The other night as I sat in the office of my friend Dr. Michael Gurvey, I was seeking ideas at what column might I write that is somewhat different. Michael who is extremely bright and both a font of information, as well as ideas, suggested I look into parent and child combinations in professional sports.
Ironically that he would make such a suggestion. Michael's father-in-law was the late Jule Fink who according a majority of followers of Horse racing, is considered to be the finest handicapper of all time.
In fact, all of us know the name of the great author and Sports Columnist Damon Runyan who wrote some of the greatest treatises about the "Sport of Kings". Damon who wrote "Guys and Dolls, The Lemon Drop Kid, Salty O'Rourke and Sorrowful Jones" all of which became classic Plays and Movies, would never go to the track unless Jule was with him.
Jule's secret in handicapping was the speed of the horse. Much of his research had to do with who was the sire and who was the male. Thus going on this same premise I researched the subject. I found quite a few of those combinations. However, since I am allocated a limited amount of space, I have chosen a few whom I think exemplify this lineage.
To begin with I only had to look into my personal background. On the eve of Ali/Jimmy Ellis fight (July 26, 1971); I was sitting in Ali's suite at the Astroworld Hotel. As Angelo, Ferdie and myself watched a brutal fight being telecast from the Playboy Club at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Ali turned to us and said, "What a terrible way to make a living. My son will never fight. He'll carry a brief case."
Ali was right! His son never fought, but his daughter Laila did. In fact, while the debate goes on as to whether Ali is the greatest male Boxer of all time, there is no doubt that Laila Ali with a record of 24-0, 21 of which were by KO, is considered the greatest female Boxer ever.
As a side note: Joe Frazier was her dad's nemesis throughout his career and so it came to pass, that Laila would list Joe's daughter Jackie as one of her victories in 2001.
There have been a great number of father/son combos in Baseball, but none more unique then that of Ken Griffey Sr and Jr. They both not only had stellar careers, but are the only parent and child to play on the same team in the Major Leagues. That statistic in itself is unusual, but even stranger than that they are the only tandem to ever his back-to-back homeruns in the same game. This happened on Sept 14, 1990.
Not to be outdone, there is the Bonds tandem. Both were outstanding during their playing days. Although tainted by steroid allegations, Barry put up almost unbelievable record statistics. Bobby, the father was a rare combination of power and speed. He was the first player to join the 30/30 club (30 homeruns/30 steals) and would do it five times in his career. Ironically, in addition to all the records he established, Barry, the son, is the only player to match his father's five season 30/30 record.
In 1975, I was involved with the startup of the World Football League Hawaiians. The first NFL payer to sign with the team was Calvin Hill of the Dallas Cowboys. The Press Conference was at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The conference was enlivened by the antics of his 3-year-old son Grant. As a bruising fullback, he was the first Dallas Cowboy to rush for 1000 yards and was a Pro Bowler four times.
As for three-year-old Grant, led Duke to two consecutive NCAA Basketball Championships. He became the first rookie to be the largest vote getter for the All-Star game. In his first six seasons in the NBA, he racked up outstanding numbers joining only Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird to score over 9000 points, get over 3000 rebounds and 2500 assists in their first six years.
One of the greatest football stories is current... the Manning Quarterback Dynasty. The father Archie blazed the way with the New Orleans Saints. As an amazing QB at Mississippi, was twice nominated for the Heisman Trophy... 4th in 1969, 3rd in 1970. Playing the first-ever primetime national collegiate broadcast, Archie threw for 400 yards and 3TD's while running for 100 yards. He was the 2nd overall NFL pick in the 1971 draft.
His oldest son Peyton set all kinds of records at the University of Tennessee. Many of which still stand. He was the first overall selection by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 draft. He started from the very beginning and has been selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times. Currently, injured, his team, which with Peyton was constantly winning, is struggling.
His baby brother Eli followed their father to Ole Miss. Drafted first by the San Diego Chargers and immediately traded to the New York Giants. Here, baby brother is enjoying an outstanding career during which he has been name MVP in Super Bowl XLII. In that game he led his team to victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.
Most sports have had celebrated father-son teams. However, my space today is limited. Nevertheless, let's look at some of the others. It is far from a complete list.
Other Baseball families include Baltimore's Cal Ripkens and Billy... three generations of Boones; grandpa Ray, dad Bob and son Brett. The three Alomar's... Sandy Sr., Sandy JR. and Roberto... all All-Stars. Hall-of-Famer George Sisler had two All-Star sons, Dick and Dave.
In Hockey, two families immediately come to the forefront. Gordie Howe who played on the same line with his son Mark. How about Bobby and Brett Hull...each one a superstar.
Racing! Who doesn't know the Unsers, the Pettys, the Earnhardts and the Andrettis?
Basketball has had no shortage of sons following dad's footsteps. Jelly bean Bryant of the 76ers with his son Kobe... Ernie Vandeweghe and Kiki... Bill and Luke Walton....Dolph and Danny Schayes... Rick Barry has had several sons who played Pro Ball including Jon and Brent.
There are so many more who have followed dad's lead. However, I have no more space. I apologize.