Designated HitterFebruary 13, 2011
Remembering Woodie Fryman and the 1966 Pirates
By David Bromberg

Woodie Fryman died last week at the age of 70. He was as average a pitcher as you can be. 141-155 during an 18 year career. He used a double-pump windup, which you didn't see very much of anymore when he broke into the majors in 1966. He was 12-9 that year with a 3.81 ERA — not bad for a rookie. Until you consider that Forbes Field was a huge pitcher's park, this was during the enormous strike zone era, and he pitched three consecutive shutouts in a two-week stretch. The rest of his season was absolutely average. The one thing that stands out is that he threw four one-hitters. I was at the first of them.

I was a rabid Pirate fan living just a few miles from Shea Stadium. July, 1966 and Fryman is pitching a Friday night game at Shea. One aside. The 1966 Pirates will forever be my favorite team. Matty Alou won the batting title, Willie Stargell had his first big power year, and shortstop Gene Alley and second baseman Bill Mazeroski helped set the all-time record for double plays in a season. And then there was Roberto Clemente. He won the National League Most Valuable Player award that year. If your only memory of Roberto is the 1971 World Series, picture him dominating games like that for an entire season. He was something to see. The Pirates were thrilling to watch and I almost never missed a game when they came to town.

Pittsburgh led the NL for most of that season, eventually finishing third to the Dodgers and Giants, three games out of first place. Whenever they team played in San Francisco or Los Angeles, I'd stay up very late listening to the games, trying to get Bob Prince coming in above the static calling the games on WWVA radio, out of Wheeling, West Virginia. The crime of that season was the Dodgers had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, the Giants had Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, and we had only Bob Veale and Al McBean!! You call that fair???

Back to Fryman's gem. Ron Hunt leads off the game for the Mets. Chops a ball over Woodie's head. Gene Alley, at short, charges it and tries to one-hand it and throw to first, but the truth is not even Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel could've made that play. Infield single. Hunt gets thrown out trying to steal second base and then 26 up and 26 down. A one-hit shutout. Faced only 27 batters. No incredible fielding plays, just 26 up and 26 down. Easily the best pitched game I've ever seen in person. Stargell hit two home runs and the Pirates won 12-0.

After the game, Pirates manager Harry Walker insisted on speaking to Dick Young of the Daily News, the official scorer that night. These were two rather hot-headed guys. Walker wanted Young to change the infield hit to an error, so at least Fryman could have his no-hitter. The whole thing escalates, pushing, shoving and cursing. Walker was suspended for one game and Young wrote articles for days afterward about what a jerk Harry Walker was.

By the time the Pirates became an NL power (five NL East titles between (1970-75), Woodie Fryman was long gone. But I'll never forget that night 45 years ago.

David Bromberg has been going to baseball games since 1955. He was at Yankee Stadium two days before Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 and at Shea Stadium two days before Jim Bunning's perfect game in 1964. He's never attended a no-hit game.


Great story told with warmth, insight and sharp detail (especially considering how long ago this was). Let's hear more stories from you.

Excellent baseball story. The sport really lends itself to the discussion of "average" players who did something above average for their claim to fame. The names that David dropped sweetly roll off the tongue and bring back the memory.

Great story. I also grew up in NYC. Not only did we have 3 teams through 1957, die hard fans like me (and there were plenty of them) could listen to out of town radio broadcasts, especially at night, of the Pirate, Phillie, Red Sox, Baltimore, and Washington games. We couldn't get enough of the greatest game man has ever invented and played. David's story was interesting to me in that it brought back many memories and put a smile on my face. And it was fun reading a story written by another knowledgeable and fanatical baseball fan. I'd like to see more stories published like David's. Heck, I felt like I was a young fanatical baseball fan once again living in NYC. In fact, now I'm an "old" fanatical baseball fan living in Colorado. I was SOOOO excited when Denver was granted a franchise and began playing in 1993. Once again I would be able to hear the crack of the bat and the sound of the ball hitting leather in person. Baseball is great on TV, but it's even better up close and live at the ballpark.

Nothing like a night at the ballpark, and you capture this very well, David. Thanks. And chin up; I know how you feel about missing historic pitching feats. I was treated to a Yankees game for my 21st birthday - the day after Jim Abbott's no-hitter.

Bromberg's always been my top sports analyst. No if's, and's, or but's.

Well done! Especially the attention to detail. In one man's opinion, NL baseball in the 60s was as good as the game's ever gotten and David knows the era very well.

Reading Bromberg is like listening to Chuck Thompson do an Orioles game or Ernie Harwell doing the Tigers on WJR. He captures the essence of the game!

I, too, loved the 1966 Pirates. They not only had great starters at every position, but a strong bench, with guys like Manny Mota and Jose Pagan. Pitching was their weak spot, but there was a kid named "Blass" who had yet to shine on that team. Another kid pitcher was a kid named Wilbur Wood who didn't bloom until he went to the White Sox.

The Bucs should've won the N.L. crown in '66 and the year before, too.

Thanks for some great memories of a geat baseball era.... 2 - 2 1/2 hour ballgames, slap-hitting middle infielders, huge industrial looking ballparks, and some super-star talents without peer. And some pretty effective pitchers

Never saw a no-hitter, but did see Rick Wise in late 1971 set down 31 or 32 consecutive Cubs as the Phillies came back from an early deficit at Veterans Stadium

Thank you for such a nice trip down memory lane. Can you imagine a ballplayer going by the moniker 'Woodie' or 'Scooter' or 'Pumpsie' these days? It is a blast to look at 50's and 60's era baseball cards just for the nicknames!

Has the website moved/changed address? Nothing new for 2 weeks almost