Twins Who Have Played Major League Baseball
(Essay last updated, March 2, 2006) With help from the The Baseball Encyclopedia, Twinstuff did some research on twins who have played major league baseball. And the results of our search surprised us.
By our calculations, there have only been nine sets of twins where both brothers have advanced to ‘The Show’ to play major league baseball. Now there may have been numerous cases (such as the controversial slugger Albert Belle) where a twin played in the majors and his brother either didn’t play sports or never made it to the top level. But as far as cases where both twins played in the majors, there have only been the nine sets of twins.
The first set was Bill and George Hunter from 1909-1912. George Hunter played two years for Brooklyn in 1909 and 1910 while Bill only played one season, in 1912 with Cleveland. Neither had a great ‘career’ but George (the larger twin by an inch at 5’8 1/2″) hit .228 in 1909 compared to Bill’s single season of .164. The two were born in Buffalo, N.Y. on July 8, 1886. Bill died in Buffalo in 1934 at the age of 47 while George lived an additional 34 years before dying in Harrisburg, PA on Jan. 11, 1968.
The next three sets played roughly at the same time, in what might be termed “The Golden Era Of Twins Baseball” (the real twins, not the Minnesota team that stole our moniker). The threesome were Joe and Red Shannon, Bubber and Claude Jonnard and Ray and Roy Grimes.
The Shannons were the first set of twins to play for the same team – the Boston Braves in 1915. Joe Shannon only played that single season for Boston, but Red had a longer and more successful career playing an additional six seasons for four more teams. Interestingly, both brothers were born and died in Jersey City, New Jersey. Born Feb. 11, 1895, Joe died on July 21, 1955 and Red died April 12, 1970. The Shannon Twins are both being inducted into the Hudson County (NJ) Hall of Fame in March, 2006.
The Jonnards were a batter-pitcher twin combination (the majority of twins listed here were every-day position players but a few of the 16 players we refer to were pitchers). Bubber (a catcher) made it to the bigs first, playing for Chicago (AL) in 1920 and four teams total in a six-year career that stretched all the way to 1935. Claude (the pitcher) was one of the more successful twins ever to play major-league baseball and specialized as a relief pitcher in a six-year career that began with the New York Giants in 1921. He led the majors in games played in 1923 with the Giants (45) and also led in saves both in 1922 and 1923 (5 each season). He also played in three World Series including the 1922 series where his team defeated Babe Ruth’s Yankees. The two were born in Nashville, Tenn. on Nov. 23, 1897 – Claude died in Nashville on Aug. 27, 1959 and Bubber died in New York City on Aug. 23, 1977.
The Grimes both began their careers in 1920. Roy just played that single season for the Giants, but Ray fared a little better, playing a total of six seasons as a power-hitting first-baseman and had a career batting average of .329. His most successful season was 1922 when he hit .354 for the Cubs with 45 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers and 99 RBI. In 1926, Ray was a teammate of Bubber Jonnard with the Philadelphia Phillies, marking the only time in MLB history that two different sets of twins played together on the same team. He also was the father of Oscar Grimes, who played an additional nine seasons in the major leagues in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The two were both born and died in Ohio; born Sept. 11, 1893 in Bergholz, Ray died May 25, 1953 in Minerva and Roy died Sept. 13, 1954 in Hanoverton.
Thirty years later, we see perhaps the most famous set of ball-playing twins, Eddie and Johnny O’Brien. The O’Briens are well-known because they played most of their careers together in Pittsburgh and also because of their versatility. Both began their careers in 1953 with the Pirates. Eddie began as a utility player in 1953 and 1955 and 1956, but played sporadically as a pitcher his final two seasons in 1957 and 1958. Johnny also played with Pittsburgh through 1958, but played an additional 56 games with St. Louis and Milwaukee in 1958 and 1959. Like his brother Eddie, Johnny mostly was a utility infielder, but he also saw a little action as a pitcher. The two were born in South Amboy, New Jersey on Dec. 11, 1930.
