This family baseball feat is far more rare than a perfect game

Baseball is a family affair, but did you know about this extremely rare feat?

New York Yankees v Chicago White Sox
New York Yankees v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

In practically every town across the United States and beyond, baseball is played and taught by parents passing down onto their children. It usually starts with a simple game of catch. Then, the child may start playing with other friends after school, or even graduate to teams and leagues. For me, that’s how I started…a simple game of catch with my dad. My father was not a baseball player, but he loved the game all the same.

What about families who have literally grew up in a household where baseball WAS their livelihood? This subject was brought up to me last week in, of all places, a department meeting at work. My boss mentioned a player who was from his town and is considered a top basketball prospect. His brother also plays. We talked about how it’s not guaranteed that you are going to be a star athlete in any sport just because your dad plays. For every Ken Griffey Jr., there is a John Henry Williams. Still, though, there has to be some distinct advantages and opportunities involved that I, and many others, don’t have.

There have been a good amount of father/son duos who have played Major League Baseball -- 259, according to baseball-almanac, and every year, we expect that to rise. For brothers, it’s even more numerous: 448 and counting. What is rare -- rarer, even, than throwing a perfect game -- is a grandfather/father/son combination. Again, using baseball-almanac, there have only been four sets of three generations playing in MLB across all of baseball history.

MLB Families Who've Featured Three Generations: The Bells

Gus Bell was an outfielder for several teams in the 1950s and 1960s. He had a few very good years with the Reds, having over 100 RBI five times in the '50s. His son Buddy Bell was a great third baseman who played a majority of his years with the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers. Although not quite as good of a hitter as his dad, he did manage a respectable .279 career batting average and topped 20 home runs and 100 RBI once. It was his glove that really stood out. He won six Gold Gloves over the years. Gus had two grandsons who played: David, who was a pretty good player, but more well known as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and Mike Bell, who had a cup of coffee with the Reds in 2000.

MLB Families: The Boones

Grandfather Ray Boone played mostly the infield in the '50s for several teams, with an almost equal amount of time as shortstop as well as third. Fun fact: he was called up to replace Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau, who was injured. Boone played so well that when Lou came back, he moved himself to third to accommodate Ray Boone. A great endorsement of his ability!

Bob Boone was a catcher of the Phillies and Angels, and was considered one of the best catchers in all of baseball at the time. I remember watching him throw out many a runner trying to steal, which helped him win seven Gold Gloves and make four All-Star appearances. He also managed the Royals and Reds for a time in the late '90s to early 2000s. Aaron Boone played for a few teams, and is the current manager for the Yankees. He most well know by me (and his nickname Arron Bleepin’ Boone) from hitting a home run in extra innings off the late Tim Wakefield, which propelled the Yankees to the 2003 World Series -- which they lost to the Marlins. Take that, Aaron!!

Bret was another grandson who played. Out of all the players we will talk about, Bret might be the greatest hitter of them all, especially in 2001, where he had a .331 batting average with 37 home runs and a league leading 141 RBI. That’s a MONSTER year!

MLB Families: The Long-Forgotten Colemans

Finally, some pitching in this dive of family trios. Joe Sr. played in the '40s, but missed three years due to World War II. He managed to have one good season, but wasn’t the kind of pitcher his son became. Joe Jr., in the years 1971-73, compiled win totals of 20, 19, and 23 for the Detroit Tigers, and was one of the best pitchers in the American League. A loss of effectiveness hurt his other years, but he played up until he was 32. He started two games as an 18-year-old in 1965 with the Washington Senators. Amazing! Casey Coleman, Joe Jr.'s son, spent four years in the majors, compiling a career 8-13 record with the Cubs and Royals.

MLB Families: The Hairstons

Sammy Hairston played in only four games and had five ABs in 1951, the shortest stint in this list. His son Jerry had a longer career, spanning 14 years, almost all of them with the White Sox. He was a really good pinch hitter, setting the White Sox record with 90 pinch hits. In 1983, he broke up a no-hitter with a single off the Tigers’ Milt Wilcox with two outs in the ninth. Jerry Hairston Jr. and his brother Scott both were more spare parts players, although Scott did hit 20 home runs in 2012 in only 377 ABs. Not too shabby.

Not a bad list here. I was surprised researching this subject that it was so rare; maybe this could be a little office trivia for your co-workers when they start talking about rare feats in baseball? I know, in my meetings, I’ll bring this one up.