#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.

inset 1

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:

inset 2

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



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s