Singer Lilly Collins is the daughter of extraordinary musician Phil Collins. The lovely Kate Hudson not only looks like mom Goldie Hawn, but also inherited her acting abilities. Journalist Anderson Cooper is a member of the insanely wealthy Vanderbilt family, a name that all North Americans will recognize. And MLB star Pete Lacock is son to celebrity game show host Peter Marshall.
We often assume that these celebs somehow used their family connections and money to launch their careers. It was likely easier for them to achieve big breaks than it would be for the average Joe. Even though most of them have more than proved their worth in their chosen industry, sometimes it can still be irksome to think about how easy they had it in life.
With athletes, though, it’s an entirely different story. Parentage doesn’t matter when you’re trying to impress a scout from the NBA, NHL, or MLB. What matters is your talent. Your abilities. Your skill. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you can’t fake a batting average. You can’t buy a home run streak. And you sure as hell can’t pitch a no-hitter by name dropping.
It’s impossible to make in in the MLB if you don’t have talent. The men listed below have exceptional RBI numbers, crazy impressive strikeout stats, and home runs coming out their ears. Sure, some of them have famous parentage, were brought up in swanky zip codes, went to exclusive private schools, and had fat bank accounts, but none of this is what got them to the big leagues.
They may have been rich before they went pro, but they worked their butts off.
15 Michael Jordan
No, this isn’t a different article. Michael Jordan did play baseball. Although not actually in the major leagues, His Airness played AA ball for a season.
After his shocking retirement announcement in 1993, he again astonished everyone when he announced he was going to play baseball. In 1993 alone he was paid $4 million to play for the Chicago Bulls. Lucky for him, Jerry Reinsdorf owned both the Bulls and the White Sox, so Jordan’s contract with the Sox was also for $4 million.
Another interesting fact about Jordan’s short lived baseball career: while with the Birmingham Barons, the team’s manager was Terry Francona, who is now a two-time World Series Champion Manger, two-time AL Manager of the Year, and an AFL Hall of Fame member.
Jordan is currently worth a whopping $1.31 billion. Billion. That blows all the other MLB stars to come on this list out of the water.
14 Trayce Thompson
This is another NBA-MLB mashup story, but with different connections. NBA hotshot Mychal Thompson played for the Portland Trail Blazers, the Spurs, and the Lakers, backing up the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and befriending Magic Johnson. Mychal and his wife Julie have three sons, all of whom are professional sports players.
The youngest Thompson son, Trayce, joined the big leagues on August 3, 2015, when he debuted with the Chicago White Sox. Eight days later, he hit his first major league home run. Not a bad start! He was traded to the L.A. Dodgers later that year. His brother Klay Thompson plays for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and other brother Mychel Thompson currently plays for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA development league.
All three brothers attended Santa Margarita Catholic High School, and institution that also boasts former students like Kristen Cavallari, Amy Rodriguez, and Carson Palmer. It seems greatness is both in the blood and in the curriculum.
13 Conor Jackson
Conor is the son of television star John M. Jackson, of JAG and A Few Good Men fame. Considering Conor’s theatre degree from Berkeley, his appearance on General Hospital and several other productions, and the two commercials he made as a child with Christopher Lloyd, it’s obvious that the senior Jackson isn’t the only one with acting abilities.
Growing up in California, Conor attended El Camino Real High School, a “California Distinguished School” that boasts a list of many celebrity alumni. America Ferrera, Glen Sobel, Paul Beatty, and Jamal Anderson are all past El Camino Real graduates. At Berkeley, Conor had a stellar career as third baseman, which led to his 2005 contract with the Diamondbacks.
Unfortunately, Conor suffered with Valley Fever in 2009, and his baseball career took a downturn. He retired from the sport in 2013, and according to an interview, it sounds like he’s been enjoying a few golf courses since then.
12 Pete Lacock
If you’ve ever watched Hollywood Squares, you’ve spent time with Pete Lacock’s famous father, Peter Marshall. The Emmy-winning game show host’s real name was Peter Pierre Lacock, and his career also included singing, radio, Broadway, film, and he even tried his hand at writing.
The younger Pete Lacock was 14 when his father joined Hollywood Squares. Even his aunt, Joanne Dru, was an actress known mostly for her work in westerns like Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Wagon Master. Seems like young Pete was surrounded by the rich and famous.
Pete Lacock was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1970 and remained with them until his switch to the Royals in 1977. After nine years on the diamond, he left the sport and became an account executive for a financing service. Ambition and lucrative careers seem to be common in the Lacock family.
11 Mark Hendrickson
Another major league pitcher who also played in the NBA is Mark Hendrickson. Although not exactly a superstar, he did make a tidy sum while playing basketball, so certainly he wasn’t destitute when he entered the MLB.
At 6-foot-9, it’s no surprise that Hendrickson was drawn to the hardwood. It was 1996 when he entered the world of professional basketball. He played one season with the Philedelphia 76ers, then moved on to the Kings, the Nets, and the Cavaliers. Despite his talent, perseverance, and height, he had a hard time keeping up with Shaquille O’Neil when they met on the court.
