Baseball and the Eternal Bond of Brothers

(left to right) Joe, Vince, and Dom DiMaggio all playing together for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast LeaguePhoto byLos Angeles Times file photo

By Bill Pruden

Today is my younger brother Robert’s 67th birthday, and I am not sure that wishing him a happy birthday in this forum is wholly appropriate. However, baseball has been a special part of our lives and our relationship. My birthday wishes for him are offered against the backdrop of many baseball-related memories that the last six-plus decades hold, for while the intensity has ebbed and flowed, the game and our affection for it have always been there, forging a bond that has transcended most other aspects of our lives.

As I reflect back and think about my relationship with my brother, baseball is a constant - a centerpiece of our lives and something that, despite living on opposite coasts for over four decades, we always shared. We have not always agreed on politics, family matters, or even our parents in the midst of a contentious divorce, baseball always provided a common meeting ground.

As we have gotten older, phone calls inevitably turn to the game with the conversations often bouncing from decade to decade of baseball history to the latest news, always in a way that guaranteed that our lines of communication remained open. While differences may exist, baseball could always bridge the divide, offering some immutable things upon which we would always agree - like the fact that Sandy Koufax would be our choice for a must-win game—and we both would expect him to go nine innings for the win.

Like many, I first learned baseball from my father. He taught me to throw and bat, but as much as I enjoyed and treasured that, the arrival of a little brother added a new dimension to my baseball efforts. In little time, I no longer had to wait for Dad to come home. Instead, Rob and I could undertake the daily ritual of playing catch before pitching to each other in front of the increasingly-battered garage door, tracking the number of balls we each hit over the row of evergreen trees that marked the property line and made for a forbidding center field “wall.”

Such adventures soon gave way to involvement in our town’s organized leagues where baseball games were family affairs. Our mother was always in attendance, and sisters were usually dragged along to watch games for which my father sometimes served as a coach. If he didn’t, Rob or I was casting a discerning eye on the other’s efforts. While our two-and-a-half-year age gap meant we never played together, we were a baseball duo.

While I don't remember the origin story, I am pretty sure that part of the reason Rob became a catcher was that I had pitching aspirations and needed the other half of the battery. But as I worked on my pitching two things became clear. First, despite wearing glasses beneath his mask, Rob was a better catcher (and hitter) -- indeed a very good one -- than I would ever be a pitcher. Second, I was better suited for first base where my strong fielding skills--there is a reason that Keith Hernandez has always been one of my very favorite players--kept me in the line-up despite my often-inconsistent performances at the plate.

In the end, baseball was something central to our shared experiences for some very important years before I went away to boarding school at 14 and our interests began to change - me to track and politics, Rob to tennis and movies. We did not lose our love of baseball. It remained a common interest as well as an unbreakable bond no matter what else was happening or how many miles separated us. Throughout those years we collected and traded baseball cards and devoured Sports Illustrated, Sport, Sporting News, and the daily newspapers for all the baseball news they offered.

Now at almost 70, the relationship is recalled in memories big and small. There was October 1, 1961, when my father, reading the Sunday paper suddenly exclaimed that we could see history made that day and decided to make the drive from our northern New Jersey home into the city and Yankee Stadium where the three of us witnessed Roger Maris’s 61st home run. History for sure, and a memory that I have treasured for decades. Of course, that was not the last game we saw because baseball mattered very much.

That was certainly clear in 1964 when my parents, failing to foresee that the World Series would go seven games, arranged for our move into a new house that very day. Happily, understanding the game's importance, they arranged for our grandparents to pick me and Rob up at school and bring us home where the television had been set up in the new family room. There we sat, glued to the set, offering periodic updates to the moving men passing back and forth through the house, and watching Bob Gibson pitch the St. Louis Cardinals to victory over the New York Yankees, securing their first World Series title since 1946.

Admittedly, while the love of the game and many of the adventures are shared, there have been a few discordant moments or causes for envy along the way. For all the excitement of seeing Maris set the record back in 1961, I have to admit, over 60 years later, that at the time (and apparently still today) I felt a certain amount of resentment over the fact that this historic event represented my younger brother's first major league game, a milestone that I, over two years older, had achieved only months before.

