With yet another Hall of Fame election in the books, the voters that enshrine former ballplayers once again showed their penchant for power. Former New York Yankee second baseman Joe Gordon made his way into the hallowed museum this summer while his peers – many of which were better players – were slighted because they didn’t have the power numbers posted by Mr. Gordon. Lonny Frey is the classic example of the player slighted because he didn’t hit a ton of homeruns.
Linus Frey came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1933 as a shortstop. As a rookie, Frey hit .319 filling in for injured shortstop Buckshot Glenn Wright. His strong showing in ’33 allowed him to take Wright’s job full-time in 1934. That year, Lonny finished second among NL shortstops in the stolen base department. Frey’s trademarks throughout his career was his above average speed and his classic leadoff hitter batting eye.
Frey had his breakout season in 1935 when he and Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan were the only two middle infielders in the Major Leagues to post double digit totals in all the extra base hit categories: doubles, triples and homers. Lonny’s 88 runs scored were second most by an NL shortstop, trailing Vaughan. In 1936, Frey was the shortstop positions top base stealer in the senior circuit. His high total of walks allowed him to post a solid on-base percentage of .369.
After the ’36 season, Frey was traded to the Cubs for Woody English and spent one year in Chicago before having his contract purchased by the Cincinnati Reds. It was with the Reds where Frey had his finest years. Switched to second base in Cincy, Frey was the runner-up in runs scored among NL second basemen in 1938.
In 1939, Frey had a terrific year leading his Reds to an NL pennant. Named to his first All-Star game, Frey did all the little things right. His 25 sacrifices that year led the league and he posted a nifty .388 on-base percentage (Joe Gordon only eclipsed the .375 on-base % once in his career – Frey did it three times). Also, Lonny was the only second baseman in the NL to swat over ten homeruns and he led his position peers in free passes as well. Despite his fine showing during the season, his Reds were swept in the World Series by the New York Yankees of Joe DiMaggio.
Named the NL’s stolen base king in 1940, Frey eclipsed the 100 runs scored plateau (he was 4th in the league in runs scored) while leading NL second basemen with 80 walks. His Reds beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
Frey finished third in the senior circuit in the stolen base department in 1941 while drawing the most walks by an NL second baseman. The eagle-eyed middle infielder honed his batting eye to perfection in 1942 when he had more than twice as many walks as strikeouts. Lonny was 32 years old in 1943 and was named to his third All-Star Game but he would miss the next two years to service in the military during World War II – much like his Hall of Fame peer Joe Gordon.
When he came back from the war, Lonny was in his mid to upper 30s and began to slow down on the ball diamond. Although he missed two pivotal seasons to the war, Frey retained his batting eye after a two year layover, posting a 2-to-1 walk to strikeout ratio in 1946 – his first year back from the war. With the Yankees in 1947, Frey went to the World Series as a reserve for the AL Champions and drove in a run in his only game played for the World Champs. He ended his Major League career in 1948 with the New York Giants.
Lonny Frey was a gifted second baseman whose career numbers are all in close proximity to the newest member of the Hall of Fame, Joe Gordon, with the lone exception of the power stats. Gordon smacked more balls over the fence and slugged for a much higher average than Frey, but the remainder of their career stats mirror one another. They rest close to one another in career runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, on-base percentage and batting average. Although much has been written about Gordon’s defensive wizardry, his fielding percentage his lower than Frey’s and, also, is lower than league average. If Lonny Frey had more muscle, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right beside Gordon.
G 1,535/R 848/H 1,482/2B 263/3B 69/HR 61/RBI 549/BB 752/SO 525/SB 105/BA .269/SA .374