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.

S Lyles said...

Fritz Connally was one of the best all-around athletes to come out of Pasadena & greater Houston, TX, and Pasadena High School in the 1970's. His father played basketball at Texas A&M in the 1950's, and was my basketball coach on 2 consecutive YMCA (Houston's East End) teams in the years of 1972 & 73. Fritz was a phenomenal basketball player, football QB, and clutch baseball player. Fritz was a natural born athlete who did not possess great speed, quickness, or jumping ability yet he had tremendous hands, size, and strength that he knew how to leverage. Most impressively, Fritz was just a winner who exuded a quiet, humble confidence that made us safe in realizing Fritz would always come through in the clutch.