The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Celebrating MLB Players with Negro League Heritage

Black History Month is a good time to look at Major League Baseball players whose baseball heritage stemmed from the Negro Leagues.  Of course, it’s well-known that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB in 1947, and until then African-American ballplayers could only play professionally in the Negro Leagues.  It was only natural that their offspring would take up the game, too, except their sons and grandson finally had the opportunity to play on the game’s biggest stage.

Historians have difficulty pinpointing the exact beginning and ending dates of the Negro Leagues, but it’s generally accepted that the organized leagues existed from 1920 to 1950.  During that time, there were countless players on numerous African-American teams, although official records don’t exist for all of them.  However, there are indeed many Negro League players whose careers are well-chronicled.

There have been a number of major-leaguers whose fathers or grandfathers played in the Negro Leagues.

Among current players are brothers Rickie Weeks and Jemile Weeks, whose grandfather Victor Weeks played briefly with Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues.  Just when the Major League Baseball opened up to African-American players, Victor got injured and ended his baseball career prematurely.  Ricky and Jemile’s father played college baseball at Seton Hall and Stetson and passed on his love of the game to his two sons.  Ricky is a 14-year veteran of the big leagues, primarily playing for the Milwaukee Brewers.  He had an all-star season in 2011.  Jemile has appeared in six major-league seasons as a reserve player.

Going back to the 1960s, Luis Tiant made his major-league debut with the Cleveland Indians and proceeded to play 19 years, including eight seasons with the Boston Red Sox with whom he became one of the premier pitchers in the American League.  He accumulated 229 career wins.  Luis’ father, Luis Tiant Sr., a native of Cuba, played in the Negro Leagues from 1926 to 1948, while also playing professionally in his home country.

Bob Veale was a menacing pitcher at 6-foot-6, who made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1962.  He posted all-star seasons in 1965 and 1966 and played on the Pirates World Series championship team in 1971.  He won 120 games over 13 years, while posting a career 3.07 ERA.  Before embarking on his pro career, he pitched batting practice as a teenager to the Birmingham Black Barons team.  Bob’s father, Robert Veale, played briefly with the Newark Eagles.

Nate Oliver was a reserve infielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1962 to 1967, making one World Series appearance with them in 1966.  After two more seasons split among the Giants, Yankees and Cubs, he would play several more years in the minors before becoming a minor-league coach and manager.  Nate’s father, James Oliver Sr., played briefly in the Negro Leagues during 1941-1945.  James Oliver Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, is named after him.  Nate’s brother, Jim Oliver Jr. played one season in the minors in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

In the 1970s, Lyman Bostock Jr. was an up-and-coming major-league star, when the 27-year-old was tragically shot and killed in Gary, Indiana, in 1978, in a domestic dispute involving two other acquaintances.  Lyman had two seasons when he hit .323 and .336 for the Minnesota Twins.  His father, Lyman Bostock Sr., played for the Birmingham Black Barons from 1940 to 1946 and the New York Cubans in 1948.  He reportedly helped future Hall of Famer Willie Mays learn the game when he played one season with the Black Barons before reaching the majors.

Vic Harris was a reserve infielder for five different major-league teams during 1972- to 1980.  Vic was the son of William Harris, a Negro League player whose career included a season with the Pittsburgh Crawfords team that included legendary African-American players Satchel Paige and Jimmie Crutchfield.

In the 1980s, Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd captured the nation’s attention with his popular nickname, when  he posted three seasons with double-digit wins for the Boston Red Sox during 1984-1986.  He played a total of ten major-league seasons, ending his career in 1991.  His father, Willie Boyd, reportedly played briefly in the Negro Leagues.  His uncle, Bob Boyd, was the first African-American player signed by the Chicago White Sox organization in 1950 and went on to play nine major-league seasons.

Garry Templeton was a major-league shortstop for 16 seasons (1976-1991), mostly with the St Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres.  He is often remembered for being involved in the trade that sent future Hall of Famer from the Padres to the Cardinals.  As a Cardinal for six years, Templeton twice hit above .300 and never below .288, while logging two all-star seasons.  However, his career batting average with the Padres was only .252.  Garry’s father, Spiavia Templeton, reportedly played in the Negro Leagues, although there is no official record of it.  Garry’ son, Garry Templeton Jr., played two minor-league seasons and six independent-league years, before becoming a scout and minor-league coach and manager.

Brian Giles was the third generation of his family to play pro baseball.  The infielder made his major-league debut with the New York Mets in 1981 and went on to play five more seasons, including time with the Brewers, White Sox, and Mariners.  He was a career .228 hitter.  His grandfather, George Giles Sr. played in the Negro Leagues from 1927 to 1938.  In one season he batted .429 for the Kansas City Monarchs.  Brian’s father, George Giles Jr., played in the low minors from 1953-1955.

There were also a handful of major league players who got their start in the Negro Leagues and then had sons who also played pro baseball, although were unable to advance to the big leagues.

Don Newcombe was a Negro League player before he joined Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949, when he earned National League Rookie of the Year honors.  He played a total of eight seasons with the Dodgers, compiling a record of 123-66, including the 1956 season we he won both the MVP Award and Cy Young Award.  After playing for several more teams, he retired in 1960.  His son, Don Newcomb Jr., played one season of minor-league ball in 1984

Larry Doby began his Negro League career at age 18 in 1942 and eventually became a star with the Newark Eagles.  When the color barrier was broken in the Major Leagues, Doby became the first African-American to play in the American League with the Cleveland Indians.  He went on to a Hall of Fame career that ended in 1959.  His son, Larry Doby Jr., was an outfielder for three seasons in the minors from 1979 to 1981.

Minnie Minoso played four seasons with the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues before making his major-league debut with Cleveland in 1949.  He was a seven-time all-star during his 17-year major-league career.  He finished among the Top 4 in the MVP Award voting in four different seasons.  He was a career .298 hitter.  His son, Orestes Minoso, played five seasons in the Kansas City Royals organization from 1971 to 1977.  His grandson, Sam Macias, played two minor-league seasons in the White Sox organization in 2013 and 2014.

There is one three-generation major-league family whose family tree began in the Negro Leagues.

Brothers Jerry Hairston, Sr. and John Hairston were major-leaguers whose father, Sam Hairston Sr., started in the Negro Leagues, played in the majors in 1950 for the White Sox organization, and then became a major-league coach.  Jerry had the more significant career, playing all but 51 of his 859 career games in the White Sox organization during 1973 and 1989, while John played only three major-league games for the Chicago Cubs in 1969.  Sam’s two grandsons, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Scott Hairston (sons of Jerry Hairston Sr.) had substantial major-league careers themselves.

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