A for Athlete

Top 10 Father-Son Sports Combos: Juniors and Seniors Only May 7, 2012 – 9:49 pm by Matthew Glenesk


Always in the market for a new television show, I was instructed to check out ABC’s “Happy Endings.” I was told it was in the mold of “How I Met Your Mother” and that I’d like it. So I queued up On Demand episodes. Not bad. Some laughs, some misses.

But I couldn’t help but think the Brad character had a striking resemblance to Damon Wayans. Not just in looks, but in comedic mannerisms as well. I was like, “That dude is totally jocking D. Wayans’ style.” Then as the second episode popped on, a name flashed across the credits: Damon Wayans Jr.

It all made sense.

It’s always nice to see a son follow in his father’s footsteps. It’s obviously the father’s intention, you know with the whole, “just throw Jr. at the end of my name, dammit!”

Sport has given plenty of father-son combos, but I wanted to narrow our father-son combos to same name pairings. You know, Juniors only. So, in ascending order, I give you The Top 10 Father-Son Sports Combos: Juniors Only.

(The rankings are based on the combined performances of the pair.)

10. The Gerald Riggs(es) - The No. 9 overall pick in 1982, Gerald Riggs Sr. played 10 years in the NFL and between 1984-1986 was among the best running backs in the league running for a combined 4,532 yards with an additional 602 yards receiving. He led the NFL in carries in 1985 (397) and was named to three straight Pro Bowls. For his career, he rushed for 8,188 yards and 69 touchdowns. Riggs capped off his career in fine fashion with a memorable, record-breaking final season.

In 1991 as a member of the Redskins, Riggs scored 11 times becoming the only player to rush for 11 touchdowns in fewer than 80 rushing attempts in a single season. He went on to score six more times in Washington’s postseason run to the Super Bowl XXVI title, including two in the Skins’ championship win over Buffalo. Not a bad way to go out.

His son, Gerald Riggs Jr. was a highly-sought running back recruit, but chose to stay home and go to Tennessee, where he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2004, sharing a backfield with Cedric Houston. A year later, he was a preseason All-American, but was injured during his senior year and that was that.

The Dolphins, Bears and Lions each gave Riggs camp opportunities, but with no luck. He spent some time in NFL Europe and was last seen in 2011 north of the border with the Toronto Argonauts. However, he’s not listed on the team’s roster, so my guess is he’s out of football. You can follow him on Twitter @GSpizz2131.

9. The Mel Stottlemyres - Mel Sr. was a five-time All-Star and five-time World Series winning coach. He played 11 years for the Yankees (164-139, 2.97 ERA), got the best of Bob Gibson in Game 2 of the 1964 World Series, produced three 20-win seasons and hit an inside-the-park grand slam. He later became the pitching coach for the Mets, Astros, Yankees and Mariners. Probably most notable were his 10 years he spent at Joe Torre’s side in the Bronx. In 2007, he had “Pride and Pinstripes” published and returned to coach the Mariners’ pitchers in 2008 for a season.

Sr. had two sons follow in his footsteps: Todd and Mel Jr. Todd won 138 games and two World Series titles with the Blue Jays. Mel Jr. went 0-1 in 1990 in 13 games for the Kansas City Royals with a 4.88 ERA. Advantage Todd.

Mel Jr. tried his hand at coaching, spending time in the college and minor league ranks. In 2009, the Diamondbacks hired him as the team’s pitching coach, but he was released of his duties after the 2010 season.

8. The Patrick Ewings - The elder Ewing is a Hall of Famer, two-time gold medalist and ranked among the NBA’s Top 50 Players of All-Time. The younger Ewing has just seven games NBA experience.

I was at Indiana University when Ewing Jr. played there before he transferred to his father’s alma mater. At IU, he was known for three things: 1.) waving a towel around feverishly at the end of the Hoosiers bench, 2.) committing a foul per 15 seconds of court time, and 3.) giving the large bloc of relocated-New Yorkers a reason to dust off their old No. 33 Knicks jerseys.

Ewing Jr. was always more of an athlete than a basketball player. Though to his credit he was the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year his senior season and got drafted in the second round by Sacramento. He was part of the Ron Artest trade to Houston, and was then sent to, of all places, New York. Yeah, no shadow looming there. He failed to make the Knicks squad out of training camp and was assigned to the D-League.

In 2011, he was All-NBA D-League third team. Which after watching him up close and personal for two years in college, is exactly where I expected him to be.

7. The Sandy Alomars - An All-Star in 1970, Sandy Sr. spent 15 years in the big leagues with six different teams, enjoying his best run with the California Angels. He played second base, the position of his OTHER baseball playing son (Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar). A career .245 hitter with 282 RBI, Sandy went into coaching after his playing days. In 1989, he became the second man to have the luxury of coaching both his sons (spoiler alert) when he coached Roberto and Sandy Jr. with the Padres. He went on to coach with the Cubs, Rockies and Mets major league teams.

A six-time All-Star, Sandy Jr. played 20 seasons in the majors. In 1990, he won both the AL Rookie of the Year and a Gold Glove. A career .273 hitter, Sandy Jr. spent 11 seasons with Cleveland before bouncing around (including three different stints with the White Sox), but he has since returned to the Indians as the team’s bench coach.

6. The Kellen Winslows - Pops revolutionized the position his son would later make a Pro Bowl playing. That’s pretty cool.

Sure it’s easy to root against Kellen Winslow Jr. He makes himself an easy target. But his father, Kellen Sr. set the prototype for the right kind of target: 6-foot-5, 250 lbs.

Interestingly, looking at Kellen Sr.’s statistics, they kind of are underwhelming for a Hall of Famer. He really only had three great seasons. The rest were kind of “eh” and marred by injury. Granted he did things no tight end ever accomplished, but he only had three seasons with more than 750 yards receiving and/or eight touchdowns. Not really prolific, especially in the pass happy Air Coryell.

But stats be damned, he’s in the Hall of Fame and his son is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the game. In fact his 1,106-yard total in 2007 is only 184 less than his dad’s best year.

5. The Tony Gwynns - Another San Diego-themed pairing (and no, I promise Phillips had no say of this list’s compilation). The only thing keeping the Gwynns from being ranked higher on this list is Tony Jr.’s .247 career batting average. Tony Sr. is a first ballot Hall of Famer, a 15-time All-Star and 8-time batting champ.

Still though, Tony Jr. remains in the big leagues and has managed 520 games in seven years. He is a part-time starter for the Dodgers this season (.240 average, 2 RBIs). Appropriately, Tony Jr.’s best season came in 2009 as a member of the Padres when he hit .270 with 106 hits.

4. The Dale Earnhardts. - Undoubtedly NASCAR’s most popular driver, Junior hasn’t won in 139 straight races. When the only reason you’re popular is because of your dad’s popularity, that’s a tough act to follow.

The Intimidator won seven Winston Cup titles, 76 races and finally in 1998 that elusive Daytona 500. His tragic death at Daytona in 2001 rocked the sport and introduced new safety regulations.

Dale Jr. has 18 career wins, including an emotional 2004 Daytona 500. But he hasn’t won in almost four years. And that’s the headline.

3. The Al Unsers. - Al Sr. is a four-time Indianapolis 500 champion. Al Jr., a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion. The four extra wins in their respective sports premier race (and Dale Jr.’s form of late) forced me to rank the Unsers above the aforementioned Earnhardts.

Pops set the bar high (most laps led in the famed race’s history with 644), but Al Jr. was seemingly up to the weight of the family name with two CART titles of his own (1990 and 1994).

Al Jr. hasn’t been in an Indy Car since 2007, but that doesn’t mean he’s not racing anymore. He just does it drunk now. Junior has been arrested twice on DUI charges since 2007, including a Sept. 29, 2011 arrest for drag racing a Chevy Suburban while drunk. He plead guilty in April and was hit with 364 days of supervised probation. Boys will be boys.

2. The Cal Ripkens - Cal Jr. was Major League Baseball’s Iron Man, playing 2,632 consecutive games and was a first-ballot inductee to the Hall of Fame with the third highest voting percentage in history (98.53%) behind only Tom Seaver (98.84%) and Nolan Ryan (98.79%).

Cal Sr. never made it to the major leagues as a player. But the former Baltimore Orioles farmhand stayed in the organization as a minor league manager for 13-plus years before getting his shot to manage the big league club. In 1987, he became the first – and only – father to manage two sons simultaneously in the majors (Cal Jr. and Billy). However, the Orioles opened the 1988 season with six straight losses and Ripken was fired. He stayed on with the team though and until 1992 he served as Baltimore’s third base coach. Ripken’s career managerial record in the majors was 68-101.

An argument could be made for the Gwynns because of combined MLB experience. Tough call.

1. The Ken Griffeys - Junior was in the clubhouse for Ken Sr.’s 1975 and 1976 World Series wins with the Reds and had a lot to live up to succeeding a three-time All-Star father. Well “The Kid” finished his career fifth on the career home run list (630), won 10 Gold Gloves and made 13 All-Star games. When healthy and in his prime, Junior was the best player in baseball and changed how players were marketed with shoe deals and video games.

In 1990, the Griffeys became the first son and father to play on the same team at the same time. On September 14, 1990, they hit back-to-back home runs. They played 51 games together before Sr. retired.

In fact, the simple fact that when you say “Junior,” No. 24 in Seattle comes to mind, pretty much cemented his perch on this list.

(Honorable mention: Tim Hardaways, Mike Dunleavys, Pete Roses (only Pete Jr. to blame for this) and the Eric Youngs.)

Note: I toyed with the idea of including Tony Dorsett/Anthony Dorsett because technically they qualify, but since the younger Dorsett wasn’t really identified as Tony Dorsett Jr., I decided against their inclusion. Sorry Cowboys fans.