are related to current or former major leaguers. I came across a clipping I saved from the June 1997 draft…and thought it would be interesting to see what happened to these “famous names”…they are summarized below.

class of 97

177.3  You’ll notice the older relatives are all reasonably well known and successful players. There were 1607 picks that year…yes, all on-line!…and I’m sure some of those sons and nephews had “cup-of-coffee” dads. But no, I wasn’t tempted to go thru the whole list…if I missed the fun of finding Joe Shlabotnik’s son Alexandrew, so be it. The first in the article and on my list is the most interesting, so I’m saving him for last…

{2}  Felipe Alou Jr. …When exposed to Anglo customs, there is often some adaptation among non-Anglos. Traditionally, Spanish fathers and sons with the same names were not literally designated Senior/Junior. If a father shared all his given names with his son, they would still have a different matronymic surname, so they could be distinguished by the use of their full legal names…as outlined last week. In everyday situations, they could be called “father” and “son”…as Jose padre and Jose hijo. Or with full names, abbreviated as Jose Jimenez p. and Jose Jimenez h. 

But even in English, the use of Sr., Jr., II, III, etc. is left up to the family…there are no firm rules in place, despite what you might think. And while father Joseph Paul Blow and son Joseph Jacob Blow don’t have the same exact name…when both are known around town as Joe Blow, adding Sr. and Jr. makes perfect sense. That’s what happened to George Walker Bush, whose father is George Herman Walker Bush…both were called George Bush, thus the son was nicknamed “Junior” as a child. Early on as an adult, he was sometimes given “Jr.” in print…as he became more famous, that disappeared, with the middle initials doing the work of distinguishing him from his pop.

Now there is an organization in Spain called the Real Academia Española  or RAE…the Royal Spanish Academy…whose mission it is to safeguard the purity of the language and police its usage, at least in public. This body is associated with some 20 branches worldwide, but among New World Hispanophones, except for the straggling diehards, such fussy efforts are ignored. They embrace linguistic fads and fancies as enthusiastically as do their Anglophone neighbors. Thus among Felipe Alou’s 11 children from 4 wives, we find 3 Felipe Jr.’s…each, including their father, have a different second surname…and the one drafted in 1997 is actually Felipe Jose, but there you go. Mel Rojas’ son is Mel Jr., Jesus Alou’s son is Jesus Jr., etc.

I only wish we could return the favor, and replace first cousin once removed ascending with second uncle…and first cousin once removed descending with second nephew…from the Spanish tio segundo and sobrino segundo. And we actually see such usage in English, but it’s exceedingly sporadic…we need to get organized on this!

Felipe Alou Jr. II, if I may call him that, is of course Moises’ half-brother, not brother. He played several years with the Royals organization, batting just .219 at AAA in 2001, then closing out his playing career with the short-lived Canadian Baseball League in 2003. We see him below as Baltimore’s coordinator of baseball operations in the D.R., a post he held for several years.

inset 1

{3}  Greg Bochy…Drafted as a pitcher, converted to a third baseman, but neither panned out. Never made it out of A ball, with an average of just .176…pitched 25 innings, no record, 2.88 ERA. Younger brother Brett currently a pitcher with the Giants at AAA. Couldn’t find a picture, so instead we see the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League, with which he spent most of his time….both the bland logo when he played with them in 2003-4…and their snazzy logo today, which is supposed to be a Sasquatch…let’s see the Federales cancel the trademark on that one…I mean, he’s eating a poor defenseless tree, right?

