By Tom Knight
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As of this writing, Mets rookie Jordany Valdespin has hit 5 pinch-hit home runs.
This feat reminded of one of Brooklyn's greatest hitters. Forgotten now, but Dodgers outfielder, Johnny Fredrick hit six pinch home runs in 1932.
That was a record that remained on the books for more than 50 years. It took a juiced-up ball when home runs became a dime a dozen for someone to hit seven in a season.
Johnny sure could hit, and the Ebbets Field crowds loved him. He made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 1929 at age 28. What a rookie season he had! He belted 206 hits including 24 home runs for an average of .328. In 1930 he again had 206 hits with 17 home runs and a BA of .334!
John's entire six-year career was spent with the Dodgers. His lifetime average was .308. The native of Denver, Colorado, and his wife Rose, a Brooklyn girl, went west where he finished his playing days and managed Portland in the Pacific Coast League.
Another record Johnny still holds is a Dodger team mark-most doubles (52) in a season, set in his rookie year. Johnny Fredrick died at age 76, on June 18th, 1977 in Oregon.
Funny how you remember certain things for life. Like the first time I saw Joe Medwick play. It was in the 1937 season, and my Dad brought me up to the Polo Grounds to see "the Gas House Gang,” also known as the St. Louis Cardinals, who were playing the New York Giants, the defending National League champs.
The 25-year-old Jersey Joe (born in Carteret, N.J.) was tearing up the National League pitchers. In his previous three seasons he hit .339, .353 and .351! In his first at bat on this late spring day Joe hit a shot right down the line into the upper deck close to the foul pole. It was called foul and the Cards protested. Even the fans sitting by the pole were indicating the pole was fair, to no avail.
That year Joe tied the Giants Mel Ott with 31 home runs for the run title. He won the batting title with a .374 average and led the league with 154 RBI's! So Joe won the Triple Crown! No National Leaguer has done it since!
Here is a “leftover” story from the column I did last week about my friend the late Rollie Hemsley.
Rollie told me, “I was with the St. Louis Browns, and Rogers Hornsby was my manager. He was against cards, beer, everything. So I decided to have some fun. On the way to the train one night as we were leaving Chicago, I bought a knitting set. I got a corner seat in the smoker and pretended to knit. I wasn't doing so bad, either. When Hornsby came around and saw me, he said, "Just what are you doing?" I said, "We can't do anything else on this club, so I thought I'd take up knitting!" That cost me $150.00. I'll bet I'm the only ballplayer who even got fined for knitting!"
Rollie did tell me that Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby was the only person in baseball who really tried to help him with his drinking problem. Rollie did find the solution when he joined AA in 1939. He was sober for the final 33 years of his life!