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21 October, 2008

NINE SETS OF TWINS PLAYED IN MAJORS

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Had a good chat with Jarvis Cook in Dresden about his 18-year-old identical twin nephews who are showing amazing promise in baseball. The boys were featured in my last post, see item below. Not wanting to jinx young Matt and Justin we, nevertheless, could not help but wonder just how many twins have actually made it all the way to the major leagues.
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At the time of our conversation, neither Jarv nor I could come up with any names -- it seems that we both have failing memories (memory being the second thing to go when you get to be our age).
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A follow up search of The Baseball Encyclopedia and the unique Twinstuff web site revealed that there have actually been nine sets of twins that have advanced to "The Big Time" of baseball. The first set was Bill and George Hunter who played from 1909 to 1912. George played two years for Brooklyn in 1909 and 1910 while Bill only played one season, in 1912 with Cleveland. The next three played roughly at the same time, in what might be termed "The Golden Era of Twins Baseball". They were Joe and Red Shannon, Bubber and Claude Jonnard and Ray and Roy Grimes.
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The Shannons were the first set of twins to play for the same team -- the Boston Braves in 1915. Joe only played that single season for Boston, but Red had a longer and more successful career playing an additional six seasons for four more teams. The Shannons were a position player/pitcher combination. Bubber, a catcher, made it to the bigs first, playing for Chicago Sox in 1820 and four teams total in a six-year career. Claude, the pitcher, was one of the more successful twins ever to play major league baseball and specialized as a relief pitcher in a six-year career that began with the New York Giants in 1921.

The Grimes both began their careers in 1920. Roy played one season for the Giants, but Ray fared a little better, playing a total of six seasons as a power-hitting first baseman. Coincidentally, Ray was a teammate of Bubber Jonnard with the Philadelphia Phillies, marking the only time in MLB history that two different sets of twins played together on the same team.
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Thirty years later, we see perhaps the most famous set of baseball-playing twins, Eddie and Johnny O'Brien. The O'Briens are well known because they played most of their careers together in Pittsburgh and also because of their versatility as utility players. Both began their careers in 1953 and played through to 1959.
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Skipping ahead yet another generation, there are two more sets of twins who had brief careers in the 1980s, Marshall and Mike Edwards and Stan and Stew Cliburn. Mike had a couple of successful seasons with Oakland, but made it to the big leagues first with Pittsburg in 1977, moving over to the As the next season. Marshall, like his brother, was more of a speedster, playing three mostly unspectacular seasons with Milwaukee from 1981 to 1983. They also had a younger brother, Dave, who played five seasons in the majors. The Cliburns played for the California Angels, Stan as a first baseman for one season in 1980 and Stew as a pitcher for three seasons.
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The next twin pairing was the controversial super star Jose Canseco and his lesser-known brother Ozzie. Jose played 17 well-pubicized seasons in the majors for seven different teams, all in the American Leauge. He retired following the 2001 season with 462 career home runs, 22nd on the all-time list of home run hitters. Ozzie made it to the big leauges for three brief periods -- in 1990 with Oakland As where he played with his bother, and in '92 and '93 with St. Louis Cardinals. There might have been an excuse for the others, but how could we possibly forget the Cansecos?
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The newest set of twins on the list are Damon and Ryan Minor. The Minors were mirror-image twins, both standing 6'7", and were outstanding basketball prospects as well as baseball players. Damon, a first baseman, played for the San Francisco Giants, 2000-2004, and Ryan played for Baltimore Orioles, 1998-2000, before ending his career with Montreal Expos in 2001. Ryan will be forever known as the man who replaced Cal Ripken in the lineup at 3rd base for the Orioles when Ripken's consecutive game streak of 2,632 ended during the 1999 season.

How's that for a bit of baseball trivia?


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