I still remember the fall of 1967, when my sixth-grade brother and his class, one of whom toted a portable television set, came into my homeroom for English after lunch where my homeroom teacher allowed them to watch the World Series. In contrast, my classmates and I headed off to a destination overseen by a less enlightened teacher.

And while my globetrotting sisters might disagree, my brother's framed and autographed Koufax jersey is the most distinctive and treasured item any of the family members can boast and that includes treasures collected on a variety of continents and the wildlife trophies my grandfather had bagged in another era.

In two months, my brother and I are meeting in Atlanta, the closest major league ballpark to our homes now that Rob has left the west coast, to see the Los Angeles Angels play the Atlanta Braves. We are excited at the prospect of seeing Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani as well as the Braves’ stable of young stars, going on the Atlanta stadium tour, and seeing the city’s historical offerings. It has been a long time since we went to a game together, but I know that like our phone calls, we will settle in, and the new rules notwithstanding, pick up where we left off, musing about the demise of the complete game and the too many hitters intent only on hitting home runs, while wondering what Maury Wills, the base stealer extraordinaire of our youth, might have done with the now larger bases. One thing is for sure - while baseball may have changed, the bond it forges between brothers remains everlasting.

Bill Pruden is a high school history and government teacher who has been a baseball fan for six decades. He has been writing about baseball--primarily through SABR-sponsored platforms, but also in some historical works--for about a decade. His email address is

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America represents hundreds of writers and content creators wherever baseball is played all over the world, ranging from hobbyists to professionals and everywhere in between. Learn more at or follow @ibwaa on Twitter.