Skipping ahead yet another generation, there are two more sets of twins who have brief careers in the 1980’s — Marshall and Mike Edwards and Stan and Stew Cliburn. Mike Edwards had a couple of successful seasons for Oakland, but made it to the bigs first with Pittsburgh in 1977. Moving over to the A’s the next season, he had 27 steals in the first of three seasons he would play in the Bay Area. Marshall, like his brother, was more of a speedster than a power-hitter. He played three mostly unspectacular seasons with Milwaukee from 1981-1983. The two were born on Aug. 27, 1952 in Fort Lewis, Wash. They also had a younger brother named Dave Edwards who played five seasons in the big leagues.
The Cliburns both played for the California Angels, and like the Jonnards, were a batter-pitcher combination. Stan played first, as a hitter for one season in 1980. Stew was more successful, playing three seasons as a pitcher including a very successful campaign for the Halos in 1985 in which he compiled a 9-3 record and 2.09 ERA. The two were born on Dec. 19, 1956 in Jackson, Miss.
The next group features the single-most successful ballplaying twin in superstar Jose Canseco. His much lesser-known twin brother, Ozzie, also made it to the big leagues for three brief periods in 1990 with Oakland (playing with his brother) and in 1992 and 1993 with St. Louis, playing a total of 34 games in the majors. Jose played 17 seasons in major-league baseball for seven different teams, all in the American League. He retired following the 2001 season with 462 career homers, 22nd on the all-time list of home-run hitters in MLB history at the time. One of the original “Bash Brothers” for the Oakland A’s (along with Mark McGwire), Jose played his first eight seasons in the majors with Oakland and ranks as that teams’ third-leading home-run hitter in history behind McGwire and Reggie Jackson. Ozzie is now a player agent. The two were born July 2, 1964 in Havana, Cuba, making them the only foreign-born players on this list. The Canseco Twins are evidently still very close; they played briefly as teammates during the 2001 summer for an Independent team n Newark, New Jersey and were also arrested together in the winter of 2001 in an altercation in Miami.
The newest set of twins on this list are Damon and Ryan Minor. The Minor twins are mirror-image twins and might have been basketball players if they wanted to pursue that sport as a career since both are 6’7″. Damon is a left-hitting first baseman for the San Francisco Giants. After a couple of brief appearances with San Francisco in 2000 and 2001, he became a much more regular player in the 2002 season, when he had 10 home runs in 83 games. He didn’t play in the majors in 2005, however. Ryan is the righty and played for Baltimore during the 1998, 1999 and 2000 seasons, and for Montreal in 2001. They were born on January 5th, 1974 in Canton, Ohio and were baseball and basketball stars at the University of Oklahoma (they were part of Oklahoma’s 1994 national championship baseball team). Ryan was the better basketball player (he was all-conference in the Big 8 as a forward) but he also will be forever known as the man who replaced Cal Ripken in the lineup at 3rd base for Baltimore when Ripken’s streak of 2,632 games ended during the 1999 season.
We at Twinstuff.com really aren’t sure why there aren’t more twins who have played major-league baseball. It certainly seems that twins in other sports have been more successful and publicized (such as Tiki and Ronde Barber in football, the Gullikson twins in tennis, the Van Arsdale or Grant twins in basketball or the up-and-coming Swedish hockey stars Daniel and Henrik Sedin). But we’re confident that as more and more twins are conceived, this list will continue to grow.
By the way, one set of twins who came close to being added to this list were the Lidle Twins, Cory and Kevin (born March 22, 1972). Cory is an established Major League pitcher and is coming off a breakthru season in 2001 when he was 13-6 with a 3.59 ERA for the Oakland A’s. Cory ended the 2005 season with Philadelphia and now has a career 70-62 record in the big leagues. His twin brother Kevin was a catcher and 1992 Olympian who has made it to the Triple A level for four different organizations. He was playing for the independent league Bridgeport Bluefish before retiring from baseball following the 2005 season.
If we have forgotten or overlooked any twins, please let us know by sending us an email. But please remember, we’re only interested in twins where both brothers played in at least one major-league baseball game.