{4}  Rick Bell…The Bells and the Boones, along with the Colemans and the Hairstons, are the only 3-generation baseball families to date…more coming down the pike I’m sure, but for now that’s it. Buddy’s son Rick is the brother of major leaguers David (12 years) and Mike (19 games)…the closest he got to organized ball was half a season in the Mexican League…the rest of his 7 years of pro ball spent playing in independent leagues…sort of the minor leagues’ minor leagues.

inset 2

{5}  Matt Boone…Expanding Ole Dan’l’s cadre of baseball scions, Matt stuck around the sticks for 7 seasons, batting .243. Uncle Rod had an equally undistinguished 4-year minor league career in the 1970s. Still, they were professionals, duly noted! But think back to the heady days of the baseball card boom…when you didn’t have to make the Majors to get yourself on a piece of pasteboard…witness Bowman’s Draft Picks and Prospects set from 2000….”prospect” defined as a player having a pulse. BTW, Bowman was a gum company founded in 1927. They got the jump on baseball cards in the late 1940s, but were soon overtaken by Topps, natch. By the time Bowman returned in 2000, Topps owned the name…just an excuse to put out even more sets…which are practically worthless today, but who knew?

inset 2.5

{6}  Anthony Valentine…This turned out to the the toughest nut to crack…in fact, I ended up doing everybody else, then came back to him. Found an Anthony Robert Valentine who played in inset 2.75the low minors for the Mets 1997-1998…96 games, batted .235. He was born in 1975, Stamford Connecticut…Bobby was born there in 1951. Then I found Anthony Valentine (top, right) on LinkedIn…Darien CT High School class of ’93, football and baseball…B.S. in kinesiology from University of New Hampshire…minor leaguer for the Mets, then their Major League bullpen catcher for spell…formerly managed Bobby Valentine’s Sports Gallery Cafe in Stamford. All seemed to be falling into place…except

Bobby Valentine married Ralph Branca’s daughter Mary in 1977…yes, the Ralph Branca who served up Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”…and everybody, from Uncle WIki on down, says they have just one child, Bobby Jr., born in 1985. Sure, Anthony’s middle name is Robert, but the dates weren’t matching up. So I did the only thing I could do…googled “Bobby Valentine” and “nephew”…first site, a guy reminiscing about how he thinks he may have played baseball against Bobby Valentine’s nephew who went to Darien High, but he could never pin it down. Next site, an article from 1999, about Katzuhiro Sasaki, a Japanese relief pitcher imported by the Mets (he eventually played 4 mediocre seasons with the Mariners) and how he was warming up with their bullpen catcher, “Bobby Valentine’s nephew Anthony”…bingo!

And Bobby has an older brother Joe Valentine who runs a machine company in Stamford…haven’t linked up Joe and Tony yet, but I’m satisfied…our Anthony Valentine is Bobby Valentine’s nephew, not son…and the only one this article got wrong. But gosh, they do kinda look alike… 

{7}  Jason Fingers…One of the few in this group I actually remember hearing about…probably because he was drafted out of high school by my team, the Red Sox. He elected to attend college instead and was eventually picked by the Royals out of Arizona State. Spent 3 lackluster seasons in the low minors…record of 2-8, 3.79 ERA. What, no ‘stache?

inset 3{8}  Russ Chambliss…4 seasons in the lower minors and independent ball…still in the game, coaching at the college level. Baseball really is one of those skills where some guys can teach it better than they can do it. And Chris Chambliss’ connection to the late actor Carroll O’Connor? One’s first name is Carroll, the other’s isn’t….that’s Carroll Christopher Chambliss and John Carroll O’Connor.

inset 4{9}  Chad Durham…Brother Ray (top, left), older by 7 years, played 14 solid years at second base, twice an All-Star…one of those names, no offense, that sneaks onto the Hall of Fame ballot just so they can finish off the page. Nuthin’ much cookin’ with Chad (top, center)…4 seasons in the White Sox and Reds’ organizations, never higher than AA, .268 and out.

{10}  Jeff Nettles…Some kind of a “Love of the Game” award needed here for Craig’s son Jeff, 15 years in there hacking away. First 5 years, rose thru the Yankees system to AAA, but never got the call. Then embarked on a 10-year skein with the Somerset Patriots out of Bridgeport NJ in the independent Atlantic League…207 career home  runs, all but 60 of them with the indy league…in fact, set the league’s career HR record. Comeback attempt with Baltimore’s AA club in 2008…batted .253 with 24 dingers but at age 29, too little, too late. Versatile as hell…at one time or another played every defensive position, including one game as catcher with Columbus in 2002.

