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Friday, June 13, 2003
Updated: June 17, 12:17 PM ET
Cat's in the cradle ...

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

We can't all be batboys for our fathers in a major league dugout. We can't all play in a major league outfield with our old man. We can't all phone dad and ask for first-hand advice on getting drafted by the NBA.

But that doesn't mean our fathers don't play crucial roles in our sports development.

Darren Baker
Very few of us get to live the life of Darren Baker.
They threw us batting practice until their rotator cuffs smoked like Bulgarian bus drivers. They yelled at the umpire to get his eyes examined after he called us out looking on a strike right down the middle. They poured so many snow cones that even now, years later, they still leave deep red fingerprints on a countertop.

They ran out of gas driving around the block repeatedly while searching for a free parking spot rather than fork over $10 for a lot across the street from the stadium. They sneaked so many bags of peanuts into the ballpark that the ushers asked when the baby was due. They bought us tickets in the back row of the bleachers and still were able to point out so many fine details of the batter that it was like sitting next to Vin Scully.

On crisp fall Saturday mornings, they walked us across campus before the game, pointing out the buildings and humming the school fight song until it was stuck in our heads like the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle. On weekday nights, they told our mothers that we were heading right to bed, then winked and let us stay up to watch the final innings of the World Series. On Sunday afternoons, they collapsed on the couch and ordered us to get the potato chips between plays.

They bought us our first gloves, shoulder pads, caps, Air Jordans, balls and hockey sticks. They marched off 60 feet, 6 inches along the side of the house, nailed the basketball hoop to the garage, flooded the backyard for the hockey rink and installed outdoor lighting so we could play night games. They handed out so many orange wedges at soccer practice that Sunkist invited them to the annual stockholders meeting.

In short, they helped us love sports even though they grew hoarse insisting that the games and the players were better in the old days.

We can't thank them enough for that -- and considering the gifts we buy them each Fathers Day, it appears that we don't even try.

Maybe this year will be different. Maybe this year we'll find a suitable present that adequately expresses our appreciation. Maybe this year we'll find a gift that pays the smallest fraction of the debt we owe our fathers.

But probably, we'll just send a card.

In the meantime, here's a look at fathers in sports ...

Best father/son pairs:
5. Secretariat and Risen Star. The 1973 Triple Crown winner sired the 1988 Preakness and Belmont winner.

4. Joe and Kobe Bryant. An eight-year NBA veteran, Jellybean averaged 8.7 points per game, but his biggest contribution to basketball is one of the greatest players in the game.

3. Bobby and Brett Hull. Bobby scored 610 goals and is in the Hall of Fame. Brett will join him, having scored his 700th goal this season.

2. Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. How's this for understatement? On the back of Ken Sr.'s 1986 Topps baseball card is this gem: "Ken and his wife have two sons.''

1. Bobby and Barry Bonds. They have nearly 1,000 home runs and 1,000 stolen bases, more than 2,700 RBIs and more than 3,000 runs, more than 4,000 hits and nearly 3,000 walks. And if those totals aren't impressive enough, remember that Willie Mays is Barry's godfather. The Bonds family doesn't have a family tree. They have the entire redwoods.

John Henry Williams
A moment frozen in time -- just like dear old Dad.
Worst offspring of pro player:
John Henry Williams. It wasn't bad enough that he used his father's right hand as his personal cash machine. Or that he turned him into the world's largest Popsicle after his death. No, the worst part is the shameless way he used his father's fame to get a minor league spot last summer (when he went 0-for-6 and cracked three ribs chasing a foul ball) and in the Northern League this spring (where he went hitless and struck out five times in seven at-bats) and with yet another minor league team last week at age 34.

Worst sports fathers:
3. Felipe de Jesus Almonte. Celebrated son Danny's eighth birthday by giving him an electric razor.

2. Marv Marinovich. Do you think Todd ever had a single moment of fun on the football field?

1. Jim Pierce. We could name any of about a dozen tennis fathers, but Pierce's relationship with his daughter, Mary, is so ugly that he is banned from watching her play and there is a restraining order preventing him from getting too close to her.

