Braves outfielders Justin and B.J. Upton join a special list of brother teammates
Yankee teammates and brothers Phil and Joe Niekro stayed up talking until 4 a.m. the night before Phil would go for his 300th victory that final Sunday of the season in Toronto on Oct. 6, 1985.
"We decided that he would relieve me in the game so he could be on the same lineup card for my 300th," Phil said many years later. "With two outs in the ninth inning, Joe came to the mound -- remember, he wasn't our pitching coach, he was one of our pitchers -- to talk to me. I said to him, 'I thought you were going to relieve me in this game.' He told me that he wasn't coming in because if I got one more out, I'd be the oldest pitcher ever to throw a shutout. So I said to him, 'Well, then get the hell off the mound.'"
Phil got the final out and the Yankees won 8-0. He won his 300th game and became the oldest pitcher (46) ever to throw a shutout. It was a marvelous day to be the Niekros, although every day must be marvelous when brothers are teammates on the same major league team. Now the Upton brothers, Justin and B.J., will get to experience that for the Braves, which is appropriate because last summer each hit his 100th career home run on the same day, about 50 minutes apart -- of which B.J. said, "That is so cool. That is so weird."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 71 sets of brother teammates in major league baseball since 1900, including the Uptons. Prior to that, the first set was believed to be the aptly named Wright Brothers (George, Harry and Sam) for the 1876 Boston Red Caps. Almost 100 years later, the Alou brothers (Felipe, Matty and Jesus) played for the 1963 San Francisco Giants. On Sept. 10, in the eighth inning against the Mets, the Alous batted consecutively in ascending order by age. It hardly mattered that none of them got the ball out of the infield.
The Waner Brothers, Paul and Lloyd, nicknamed "Big Poison" and "Little Poison," probably were the most famous and the most decorated brother duo. They played in the same outfield for the Pirates from 1927 to '40, and both made it to the Hall of Fame, combining for 5,611 hits.
Dizzy and Daffy Dean combined for 49 victories for the 1934 Cardinals. The Cooper brothers -- Walker, a catcher, and Mort, a pitcher -- were battery mates for championship teams in St. Louis in 1942, '44 and '46. Catchers Bengie and Jose Molina played for the Angels from 2001 to '04 and were part of the world championship team in 2002.
Wes and Rick Ferrell played for the Red Sox from 1934 through part of '37, and then for the Senators the rest of '37 and part of '38. Wes was a pitcher and Rick went to the Hall of Fame as a catcher, but Wes was regarded as a better hitter: When the two played in the same lineup, Wes hit .287 to Rick's .282, and Wes had 10 more career homers even though Rick had five times as many at-bats.
The Ripken brothers, Cal and Billy, played on the same Oriole teams from 1987 to '92, and again in '96. They played catch with each other in front of the dugout minutes before the start of virtually every game, and in between innings, they almost always took ground balls together behind second base, which partly explained the incredible chemistry they had as shortstop and second baseman, especially making the double play.
As kids, Cal always chose his little brother when they played any sport together; Cal was the quarterback in pickup football games, Billy was his wide receiver. As adults, they often played on the same basketball teams in pickup games.
"I picked teams in the gym with Cal once," said former Orioles pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. "I had the first pick; [former NBA player] Joe Smith was in the gym that day, but I took Billy with the first pick because I knew how well they played together. Cal looked at me and said, 'You can't have him! He's on my team!'"
The Canseco brothers, Jose and his twin brother Ozzie, played together for the 1990 A's. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy once wrote that Jose, then a feared slugger, should switch uniforms with his twin after each at-bat: That way he could hit eight times in a game. And, of course, there are the Aaron brothers, Hank and Tommie, who played seven years together for the Braves: Hank hit 755 homers, Tommie hit 13 homers. And the Mathewson brothers, who played for the New York Giants in 1906 and '07: Christy won 373 games lifetime, Henry won zero.
The Niekros won the most games of any brother combination with 539, 10 more than Gaylord and Jim Perry. And on that day in Toronto when Phil won his 300th, he had to decide, with runners on second and third in the ninth inning, whether to pitch to or intentionally walk Jeff Burroughs, who had been Phil's teammate in Atlanta.
"Burroughs looked at me, pointed to himself and mouthed, 'Pitch to me,'" Niekro said. "He swung at a knuckleball -- it was my only knuckleball of the game -- that was about 3 feet outside for the final out."
Niekro had his 300th win, and his shutout. And the first one to congratulate him was his brother.
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