{11}  Lance Niekro…Son of one, nephew of the other…and at last, somebody who made it to “The Show”…albeit just 195 games at first base for the Giants, spread out of 4 seasons, 17 homers, .246…

{12}  Justin Singleton…7 campaigns in the Toronto organization…stalled at AAA in 2006…closed it out with one year in the independent Atlantic League, batting .244, which at that level is the equivalent of a Major Leaguer hitting something like .027.

{1}  Jason Shuck…They say “great nephew,” I say “grand nephew”…either way, it inset 5means that one of Jason’s grandparents was a sibling of Mickey Mantle. Now the Mick had 3 brothers…it would have to be thru one of their daughters, since a son would have passed the Mantle name on down to Jason. Mickey also had one sister Barbara, right. If she’s the grandparent, it could be thru her son or daughter. A lot of potential digging staring us in the face, but we got lucky…Barbara Mantle married Larry Shuck, December 1955, in Commerce OK…Jason was born in Midwest City, OK…close enough for me, even without specifically identifying his father.  Jason spent 1997-98 at the Mets’ Rookie and A levels, .270, no homers, 24 RBIs over 74 games, shortstop and outfield. And I notice there’s a J.B. (Jack Burdett) Shuck currently up with the Los Anaheim Angels…but he was born in Ohio, and no kin that I can see.

177.4  More next week…and caution: today’s wicked ballsy for mature audiences only…

wicked ballsy


Is it politically correct these days to call somebody a “drag queen”? Do I even care? Kelly Mantle is the son of Micky’s baby brother Butch. I wouldn’t mind, but let me quote from his website: “Kelly grew up in Oklahoma like her [sic] uncle, the late great Mickey Mantle. Yep…Kelly’s a switch-hitter too.”  Well, alrighty then.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved



#176: What’s on Second

176.1  The Alou baseball dynasty…Felipe, Matty, Jesus, and Moises…deserve a blog all to themselves, and this is it. But first, we must address the fact that their last name is not Alou! In Spanish, you have 2 surnames…one from your father and one from your mother. Then again, each of your parents also has 2 surnames, so what you get is your father’s first surname and your mother’s first surname…you end up named after your 2 grandfathers’ paternal lines.

176.2  The brothers were born in the Dominican Republic…their father, a blacksmith, was black…Jose Altagracia Rojas, nicknamed Don Abundio…the Abundant One. Yes, in the Anglo press and on the Anglo internet, the second surname is sometimes left off…altho I found 4 sites in Spanish that also give no hint of a second surname, so that’s a mystery. I can tell you that Altagracia is a given name…for both sexes…but Hispanic given names can be used as last names, altho more commonly there’s an “ez” suffix indicating “son of.” Altagracia had better not be his first surname…that would open a whole other can of worms, nez pah?

176.3  Jose married a white woman of Spanish descent, Virginia Alou Reynoso…thus their sons are Felipe, Mateo, and Jesus Rojas Alou. That’s their full legal name…in their home country they are known as Felipe, Mateo, and Jesus Rojas. When the eldest Felipe signed with the NY Giants in 1955, somebody got his last name wrong, and he didn’t feel it his place to correct it. His brothers and son Moises followed suit… even tho Moises’ last name is Rojas Beltre, from his parents. BTW, sometimes you will see their mother called Virginia Alou de Rojas…if she cares to, a married woman can replace her second surname with her husband’s first surname. And permit me to correct 3 misconceptions about the name Alou. First, it’s pronounced a-loe  not a-loo…rhymes with Joe, not Jew.