New York, NY

More from IBWAA

Detroit, MI

Detroit Tigers: Evaluating the System for Seasons Ahead

By Joe Underhill Another September and another losing season is coming to a close for the Detroit Tigers. The focus for Tigers fans now shifts to saying farewell to a future Hall of Famer in Miguel Cabrera, who has a legitimate chance to climb a few more spots on the all-time lists before his season ends. The focus for fans should be the auditions taking place in Detroit and on the farm for roles next year. The focus here will be on the Tigers currently under contract for next year and who fans should be keeping tabs on as AJ Hinch and Scott Harris work to put a playoff-caliber team on the field in Detroit for the first time in almost a decade. Outfield: Currently on the 40-man: Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, Riley Greene, Austin Meadows, and Parker Meadows. In the minors: Justyn-Henry Malloy (AAA), Wenceel Perez (AAA), Justice Bigbie (AA), Max Clark (low A). What do all of the full-time outfielders on the 40-man have in common? They are all left-handed hitters. Of this group, Austin Meadows has missed the majority of the past two seasons dealing with an injury and an anxiety disorder and is at the greatest risk of being non-tendered. Parker Meadows, Riley Greene, and Kerry Carpenter have solidified their roles. Akil Baddoo has the most to prove offensively, but his defense has been above average. Carpenter, OPS+ 136 and Greene OPS+ 116, have been the Tigers’ best hitters. Matt Vierling has played the majority of his games in the outfield but is being transitioned into more of a utility role by playing third base. Vierling plays strong outfield defense in the corners and can cover center in a pinch. Justyn-Henry Malloy and Wenceel Perez will come to spring training looking to compete for place on the roster. Malloy has a strong right-handed bat, slashing .292/.432/.509 including 23 home runs and over 100 walks. At AA, Justice Bigbie has been the story of the Tigers’ minor leagues. He has hit over .350 across high A and AA. Bigbie and Malloy share a challenge, though: defense. Both Malloy and Bigbie will figure into Detroit’s plans sooner rather than later due to their bats, but defense will determine how much playing time they’ll get. In the low minors, the most exciting prospect is Max Clark, who is already flashing the potential five-tool package that enticed the Tigers to select him third overall. Utility: Currently on the 40-man: Nick Maton, Zach McKinstry, Tyler Nevin, Wenceel Perez, Matt Vierling. Of this group, McKinstry and Vierling have pretty strong grips on utility roles, with Vierling being the only right-handed outfielder currently on the roster. McKinstry has been a very productive player, even though is OPS+ is only 80. With Parker Meadows moving Greene to a corner, Verling has begun to see more time at third base. Nevin can play all four corners but is more of an infielder. He has raked at AAA, slashing .326/.400/.543 for an OPS of .943. The only problem is he has not been able to translate that success at the major-league level, slashing only .132/.242/.189. Perez has made the shift from the dirt to the outfield this season and has taken to the outfield quite well. He is a switch-hitter who brings speed (25 steals) and an OPS of .802 across three levels in the minors in 2023. The challenge for Perez will be overcoming the “yips” that showed up on his throws from second base. His path to playing time will be tied to his ability to play the utility role. Infield: Currently on the 40-man: Javier Baez, Andy Ibanez, Ryan Kreidler, Eddys Leonard, Andre Lipcius, Nick Maton, Wenceel Perez, Zack Short, and Spencer Torkelson. In the minors: Colt Keith (AAA), Jace Jung (AA), Kevin McGonigle (low A). Javy Baez probably won’t exercise his buy-out after a bad year in Detroit. Baez has an opt-out, but based on how poorly his offensive season has gone, he is unlikely to utilize it. Baez has continued to play solid-to-above-average defense at shortstop. Torkelson’s power has come on since June and he now leads the team with 25 home runs and has risen his OPS+ above 100. Defensively the numbers don’t like Tork’s defense, but the eye test suggests he is a solid defender at first. Second and third base are the positions where there is the most movement. McKinstry, Short, Ibanez, Vierling, and now Lipcius are all seeing time at the positions. The Tigers are hoping Keith shows enough aplomb to be able to handle the majority timeshare at third base. The biggest defensive challenge for Keith is rebuilding his throwing strength after a shoulder injury in 2022. Kreidler won a sport on the initial roster, but injury derailed his season. Kreidler and Short are natural shortstops, who both bring plus defense, but question marks with the bat. Lipcius is auditioning to play second and third next season. Maton began the year with the Tigers but struggled with the bat. He’s hit well at AAA and will come to spring training competing for a spot. If Jung continues to hit and show solid defensive acumen, he will be in the picture at second base at some point in 2024. Catcher: Currently on the 40-man: Carson Kelly, Jake Rogers, Donny Sands (AAA). In the minors: Dillon Dingler (AAA). Catching depth is a major concern for the Tigers, who cut ties with Eric Haase and added Carson Kelley in mid-season. Rogers has shown a solid ability to hit for power (16 home runs) while playing excellent defense. Sands and Dingler are time-sharing in AAA and will be joining the competition in spring training. This is an area to expect to see the Tigers looking to add to the competition in the off-season. Starting Pitching: Currently on the 40-man: Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning (IL), Casey Mize (IL), Reese Olson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Spencer Turnbull, Joey Wentz. In the minors: Sawyer Gipson-Long (AAA), Keider Montero (AAA), Jack O’Loughlin (AAA), Ty Madden (AA), Brant Hurter (AA), Wilmer Flores (AA). The expectation is Eduardo Rodriguez will opt out at the end of the year, and it will be interesting to see if Scott Harris tries to resign him. Rodriguez has been rock-solid for the Tigers and seems to have enjoyed his time in Detroit. The rest of the rotation depth has a lot of question marks regarding health. Mize is still working his way back; Manning just suffered a second foot fracture as a result of a batted ball. Turnbull is working to rediscover his command and control of his pitches and has been optioned to the minors. The Tigers have been playing with using Brieske and Faedo out of the bullpen, but they will come to spring training as part of the competition for the rotation. Right now, the rotation is going to be anchored by Skubal and Olson, with the back three spots up for grabs. Olson has had a strong rookie year and has placed himself firmly in the rotation plan moving forward. This is an area where I would expect the Tigers to go after a veteran or two (similar to last year with Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen). Bullpen: Currently on the 40-man: Tyler Alexander (IL), Miguel Diaz, Mason Englert (IL), Jason Foley, Garrett Hill (minors), Tyler Holton, Alex Lange, Freddy Pacheco, Andrew Vasquez, Will Vest, Brendan White, Trey Wingenter (minors). The bullpen has been a strength for the Tigers this year. Tyler Holton has been a phenomenal this year and worked into leverage situations. The same can be said for Jason Foley, Brendan White, and Will Vest, who are all young pitchers growing into reliable arms. The Tigers have also been deploying Beau Brieske and Alex Faedo in the bullpen and both have had good success. Depending on how the competition for the rotation plays out either or both could find themselves pitching in leverage situations in the bullpen. Expect a few low-profile signings/waiver claims in the off-season to build the competition going into spring training. Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for You can follow Joe on Twitter@TransplantedDet.

