Rumors are circulating that the Detroit Tigers might sign free agent Melvin Upton Jr. to a contract. The 32-year old veteran was recently released by the Toronto Blue Jays. He happens to be the older brother of Detroit left fielder Justin Upton.
A center fielder by trade, Upton Jr. might be a short-term answer to the Tigers troubles in that outfield slot. This spring the team auditioned several players for the starting role in center. It appears that the team will trust the starting role to JaCoby Jones for now, with “super sub” Andrew Romine slotted as a platoon partner. You’re not alone if you think that arrangement is unimpressive, especially for a team hoping to contend for the postseason.
Upton hit 20 home runs and stole 27 bases last season in a year split between the Jays and Padres. Four times in his career he’s been a 20/20 man, and he’s hit everywhere from leadoff to cleanup and lower.
Whether the elder Upton can help the Tigers or not, if he should latch on with the team, he and his younger sibling would become only the fourth sets of brothers to be teammates for Detroit.
1912 – Eddie and Jack Onslow
Each of the Onslow brothers debuted as rookies for Detroit in 1912, the first season the Tigers were in Navin Field, later to be known as Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium.
Eddie (shown above on the left horsing around with a teammate) was hitting over .300 with good power for the Lansing Senators of the Southern Michigan League when Frank Navin purchased his contract in August of 1912. The 19-year old played in 36 games for the team down the stretch, hitting .227 with 13 RBIs and little power. That was good enough to outperform older brother Jack, who batted an anemic .159 in limited duty as a caddy to starting catcher Oscar Stanage. Records are a bit sketchy, but the two appeared together in a game for the Tigers at least four times.
The brothers were both baseball lifers: Jack played into his late 30s as a catcher/coach/manager in the minor leagues. Eddie was called up again in September 1913 by the Tigers but only produced 14 hits, 13 of them singles. He later played several seasons in the International League and hit the ball pretty well. His last professional appearance came in 1931 with Harrisburg in the New York/Penn League.
1931, 1935 – Gee and Hub Walker
The two brothers from Mississippi were 18 months apart in age and both were outfield prospects for Evansville in 1930 when they were invited to camp by Detroit the following spring. Hub (whose birth name was Harvey) was an impressive left-handed hitter and the better defensive outfielder (he’s on the right above). Gee (born Gerald) hit right-handed and was a daring baserunner. As the team prepared to travel north, manager Bucky Harris announced that the pair would be in his outfield rotation.
On April 23, 1931, they appeared in their first game together in the starting lineup. Hub batted leadoff and played in center field, Gee hit second and started in left. The Tigers won the game 1-0 over St. Louis at The Corner. That season the pair fought for playing time with teammates John Stone, Roy Johnson, and Frank Doljack. The younger was more impressive with the stick and the following season he was the team’s starting center fielder. In seven years with the Bengals, Gee hit .317 and was part of the 1935 World Series champions. He was one of the most popular players of that era, and when he was later traded away, fans in Detroit were furious.
Hub toiled in the minors for a seasons, returned for a quick cup of coffee in ’35, emerged with the Reds as a fourth outfielder for a couple seasons, then sunk down to Minneapolis in the American Association where he was immensely popular. He served in World War II, and returned once again at the age of 38 to served as a fifth outfielder for Detroit in 1945. In the eighth inning of Game Six of the ’45 World Series, Hub entered as a pinch-hitter and socked a double to start a four-run rally. Detroit lost that game, but won the title the next day and Hub was a champion. He announced his retirement a few days later.
1958 – Frank and Milt Bolling
Milt Bolling was 27 years old and trying to hang on to his big league career in 1958 when he was traded to Detroit in a spring training deal. He joined younger brother Frank, a fine second baseman. The duo (shown above with manager Jack Tighe on the eve of the season) played half a season together, Frank as a starter and Milt as a backup to Billy Martin. The Bolling brothers appeared in about 20 games together. After his release in July, Milt never played in the big leagues again. Frank won a Gold Glove in Detroit and was later a two-time All-Star in Milwaukee.