Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Baseball's Lineage: Second Generation's Best May Be a Manager

Every spring is the time of the season to always come upon a player who had a father- or relative- play before him.

Some families are considerable contributors to the lineage of baseball. The Bells (Gus, Buddy, David and Mike), The Boone's (Ray, Bob, Aaron, Bret), The Alomars (Sandy Sr., Jr. and Roberto), The Griffey's (Ken and Junior), Bobby and Barry Bonds, The Alous (Felipe, Matty, Jesus and Moises) and the Francona's, Tito and Terry. To name a few of the many.

Some fans may think Junior Griffey and his dad were the best one-two combination and others may go to Bobby and Barry Bonds. But we cannot leave out Tito and Terry Francona, when you see how well Terry manages his ballplayers who have already won 2 World Series Champions, in a city that may have thought it would never again see that day.

John Patsy (Tito) Francona was born on November 4, 1933, in Alquippa, PA. Signed as an amateur free agent by the St. Louis Browns in 1952. Didn't crack the big leagues with the Baltimore Orioles until 1956.

Tito played for the Orioles (1956-57); White Sox (1958); Tigers (1958); Indians (1959-1964); St. Louis Cardinals (1965-66); Phillies (1967); Atlanta Braves (1967-69); Oakland A's (1969-1970) and Milwaukee Brewers (1970).

Francona Sr. had 125 lifetime home runs, having his best success as a Cleveland Indian. In 1959, the best season of his career, by far, he batted 399 times, scored 68 runs, had 20 homers, drove in 79 runs and batted .363, which was second in the AL that season (Harvey Kuenn, with the Detroit Tigers, for whom he won the Rookie of the Year award in 1953 was the very same Harvey most people think of at the mentioning of the Milwaukee Brewer's Harvey Wallbangers, was acredited with leading the league that year with a .353 average. Harvey had 561 at-bats, so Tito's 399 must not have been enough. Perhaps this was the year they established a minimum number of at-bats in order to qualify for a batting crown?)

Another interesting tidbit of Tito's career was that he was traded for Larry Doby, the second African-American to crack the color line in major league baseball. Doby would finish his career with 253-HRs but check out his numbers and you can see that the guy was good.

On December 3, 1957, Larry Doby, at the end of his stellar career, was traded by the Chicago White Sox with Jack Harshman, Russ Heman and Jim Marshall to the Baltimore Orioles for Tito Francona, Ray Moore and Billy Goodman. Check out the surnames of these individuals, you'd have thought the creator designed it this way. Involved in a Larry Doby trade, with all the stuff he went through (that wasn't nearly as well-documented as Jackie Robinson) were a harsh man, he man and a good man.

Again, in 1959, Larry Doby was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Detroit Tigers, straight up for Tito Francona. This trade was the best thing that ever happened in Tito's career and it involved a Hall of Famer, Larry Doby.

Oh, by the way, on April 22, 1959, son Terry Jon Francona (Tito) was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. No wonder the old man had his best season ever!

Terry didn't have much more than a couple cups of coffee in the big leagues but he absorbed how the game is played. Because nobody gets more out of his players, without that ultimate need to call a player out for the purpose of kicking him in the ass (and I'm not saying he doesn't discipline) for the purpose of embarrassing that player so that the player never thinks to do whatever it was he did EVER AGAIN. A style which is as antiquated as the school is old.

(thanks to Wikipedia and Baseball Reference for the statistics and accurate details)

Kevin Marquez