Monday, June 22, 2009


Fathers and Sons

Happy Fathers’ Day!

I trust that you may have had the opportunity to share an hour or two with children and grandchildren, with brothers and sisters, with all of your family.

Many Major League baseball players took the opportunity to pay tribute to their fathers, and also to focus on cancer research, particularly prostate cancer. Players wore powder blue arm and wrist bands, some had powder blue uniforms, even blue markings under their eyes instead of black. As you well know, there are simple and easy tests that facilitate early detection of cancer, always critical in the treatment.

As is the case with all of life’s endeavours, sons tend to follow in their father’s footsteps. The medical profession seems to work this way, father and son. Funeral directors, bricklayers, bridge builders and yes, even lawyers and accountants!

In the sports world, the skills of the game are quite often passed on from fathers to sons. No matter what the sport, children learn from their parents, and often excel at their particular sport.

There have been many hockey fathers who have seen their sons rise to excellence. There were many occasions when we would find Bobby Hull perched high above the ice surface, marvelling at Brett’s goal scoring prowess in the National Hockey League.

The Los Angeles Lakers recently loaded another National Basketball Association trophy on a float to parade through the streets of L. A. Hall of Famer Bill Walton watched his son hoist the trophy. Walton Junior threw a hook at his Dad when he announced that this championship was more important because it happened in L. A., and not in Boston.

Several NFL and CFL players have seen their toddlers grow up to become fine athletes. Kellen Winslow was interviewed for this column, and he carefully watches his son as he prepares for another season in the NFL. Bronco Nagurski, the only Canadian in the NFL Hall of Fame, saw one of his sons become an All Star with the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

But the sport of baseball has fostered the greatest number of father and son combinations, on a per capita basis. The Boone family had three generations, one after another. Ken Griffey and Griffey Junior have played Major League Baseball for the last thirty years. They even had a chance to play a few games together.

Many of the sons spent years in the clubhouses, in the dugouts, on the ice, on the sidelines. They lived and breathed the game long before they strapped on the equipment. The advantages were there, as was the disposition in many cases. Throw in size, strength, metabolism, good nutrition. The ingredients were there to foster another generation of athletes.

The Montreal Expos had several father and son combinations involved in the game. From 1992 to 1996, Felipe and Moises Alou were together with the Expos. Moises patrolled left field, while Felipe managed. Two of Felipe’s brothers also had fine Major league careers---Matty and Jesus. On one occasion, they formed the outfield of the San Francisco Giants.

Another former baseball great, and former Expo, also managed in the Majors. Maury Wills was with Seattle at that time, when he faced his son Bump as a Texas Ranger.

In 1991, Tim Raines and his son Tim Jr., played one game against each other in a regular season game in the International League in Ottawa. “The Rock” and “Little Rock” also handled the pre-game lineup card exchange at home plate. Raines told the Ottawa Citizen: “This was a great day. I’m glad it was able to happen. It was another learning experience.”

Chris Speier played seven years with the Expos, and has seen his son Justin on the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays. Hal McRae, Pete Rose, Sandy Alomar, and Ozzie Virgil: they have seen their sons play in the Big Leagues.

Casey Candaele, a utility player for the Expos, surely enjoyed the great baseball movie, “A League of their Own”. It was inspired by his mother, Helen Callahan, an outfielder with the Fort Wayne Daisies of the All American Girls Baseball league. She was called the “Ted Williams of women’s baseball”.

With that, a belated Happy Mothers’ Day as well!

James Hurst

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