June 15, 2001
Two Of A Kind Is A Rare Hand
by Steve Lombardi
There have been many twin brothers to play professional baseball. In fact, there are even more cases of twin brothers where one played ball and the other did not. (Albert Belle is such a case.) However, only eight sets of twins have managed to have both brothers appear in a major league game. They are:
Jose and Ozzie Canseco
Jose is the most famous of all the players in this study. 1986 American League Rookie of the Year. 1988 American League MVP. A five time All-Star. The first player to have 40 homers and 40 steals in the same season (1988). All this, along with a very colorful history of off-the-field adventures. He has played for the Athletics, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, and Yankees.
Ozzie had three cups of coffee in the bigs (with Oakland, 1990, and St. Louis, 1992 and 1993). He has a lifetime MLB batting average of .200 in 65 at bats.
Jose reached the majors before Ozzie – September 2, 1985 versus July 18, 1990. They were briefly teammates on the 1990 Oakland Athletics. Both were outfielders who batted and threw right-handed. Through the 2000 season, Jose out-homered Ozzie 446 to none in their Major League careers.
Currently, they are teammates for the Newark Bears of the (Independent) Atlantic League League.
Stan and Stew Cliburn
Stew was a relief pitcher for the California Angels in 1984, 1985 and 1988. In 1985, as a rookie, he led the Angels’ bullpen in wins and also had six saves.
Stan was a catcher, who also played for the California Angels – appearing in 54 games during his only season in the majors (1980). That year, he batted .179 with two homeruns.
Both players threw and batted right-handed. They are currently the manager (Stan) and pitching coach (Stew) for (ironically) the Minnesota Twins’ AA Affiliate (the New Britain Rock Cats).
Marshall and Mike Edwards
Mike, a second baseman, was first to reach the majors (in 1977) with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He appeared in 7 games and went hitless in 6 at bats. He went on to play three seasons in Oakland (1978-80) and was a regular in his first two years. In 317 games, he batted .250 for his career with 2 homeruns and 38 stolen bases.
Marshall, an outfielder, did not appear in the big leagues until 1981 (with the Brewers). He played in parts of three seasons with Milwaukee – finishing his career in 1983. He has a .258 lifetime batting average with 2 homeruns and 21 stolen bases.
Mike threw and batted right-handed. Marshall threw and batted left-handed.
It is significant to note that Marshall and Mike had a brother (one and a half years their junior) who also played Major League Baseball at the same time as them – Dave Edwards. An outfielder, who threw and batted right-handed, Dave played from 1978 to 1982 in parts of seasons with Minnesota and San Diego.
Ray and Roy Grimes
On July 31, 1920, Roy Grimes made his MLB debut. A few weeks later, his brother Ray joined him (on September 4th).
Ray, a first baseman, would play one game in 1920 with the Boston Red Sox. In 1921, he moved to the Chicago Cubs where he played for three years. He finished his career in 1926 with the Philadelphia Phillies. A lifetime .329 hitter, Ray had his best season in 1922 when he hit .354 with 14 HR and 99 RBI. He never played full time after that season.
Roy, a second basemen, only lasted in the majors for the 1920 season (with the New York Giants). In 26 games, he batted 57 times and had only nine hits (one double and eight singles).
Both brothers threw and batted right-handed.
Ray’s son, Oscar, went on to play MLB for parts of nine seasons (1938-1946) with the Indians, Yankees, and Athletics as a utility infielder.
Bill and George Hunter
The first case of both twins making “The Show.” George made the majors as a two-way player in 1909 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. That season, he appeared as a left-handed pitcher in 16 games and as a left-handed hitting outfielder in 23 games. He was more successful as a pitcher – although not a star on the mound. Essentially, that was his one and only season in the bigs. He did appear in one game for the Dodgers in 1910 – as a defensive replacement that never came to bat.
Two years later, Bill had his major league debut as a left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder for Cleveland. That would be his one and only season – in which he batted .164 in 21 games (55 AB).
Bubber and Claude Jonnard
Similar to the aforementioned Cliburns, the Jonnards were a twin battery. Both right-handed throwers who batted right-handed as well, Claude was a pitcher and Bubber was a catcher.
