A few weeks ago I was able to pick up this 1934 Diamond Stars card of Frankie Frisch. PSA graded this particular card a “2”, which is expected for an 83 year old card. With 108 total cards in the set, the Diamond Stars set was produced from 1934 to 1936 by the National Chicle company. Each pack sold for a penny and features over 30 Hall of Famers. Frisch is one of them and I’m certain this particular card was the subject of many “trades” between young baseball fans of the time. I absolutely love the bright colors and art-deco themed backgrounds. Many of the cards show the player “in action” on the field. The Diamond Stars set was one of the first products to feature baseball cards packaged with gum (as opposed to cigarettes) and as many baseball fans did not own television sets in the 30’s, it was cards like these that gave them a handy visual as they listened to their favorite teams on their radios. Given the fact that the set does not include the two biggest stars of the decade (Ruth and Gehrig), the set still remains pretty affordable given the other stars that are included. I am not certain how many cards were featured in each pack and my 45-minute internet search turned up nothing. If anyone knows the answer, I’d love to know.
Before entering baseball, the Bronx-born Frisch attended Fordham University where he played four sports and his speed earned him the nickname “The Fordham Flash.” Leaving Fordham in 1919, Frisch signed with the New York Giants of the National League. Playing for the Giants for the next six years, Frisch won a World Series with the team in both 1921 and 1922. Leaving the Giants in 1926, Frisch joined the St. Louis Cardinals and became the driving force behind the “Gashouse Gang.” He would go on to win two more World Series with the Cardinals. The first in 1931 against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics and then again in 1933 against the Detroit Tigers. Frisch finished his playing career in 1937. His career statistics totaled a .316 batting average, still the highest ever for a switch hitter, with 2880 hits, 1532 runs, 105 home runs and 1244 RBI. He also stole 419 bases in his nineteen playing seasons. His hit total stood as the record for switch-hitters until Pete Rose surpassed it in 1977. Frisch also hit .300 for his career from each side of the plate; the only other switch-hitter with more than 5,000 at-bats with this distinction is Chipper Jones. Other career highlights include: 3x All-Star (1933-’35), NL MVP (1931), 3x NL Stolen Base Leader (1921, ’27, ’31), National Baseball Hall of Fame (1947).
One of my favorite Frisch stats though, is that he is currently tied for 6th on the all-time managerial ejections list. He is currently tied with Paul Richards with 81 total ejections.
Known for his fiery competitiveness as a player, his managerial career consisted of more than a handful of umpires landing square in the path of his verbal lashings.
No other umpire was Frisch’s target more than Hall of Fame ump Jocko Conlan. It was a match made in baseball-heaven as Conlan was widely known as one of baseball’s feistiest umpires.
There are many documented stories of the jaw-jabbing Frisch and Conlan engaged in on the field but here is one of my favorites:
On August 19, 1941 during a rainy game at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Frisch who was managing the pirates felt that the second game of the double header should be called on account of the weather. The Dodgers had already taken the first game and as the Pirates were now trailing the Dodgers by a run in the third inning, Frisch shouted from the dugout, “All my players are going to get pneumonia because of you Jocko – you haven’t got the guts to call this game!”
Conlan who was finding it harder and harder to ignore Frankie’s incessant heckling, turned to the dugout and yelled “Whatsa matter Frankie? Haven’t you the guts enough to PLAY the game?”
After the drizzle continued into the next inning, Frisch grabbed a large umbrella to “further emphasize his point” and proceeded to carefully make the trek from the dugout to the pitcher’s mound as “not to slip on the wet grass.” Watching Frisch approaching and wanting nothing less than to continue to argue with Frisch over the weather, Conlan stood there and let him march all the way out onto the field. Frisch stopped right in front of Jocko, opened up his large umbrella and stood there staring at the three umpires. As the fans and the press roared in laughter, Jocko took one look at that umbrella and gave Frankie the boot.
Frisch simply turned back around and as he returned to the dugout muttered, “Can’t a guy have any fun anymore?”
“Sure Frankie, have all the fun you want…just not at my expense!” Conlan yelled.
The ejection would later serve as inspiration for Norman Rockwell’s baseball-themed piece
“Bottom of the Sixth.”
Despite the frequent battles with Conlan, Frisch considered him a close friend. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Conlan from giving Frankie the old heave-ho more than any other manager of his day.