He was drafted by the Blue Jays every year from 1992 to 1997, and he finally made his MLB debut on September 7, 2002. Since then, this leftie has pitched for the Rays, the Dodgers, the Marlins, and the Orioles. He holds the record for being the only Blue Jays pitcher to hit a home run.
Not surprisingly, Hendrickson is one of only a dozen or so athletes who made it to both the MLB and the NBA. When he announced his retirement from baseball in 2015, he even suggested that he might try a career in golf.
10 Tony Gwynn Jr.
Not only is his dad baseball’s renowned Tony “Mr. Padre” Gwynn Sr., Tony Jr.’s uncle is MLB alum Chris Gwynn. Even his sister is famous: Anisha Nicole, an R&B/hip hop recording artist who just happens to have married another baseball player, Kennard Jones.
With his dad being a 15-time All Star and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, his uncle a major league baller AND Olympian, and his mother a fierce businesswoman, there’s no doubt that Tony Jr. led a comfortable life. Unlike the wealthy family stereotype, though, it seems as though the Gwynns were truly a tight-knit unit. Father and son were particularly close; upon Tony Sr.’s death, the younger man took to Twitter to express his sadness: “Today I lost my Dad, my best friend and my mentor. I'm gonna miss u so much pops. I'm gonna do everything in my power to continue to.. Make u proud!”
At the time of his death in 2014, Tony Sr. was worth about $20 million, while Jr currently weighs in at $38.3 million. That’s a tidy family fortune right there.
9 Dick Ricketts
This guy was a self-made man like no other. Measuring 6'7, Ricketts was, and still is, the St. Louis Hawk’s top scorer and rebounder. That’s right, he played basketball. He began his career on the court with Duquesne University, was drafted by the Hawks in 1955, played for the Rochester Royals from 1955 to 1957, and joined the Cincinnati Royals later in 1957.
At the same time he was shooting hoops for the Atlanta Hawks, he was also on contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. He only played 12 games with the Cards, pitching in the starting lineup for 6 of those.
His brother, Dave Ricketts, was the true baseball player of the family. After joining the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963, and winning the World Series in 1967, Dave also played with the Pirates from 1970 to 1971, and continued on to coach the sport for many years.
Everyone expected Dick Ricketts to return to basketball after his stint in the MLB, but it didn’t happen. Instead, he surprised many by accepting a recruiting position for the Eastman Kodak Company, the official name of the Kodak camera and film company.
8 Vernon Wells III
The name Vernon Wells is synonymous with talent. The younger Wells is a 14 season veteran centerfielder, is a three-time All Star, three-time Golden Glove winner, and a Silver Slugger Award recipient. The elder Wells is a former quarterback who currently competes in three senior baseball leagues. Most surprising, and perhaps most impressive, is papa Vernon’s established career as a portrait artist to the stars. Sports stars, that is.
It was Wells Jr.’s pen-and-ink drawing of a Calgary Stampeders helmet in 1978 that began his artistic career. Since then, he has painted portraits of athletic champions like Muhammed Ali, worked on tributes to legendary film stars like Kevin Costner, and created commemorative team pieces for events such as Mariano Rivera’s 500th save. Commissioned Wells original paintings can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000.
With his athletic genes, a recognizable and lucrative family name, and his own undeniable skills, it’s no surprise that success has followed Vernon Wells III. He’s worth about $75 million these days, and his namesake is no doubt very proud.
7 Cal Ripken Jr.
Baseball’s Ironman was born and bred to be a ball player – his dad was famed Cal Ripkin Sr., the Orioles’ legendary minor league catcher, minor league manager, major league coach, major league coach, scout and major league manager. He even managed both his sons for a time. Yes, the other Ripkin son, Billy Ripken, was also a major leaguer, playing the infield for various teams over his 12 season career.
At the time of Cal Jr.’s birth, Cal Sr. had been playing with the Orioles in the minors for about three years, and soon moved to coaching and managing after a shoulder injury curtailed his major league dreams. This means that Cal Jr. didn’t spend a lot of time with his dad when growing up, but the older man’s influence was and is more than evident. In 1995, when he broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games, Cal Sr. and the whole family were cheering from the stands at Oriole Park.
Cal Jr.’s own son, Ryan Ripken, currently plays pro ball as well, and could easily have his own entry on this list. This family is the epitome of a sports dynasty.
6 Frankie Frisch
Franz and Katherine Frisch were wealthy lace and linen manufacturers, and when little Frankie came along they naturally assumed that he would one day take over the family business. But Frankie “The Fordham Flash” had other plans.
It was while at Fordham University, a private institution, and it was his speed and prowess on the school’s track team that earned him the nickname. He may have majored in chemistry, but nobody could argue that athletics were his calling. Captain of the baseball, football, and basketball teams, he signed with the Giants immediately after graduation. Manager John McGraw was coaxed into personally training Frisch to get him ready for the big leagues, due to Frankie’s concern that if he was sent to the minors, his father would insist he join the business world instead.
