After eight long but productive seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Fryman finally got a chance to play for a contender when he took over at third base for the Indians in 1998. Although the Tigers shuttled him back and forth between shortstop and third base for parts of four years, Fryman was always right at home in the batter’s box. In 1991, his first full season, he ripped 21 home runs and drove in 91 runs for Detroit, becoming at age 22 the youngest Tiger to top the 20/90 marks since a 20-year-old Al Kaline had done so in 1955.
Similar production would follow throughout his career in Detroit, where he became one of the few bright spots on a franchise stuck in decline. Fryman was originally groomed to take over at shortstop for perennial Tigers All-Star Alan Trammell. Not until the second half of the 1993 season did Detroit finally conclude that Fryman was better suited for third base.
Following the 1997 season Fryman was traded twice in a span of two weeks, first heading to the nascent Arizona franchise shortly after the expansion draft, and then getting dealt to Cleveland in exchange for third baseman Matt Williams. While stuck in an early season slump, Fryman ruffled a few feathers among the Indians’ veterans by saying that the club lacked leadership. “I was trained for that in Detroit,” he said afterwards. “The veterans on the club and Sparky Anderson told me when certain guys were gone, it was going to be my team. And that’s what happened when Alan Trammell retired. Coming over here, it was a little different. You have to earn that right. You have to build relationships and earn the respect of your teammates.” Fryman recovered from his early struggles to bat .287 with 96 RBI and a career-high 28 home runs, helping the Indians to their fourth-straight AL Central title and reaching the post-season for the first time in his career.
Fryman wound up on the disabled list twice during the 1999 season, the first time due to chronic back problems that stemmed from a high school football injury when he was 15. He later missed nearly two full months after tearing ligaments in his right knee, but managed to recover in time for the playoffs.
While the Indians narrowly missed out on the post-season in 2000, Fryman enjoyed one of his finest campaigns, setting career highs with a .321 batting average, 38 doubles and 106 RBI while launching 22 home runs. He also won his first Gold Glove for his defensive work at third base.
During the offseason, Fryman keeps himself busy hunting with a bow and arrow. “My buddies and I hunt wild hogs near my home in Florida, or we look for deer in Alabama,” he says of his archery avocation. “Sometimes I’ll shoot down in the basement of where I live in Cleveland. Sometimes in the second half of the season I’ll take my bow on road trips. I’ll practice drawing in my room. It’s a good little exercise. Keeps your muscles in shape.”