176.4  Second, the Alous are not the only players to be mistakenly known by their matronymic surname. Baseball-research.com, which in my experience tends to get its facts pretty much straight, lists around 40 Latin players who appear to have played under their mother’s name. I say appear because it can get complicated. Beginning in the 1500s, the custom emerged of connecting the 2 surnames with “y” which isinset 0 Spanish for “and.” Thus on I Love Lucy, Ricky’s full name is Enrique Alberto Fernando Ricardo y Acha, sort of a paste-up of his real name Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III…and that’s where the IV comes from, right. This convention isn’t used much anymore…I mention it only because it came in handy when somebody’s surname, patronymic or matronymic, was itself composed of 2 names, which could happen…you could be Pablo Pizarro Cortez y Balboa…Pizarro Cortez from your father, Balboa from your mother. Further,  single-word surnames would occasionally get reversed and stay that way…today you can do that legally in some countries as a nod to equal gender rights. So checking out what’s what with those other “mama’s boys” (no offense intended, please!) is a project for another day.

176.5  But third, and this is most important: everywhere you look, they say the person who turned Felipe Rojas into Felipe Alou was the scout who signed him…some helpful folks go on to explain that this scout didn’t understand Hispanic naming customs. Trouble is, if people bothered to find out who that scout was, they’d discover it was Horacio Martinez, one of the first Dominican players in the Negro Leagues and a member of the Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame…makes sense having a native Dominican scouting the island players, no? He also signed Manny Mota, Juan Marichal, a host of others. So I’d say the mistake must have occurred further down the line in the Giants front office. Or perhaps he simply got the name wrong, thinking it was Alou Rojas…I wonder if anybody knows for sure?chart 624 176.6  As to the dynasty, Chart 624 shows all the professional ball-players in the immediate family. Mel Rojas pitched for 8 seasons in the 1990s, with a record of 34-31…he is often called the brothers’ nephew and Moises’ cousin, but as you can see that would be half-nephew and half-1st cousin. Before Virginia, Jose was married and had 2 children…his first wife is said to have died young. A very informative article “The Alou Legacy” in Sports Illustrated, June 19, 1995, by Michael Farber says: “[her] name was not known by most of his [Jose's] family.” Too bad Farber didn’t speak to any of the ones that did know. Mel’s half-brother had a brief minor league career, as did Moises’ brother and half-brother. Mel’s son Mel Jr. is currently an outfielder with the Pirates at  AAA and doing quite well…might be seeing him in the Bigs soon…he hit a homer during spring training against the Yankees. inset 1 176.7  Since the three brothers all came up as outfielders with the Giants…Felipe in 1958, Matty in 1960, and Jesus in 1963…it is often wondered if they ever played in the outfield together. The answer is yes…in 3 games in September of 1963…altho only in the late innings, since only Felipe was a starter at the time…they were also in 5 other games together, Matty and Jesus as pinch-hitters. In fact, in Jesus’ first major league at bat, Sept. 10, 1963,  he and Matty both pinch-hit ahead of Felipe in the 8th inning…and all 3 Alous were retired by Mets pitcher Carlton Willey. But that month was their only time together, the only 3 brothers on the same team in the 20th century, the so-called “Modern Era.” Felipe was traded to Atlanta the following spring…he and Matty were reunited briefly with the Yankees in 1973. Oddly enough, for 5 years the Oakland A’s had an Alou on their roster, but just one at a time…Felipe 1970-71, Matty 1972, and Jesus 1973-74. I might also mention, the only brothers to finish 1-2 in batting average, 1966…Matty with Pittsburgh .342 and Felipe with Atlanta .327…his his teammate and countryman Rico Carty right on his heels at .326.

