Anytime you’re in the same field of endeavor as your father, it can make for a hard slog. The comparisons are inevitable and can sometimes be crushing. For instance, Frank Sinatra Jr. could never measure up to his old man and the old man never let him forget it. Sometimes you can eclipse your dad’s success like Robert Downey Jr. or Cuba Gooding Jr. but usually you end up like Jesse Jackson, Jr. although, prison isn’t usually involved.
It’s even harder in professional sports. It’s one thing to fail in private but to do it in front of thousands of people can be devastating and the pressure enormous. All the idiots in the stands who couldn’t hit .2oo in the bigs, have no problem yelling at Tony Gwynn, Jr. for hitting .244. So, big kudos to all the Jr.’s who, despite the pitfalls and the deck being stacked against them, still followed their dreams and to play professional sports. These are the ten most interesting juniors in sports:
10. Pete Rose Jr.
Pete Rose and Pete Rose Jr. have the second most hits of any father and son in baseball history, second only to Bobby and Barry Bonds. The stat is a little misleading in that Pete Rose has 4,256 hits and his son has two. If ever there was someone destined for the Majors, it was Pete Rose Jr. His father was an amazing player and a pretty good manager, along with the fact that Pete Jr. practically grew up in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse. But if desire was enough, Pete Jr. would be a Hall of Famer and I’d be married to Kate Upton but he isn’t and I’m not.
Pete Jr. played 21 years in the minors and most of those games were in single A ball. It all seemed worth it when on August 29th, 1997, he was finally called up to the show. Petey, as he was called, batted .143 in fourteen at bats for the Reds and was promptly sent down. Finally, in 2009, at age 39, Petey called it a career. He is now managing in the minors and by all accounts, doing a good job. He has all of his father’s knowledge of the game but a much better personality. Maybe one day he’ll make it back up as a big league skipper.
9. Ken Norton Jr.
His father was heavyweight champ, Ken Norton, and perhaps the best gift he gave his son was not letting him follow in his footsteps. The second best gift Senior gave Junior was a love for defense. Now, granted, defense in boxing means not getting hit and defense in football means hitting the crap out of people but why quibble?
Ken Norton, Jr. was a four-time Super Bowl champ and played in three Pro Bowls, while Senior beat Muhammad Ali. Both pretty amazing accomplishments all told. Jr. is now coaching linemen for the Seattle Seahawks. For years, father and son were estranged by they reconciled before Senior’s death in 2013.
8. Joe DiMaggio Jr.
It’s hard being the son of a New York Yankee legend. It’s even harder when your father is an emotionally distant closed off narcissist who could care less about being a parent. It would be dishonest to say Joe Jr. was estranged from his dad because that would imply that there was a closeness to begin with. There wasn’t. Joe Jr. claimed that the main place he saw his dad was at photo shoots for magazines wherein, afterwards, Sr. would get in a limo and leave while Jr. would wait for him mom to pick him up.
Think I’m being too harsh on the Yankee Clipper? What about the time Joe Jr. was newly married with step-kids and he had his wife meet his father for dinner? Joe Sr. excused himself and told his son that they needed to talk outside. Once outside, Sr. told his son that his new wife had to leave. What was her offense? She dared to wear jeans. Jr. was appalled and left with his wife. If that wasn’t enough of a middle finer to his son, once Jr. got divorced, Sr. decided that his former step-grandchildren were now his grandchildren and he spent a lot of time with them. Something he never did with his biological son. Thanks, dad!
The rest of Jr.’s sad life had him bouncing from job to job because of drug and alcohol problems but in a way he achieved his dream because once when one of his father’s associates asked him what he wanted to be, Joe DiMaggio Jr. said, “I want to be a bum.”
7. Hector Camacho Jr.
There’s lots of things fathers and sons like to do together; catch a ballgame, go camping, work around the house, box on the same card. Okay, so few of us could do the last one but Hector Camacho Jr. could and did.
Hector Camacho was a boxing legend having won four championships with his slick defensive style and harder then expected body shots. The guy kicked the crap out of “Sugar” Ray Leonard which, alone, should get you some kind of Medal of Honor. Senior was sixteen when his son was born and wasn’t that much in the picture when Jr. was growing up, but they became closer shortly before”Macho”‘s untimely death in 2012.
