Oh Brother! Could They Pitch – The Dean, Perry, Martinez & Niekro Brothers

Winning Brothers, Dizzy & Daffy Dean

Dizzy & Daffy Dean 1935

Hold Chat On Bleachers

Dizzy and Daffy, those two Dean boys. Paul on the left looks a little skeptical as Dizzy shows his brother the way a ball is held for a “hook”. Just before the Giants and Cardinals got going  March 15 at Flamingo Park, Miami Beach, Florida, these two boys held a chat on the bleachers. The Giants defeated the Cardinals 2-0. — 3/17/1935 Associated Press Photo

In the history of Major League Baseball there have been many brothers who have each taken the mound to be pitchers. For both of them to be successful however, is another story.

Great pitching brothers are rare. Sometimes one brother is excellent and the other brother may have a few decent seasons. The brothers Forsch (Ken & Bob), Weaver (Jered & Jeff(), Maddux (Greg & Mike) and Hernandez (Orlando & Livan) exemplify successful talented sibling hurlers.

In the major leagues today there are fewer and fewer pitchers who compile 20 wins in a season. Therefore it doesn’t bode well that there will be brothers who will pull off the feat in the future.

Getting back to our featured pitchers, the Dean brothers never each won 20 games in a season. For two seasons the tandem dominated baseball.

Jay “Dizzy” Dean once claimed that his little brother Paul “Daffy” Dean was the better pitcher of the two. Nonetheless, Dizzy is in the Baseball Hall of Fame while Daffy is not. The Dean brothers were teammates on the St. Louis Cardinals in the mid-1930s and pulled off a couple of great seasons together.

In 1934, Paul’s rookie year, he won 19 games in the regular season, and pitched a no-hitter in the tail end of a doubleheader against the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 21. Dizzy Dean pitched the first game of that doubleheader and threw a three hit shutout, no-hitting the Dodgers until the eighth inning.

After the game, Dizzy said of his brother, “You know he’s faster than I am. If he only had my change of pace they’d never touch him. The only thing that makes me mad is that I didn’t know that I hadn’t given them any hits in the first seven innings of the first game.  I should have known that. Then I’d have really breezed ’em in there and we’d both had had a no-hitter.”

Regardless, that same year, Dizzy posted what remains the last 30 win season by a pitcher in National League history, going 30-7.

In the 1934 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Cardinals pitcher Bill Walker lost two of the games and Dizzy was defeated in one.

But, amazingly and surely never to be duplicated, the 1934 World Series was an all-Dean affair. The brothers combined to win all four games with Daffy winning games three and six and Dizzy winning games one and seven.

In 1935, Daffy again won 19 games and brother Dizzy had a bit of a letdown from the previous season winning only 28 games. In the proceeding seven years, Daffy Dean won only 12 more games due to an arm injury.

Pitching Brothers Who Each Won 20 Games

Most recently, Pedro Martinez and brother Ramon Martinez each reached the 20 win plateau. In 1999 Hall of Famer Pedro went a phenomenal 23-4. Earlier in 1990, big brother Ramon posted a 20-6 record at age 22. Combined the brothers won 354 games in their careers.

Harry and Stan Coveleski are names that are virtually unknown today because all the people that saw them pitch are dead now. Going back 100 years, the Coveleskis combined for 296 wins during the 1910s and 20s. Older brother Harry Coveleski had a brief nine year career with a 81-55 record. But he strung together three fine seasons for the Detroit Tigers from 1914-1916. Harry’s records were 22-12; 22-13; and 21-11.

Stan Coveleski was the real deal, winning 215 and losing just 142 games in a 14 year Hall of Fame career. With Cleveland from 1918 – 1921 Stan was 22-13; 24-12; 24-14; and 23-13. Stan Coveleski accomplished what few pitchers ever have, winning three games in the 1920 World Series. Traded to Washington after a subpar 1924 season, Coveleski went 20-5 for Washington in 1925.

The Best Pitching Brothers Ever

For 13 years from 1974 -1986, the Perry brothers, Jim and Gaylord, held the record for most victories by brothers in MLB history.  In 1974 the Perrys passed the 386 wins compiled by the three 19th century Clarkson brothers, John, Dad (aka, Arthur) and Walter.

Jim Perry pitched 17 seasons from 1959-1975 winning 215 games in his career. He went 20-6 in 1969 and was 24-12 in 1970 for the Minnesota Twins. Younger brother Gaylord Perry had a 22 year Hall of Fame career from 1962-1983 winning 314 games. He was a five time 20 game winner, going 21-8 in 1966; 23-13 in 1970 with the Giants. In Cleveland he was 24-16 in 1972; 21-13 in 1974. Finally, with the Padres at age 39 in 1979, Gaylord went 21-6.

In 1970, another occurrence, which is unlikely to happen again, the Perry brothers each led their respective leagues in wins in the same season!

But, the winningest mound brothers in baseball history are the Niekros with 539 combined victories. Both brothers used primarily one type of pitch to achieve their success, the knuckleball. In a 22 year career with seven teams  Joe Niekro was 221-204. In 1979 and 1980 with the Houston Astros, Joe tallied records of 21-11 and 20-12 respectively. Joe Niekro remains the Astros career leader in wins with 144.

Brother Phil Niekro was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997, and didn’t make his major league debut until 1964 when he was 25-years-old. That slight disadvantage didn’t stop Phil from compiling a 318-274 record and from pitching for 24 years until he was 48! Phil hurled 21 seasons for the Braves and went 23-13 in 1969, 20-13 in 1974. Phil reached the 20 win mark with brother Joe a final time in 1979 leading the National league in both wins and losses going 21-20. If anything, Phil was resilient and durable during the late 1970s. Phil led the league in losses for four straight years 1977-1980, losing 20, 18, 20 and 18 games in alternating seasons. On the other hand Phil also led the league in innings pitched from 1977-1979 pitching 330, 334 and 342 innings.

Interesting sidenotes on the Niekros – they directly faced off against each other the most of any sibling pitchers. In nine meetings Joe won five games and Phil won four. During their fifth match-up on May 29, 1976, amazingly, Joe Niekro hit his first and only major league home run against Phil!

Phil Niekro tells the story on his brother’s foundation website, but is slightly mistaken in his account of Joe’s 7th inning home run. There was only one out and It wasn’t a three run home run, but a solo shot.

“He had two on with two outs had never hit me before. I threw him a knuckleball and he didn’t swing … I hollered to him that ‘you can’t hit if you don’t swing.’” Phil recalled.

With two strikes, Joe took a low swing at a knuckler headed for his feet. Phil says “he hit it like a golf ball … I saw it going over the shortstop’s head and it went right over the fence. Joe was in such shock, halfway to second base he had to go back because he missed tagging first base.”

After that, every time Phil pitched against Houston he would look over to the opponents’ dugout and see Joe holding three bats, like he was going to pinch-hit.

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