Read full story

Opinion: Maury Wills Deserves a Niche in the Baseball Hall of Fame

By Dan Schlossberg One of the most stringent standards for Hall of Fame considerations is whether a candidate changed the game. Maury Wills certainly qualifies. In his 14-year career, Wills was a seven-time All-Star who won three World Series rings, two Gold Gloves, and an MVP trophy. He revolutionized the use of speed as a vital part of the offense, stealing a then-record 104 bases in 1962. That broke Ty Cobb’s record of 96, which had stood for 47 years. Neither Babe Ruth’s nor Hank Aaron’s home run records lasted that long. When Wills was in the minors, Spokane manager Bobby Bragan would make frequent calls to Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi urging his promotion to the majors. "Bobby would call six times a day and tell me over again how Wills had learned to switch-hit and how he was a great team leader, off and on the field, and how I was absolutely nuts if I didn't bring him up right away," Bavasi said. Wills was finally promoted to the majors in June of 1959 after batting .313 in 48 games for the Pacific Coast League club. He never looked back. A switch-hitter who led the National League in stolen bases six years in a row, Wills hit .281 with 586 steals. He would have had more except for his late start; he was 26 when he arrived in Los Angeles. Wills parlayed his speed into several championships for the Dodgers, starting in his very first season. The ‘59 Dodgers finished in a tie with the Milwaukee Braves, then won the first two games of an unscheduled best-of-three pennant playoff. The banjo-playing shortstop even supplemented his then-meager baseball salary by singing and cutting records during the off-season. Wills spent 12 years with the Dodgers, sandwiching his stints around stops in Pittsburgh and Montreal. He later managed the Seattle Mariners. Like Lou Whitaker, Maury Wills was a star infielder who somehow got overlooked by the Hall of Fame. It’s an oversight that needs to be corrected. Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ writes baseball for, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and others. Contact him at

Read full story

Opinion: It’s High Time To Shrink the Playoffs, Scrap the Wild-Card

By Dan Schlossberg Sorry, guys, but I’m not wild about the wild-card. I hated it when there was one wild-card winner in the playoffs, hated it more when there were two, and absolutely detest the fact that there are three — expanding the post-season into a tournament that reeks of football, basketball, and hockey. Baseball has a 162-game schedule for a reason: to determine the best team between the end of spring training and the start of the post-season. Anything that creates the slightest chance that the best teams won’t reach the World Series is a travesty. For example, the Miami Marlins managed to win two world championships without ever finishing first. In 31 seasons, including this one, the Fish have never won the NL East. The 2002 Los Angeles Angels won their only World Series by getting hot when it counted, riding a wild-card into a world championship over another wild-card, the San Francisco Giants. Though obviously a bold-faced revenue grab, the wild-card system was supposedly designed to retain interest in cities whose teams dropped out of contention in September. To the contrary, the wild-card justifies mediocrity, creating the very real possibility that a team with more losses than wins can get hot just in time to win a world championship with a losing record. That would be a black mark against the game, as is anything that compromises the integrity of the World Series. With six divisions in baseball today, isn’t there enough interest in the races for the division titles? It’s a good storyline that the Los Angeles Dodgers have reached the playoffs 11 years in a row and the Atlanta Braves have the longest active streak — which will reach six this year — and also own the longest title streak (14) since the 1969 advent of divisional play. Except for the East and West divisions of the National League, all of the divisions have real races going on. There are even three-team races in two of those four, the AL West and NL Central. The American League East race is intriguing because every team is likely to finish over .500, while the American League Central is the weakest division in the land. While wild-card standings change almost daily, does anyone really care about them? MLB Network keeps trying to make that case but isn’t very convincing. The wild-card also weakens the trade deadline, with way too many teams (notably the 2023 Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres) thinking they’re still alive. That stifles trading and deprives fans of the most exciting aspect of baseball season between the All-Star Game and the playoffs. Since baseball would be better balanced with 32 teams rather than the current 30, why not realign into four eight-team leagues, each split into divisions of four, and send the wild-card to the dustbin of baseball history? Baseball has made plenty of changes, especially recently, but focusing on champions rather than also-rans would be an enormous improvement. What say you, Rob Manfred? Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 42 baseball books and a national baseball writer for Email him at

Read full story

Comments / 0