Jr. was much more grounded then his old man which isn’t that hard a bar to clear when your dad liked to enter the ring wearing a gladiator outfit, feathers and/or a fireman’s hat. Still, Jr. has an impressive 54-5 record and has won several lesser titles. A chip off the old block.
6. Ruben Amaro Jr.
Both father and son had nearly identical .234 averages and a little over 100 lifetime RBI’s. After his playing days, Ruben Sr. went into semi-retirement, helping indigent former ballplayers while his son seems to be on a mission to destroy the Philadelphia Phillies as their general manager.
In fairness, he’s probably not doing it on purpose, but signing Jonathan Papelbon to a four year, fifty million dollar contract does make you scratch your head. Still, to be a general manager in Major League Baseball is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. If that wasn’t enough, in 2009, he was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, something his old man can never equal, mostly because he’s not Jewish.
5. Blackjack Mulligan Jr.
Blackjack Mulligan, was one of the most feared wrestlers of all-time. His signature moves, the clawhold and lariat, were devastating so, if you’re his son, maybe you don’t want to cross the old man. But, like so many before him, the son followed the father into pro wrestling where he competed as Barry Windham and sometimes as Blackjack Mulligan, Jr. where he won several individual and tag team championships.
Fortunately, Blackjack Jr. didn’t follow his dad too much in out of ring experiences because, in 1990, Pops was sentenced to two years in federal prison for counterfeiting. Junior, at least as of this printing, has never done any hard time.
4. Patrick Ewing Jr.
Some children of famous athletes do every thing possible to avoid comparisons with their fathers. Then there was Patrick Ewing, Jr. Like his father he attended Georgetown University where he wore number thirty three, same as dad. He was coached by John Thompson III son of senior’s G.U. coach, John Thompson, Jr.
In the 2008 NBA Draft, Ewing, Jr. was drafted in the second round by the Sacramento Kings but on August 29th of that same year he was traded to the Knicks, again, just like dad. He played in some exhibition games for the Knicks before being waived. From there, the father/son similarities end unless Patrick Ewing, Sr. played a few years in the Greek League that we’re unaware of.
3. Anthony Dorsett
Anthony, son of Tony Dorsett, played in the NFL for seven years. His dad played for eleven, including playing in two Super Bowls, Anthony in one. So far, that has been the highlight of young Anthony’s career because his next stop was in the CFL where he was cut by the Toronto Argonauts. He then signed with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL.
Maybe it’s all for the best because of all the stories of former NFL players suffering from head injuries as the result of concussions from playing too long. Unfortunately, Tony Dorsett is suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopaty, a condition whose symptoms include memory loss. We wish him the best.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a third generation NASCAR driver who’s won the Daytona 500 two times, 20 Sprint Cup Series races plus the guy appeared in a Jay-Z video and is worth about $300 million which, financially speaking, makes him the most successful junior in sports history.
His father was also a legendary race car driver who tragically passed away on the tracks.
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
Kind of cool that we’re ending the list with symmetry in that number ten and number one are both offspring of players from the “Big Red Machine.” But while Petey Rose had to struggle just to get his 28 days in the bigs, Junior is a sure first ballot Hall of Famer with over 600 home runs and 2,781 hits, making him the only player on our list that has clearly eclipsed his dad.
Not that his dad’s career is shabby because it isn’t. Ken Griffey played nineteen years in the majors and in three World Series, winning two. Perhaps the highlight of both their careers occurred on September 14th, 1990 when father and son hit back to back home runs off of Angels pitcher, Kirk McCaskill. Ken Griffey, Jr. has a son, Trey who plays football for the Arizona Wildcats and scored two touchdowns in the prestigious AdvoCare V100 Bowl. No word yet if he’ll dabble in baseball.
So, for all the professional athletes reading this who are on the cusp of fatherhood, think twice before naming your son after yourself. Although, just for the record, I named my dog after me and it is with a glowing pride that I tell you that she drinks out of the toilet even better then I do.