Bubber had a one game appearance with the White Sox in 1920 as did Claude in 1921 with the New York Giants. Starting in 1922, both players had five more seasons in the majors.
Bubber went on to be a back-up catcher for the Pirates (1922), Phillies (1926-27 and 1935), and Cardinals (1929). He was a lifetime .230 hitter in 230 at bats. He never homered in the big leagues.
Claude continued with the Giants as a relief pitcher (from 1921 through 1924). He also pitched for the Cardinals (1926) and Cubs (1929). He led the National League in appearances in 1923. His lifetime record as a pitcher is 14 wins and 12 losses.
Eddie and Johnny O’Brien
The first set of twin teammates - with the Pirates 1953 and 1955-58 (although calling them teammates in 1957 and 1958 is a stretch as Eddie was barely with the big league team those seasons).
Both threw and batted right-handed. Johnny beat Eddie by a week in terms of an official debut (April 19th versus April 25th). Johnny was the better player in terms of success in the field – though he was not even an average performing player himself.
Most unique about these twins was their versatility on the field. Johnny played 2B (248 games), SS (15 games) and pitched in 25 games. Eddie played SS (108 games), OF (62 games), 3B (11 games), 2B (2 games) and also pitched (in 5 games).
Joe and Red Shannon
On July 7, 1915, Joe debuted with the Boston Braves. He would go on to play four more games that season in Boston. All told, he ended up with five at bats (2 hits) while playing in the field three times (second base once and the outfield twice) in 1915 (his only year in the majors).
Later that season, Red would also appear with the Braves (October 7th) playing one game at second base. That was his one and only game with the Braves. He next appeared in the majors during 1917 as a member of the Philadelphia Athletics. A utility infielder for the most part, Red would play for the A’s (1917-19 and 1920-21), Red Sox (1919), Senators (1920), and Cubs (1926). A career .259 hitter with no lifetime homeruns, he actually led the American League in strikeouts (as a batter) in 1919.
Both brothers hit and threw right-handed.
In the history of MLB, over 15,000 men have worn a major league uniform. And yet, only eight sets of twins have managed to accomplish this feat. Further, five of these sixteen men had inconsequential playing careers. None of the sets of twins were star performers as a duo. In fact, the only “twin” out of the sixteen that can be considered a “star” is Jose Canseco.
Not surprisingly, over a third of the twin sets played positions with an on the field relationship (such as a battery or keystone combination). It is not difficult to imagine twin boys growing up playing pitcher-catcher and/or practicing turning double plays in their backyards or local sandlots.
What is somewhat hard to comprehend is that over a third of the twin sets had approximately four or more years separating their debuts in the bigs. It must have been very difficult for the one twin to be in the minor leagues while his brother was already in the majors for a few years.
Perhaps the reason for so few twins to “make it” as a pair has something to do with an inherent or residual psychological effect of twin-hood? Often, it is stated that, as they grow older, a twin has an increased desire to establish one’s own, separate, identity. If this is true, there is a good chance that one twin decides (albeit consciously or not) to not fully develop their baseball ability due to the fact that the other twin demonstrated their desire to pursue the baseball path? It may be a debate best settled by the head-shrinkers.
In conclusion, it can be correctly summarized:
There have barely been any twin combinations to both make the majors
Only twice in the history of MLB have there been twins who were teammates
Only once has there been twins in the majors who threw and hit from sides opposite each other
Never has there be a situation where both of the twins in the big leagues were stars
We are taught to think “Never say never.” However, based on this analysis, and given that they have been playing Major League Baseball for over a century and a quarter, it may be safe to say that we will never see:
Twins, who star as teammates, where one brother bats and throws from the opposite side as the other brother.
Four things that almost never happen - - - what are the odds of them all happening at once?
If it does happen, be sure to appreciate it.Closing note: Ray Grimes and Bubber Jonnard both played with the Phillies in 1926. This is the only case in MLB history where half of two sets of twins played for the same team in the same season. Heckuva trivia question if you ever need one.
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