The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Revisiting the Sons of the Big Red Machine

I originally wrote about this topic in 2012 for my book about baseball relatives, Family Ties. As I was compiling the lists of major league players who were fathers of other professional players, it came to light that players from the Cincinnati Reds teams of the early-to-mid 1970s produced a bevy of future professional baseball players.

 

Those Reds teams of the 1970s are regarded as some of the more famous in baseball history. Some historians have labelled them a “dynasty.” Popularly known as the “Big Red Machine,” they were led by manager Sparky Anderson and were comprised of some of the game’s best individual players of that era: Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, George Foster, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, and Dave Concepcion. The Reds went to the World Series in 1970, 1972, 1975, and 1976, winning back-to-back world championships in 1975 and 1976.

 

Sixteen players (fathers) on those teams had sons who would later play professional baseball at some level. Eight of the fathers saw their sons go on to the majors, including Pedro Borbon Sr., Ed Crosby, Ken Griffey Sr., Julian Javier, Hal McRae, Tony Perez, Pete Rose Sr., and Ed Sprague Sr.

 

Ken Griffey Sr., Tony Cloninger, Terry Crowley Sr., Tommy Helms Sr., Andy Kosco, and Tony Perez contributed to the proliferation of ball-playing sons by having two that played professionally.

 

Was it merely a coincidence that sixteen of the Reds players from those teams would have sons to follow in their footsteps? Did the environment the sons grew up in, hanging out with their fathers in the Reds clubhouse, give birth to their careers in baseball? How did all these sons develop the skills to eventually play professionally? Was it in their genes to be able to excel athletically?

 

The sons were sometimes referred to as “Little Red Machine.” Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was like their second home. They learned the winning feeling by hanging around the clubhouse of their famous fathers. This situation is a prime illustration of the sons of major leaguers exceling because of the environment in which they were raised.

 

Frequently, sons of major leaguers have attributed their success in baseball to being able to observe first-hand what it’s like to be a major leaguer. In their own careers, the sons became less intimidated by the challenges of a youngster rising through the ranks of professional baseball. They had the advantage of having a father who was just a phone call away from being able give them expert advice on the finer intricacies of the game.

 

Six of the sons obviously had the requisite athletic skills, since they were first-round draft picks by major league clubs. They included Brian McRae (1985), Ken Griffey, Jr. (1987), Ed Sprague Jr. (1988), Lee May, Jr. (1986), Eduardo Perez (1991), and Bobby Crosby (2001). But that wasn’t necessarily the case for several of the other sons. Craig Griffey and Tommy Helms Jr. were two examples, as they were both selected as token draft picks in the late rounds because of their fathers. Their last names got them into pro ball, but they didn’t live up to their fathers’ reputations. They may have had the genes but were ultimately short on baseball skills.

 

Ken Griffey Jr. stood out among the group of sons, as he eventually went on to 20-year Hall of Fame career. On the other hand, Pete Rose Jr. had a “cup of coffee” career since he managed to get only a total of 14 at-bats in one major-league season.

 

The Griffeys made history on August 31, 1990, when they became the first father-son duo to play in the same game as teammates on the Seattle Mariners.

 

Several of these sons of the Big Red Machine had a déjà vu moment in a spring training game on March 27, 1997. In a contest between Cincinnati and Texas, the Reds’ lineup included Pete Rose Jr., who batted leadoff and played third base; Dave Concepcion Jr., playing shortstop and batting second; and Eduardo Perez, son of Tony Perez, playing first base. It was reminiscent of days gone by when their fathers were manning those same positions for the Reds.

 

Below is a list of the father-son combinations from the Big Red Machine era.

 

Father

Reds Years

Son

Son’s Playing Career

Pedro Borbon, Sr.

1970–1979

Pedro Borbon, Jr.

Major league (1992–2003)

Tony Cloninger

1968–1971

Darrin Cloninger

Mike Cloninger

Minor league (1983–1985)

Minor league (1983–1985)

Dave Concepcion

1970–1988

Dave Concepcion, Jr.

Minor league (1995–1996)

Ed Crosby

1973–1973

Bobby Crosby

Major league (2003–2010)

Terry Crowley Sr.

1974–1975

Terry Crowley, Jr.

Jimmy Crowley

Minor league (1986–1992)

Minor league (1991–1995)

Cesar Geronimo Sr.

1972–1980

Cesar Geronimo, Jr.

Minor league (1996–1998)

Ken Griffey, Sr.

1973–1981

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Craig Griffey

Major league (1989–2010)

Minor league (1991–1997)

Tommy Helms, Sr.

1964–1971

Ryan Helms

Tommy Helms, Jr.

Wes Helms (nephew)

Minor league (1994–1995)

Minor league (1990–1992)

Major league (1998–2010)

Julian Javier

1972–1972

Stan Javier

Major league (1984–2001)

Andy Kosco

1973–1974

Andrew Kosco

Bryn Kosco

Minor league (1986–1990)

Minor league (1988–1996)

Lee May Sr.

1965–1971

Lee May, Jr.

Minor league (1986-1993)

Hal McRae

1968–1972

Brian McRae

Major league (1990–1999)

Tony Perez

1964–1976

Eduardo Perez

Victor Perez

Major league (1993–2006)

Minor league (1990)

Pete Rose Sr.

1963–1978

Pete Rose, Jr.

Major league (1997)

Ed Sprague, Sr.

1971–1973

Ed Sprague, Jr.

Major league (1991–2001)

Woody Woodward

1968–1971

Matt Woodward

Minor league (1998–1999)

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