#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




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