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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 532

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This is the grave of Frankie Frisch.

Born in The Bronx in 1897, Frisch was a phenomenal athlete who played four sports at Fordham University: baseball, basketball, football, and track. Given the professional opportunities of the time, it’s not surprising that the Fordham Flash, as he became known, chose to play baseball after college. He signed with the New York Giants and skipped the minor leagues entirely, debuting in 1919. He struggled a bit as a 21 year old rookie, but by 1921 came around, he was already one of the finest second basemen in the game. He was named team captain by John McGraw in 1921 and also used to coach other players in basestealing. He played a decent bit of third base too early in his career, but by 1923, was almost exclusively a second basemen. He had some really good years in New York and came in 3rd in MVP voting in 1924, leading the league in runs. But in 1926, he was traded to St. Louis for Rogers Hornsby. By that time, he and McGraw were no longer on speaking terms after he missed a sign and his manager berated him in front of the team.

Frisch would play for the Cardinals for the rest of his career. He would lead the Cards to four World Series appearances: 1928, 1930, 1931, and 1934. He was named MVP in 1931. He hit for almost no power, even as the deadball era was over and probably he did not deserve that MVP (only 3.7 WAR that year according to Baseball Reference), as opposed to 1927 (9.2 WAR but he finished 2nd in the MVP race that year). But he did lead the team to the pennant and the World Series while leading the league in stolen bases. In 1933, Frisch was named player-manager of the Cardinals, had a couple more decent years, and then retired in 1937. He stayed on as manager for another year. He ended his career with 2880 hits and 1532 runs. He was the all-time hits leader for switch hitters until Pete Rose. He also is the only switch hitter to hit higher than .300 from both sides of the plate with at least 5000 at bats except for Chipper Jones.

After his career, Frisch managed the Pirates from 1940-46 and the Cubs from 1949-51, but didn’t win much in either place. Between these stints, he called games on the radio, first for the Red Sox in 1939 and then for the Giants from 1947-48. In 1956, Frisch had a serious heart attack, limiting his baseball activities. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947. Later, he became the head of the Hall’s Veterans Committee, where he openly and successfully advocated for his old teammates who clearly do not belong, such as Jesse Haines, Chuck Hafey, and Ross Youngs. Frisch died from injuries sustained in a car accident in 1973.

Frankie Frisch is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other second basemen, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Frisch ranks 10th in Baseball Reference’s JAWS all-time second basemen list. Most of the people around him on this list are still alive (or in the case of Robinson Cano, still active, if that’s how you can describe his 2019 season), but Charlie Gehringer, ranked 5th all time, is in Southfield, Michigan and Billy Herman, ranked 21st, is in Martin County, Florida. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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