A rare glimpse of professional ballplayers, not as pitchers, hitters, managers, and coaches, but as dads and grandads.
Sons of major league baseball players grow up in a unique environment, not only because they are raised in part by professional athletes, but also because they are raised by the game itself. They come of age immersed in the distinct sounds and aromas of baseball. The locker rooms, the cinderblock-lined corridors beneath the stands, the dugouts, and the fields are the playgrounds of their youth.
In Sons of Baseball, Mark Braff interviews 18 men who share their exclusive stories, ballpark memories, and the challenges and rewards of having fathers whose talents enabled them to reach the pinnacle of their profession. Each chapter is devoted to one son talking about his experiences, from the poignancy of one son’s disclosure that his dad has not been able to acknowledge his son’s sexuality as a gay man, to the humor of another son absconding with the groundskeepers’ cart in Cleveland.
With a foreword by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and interviews with the sons of beloved players such as Yogi Berra, Mariano Rivera, Roger Maris, Gil Hodges, and Larry Doby, Sons of Baseball provides a unique, well-rounded perspective on the lives of professional ballplayers and their families.
Mark Braff worked for 40+ years as a highly regarded public relations professional, the last 27 as a consultant working under the banner of Braff Communications LLC. Braff began his career as a reporter for the Ridgewood Newspapers in New Jersey. He later joined Madison Square Garden Sports Network as the first member of its in-house public relations team. At USA Network, Braff directed all sports and affiliate public relations initiatives, including support for the network’s live broadcasts of games from Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, college basketball and football, boxing, and a variety of other sports. He resides in Bergen County, New Jersey.
Foreword, by Cal Ripken Jr.
Chapter 1. Jerry Hairston & Jerry Hairston Jr. -- Following grandpa and dad into the family business
Chapter 2. Roger Maris & Kevin Maris -- Still teaching lessons from dad
Chapter 3. Larry Doby & Larry Doby Jr. -- From baseball to Billy Joel
Chapter 4. John Wathan & Dusty Wathan -- Cup ball and stories from Buck O’Neil
Chapter 5. Henry Rodriguez & David Rodriguez -- Seeking dad’s acceptance: “All I wanted was a Barbie”
Chapter 6. Mariano Rivera & Jafet Rivera -- “Come on, Rivera, throw the cutter”
Chapter 7. Vada Pinson & Vada Pinson III -- Yearning for a father’s love
Chapter 8. Yogi Berra & Larry Berra -- Fielding fungoes from Mickey Mantle
Chapter 9. Dave McNally & Jeff McNally --A national television debut at age seven
Chapter 10. Jack Aker & Matt Aker -- If it’s Tuesday, this must be Lynchburg
Chapter 11. Boog Powell & John W. Powell Jr. -- Stealing (and abandoning) the groundskeepers’ cart
Chapter 12. Gil Hodges & Gil Hodges Jr. -- Embracing the legacy
Chapter 13. Tony Pena & Tony Pena Jr. -- Poking sleeping players with toothpicks
Chapter 14. Jim Bouton & Michael Bouton -- Riding upside down to Yankee Stadium
Chapter 15. Leo Cardenas & Leo Cardenas Jr. -- “I should have made it”
Chapter 16. Bobby Richardson & Robby Richardson -- Getting past Frank Crosetti, baseball cop
Chapter 17. Mike Hargrove & Andy Hargrove -- Fishing off Bo Jackson’s lap
Chapter 18. Ron Guidry & Brandon Guidry -- Handfuls of Bazooka and other stadium fun
A Note on Sources
About the Author
By the time I was old enough to realize my grandfather was Yogi Berra, he had been just “Grampa” for so long that it was hard to come to terms with his fame. These sweet stories from the sons of big-leaguers — including my own dad — about their “normal” childhoods brought back great memories of my own, and will warm the hearts of readers.
A unique perspective on a really interesting mix of players, which gives this book a charm on many levels.
Baseball passes through our generations. We treasure Kodachrome-tinged memories of playing catch in the backyard; fathers tossing with sons, putting off homework or dinner for a few more precious minutes. Time marches on, but those snapshots last forever. In Sons of Baseball, Mark Braff delivers remarkable stories of fathers and sons experiencing this wonderful sport at its highest levels.
Readers are saturated with baseball books detailing the exploits and quarrels of stars. This is a rare book about the sons of baseball stars and their relationship with, and what they learned from, their dads. Readers, like me, will be seduced from the first page, endlessly surprised by its tender tales.
Baseball sustains its mystical allure by connecting generations. In Sons of Baseball, Mark Braff spotlights the men who understand this on the most personal level of all. Braff’s compelling interviews give readers a seat at the dinner table with a big-league dad, with riveting insights into the pride, the privilege, and the pressure that comes with life as the son of a major league player.
Baseball has been a source of bonding between fathers and sons for generations. In Sons of Baseball, Mark Braff takes us inside different types of father-son baseball relationships, some filled with fun, others with regrets, providing a look at some of the game’s greatest players in a completely different light.
11/29/22, Sports Book Reviews: This book was highlighted in a roundup of highly anticipated sports books.
4/26/23, Jewish Standard: Mark Braff is interviewed in this feature about the book.
5/2/23, Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch: The book is featured in this article.
May issue, 201 Magazine: This is featured in a roundup of new books by local authors.
5/11/23, Cynopsis: The release of the book is highlighted.
5/19/23, Tomorrow Will Be Televised podcast: Mark Braff talks about the book with Simon Applebaum.
6/4/23, KNBR Talkin’ Baseball / Marty Lurie podcast: Mark Braff talks about the book with Marty Lurie.
6/14/23, WGN Radio (Chicago): Ahead of Father’s Day, Mark Braff joined Bob Sirott on the Morning Show to talk about the book.
6/16/23, InsideHook: An excerpt from the book is featured.
6/21/23, Media Village’s View from the Grandstand: Mark Braff talks about the book with Justin Paura.
YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtcgqObhV6A&t=6s
10/1/23, USA TODAY: Columnist Stephen Borelli features the book using the stories Mark Braff gathered to highlight ten lessons about parenting.
12/6/23, Cleveland.com: This is highlighted in a roundup of the year’s best sports books.