In 1933 Frankie began managing the Cardinals as well as playing. He was eventually recognized to be just as tough as his mentor, John McGraw. This son of a prosperous businessman forged his own brilliant career that included playing ball for the Giants and the Cardinals, managing several teams, and sports broadcasting on both radio and TV.
5 Mike Piazza
In his early days, Mike’s dad, Vince Piazza, was determined to be a success and occasionally would use his rent money to buy inventory for his used car dealership, much to his wife’s chagrin. Used cars turned into a Datsun dealership, and eventually into a group of 30 dealerships all around Philadelphia. The Piazza Management now consists of a chain of Honda, Acura, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Mazda dealerships, as well as other commercial ventures. Vince is now worth an estimated $100 million.
It’s a pretty well known fact that Mike Piazza’s dad was friends with Tommy Lasorda, the Hall of Fame inducted manager, and that it was Lasorda who helped the boy get his big break. It was also thanks to this famous friendship that 13-year-old Mike was once able to act as batboy for the Dodgers. Every preteen boy’s dream.
In his memoir, Long Shot, Mike flatly states that his family did not buy his way into the big leagues, despite what people may think. Using the backyard batting cage his dad built for him when he was 11, Mike hit 300 balls a day for years. This is the type of dedication that got him elected into the Hall of Fame just last year, in 2016.
4 Jim Palmer
Fate has smiled on Jim Palmer more than once. At only two days of age, he was adopted by Moe and Polly Wiesen and brought into their lavish NYC Park Avenue home. Moe was a executive in the clothing industry an his wife owned a successful dress shop. They eventually moved to Westchester County, where Jim’s friends had houses with yards large enough for playing baseball. When Jim was nine his father passed away, and a few years later his mother was married again, this time to an actor named Max Palmer, who formally adopted Jim and his sister Bonnie.
Money, luxury, and comforts, then, were no stranger to Cakes Palmer. With his 19 years pitching, his famous Jockey underwear ads, and his recent success as a commentator, Palmer is sitting on about $3 million of net worth these days.
Palmer has earned himself a spot in the MLB Hall of Fame, has had his Baltimore number retired, received the AL Cy Young award, has won three World Series championships, is an AL All Star, and was given four Golden Gloves. He’s earned his stripes.
3 Barry Bonds
Barry is the son of former MLB outfielder Bobby Bonds, is a distant cousin to Reggie Jackson and godson to Willie Mays. Proud papa Bobby played ball for 14 seasons with the Giants, the Yankees, the Angels, the White Sox, and the Rangers. In his later years, Bobby was added to the Giants' coaching staff as an enticement for his son to sign with the team.
Young Barry and Willie Mays were quite close; the older man would observe and coach the youngster through batting practice at Candlestick Park. Celebrity status didn’t stop Bobby from being a concerned father; he was constantly feeding Bobby advice about the game and attended many Little League games. Pint-sized Barry could hit a Wiffle ball so hard it could break glass.
Barry attended Junipero Serra High School, an elite prep school with a strong athletics program. Other alumni include Tom Brady and Lynn Swann. Although he was a lacklustre student, he excelled in basketball, baseball, and football.
With three kids of his own, maybe we’ll see another Bonds continue the family legacy of baseball greatness.
2 Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Jr., also called “The Kid,” attended the prestigious Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, a private, all-boys prep school whose alumni list also includes recognizable names like Andrew Brackman, Barry Larkin, Bob Crable, and Stephen Larkin. Ken Sr.’s career included stints with the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, and the Seattle Mariners.
In August of 1990, the Griffeys became the very first father-and-son duo to play on the same major league team. Ken Griffey Sr. is currently worth $65 million and Jr. is at $85 million. That’s an impressive family fortune.
Papa is a World Series champion, an AL Player of the Week, an All Star MVP, an NL All Star, and was given the Reds Ernie Lombardi MVP award. “The Natural”, Ken Jr., is an MLB Hall of Famer, an All Star MVP, an NL All Star, AL MVP, and AL All Star. The other Griffey son, Craig, played in the minor leagues, and Ken Jr.’s son Trey played football for the University of Arizona. Trey was also drafted by the Mariners in 2016.
As if two Griffeys dominating the sports world isn’t enough.
1 Prince Fielder
This recently retired designated hitter has some good genes. In fact, when the press announced Prince’s inevitable retirement after his second neck surgery in 2016, it was also noted that he would end with the exact same number of career home runs as his dad, Cecil Fielder: 319. “Big Daddy,” as Cecil was called, played pro ball from 1985 until 1998.
This meant that Prince’s good genes also came with some good money. After moving all around the country as Cecil played in city after city, the family finally settled into a 50-room mansion in Florida. Over the years, little Prince was able to hang out and practice batting at the Skydome, Tiger Stadium, and Yankee Stadium; he even got to watch a young Derek Jeter practice.
Father and son had a falling out when Cecil divorced Prince’s mother in 2004, a split that was no doubt affected by Cecil’s gambling habits. In their earlier, happier days, the Fielder boys even starred in a McDonald’s commercial, which no doubt raised the bank account a few bucks. How ironic that Prince identifies as a vegetarian these days.