Saturday, August 4, 2012

B.J. Upton and Justin Upton Hit Career Home Run Number 100 on the Same Night

It's not a normal occurrence.  The fact is, two brothers playing in the Major Leagues is simply abnormal.  Sure, it's been done before.  Brett and Aaron Boone, Chris and Tony Gwynn, Cal and Billy Ripken, Phil and Joe Niekro.  Those are just a few, but consider this; only about 0.5% of high school baseball players are ever drafted by a Major League club.  This doesn't mean they make the 25-man roster.  No, it simply means the odds of even being drafted - and in turn being given the opportunity to ride around on an old bus between cities hours apart - is a mere half a percent.  So, the odds of two brothers both playing Major League Baseball is significantly less.  The odds of two brothers hitting their 100th career home run on the same night?  Almost non-existent.

But it happened.

Justin Upton struck first.  He was facing Kyle Kendrick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the second inning of the Diamondbacks game in Philly last night.  On a 2-0 count, Justin took an 81 mph change up to left field for his 100th career home run.  B.J. hit his about an hour later.  On the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning of his game against the Orioles in Tampa Bay B.J. took a 91 mph cutter from Tommy Hunter to centerfield.

The fact that both players hit their 100th career home runs in the same season is striking enough.  The fact that they hit it in the same night is incredible.  The fact that their hit them an hour apart is unbelievable.

Major League Baseball is unlike any sport in the events within the event.  Other sports have individual moments - the single-season touchdown record, most points in an NBA game, Most goals in a Hockey game - but these moments pale in comparison to the uniqueness of what baseball has to offer.  Brothers, who very rarely are on the same team, have a chance to be adversaries, rivals who are often compared to each other.  They present a story within a story.  Such is the case with the Upton brothers.

B.J. Upton made it first, but only by virtue of being three years older.  B.J. was drafted number two overall in 2002.  Justin was drafted number one overall in 2005.  That in and of itself is its own story.  These brothers from Norfolk, Virginia took the odds that were stacked against them and broke them down with pure talent.  Neither brother played college ball. Both were drafted straight out of high school and sent to Single-A ball.

The similarities between the Upton brothers and their career trajectories have been eery enough, but there's more.  B.J. Upton made his Major League Debut with the Rays on August 2, 2004.  Justin made his Major League debut with the Diamondbacks August 2, 2007.  These boys, born three years apart and picked one and two in their respective drafts three years apart, were called-up on the same day three years apart.  Baseball is an interesting game.

As similar as B.J. and Justin Upton's baseball lives have been, they aren't alone.  As mentioned above, there are numerous brother combos to have played in the Majors.  But did any of them share as many commonalities as the Upton boys do?

Felipe, Matty, and Jesus Alou all played at the same time.  Felipe was born in 1935, Matty in 1938, and Jesus in 1942.  They all made their Major League Debuts within a five year span.  All were signed as amateur free agents by the Giants - Jesus was the only one to be signed by the San Francisco version of the Giants as the team had already moved west when he came of age.  Felipe had 2,101 hits and 206 home runs.  He was a three-time All-Star.  Matty had 1,777 hits and 31 home runs.  He was a two-time All-Star.  Jesus had 1,216 hits and 32 home runs, but he never made an All-Star Game.  Felipe and Matty both retired after the 1974 season.  Jesus, though played five more seasons as he was the youngest, and retired in 1979.

Jim and Gaylord Perry were born three years apart, with Jim being the elder Perry brother.  Both Perry brothers made their debuts in April just three years apart.  Jim debuted on April 23, 1959.  Gaylord debuted on April 14, 1962.  These brothers in blood and in arms - both were pitchers - combined for 529 wins in their career.  Gaylord took the bulk of those wins with 314, but Jim had a fair amount at 215.  Jim was a three-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner.  Gaylord was a six-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young Award winner, and is now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  They both had long careers, but Gaylord managed to pitch five years longer than Jim overall.  Jim retired in 1975.  Gaylord retired in 1983.

Another set of brother pitchers were Phil and Joe Niekro.  They were born five years apart, Phil in 1939, Joe in 1944.  They debuted just three years apart, though, and almost on the the same day.  Phil made his Major League Debut on April 15, 1964.  Joe made his debut on April 16, 1967.  Unlike Phil, Joe was drafted.  He was selected in baseball's second Major League Draft in 1966.  Between the two of them, they have 539 wins.  Phil has 318, and Joe has 221.  Phil was a five-time All-Star.  Joe was selected to the Midsummer Classic just once.  Phil was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

If we go back even further in history, we can examine Paul and Lloyd Waner.  These Hall of Fame brothers were born three years apart - Paul in 1903, Lloyd in 1906.  Despite the age difference, Paul made his Major League debut just one year before Lloyd.  Paul had 3,152 hits, was a four-time All-Star, and won league MVP in 1927.  Lloyd 2,459 hits and was an All-Star in 1938.  They both retired after the 1945 season.

How about the DiMaggio brothers?  Vince, Joe and Dom all played in the Majors at the same time.  Vince was the oldest, born in 1912.  Joe was born two years later, and Dom was born three years after that.  Joe, being the most successful of the DiMaggio boys actually made his Major League debut a year before his older brother Vince.  Dom made his debut three years after Vince.  Niether Vince nor Dom had nearly as long of careers as Joe did.  And Joe outshines them both.  Joe collected 2,214 hits and hit 361 home runs despite missing three full seasons due to military service.  Dom also missed three years due to military service and was easily the second-best of the DiMaggio clan.  Dom was a seven-time All-Star while playing for Joe's rival the Boston Red Sox.  Vince made two All-Star games in his career but did quite have the success of Joe or even Dom.  Vince retired in 1946, Joe retired in 1951 -  and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1955, and Dom retired in 1953.

There are more sets of brothers to have played Major League Baseball, of course, but we've covered some of the most famous ones out there.  None have the same eery similarities of the Upton brothers.  We don't know if Justin or B.J. will ever make the Hall of Fame like many of the players listed above - it seems unlikely.  But we know they share milestone that no brothers have ever shared before.  According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have only been five other brotherly pairs to both hit at least 100 career home runs in the Majors.  The Uptons are in elite company.

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