176.8  But here’s the thing…as famous as the Alou family is, their trail along the internet is strangely spotty…everybody agrees that Jose and Virginia had 6 children…but their exact identities are inconsistent. To give you a taste of it, I will cite 3 very credible sources…(1) the SABR biographies for Felipe and Jesus (Matty’s doesn’t mention the non-playing siblings)…(2) a detailed article on the family written in Spanish posted in 2004 on the website of Hoy, a Dominican newspaper…and (3) the obituary of Matty Alou in the New York Times, Nov. 3, 2011. Now all 3 say that Felipe, Mateo, and Jesus have a sister named Virginia after their mother…it’s the other 2 that are up for grabs. (1) says they are Juan and Maria. (2) says they are Juan and Francisco…they are mistaking the half-brother for a full brother. (3) says they are Jose and Zula…the Associated Press obit, with input from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, also says Jose and Zula…but only the Times points out that Jose went on to become a civil engineer. Do they mean Juan? Could Maria be Zula? Good questions, sez me. I took my best shot with Chart 624 and for now I’m sticking with it. inset 2

176.9  And a note on Jesus Maria Alou…it’s common in Spanish to name a boy after  “Jesus and Mary”…or “Joseph and Mary”…heck, there was even an Italian actor named Gian [John] Maria Volonté. There have been many Latin players named Jesus since, but Jesus Alou was the first. The Giants front office was concerned, supposedly pow-wowed with religious authorities, and were advised to come up with a nickname…which they did…Jay Alou. Needless to say, it didn’t stick…even Topps on their rookie card felt comfortable with Jesus…after all, it’s hay-SOOS, not JEE-sus. And if you want to get technical about it, Joshua derives from the Hebrew name Yehoshua, transliterated into Greek as Jesus…and nobody in our culture has a beef with Joshua. Funny tho, he could have been Chuy Alou…that’s pronounced “chewy”…a common nickname for a lad named Jesus, along with Chucho.

176.10  But you know what they say…in for a penny, in for a pound…so while I was at it, I figured I’d sketch out the rest of Don Abundio’s abundant grandchildren, starting with the 11 from Felipe’s 4 marriages.

chart 625

You’ll notice that in Chart 625, I haven’t included the offspring’s double surnames…I do know that from wife #1 they are Rojas Beltre and from wife #3 they are Rojas Brens. No clue for the American and French Canadian wives. But it appears all the boys in the family have baseball in their blood…Luis Rojas Brens never played in the majors or minors, but by his early 20s was a coach and instructor with professional teams in the D.R. The first of the 3 Felipe Jr.’s was a promising high school player until his tragic death in 1976 by drowning. And I should mention that Moises did not grow up with his dad…Felipe and Maria divorced with he was 2…father and son actually became closer as adults.chart 626 176.11  As to the rest…the Sports Illustrated article from 20 years ago mentioned thatinset 3
Jesus Jr. …yes, nicknamed Jay!…had graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, intending to go on to medical school…but first a stop at the Montreal Expo’s minor league camp. It seems nothing came of that…and I can find no trace on the net of a Dr. Jesus Alou. Interesting tho, in one of the obituaries for Matty, Jesus Jr. is quoted about his uncle having a pacemaker…so perhaps that worked out after all. His last name is Rojas Hanley…all 5 siblings were born and raised in the D.R. As to the Alous’ half-brother Francisco, his 2 baseball-playing sons are said be brothers, but with different maternal surnames…Medrano and Santana…I assume that’s half-brothers.

  Beyond the immediate family, at least one “cousin” pops up…Jose Sosa, who pitched briefly for the Houston Astros in the mid-1970s. As you can see below, either his second surname is routinely omitted, or his mother was a Sosa and his father an Ynocencio. Sadly, I consulted 2 old-style reference books (off-line!) and while they both believe that Jose is his sole given name, they disagree on which surname is which.
inset 4176.13  Notice also that estimates of his relationship to the Alous are typically loosy-goosy…”cousin” to both a father and his son?…and they don’t even try to figure it out for Mel Rojas Sr., which is probably just as well, sez me. Assuming Jose is a 1st cousin to the Alou brothers, Mel and Jose would be in the neighborhood of half-1st cousins once removed. But then is he a 1st cousin? If there is indeed a pair of siblings amongst the 4 parents, Jose’s name should have either a Rojas or an Alou in there somewhere…that’s the beauty of the double surname system, after all…and it appears it does not.  Time for me to hit the showers, till next time…

wicked ballsy

wb This one gave me a laugh for sure! I believe it was just this type of goofitude for which “WTF” was invented… ;) ;)


