Frankie Frisch

Frisch graduated from Fordham University in 1919 after starring there in baseball, football, basketball, and track. He joined the Giants without playing a game in the minors. A natural athlete with great speed and dexterity, Frisch was tutored long and hard by manager John McGraw on batting and sliding technique. The youthful Frisch quickly became a favorite of McGraw, who named him team captain. He played second base, third base, and occasionally shortstop, wherever his talents were most needed. Although his first two seasons produced only modest offensive results, his fielding was superb and his speed spectacular. He also rarely struck out, an ability Frisch became legendary for. In 17 full seasons, only twice did he fan more than 18 times. From 1921 to 1926 Frisch averaged over 100 runs scored per season, never batted below .324, and stole bases with abandon. He was instrumental in four consecutive Giants pennants and batted .363 in those four World Series (1921-1924).

When the Giants faded in 1925 and 1926, McGraw vented much of his frustration on Frisch. After exactly 1,000 games as a Giant, Frankie was dealt to the Cardinals with pitcher Jimmy Ring for the dominant NL hitter of the 1920s, second baseman and manager Rogers Hornsby, who had had a falling-out with St. Louis owner Sam Breadon.

The extremely competitive, switch-hitting Frisch was saddled with the almost impossible task of making fans in St. Louis forget Hornsby, a man who had just won six straight batting titles with a six-season average of .397. As longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Bob Broeg said, “Frisch didn’t make them forget the Rajah, but he made them remember the Flash.” In his first season in St. Louis, Frisch hit .337 and finished second in the MVP voting. He also had 641 assists and 1,059 chances at second base, season records which have endured, and he led the league in fielding average.

By the early 1930s, Branch Rickey’s farm system had surrounded the veteran second baseman with hungry, talented youngsters, and the Gas House Gang was born. Frisch’s zest for the game was contagious. He went on to bat .312 in a decade as a Cardinal and played on four more pennant winners. He batted over .300 thirteen times in his career. From 1933 to 1938 he managed the Cardinals. Ironically, Frisch was united with Rogers Hornsby in 1933 when Hornsby served as a pinch hitter and backup second baseman. Shortly after Frisch assumed the helm of the Cardinals in mid-season, Hornsby was released so he could accept the same position with the St. Louis Browns.

Frisch managed with the same fire with which he had played. He loved to argue with, show up, and humor umpires. He directed the 1934 Cardinals, one of the most raucous conglomerations of baseball characters, including the Dean brothers, Pepper MartinLeo DurocherJoe Medwick, and Ripper Collins, to a World Championship. After he left the Cardinals, Frisch managed 10 more years with the Pirates and Cubs. He did radio play-by-play for the Boston Braves in 1939 and for the Giants in 1947 and was a Giants coach in 1948.

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