On Monday, the Yankees signed ace Luis Severino’s younger brother Rafael to a professional contract. Rafael, 19, still has a long way to go before reaching the majors, but the prospect of having two brothers on the same pitching staff is still pretty cool to think about.
Brothers being major league teammates is less unusual than you’d think, as it’s happened nearly 100 times in MLB history. The Yankees have only three instances on that list, but the brothers that did end up playing together in the Bronx had some big names and considerable talent. Here are those brothers, by chronological order of the period in which they suited up in pinstripes.
1. Billy and Bobby Shantz (1960)
The Shantz brothers were the first brothers to find themselves on the Yankees at the same time. Bobby, the older brother, was the first to break in to the majors, making his debut with the Athletics in 1949. A left-handed pitcher, records say that Bobby stood at just 5 feet and 6 inches, weighing a modest 142 pounds. However, Bobby overcame those physical limitations and then some. He posted over 13 fWAR over his first four seasons as a starting pitcher, including a 24-win, 2.48 ERA, 6.1-WAR season in 1952 in which he won the MVP.
Bobby came over to the Yankees in 1957 after enduring some lackluster years with the Athletics. Surprisingly, he enjoyed a late-career renaissance as a swingman that year, and continued to provide value for the Yankees while gradually transitioning to a full-time relief role. His postseason numbers are a bit spotty - a 4.15 ERA in 6 appearances and 13 innings pitched - but the elder Shantz was a valuable contributor to those great late-fifties Yankees teams, including a World Series-winning squad in 1958.
It was in 1960, Bobby’s final season in New York, that Billy Shantz joined his older brother on the Yankees. Billy, a catcher, had made it to the majors in 1954 with the Athletics, but struggled mightily in his sophomore season (55 wRC+, -0.1 WAR) and spent the next four years in Triple-A, bouncing to the Cardinals, the Tigers, and finally to the Yankees’ organization in 1959.
The following year, Billy made the final appearance of his major-league career, fielding one inning as a substitute catcher. Billy might not have had the career that his older brother had, but at least he got to play with him in the final game of his big-league career.
2. Felipe and Matty Alou (1973)
Now we start getting to some more recognizable names. Felipe, the elder Alou, played in the majors from 1958 to 1974 and was a dangerous outfield bat for a good portion of that time, most notably with the Giants and the Braves. At his best, Felipe combined great power with outstanding contact skills, hitting 31 homers while striking out just 44 times in 706 plate appearances in 1966 en route to a 6.1 fWAR season. He finished his 17-year career with 38.1 fWAR, which places him firmly in Hall Of Very Good territory.
Matty Alou was no slouch either, as he too enjoyed a lengthy career in the bigs as a quality outfielder (20.4 career fWAR). Matty didn’t have the power of Felipe, but he was faster (156 career stolen bases) and somehow even more talented at making contact (.307 career average, 6.1% strikeout rate).
When the Alou brothers joined forces on the Yankees in 1973, they were both in the twilight of their careers. Felipe had a real stinker of a season, hitting .236/.256/.321 in 93 games with -1.4 fWAR before being shipped off to the Expos. However, Matty was still a productive part-time player, as he contributed 1.0 fWAR with a 101 wRC+. It’s a shame they weren’t at the height of their powers, but at least the Yankees got to have one of the best brother-brother combos in MLB history, if only for a short time.
3. Phil and Joe Niekro (1985)
The most famous of the Yankees’ brother-brother combos, Phil and Joe Niekro knuckleballed the heck out of major league baseball for 46 combined seasons, winning 539 games and racking up more than 100 fWAR between the two of them. The Niekros found themselves together on the Yankees in 1985, with Phil in the midst of a reasonably productive year when Joe came over from the Houston Astros.
The combo was short-lived, as Phil went on to pitch for Cleveland the following year. However, the occasion still gave us yet one more fun tidbit in a brotherly saga full of them, and for that we should be grateful.
These three occasions are the only times in which two brothers suited up as teammates for the New York Yankees. Can Luis and Rafael Severino join their ranks? Only time will tell. Personally, I wouldn’t mind it if the Severinos decided to one-up the Niekros and win 540 games between them for the Yankees. Highly unlikely, yes. But a blogger can dream, can’t he?