Los Angeles Dodgers are a team of the generations
Champagne sprayed throughout the Chicago White Sox clubhouse on Sept. 17, 1983. Fans stormed the field to celebrate as the Southsiders defeated Seattle, 4-3, on a walk-off sacrifice fly and clinched their first postseason title in 24 years.
Amid the reveling in the cavernous locker room of old Comiskey Park was 7-year-old Jerry Hairston Jr. watching as his father celebrated with the likes of Carlton Fisk, Harold Baines, third-base coach Jim Leyland and manager Tony LaRussa.
"I remember champagne splashing everywhere and I knew then how important winning was," recalled Hairston, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI against the Mets Friday night but didn't play on Saturday. "Even at a young age I was like 'wow, how important, these guys worked extremely hard and how great it is to win.' "
That fateful Saturday night in his bubbly-soaked clothes Hairston knew he wanted to be a major league baseball player.
"You saw grown men kind of acting like kids and knowing how important winning was," he said. "I knew I wanted to do that."
The 36-year-old Dodgers infielder and brother of Mets outfielder Scott Hairston has done that, carrying on a family tradition with nine teams over the last 15 years, including the 2009 World Series champion Yankees. A third-generation major leaguer, Hairston Jr. is one of six Dodgers carrying the figurative torch for their major-league lineages.
In addition to Hairston, the Dodgers have outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. (son of the San Diego Padres Hall of Fame outfielder); shortstop Dee Gordon (son of 21-year reliever and former Yankee Tom); and current minor-league second basemen Justin Sellers (son of Jeff) and Ivan De Jesus Jr. (son of 15-year shortstop) and outfielder/first baseman Scott Van Slyke (son of five-time Gold Glove outfielder Andy).
"All of us really grew up in the clubhouse and being around the baseball field and players," Gwynn Jr. said. "I think it comes into play as far as knowing how to conduct yourself in the clubhouse, knowing how to be a good teammate and I think us six guys share those similarities."
Living in the shadow of a member of the 3,000-hit club and a .338 career hitter is part of Gwynn Jr.'s day-to-day life on and off the field.
"It's something that you can let be a distraction or something you can kind of embrace and go with it and I've chosen to embrace it," he said. "Obviously it's easier to embrace it when you're not quite on the level that your father was and that's all good by me."
Beyond the obvious perks of spending much of his early life in major league clubhouses, Gwynn Jr. said his most memorable experience was going to the 1998 All-Star Game in Colorado and listening to his dad, Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling talk baseball in the clubhouse.
"It was like a big roundtable pitchers, hitters, all just talking about what makes each other tick," said Gwynn Jr., who was 15 at the time. "How they try to attack each other, offensively and defensively. I'm like 'are you kidding?' I thought that was pretty cool."
The Dodgers are continuing their trend of multi-generational players, having drafted shortstop Jesmuel Valentin, son of Jose; pitcher Jordan Hershiser, son of Orel; and shortstop Jose Vizcaino Jr. this year.
The Hairston baseball bloodlines trace to Hairston Jr.'s grandfather Sam, a Negro leagues catcher who played one season with the White Sox. Sam had two sons, Jerry Sr. and Johnny, who also made it to the big leagues. The five Hairstons are tied with the Delahanty brothers for the most members of one family to play in the majors.
"I feel very privileged and very fortunate that we've had so many people come out of our family and to play major league baseball," Hairston Jr. said. "I know how hard it is to get to this level and obviously to stay. We're just a family that really loves baseball. We were never the superstars like the Bonds or the Griffeys. We weren't all 6-3, 210 or 225 [pounds] but we just have a passion for the game.
"We love playing the game and it's really been good for our family."