Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fritz Connally, 1985 Fleer Update #U-30

Yesterday I received a small box of cards from reader Randy, an Orioles fan from New York. He was generously filling a bunch of 1980s O's needs (and threw in a few 1970 Topps as well). A few cards had Post-It notes attached to them with a bit of commentary. The bright yellow note appended to this card simply said, "Who is this?". Whether Randy was being genuine or funny, I took it as my mission.

Let's address the elephant in the room: Fritz Connally is a hilarious name, and completely anachronistic for someone who played in the 1980s. He may have been more at home at the turn of the 20th century, in a heavy wool uniform with a laced collar and a pillbox cap, twirling his handlebar mustache. But it gets better: Baseball Reference lists him as "Fritzie", which was actually his birth name. Fritzie Lee Connally from Bryan, TX.

Fritzie attended Baylor University and was a 7th-round pick of the Cubs in 1980. He slugged his way through the minors as a corner infielder, batting between .288 and .310 in each of his first 5 minor league seasons and totaling 92 home runs in that span. The Cubs gave him a September callup in 1983, but he served mostly as a pinch hitter and had just one single in 10 at-bats, striking out 5 times. A few months later he was sent to the Padres in a three-way deal that landed pitcher Scott Sanderson for the Cubbies. After only a year at AAA with San Diego, Connally was moved again, this time to the Orioles for Vic Rodriguez. With third base generally being a black hole for the Birds throughout the decade, the 26-year-old made the Opening Day roster and saw action in 50 games, including 29 starts. His plate discipline wasn't bad; he walked 19 times and struck out 21. But the whole "hitting" thing was a challenge, as he had a .232 average with 3 home runs and 15 RBI in 112 at-bats. A .258 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) suggests that his luck might have been a bit tough, but anyhow the O's sent him to Rochester at midseason. He continued to scuffle, hitting .214 with 6 homers in 52 games. That was all she wrote; he never played in organized baseball again.

But there was something notable about Fritzie's brief tenure in Baltimore. Each of his first two home runs were grand slams: one in a 6-5 loss at Toronto on April 19 and another in an 11-3 win at Seattle on May 17.


Randy said...

Kevin, I knew I could count on you to get the story on Fritz. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Actually Fritz is from Pasadena Tx. I know , he lived down the street from me. He would play football , basketball and baseball with us younger guys. He was a stud in every sport. To boot he was a super nice guy.