Biggest blowhard:
1. Earl Woods. This is an actual quote from father Woods (who, by the way, claims telepathy with Tiger): "He will transcend the game and bring to the world a humanitarianism which has never been known before. The world will be a better place to live in by virtue of his existence and his presence. I acknowledge only a small part in that, in that I know I was personally selected by God Himself to nurture this young man and bring him to the point where he can make his contribution to humanity....

"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.... He is the bridge between East and West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."

Earl, by the way, said this before Tiger even met Elin Nordegren.

Most prolific father:
3. Larry Johnson. The basketball player has five children with four women. And he's still a set of twins shy of the league record.

2. Steve Garvey. Fathered several children out of wedlock, inspiring the classic bumper sticker on San Diego freeways: "Steve Garvey is not my Padre.''

Shawn Kemp
"Daddy!" Actually, T-Mac, there's a good chance.
1. Shawn Kemp. Has fathered seven children with different women. So far. That we know of.

Worst christenings:
What compels so many athletes to name their children after themselves? Do they really feel a need to place even more burdens and expectations on their kids than are already there as the child of someone famous? Here are just some of the worst of the multitude of offenders:

3. Deion Sanders. Prime Time named his son Deion, and his daughter Diondra.

2. Clem Haskins. The former Minnesota Gophers basketball coach named his son Clem, and his daughter Clemette.

1. George Foreman. The former champ named his five sons as if they were Georgia Bulldog mascots, calling them George Jr., George III, George IV, George V and George VI. Then for good measure, he named one of his five daughters Georgetta.

Best father/child moments:
5. Mark McGwire broke the home run record with his son, Matt, as batboy. After crossing home plate, Big Mac hugged his son and lifted him into the air. Which couldn't have been easy, considering he had been carrying the entire nation on his shoulders most of the summer.

4, Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters with son, Jackie (what else?), as his caddy. When they walked up the 18th green together that Sunday, even Martha Burk would have needed a Kleenex.

3. U.S. goalie Jim Craig searched the crowd for his old man after winning the gold medal. As if a cold hockey arena hadn't provoked enough goosebumps as it was.

2. Jim Redmond helped his son across finish line in 1992 Olympics. Derek Redmond tore his hamstring in the 400 meters, collapsed to the ground, picked himself up and began hopping in pain to the finish line. His father, Jim, forced his way through the crowd and told Redmond he didn't need to finish the race. When Redmond said he did, Jim replied, "Well, then, we're going to finish this together." And they did.

1. Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr. went deep. Already the first father and son to play in the same game in major league history, the two homered in consecutive at-bats against the Angels on Sept. 14, 1990. Who said there was no crying in baseball?

Best father/child scene in a movie:
5. "Breaking Away." After idolizing the Italian cycling team, Dave learns he's been had when the Italians visit Indiana, knock him from his bike, flip him the bird and tell him to get lost. "Everyone cheats," he cries to his father, who had been incredibly unsupportive to that moment. And Paul Dooley hugs him awkwardly and just says, "Well, now you know."

4. "Hoosiers." After Coach Dale gets ejected from another game, Shooter the town drunk is forced to take over as coach. He tells the team to run the picket fence -- "Boys, don't get caught watching that paint dry!" -- and they do to win the game on a last-second shot. Having shown nothing but shame for Shooter up to this point in the movie, his son Flatch tells him, "You did good, Pop. You did real good."

Vic Morrow
The smirk, the attitude, the Yankee cap. All the makings of a bad Dad.
3. "The Bad News Bears." Roy Turner (exquisitely played by the always despicable Vic Morrow) slaps his son (played by the Eddie Corbett kid) on the Little League mound after he throws a beanball at one of the Bears. You would hate him even if he wasn't wearing a Yankees cap.

2. "Field of Dreams." Roy Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) asks his father, suddenly returned to life on the baseball field, whether he wants to play catch. If you don't cry at this, we suggest you return to your home planet and request that the androids re-program your circuitry.

1. "The Great Santini." After losing a game of one-on-one to his son in the driveway, Robert Duvall insists you have to win by two and then follows him upstairs to his room, bouncing the basketball off the back of his head and goading him into crying. It's like spending an afternoon at the Marinovich house.

And our final category ...

Best father:
1. Mine.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.