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#175: Who’s on First

175.1  Were I writing a book, or even a newspaper column, I would make sure my “facts” were nailed down solid. With a blog, I can tolerate some loose ends…because it’s so easy to go back and make corrections and updates. What’s more, that’s sort of the point of a blog…you’re sharing your interests with others, both for their enlightenment and yours, because they may be able to further your knowledge with some of their own. Thus, as we embark on a series on the Boys of Summer, genealogical fungoes from the world of baseball, there may be holes in my research here and there. Fine…they’ll get plugged eventually…I hope!

re 2

175.2  Basically, I’ll just be grabbing random connections as I find them and checking them out. And as a warm-up, we’ll revisit a couple I’ve done recently. In Related How Again? #161, I mentioned that Uncle Wiki’s list of married cousins credits Zack Wheat with marrying his “2nd cousin” Daisy Forsman. Chart 569 says otherwise…they were 1st cousins once removed, she being the daughter of his 1st cousin.

re 1

175.3  Then there are the 2 Boone dynasties…2 brothers on the one hand, a grandfather, father, and 2 sons on the other. They cropped up in Related How Again? #134, as we were investigating the relationship of Richard “Paladin” Boone and Pat Boone to Daniel Boone… and just to review, Richard is a 4G grand nephew…Pat has no connection as far as anyone can tell. But from Chart 468, we see that Ray was Daniel’s direct descendant, 4G grandson…and Ike was Daniel’s 2G grand nephew…Ray to Ike, 4th cousins twice removed.

175.4  And a word about “family dynasties” in baseball…many researchers limit this to major leaguers, and that is their privilege. Me, I cast my net more broadly to include minor leaguers as well…I’m counting all professional ballplayers, who got paid to do this for a living. I found a site that also took that tack and one they mentioned was the Mantle Dynasty…I have long known of this clan and it was about time to see what was what.

inset 1

175.5  No problem with Mickey and his brothers. He was the oldest of 5 children, 4 of them boys. And no mystery how he came to be a switch-hitter…Grampa Charlie was left-handed and threw to him that way…his father Mutt was right-handed. Identical twins Roy Dean and Ray Dale were 4 years younger than the Mick and neither were switch-hitters…oddly enough one was a righty, the other a lefty. Both were signed by the Yankees and had brief careers in the lower minors. As you can see above, their signing was a pretty big deal in the newspapers…and stories always mentioned the how the baby of the family, Larry (above, right) a.k.a. “Butch,” was determined to also follow in his famous brother’s footsteps. Instead, he found success in college playing basketball, and spent his life coaching basketball and football at both the high school and college levels.

mm jr175.6  Of Mickey’s 4 sons, only the eldest played pro ball, Mickey Mantle Jr., who died in 2000 at age 47. He followed in his twin uncles’ footsteps, with several truly dismal seasons in the low minors in the late 1970s…again, accompanied by tremendous press coverage, which apparently didn’t help. Incidentally, he probably wasn’t a true junior…one source gives his middle initial as E., and if that stands for Elvin, from his grandfather, that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. And you’ve probably heard this before, but in case you haven’t: Mickey Sr. was not a Michael…he was named after this father’s favorite player, Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane. The Mick once remarked how he was glad his dad didn’t know Cochrane’s real first name was Gordon, no offense to you Gordons out there!

175.7   But there were 2 Mantles that needed checking…and one was easy, “cousin” Max Mantle…signed by the Yankees in 1954 after playing several years in an amateur industrial league…where, according to one newspaper report, he batted .866 (Really?) He was assigned to the McAlester Rockets of the Class D Sooner State League…records show “Maxie” Mantle indeed batted .234 that year, and looks like it was one and done for him. Anyway, he’s Mickey’s 1st cousin, and it was smooth sailing once I realized that Mickey’s uncle is more often referenced by his nickname “Tunney” than his given name Eugene.

