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When it comes to famous brother acts, it's hard to top the Ringlings, the Smiths or those Krazy Karamazov Kids. They've stood the test of time. How about the Marx boys? That's fraternal fun for everyone, even to this day. And don't forget the Warner brothers—Jack and whatstheirnames. Pretty successful siblings, all of them. You'd have to look hard to top these guys.
But the brothers we like most these days are lesser known, without that brand-name cachet and not even the entertainment equals of, say, Martin Sheen's kids. To tell you the truth, it would take a mighty baseball fan to register the lefthanded-batting Giambis as a brother act. There's 29-year-old Jason, who last season hit 33 homers and had 123 RBIs as a first baseman and designated hitter for the Oakland A's. A lot of people know Jason, slugger and motorcycle daredevil. He's a rising star in the American League, hitting for average (.315 in 1999) and distance.
He has a brother?
He does. His name is Jeremy, he's four years younger and he's only now making it in the big leagues. In 1999, his first full season in the majors, he had a .285 average and three home runs in 288 at bats as a DH-first baseman-outfielder for the Kansas City Royals. For the moment the Giambis' major league partnership is decidedly unequal, along the lines of the Aaron brothers' ("You two fellows have a lot of home runs between you") rather than the Niekros' ("You guys have a lot of victories between you"). But if you can find a sweeter pair than Jason and Jeremy, bring 'em on.
These two put the lie to every study that purports to find rivalrous tension between brothers. Even with their age difference and the psychologically risky decision little brother made to follow in big brother's footsteps, they remain devoted to each other. Jeremy, who has had to eat Jason's dust since Little League, proudly recites his brother's numbers: "He tops .300, 30 homers and 100 RBIs. This is a player who's at the elite level." Jason beams and then tells a visitor that Jeremy, at this stage of his young career, is actually more complete a player than Jason was. "In fact, I was talking to [A's general manager] Billy Beane about getting Jeremy on our team," Jason says. "He's our kind of player."
The Bible gives us Cain and Abel, the major leagues give us David and Ricky Nelson. That's a switcheroo, right? All the ugliness baseball has produced, and here are these brothers who still live during the off-season in their parents' Southern California ranch house, acting out everybody's TV fantasy life. "We're close, all right," says Jason. "First thing I did when I turned 21, I let Jeremy use my I.D. to get into clubs with me."
Jeremy nods. "He was always taking care of me," he says.
Growing up together, which was a far more hazardous passage than their parents ever suspected, the Giambi boys were tight as could be, never mind the age difference. "Jason always included me," says Jeremy. "It was either I came along, or he didn't go." So it was that young Jeremy was jumping off the roof into the family swimming pool. "Doable," said Jeremy last week, eyeing the distance between the edge of the roof and the water, "but, boy, that is a lot of concrete, isn't it." Jason examines the roof and mentally paces the distance. "How is it we're still alive?" he asks.
It's one thing to run through the storm sewers of Covina together ("They did what?" asks their mother, Jeanne) as preteens, another to remain best friends as major leaguers. Even now, during the off-season, when more typical athletes enjoy a celebrity swirl of golf and nightlife, the Giambis hole up at the old homestead, a modest, four-bedroom house in a modest neighborhood, and behave pretty much the way they always have. They work out together during the day, go out together at night and generally do everything they used to, except run through sewers and jump off roofs.
"It's not just them," says Jeanne. "It's the whole family. We've always done everything together, whether it was bowling, motocross, golf, camping. It seems natural that we keep doing things together. They still call home almost every night during the season, just to check in. Even when Jason got married, we always made it possible for them to stay close. Then when he separated from his wife, I just said, 'Jason, you know your room is still here.' And back he came."