Big left-hander Woodie Fryman, who debuted in the majors on his 26th birthday and was still pitching well into his 40s, died this weekend. In the Detroit News, Tom Gage focuses mostly on Fryman's key role with the '72 Tigers (after the jump), but Fryman's long career was full of ups and downs and lots and lots of outs ...
A tobacco farmer much of his life, he was a Tiger from 1972-74, and had non-descript records for them the last two years, But what he did while going 10-3 for the Tigers in 1972, after being claimed on waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies, endeared him to Tigers fans.
On a team that eventually won the American League East by a half-game over Boston -- a margin caused by a scheduling quirk following a work stoppage to begin the season -- Fryman prevented the Tigers from collapsing that August, then pitched them to the pennant in September.
Fryman won three games while the Tigers were going through a rough 5-12 stretch in August, then went 7-1 with a 1.79 ERA in his last eight starts.
I don't remember any of that. I was but a stripling. What I remember is this impossibly (to me) old guy with the Expos who just kept pitching and pitching. By then a pure ground-balling reliever, Fryman went 21-11 with a 2.71 ERA (and 36 saves) in his Age 40 through 42 seasons.
Of course, nothing lasts forever and Fryman was out after pitching just three lousy innings in six lousy games in his Age 43 season. I wish he'd gotten a few more innings, just to see.
By the way, there was a reason Fryman didn't reach the majors until he was 26 ... He didn't sign his first professional contract until he was 25 -- before then, he'd been farming that tobacco -- which might be some sort of pre-Jim Morris modern American record.
We're waiting impatiently for the Disney movie.