175.8  The one I suspected as being misidentified was “3rd cousin” Ryan Mantle. Drafted by the Giants in 2008…to great fanfare, what else is new…he played 3 nondescript seasons in the minors and is now out of baseball. But that’s what everyone said…Mickey’s 3rd cousin. Look at the years of birth in Chart 620. Is it possible for 3rd cousins, who by definition are of the same generation, to be born 55 years apart?

chart 620

175.9  Yes…possible, but not likely. Taking a generation as 25 years, you’d more expect Mickey and Ryan to be genealogically separated by 2 generations, and so they are: 2nd cousins twice removed. But it makes me wonder how the media comes up with these relationships…perhaps they simply ask the person involved or the family, and go with whatever they’re told.You would think if anyone could get it right, the family itself could, but that’s often not the case. So how is Mickey’s 2nd cousin Marvin Sr.’s grandson thought to be Mickey’s 3rd cousin? What about Marvin Jr.? Is he Mickey’s 2½th cousin? Well, maybe Marvin Sr. was abbreviated from “2nd cousin” to simply “cousin”…making Marvin Jr. a 2nd cousin and Ryan a 3rd cousin, as if Marvin Sr. were a 1st cousin. But then why aren’t Marvin Jr. and Ryan simply “cousins” as well? Typical of the type of gobbledegook you get when, with all due respect, people haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about.

175.10  Next, another Hall of Famer, Johnny “The Big Cat” Mize…and we have a inset 2couple on him: he’s said to be Babe Ruth’s “cousin” and Ty Cobb’s “distant cousin.” Now with the Bambino, it’s thru marriage…Mize is presumably related to Ruth’s second wife, Claire/Clara Mae Merritt, whose first husband was Frank Bishop Hodgson. I say presumably because there is a hole in Chart 621…Clairie’s material grandparents are still, to me, in hiding…everyone else was easy to find, so that’s strange. Her paternal grandfather was obviously a Riley, which matches Mize’s paternal grandmother Emma Riley…but how these 2 Rileys are related, if at all, is the question…if siblings, Mize and Ruth would be 2nd cousins-in-law. And if the Rileys aren’t related, we would look to Claire’s maternal grandmother, who could be a Mize, Loudermilk, or Brown, and we’d still have 2nd cousins.

chart 621

175.11  This is a good time to remind you that when searching thru 2 individuals’ pedigrees, finding the same surname is usually where they’re related, but not always. And even if they are related thru that shared surname, the further back it is, the chances increase that there may be more connections thru other families.  I like to give examples from “The Andy Griffith Show,” since practically everyone is familiar with the characters. And here, the relevant parties are Gomer and Goober Pyle. They are said on the show to be cousins, and we take that as 1st cousins, since there is no evidence to the contrary.

175.12  The normal assumption for 1st cousins with the same last name is their fathers are brothers. Fair enough…very likely…but still, we don’t know that for an absolute certainty. Their mothers could have been sisters and married  2 unrelated men named Pyle…and when I say that, I acknowledge that “unrelated” could mean 5th cousins, something like that. That’s the general caution…in this specific case, what makes it interesting is that the first time we hear Goober’s last name…Andy is introducing him to somebody…it’s Beasley. After that, it’s Pyle for the duration. And given that there are several other Beasleys in Mayberry, this is a Fan Logic Game tangle just begging to be sorted out…someday, dear friends.

