None of the baseball playing Hairstons ever set any records except one that has everything to do with their close-knit family.
A total of five Hairstons over three generations have played in the majors, besting the three-generation Bell and Boone families by one. Jerry, Jr. and Scott Hairston, who cut their baseball teeth playing in Naperville, are the second consecutive generational pair in the family to get to “the show.”
Patriarch of the family was Sam Hairston, a Mississippi native and Negro Leagues catcher, who became the first African-American player on the White Sox on July 21, 1951. Sam Hairston did not break the team’s color line, though. The irrepressible Minnie Minoso, a black Cuban who still works for the Sox as a team “ambassador,” joined the club 2 ½ months before Hairston.
Hairston’s sons, Jerry, Sr. and John, both logged big-league time. Jerry, Sr. played parts of 17 seasons – all but one with the White Sox – from 1973 to 1989 before establishing an insurance business while living in . John Hairston was the first African-American catcher with the Cubs in a cup-of-coffee stint in Sept. 1969.
Sam Hairston was prescient about his grandson’s prospects from Day One. Coaching in winter ball in 1978 while Jerry, Sr. played, he noticed how skilled Jerry, Jr. seemed at 2 ½. On the spot, he predicted Jerry, Jr. would make it and commissioned a three-generation photo for posterity. Sam Hairston, a beloved longtime Sox minor-league coach, died in 1997, a year before his grandson was promoted to the Baltimore Orioles.
Now it’s up to Jerry, Sr. to predict a fourth generation of Hairston big leaguers. He looks at 6-year-old grandsons Jackson (Jerry, Jr.’s son) and Landon (Scott’s son) as prospects before their time.
“They’re more polished than Jerry Jr. was,” he said. “When I played with Jackson, he doesn’t want me to throw it directly to him so he can dive and catch it. He jumps up to his feet and throws a strike to me. A third one is Dallas, 3, Scott’s boy. He’s not as coordinated as Landon is as now. It’s always the youngest who excels if he wants to do it, because he watched the older boys.”
Read more about Jerry Hairston Jr. and his time with the Milwaukee Brewers as they attempt to make it to the World Series.