This annotated week in baseball history: July 1-July 7, 1958

On July 7, 1958, Glenn Hoffman was born. Why do we remember him? He is just one of the many brothers who found themselves watching as their siblings went on to greater glory.

It figures (the Phillies) got Vince (DiMaggio) and not Joe or Dom. When brothers played in the majors, the Phillies usually wound up the one who produced less. We had Harry Coveleski instead of Stan, Irish Meusel instead of Bob…and Jeremy Giambi instead of Jason. If there had been a Zeppo Alou, the Phillies would have signed him.

Harold Herman, Phillies’ fan, quoted in Sports Illustrated

Writing this week’s column, I was struggling to come up with an opening paragraph. I sat, more or less staring into space, when my father entered the room and inquired what I was writing about. I told him this week’s topic was brothers.

Dad: Brothers like who?
Me: Like Trevor Hoffman and his brother Glenn.
Dad: (looking perplexed) Trevor Hoffman and his brother who?
Me: Exactly.

Perhaps because I’m an only child (and therefore immune from such comparisons) I’ve always had a fondness for major league brother pairs in which one brother had a career that was worlds ahead of the other. There are lots of these, so I’ll focus on three besides the Hoffmans, two with a clear talent disparity and one where the talent is more equal but one moment puts one brother well ahead of the other.

Glenn Hoffman is the brother of Trevor Hoffman. Glenn is the older of the pair, by nine years. You all know about Trevor Hoffman, the first man to record 500 saves, six-time All-Star, two-time runnerup for the Cy Young award. I think the line for closers in the Hall of Fame starts with Mariano Rivera, but Trevor is probably just behind him.

As for Glenn Hoffman, he has the unfortunate honor of having flamed out in two separate baseball-related careers while his little brother was in the midst of his playing career—a playing career that is, of course, still active.

Glenn’s major league playing career began with the Red Sox in 1980. He was the starting third baseman for the Sox that year and put together a respectable .285/.326/.397 line as a 21-year old. Unfortunately, rather than building on his solid rookie year, he took a series of major steps back. Moved to shortstop for the 1981 season, Hoffman began hitting like a shortstop. In 1982 he was one of the weakest hitting regulars in baseball, batting just .209.

He rebounded slightly the next season and enjoyed the best year of his career in 1985, but his time as a starter was over. Hoffman was finished as a major leaguer after a season spent hitting .212 in limited duty for the Angels in 1989.

Hoffman moved into the coaching ranks. In 1998 his big moment came. The Dodgers were dissatisfied with the managing of Bill Russell, and the burden of taking over the club fell to Hoffman, the third base coach. Incredibly, Hoffman was just the fourth Dodger manager since 1941, but he would be the shortest tenured, lasting only long enough to finish the season, posting a respectable 47-41 record.

Future managerial glory was seemingly not to be, as the Dodgers hired Davey Johnson to serve as their manager. Hoffman was demoted to back to third base coach, and held that job through the 2005 season. Today, he serves in that capacity for the Padres, so Glenn Hoffman gets to spend his days waving runners in and watching his little brother continue a Hall of Fame career.

The litany from the Phillies fan regarding his team ending up with the “wrong” brother had one notable omission: the Sislers. I should point out that if one is debating the merits of Dave Sisler versus Dick Sisler, one is ultimately in the wrong generation. Their father, George Sisler, is in the Hall of Fame, was 1922 MVP and until recently held the record for hits in a single season.

For the purposes of this discussion, however, and especially for Phillies fans, the right Sisler would be Dick. On the face of things, it is a relatively even battle. Dick Sisler was an outfielder-first baseman. He played eight seasons, sometimes as a regular and finished as a slightly above average career hitter. Dave Sisler was a pitcher who played seven seasons, sometimes as a starter, and finished with an ERA just below league average.

So what separates them? While Dave’s career was, relatively speaking, as pedestrian as his numbers suggest, Dick had one shining moment. In 1950, the “Whiz Kid” Phillies were playing the Dodgers at Ebbets Field with the National League pennant on the line. If the Phils lost, they would drop into a tie on the loss side with the Dodgers, necessitating a playoff. Tied 1-1 going in the 10th, Sisler cracked a three-run home run off Don Newcombe, giving the Phils their first pennant since 1915.

(Two other things about Sisler’s home run: It put the Phils into a World Series in which they were promptly swept, so you can forgive Harold Herman for perhaps not remembering Dick Sisler with great fondness. Also, the Dodgers—more famously—lost on Bobby Thomson’s home run on the last day the next year after Newcombe was relieved by Ralph Branca.)

Finally, we come to a pair of inferior brothers: Ozzie Canseco and Jeremy Giambi. Ozzie and Jeremy seemed to handle the burden of being an inferior sibling with a notable lack of grace.

Ozzie spent most of his career in the minor leagues and his time in the majors amounted to just 24 games. Following that, Ozzie and his brother Jose got into a fight outside a Miami Beach nightclub. Two years later, Ozzie violated the terms of his probation from the incident and was sentenced to several weeks in jail.

Jeremy’s major league career was slightly better than Ozzie’s: He played in more than 500 games and hit more than 50 home runs. He is best remembered as a player however, for his failure to slide in Game Three of the 2001 ALDS. Jeremy’s antics off the field are also slightly better than Ozzie’s, although he managed to cost his brother by being cited for marijuana possession at a Vegas airport the same day Jason signed his seven-year contract with the Yankees. Maybe it is something about being the brother of a one-time A’s superstar.

As I said, there are many brother pairs with a wide talent disparity; these are merely a sampling. But you can’t help but wonder what the Glenn Hoffmans, Jeremy Giambis and Dave Sislers of the world think as they watch their siblings achieve bigger and better things. Makes me glad to be an only child.

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