Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sons of Greatness

It hard not to notice celebrity scandals. They are all over the place no matter your interest level.  But what about the children of superstars?  They didn't ask to be famous, yet it is thrust upon them.  For goodness sakes there are people who can recite the names of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's kids. 

While baseball player's children don't get their pictures splashed across tabloids it must be difficult growing up with a famous dad.  I recently noticed the troubled lives the sons of some name Hall of Famers have endured.  Sure they have all the benefits of the rich and famous; private schools, wealth, etc...  But that only takes you so far. 

With a famous last name people expect you to be great no matter if you are an athlete or not.  Some make it and are successful but even they sometimes have a dark cloud around them.  Take Ty Cobb Jr. for instance.  The second of the five Cobb children was born in 1910 months after his father and the Tigers had lost the third of three straight World Series.  He grew up in his father's shadow and seemed well aware of his high profile.  Although Jr. liked baseball he was quite shy and avoided it to dodge further comparisons to father.  He played tennis and had the biggest tennis pro of the day, Bill Tilden, as his personal coach.  Ty Jr. headed off to Princeton but quickly flunked out of school.  He turned things around and enrolled at Yale and became captain of the Princeton tennis team. 

Ty Jr, on the right, looked like his dad but was quiet and shy.
Ty Cobb Jr. graduated with a medical degree and became a well respected physician in his home state of Georgia.  Unfortunately his father would outlive him as Dr. Tyrus Cobb Jr. passed away in 1952 after battling brain cancer.

Then there is the sad tale of Joe DiMaggio Jr.  The son of the Yankee Clipper and actress Dorothy Arnold was born 10/23/41.  He stayed away from the diamond, preferring football to baseball.  He played high school football and although his dad was retired, he never made time to watch him play.  Young Joe enrolled at Yale University but quickly dropped out and moved back to California.  Joe was a lot closer to his step-mom Marilyn Monroe than his father and kept in contact with her even after they split.  In fact Joe was one of the last people to have talked to the movie star on the phone the night she died.

Joe DiMaggio Jr.
Joe and Joe Jr.
After an fulfilling an enlistment in Marines, Joe worked a variety of jobs but never really stuck with anything.  His life was marred by anger, alcohol, and drug problems.  A car accident in 1976 led to part of his brain being removed which seemed to amplify his anger issues.  Dad bought him a new truck cab but he soon totaled it and worked odd jobs most of the 1980s.  Sometimes homeless, he spent several long stretches estranged from his dad.  He continued to struggle with drugs and had a few run-ins with police and died in 1999 at age 57 five months after his father passed.
Mickey E. Mantle was the Mick's firstborn and is often referred to as Mickey Mantle Jr. although they don't share the same middle name.  He seems to have led a well adjusted life and even played some baseball but had just a sliver if his dad's baseball talent.  Mickey Jr. was a staple at his dad's fantasy camps but his pro career consisted of four hits and 26 strikeouts in 57 at bats in A-ball in 1978.  Sadly Mantle Jr. passed away in 1999, just 47 years old from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Mick Jr.  mickeymantle.com

The Commerce Comet had three other sons: Billy, Danny, and David.  Billy was named after Mick's drinking buddy Billy Martin, and died at a drug and alcohol rehab center at age 36 in 1994.  Billy had battled lymphoma and heart problems as well as substance abuse.  Danny and David have had their share of struggles and health scares but are still around managing the licensing of the Mantle name.

While Cobb, DiMaggio, and Mantle all named their firstborn son after themselves, Ted Williams did not.  John-Henry Williams was Teddy Ballgame's only son but they did not have a close relationship.  John graduated from college and founded a short-lived trading card company named after his dad.

With shady motives and Ted's health declining, John played ball for the Gulf Coast Red Sox in rookie ball in 2002.  At 33 John was more publicity than prospect and broke two ribs chasing a foul ball and went hitless in six at bats. 

Ted passed away in July, 2002 and John had his dad's body infamously placed in cryonic suspension.  Somehow he produced an suspicious yet valid contract that stated the he, Ted, and his sister Claudia were to remain in a deep freeze after they passed away in the hopes they could be brought back to life in the future.  Meanwhile John kept playing ball and found a spot in the independent Southeastern League in 2003 hitting a meager .149 with stints for Selma and Baton Rouge.  John-Henry's time to join his father in the freezer was sooner than he anticipated as he passed away from leukemia in 2004 at just 35.

So that is the brief tale of four of the all time best ball players firstborn sons.  While the younger Cobb and Mantle stayed out of trouble their lives were cut short by disease.  DiMaggio Jr. lived the longest of these four but probably had the most troubled life.  And John-Henry.... what a buffoon!

Sure I may have cherry picked some of the sad tales from among baseball's greats but it seems the sons of greatness often experience tragedy in life, death, or both.

Follow me on Twitter @989baseball.

No comments:

Post a Comment