Thursday, April 23, 2015

Red Sox Relatives


Family lineage sometimes seems to play a big role in baseball - Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. and Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds come to mind.  On the Red Sox, not that long ago we had Pedro Martinez and Ramon Martinez.

Each year, for many years, the Red Sox Media Guide has offered a list of "relatives who played for the Red Sox."  It's always fun to see family connections crop up.  We've seen several sets of brothers (there have been 10 other brother combos, including Tony and Billy Conigliaro, J. D. Drew and Stephen Drew, and Wes and Rick Ferrell.)  There have been six father/son combinations, including Haywood and Marc Sullivan, and Smoky Joe Wood and his son Joe Wood.  We've seen a grandfather/son combination, and four uncle/nephew ones -- the most recent being Terry Shumpert and his nephew Mookie Betts.

And there have been some family relationships that haven't been that close, but still very much count -- the 2004 World Champion Red Sox had two cousins: Sandy Martinez and Anastacio Martinez.

This year, the newest Red Sox offer two more Red Sox relatives entries, involving Rick Porcello and Anthony Varvaro. Rick is part of a grandfather/son combination, tying him to Sam Dente of the 1947 Red Sox.  Anthony is related to the man who hit perhaps the most famous home run in baseball history.

Right-hander Rick Porcello is the grandson of infielder Sam Dente, whose first year in the majors was with the 1947 Red Sox. Dente hit .232 in 46 games. He later played for the Browns, Senators, White Sox, and Indians, hitting .252 over the course of nine seasons, and had a .958 fielding percentage in 2,579 career chances (unfortunately leading the league in errors both in 1949 and 1950.)  Porcello was a first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers (27th selection overall) in the 2007 draft. He pitched from 2009 through 2014 for the Tigers, with a 76-63 (4.30 ERA) record, three years in a row pitching in the postseason (2011-13), with a similar 4.41 ERA and a record of 0-2. Just after the 2015 season began, he signed a four-year contract to pitch for the Red Sox. 

Sam Dente came from his mother's side of the family.  Rick had never spent a lot of time with his grandfather because they lived far away. But, he explained, "When we were younger, my mother and father talked about it.  And we had some of his memorabilia and stuff around the house. I had two brothers and all three of us kind of grew up having pride in the fact that our granddad played in the big leagues."

Anthony Varvaro, who came to the Red Sox in a December 2014 trade with the Atlanta Braves, is married to Kerry Ann Thomson. Her last name is the giveaway. The man who hit the "shot heard 'round the world" to win the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants was her great-uncle, Bobby Thomson. In other words, her grandfather's brother.  Bobby Thomson was born in Scotland, but grew up in Staten Island -- hence his moniker, "The Staten Island Scot." Both Bobby Thomson and Anthony Varvaro attended the same high school on Staten Island, Curtis High School.  That's where Anthony and his future wife met; they began going out in high school.  Varvaro and Bobby Thomson first met when Anthony was about 17.

In Bobby Thomson's last year -- 1960 -- he appeared in 40 games for the Red Sox. "He was well aware that I was playing minor-league ball," Anthony says, "but beyond that, there really wasn't that much. I wasn't aware that he'd played for the Sox until I got here."

There's another major-league relatives connection through marriage among the first-year players on this year's Red Sox, this one also involving a member of the pitching staff. Joe Kelly met his wife Ashley in college in California. Her father, as it happens, is former (1992-94) Minnesota Twins catcher Derek Parks. Thus, Joe is Parks' son-in-law. The former catcher and pitcher never worked out together. "He hung it up," Joe says.  "We talk about pitching and stuff like that sometimes. We don’t really get too much in depth. We each kind of do our own thing.  But he's awesome about baseball.  He's a big Yankees fan now, though.  So I kind of beat up on him."

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