chart 622

175.13  As to Johnny Mize and Ty Cobb, I’ve seen it said they were “distant cousins”…and some folks who like to live dangerously actually specify “2nd cousins.” As you can see in Chart 622, each does have a Mize in their grandparents’ generations…trouble is, Francis Mize and Sicily Mize were not siblings, nor were their fathers, so we must push it back further. Parenthetically, do you suppose they say “2nd cousins” because they think that is what “distant cousins” means? Sounds par for the course.. At any rate, Chart 623  was assembled by comparing numerous Mize, Cobb, and other family trees…and it gives Johnny Mize and Ty Cobb as 4th cousins once removed…yeah, that’s distant!

chart 623

175.14  True, I did encounter a few lone voices crying in the wilderness…one asserts that Henry Thomas…known as “H.T.”…was not the son of Jeremiah Sr., but the son of Jeremiah Sr.’s son Joshua by his first wife…making Mize and Cobb half-4th cousins twice removed. Another claims Jeremiah Sr. and Joshua were not father and son, but brothers…resulting in 5th cousins once removed. But I believe Chart 623 is correct, except for one nagging point…a few genealogies do not list H.T. among Jeremiah Sr.’s sons, neither by his first wife Grace, last name unknown, nor his second wife Tabitha Edmunds, Jeremiah Jr.’s mother. But most do, and this is confirmed by an article concerning the history of Lunenburg County, Virginia published in the Atlanta Journal, Feb 27, 1921…which adds its own interesting twist.

inset 3

175.15  Because of this adoption, it might appear that Thomas was actually H.T.’s son and Williamson’s brother, in which case Johnny Mize and Ty Cobb would then be 3rd cousins once removed. But they’re not…and I’m pretty damned sure of it! Still, I wonder if the Sabermetrics crowd could weight in on this? Next week, second inning…

wicked ballsy

wb As Baby Boomers growing up, we heard a lot about Ty Cobb…do you realize he lived until 1961? We were told that he was the only plausible challenger to the Babe as the greatest player that ever lived…altho in our youthful innocence we might have proffered such names as Williams, Mays, Mantle, DiMaggio, only to be scornfully slapped down by the old-timers…like your dad! We heard about his sky high batting average and his super-aggressive style of play, sharpened spikes and all that…altho to put it in perspective, most players filed ‘em to get a better grip, and it’s hard to imagine that baseball wasn’t policed by a quid pro quo…you do it to me, I’ll do it to you. As we got older, we came to learn about his racist streak…calling Babe Ruth a “nigger,” altho he was hardly the first to do that…in the Baltimore reform school where the Babe spent most of his youth, his nickname was “Niggerlips.”

But here’s something perhaps you didn’t know: Ty Cobb’s mother killed his father. The whole story is pretty fascinating, really. Ty’s father William Herschel Cobb was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Georgia when he married one of his pupils, Amanda Chitwood. He was 20, she was 12…Lord knows what went on behind closed doors…suffice to say she gave birth to their first child, Tyrus Raymond, when she was 15. His father would go on to become school superintendent, state senator, then a newspaper publisher. By the time Ty had left home to play ball professionally, his mother had been married 22 years altho still a youthful 34 years of age. Suspecting her of infidelity, William feigned an overnight trip, snuck back to the house, up the second floor balcony, and was shot dead by his wife as he crept past the darkened bedroom window.

Legend has it it was a shotgun, but court records clearly state it was a pistol…one he had bought her for protection…never mind that at the time of his death, he was also armed with a handgun. And based on these bare facts, it seems strange that it went to trial, but it did…probably because he was so well-liked in the community. In the end, she was acquitted. 3 weeks after the death of his father, Ty Cobb made his debut in center field for the Detroit Tigers.

TBT, as a kid I had Ty Cobb as the greatest baseball player…I tended to side with the underdog and perceived him as such in the argument with Ruth. Today, I give the nod to Ruth but it’s tough because they represented diametrically opposed philosophies of the game. Cobb naturally hated the long-ball approach, but the game was, even back them, inexorably headed in that direction. And who was the only player to ever hit over 50 homers and strike out less than 50 times in a season? Johnny Mize, NY Giants, 1947…now there’s something we’re unlikely to ever see again, sez me.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved