2018-06-07 / Sports

Bobby was the pitcher, Billy the catcher

Baseball’s Best
By LAMAR GARRARD Baseball historian

“No matter what I talk about, I always get back to baseball.” – Connie Mack, Hall of Fame Phila­delphia Athletics Manager

Last week I wrote about the Philadelphia A’s and attending two reunions with the former players in Philly. I mentioned the name of Bobby Shantz. I wanted to expand a bit on the idea of brothers playing together in the majors and their his­tory of being on the same team.

Since baseball records have been kept, there have been around 100 brother combinations in the big leagues. We often think of names like Henry and Tommie Aaron; Felipe, Jesus, and Matty Alou; Joe and Frank Torre; Jim and Gaylord Perry; Phil and Joe Niekro; Cal and Billy Ripken; Larry and Norm Sherry; Greg and Mike Maddux; and the list keeps going.

There have been only 15 sets of brothers, one a pitcher, the other a catcher, who played in the majors and at one time or another hap­pened to be battery mates on the same team.

Rick and Wes Ferrell accom­plished this in the 1930s for the Boston Braves and later siblings Mort and Walker Cooper for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1940s. The chances of a brother duo catcher and pitcher combo on the same team would require some heavy math with a dependence on the computer to come up with the probability.

Miniscule would be one descrip­tion of the chances of this even oc­curring.

The Shantz brothers were blessed with a dad, Wilmer, who played a lot of baseball around the Philadel­phia area with different teams. He taught his two sons well.

The younger Wilmer, Billy, as he was known, was born in 1927 in Pottstown. Pennsylvania, two years after older brother Bobby was born. Billy had a three-season major league career appearing in 131 games with a lifetime batting average of .257. Billy played 14 seasons in the minor leagues. Both men were on the 1954 Philadelphia Athletics team that finished last in the American League.

Even on a losing team it must have been fun for the brothers to suit up in uniforms with the beauti­ful elephant logo, the same jersey type that the great Ty Cobb had worn much earlier in his two years with the A’s.

Bobby Shantz we remember as the MVP of the American League in 1952 winning 24 while losing only seven on a team that won only 79 games while finishing fourth in the league standings. This was an amazing pitching record with that kind of team record. Fortu­nately for the three-time American League All-Star, Bobby was traded to the Yankees by the A’s and was on the 1958 N.Y. Yankees World Champions.

Having had the honor of meet­ing Bobby at the A’s reunion a few years ago, I can tell you that he is the nicest, most humble and modest baseball star you will ever meet.

I wonder how many games the talented left hander would have won if he had played his entire ca­reer in the Bronx. It doesn’t hurt to speculate!

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