Thursday, January 07, 2010

#37 Fred Gladding

#37 Fred Gladding
Here's the first of two cards that I received in a trade last year with Ben Henry, the inimitable gentleman behind The Baseball Card Blog and one of the chief inspirations behind my own blogging endeavors. I don't quite remember what I sent him; I think it was a Dave McNally 1972 Topps Boyhood Photos, a miscut 1975 Topps Mario Mendoza, and a small bunch of Red Sox. Anyway, I knew that if I waited long enough to post this trade, Ben would return to blogging...and last week, he did! Happy day! You may notice the small hole in the middle of Fred Gladding's excellent little flaw that gives this card added value in my eyes. Thanks Ben, and welcome back!

Fun facts about Fred Gladding:

-A hometown boy from Flat Rock, MI, Fred signed with the Tigers in 1956.

-Pitched well in cups of coffee with Detroit in 1961-1962, allowing six earned runs in 21.1 innings of relief.

-His finest season in Motown came in 1967, when he was 6-4 with a 1.99 ERA and a team-leading 12 saves in 42 games.

-Overall, he was 26-11 with a 2.70 ERA and 33 saves in parts of seven seasons as a Tiger. He did not have an ERA higher than 3.28 in any full season with the team.

-Was traded to the Astros for future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.

-After an injury-marred first season in Houston, Fred bounced back in a big way in 1969. He led the National League with 29 saves in the first year that the statistic was officially recognized.

-Currently owns the worst non-zero batting average in major league history, with a single hit in 63 at-bats (.016) and a 40-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ron Taylor was the unlucky guy who gave up an RBI single to Gladding.

-Another unfortunate bit of notoriety for Fred was his ample physique. According to Jim Bouton, he was known as "Fred Flintstone" and "look(ed) like a grocer who's been eating up a good bit of his profits".

-Retired in 1973 at age 37, having gone 48-34 with a 3.13 ERA and 109 saves in parts of 13 seasons.

-Coached in the minors for the Tigers and Indians, and also served as Detroit's big league pitching coach from 1976-1978.
#37 Fred Gladding (back)


  1. With a name and look like this, you would think "scientist" not "baseball player" There are very few geeky looking major leaguers anymore. Paul Gibson was the last I can recall. Of course, it is late and I am looped up on goofballs right now. Can you think of any real nerdy looking baseball players of recent vintage?

  2. My Dad used to get terrific seats at the Astrodome thru his job. One of the first times he took me was in 1968 and we sat in the second row behind the plate. I looked next to me and there sat Freddy Gladding and Mike Cuellar. Both were wearing those mock turtleneck polos that were popular then. Gladding was on the DL and Cuellar was charting pitches.
    Pretty cool thing for me as a teen whose whole world back then was baseball.

  3. Max - Greg Maddux is probably the best example, even if he did come from the last generation. Travis Driskill, a minor league vet who had a brief moment in the sun with the O's five or six years back, also looked like a librarian.

    Bob - I bet that polo was really flattering to Fred's physique!

  4. I believe that his nickname back in his Astro days was "the whale"...why would the Tigers give away a decent relief specialist like Gladding for a washed-up player in Matthews?

  5. I thought of Maddux too, but he came up as a Spanish Lothario looking dude and morphed into a geek. Like Pedro slowly turning into Napoleon.

    (check out that fuzzy caterpillar on his lip, that is sad for a 17 year old)

    Plus, he never wore glasses on the mound. Immediate disqualification.

  6. Anonymous,

    It's hard to argue with anything the Tigers did in 1967 and 1968.

    Mathews was still a valuable pinch-hitter, plus I think Norm Cash missed some games due to injury so they needed a 1st baseman (which Mathews played in his last 2 seasons with Houston & Detroit).