SSTN Interviews Fred Frommer
April 14, 2022
SSTN: Today we are here with author Fred Frommer. Fred has written numerous baseball books including Red Sox vs Yankees: The Great Rivalry, Growing Up Baseball, and You Gotta Have Heart. Fred contributes often to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, and numerous other publications.
Thanks for coming to Start Spreading the News. It is great to have this discussion with you.
You’re welcome, Paul. Love the site and glad to do it!
To begin, please tell us how you became a baseball fan.
My late father, Harvey Frommer, who was a lifelong baseball fan and author, got me into baseball when I was around nine years old. My first year following the sport was 1977, which was a great year for the Yankees, of course. I wasn’t a Yankees fan growing up, but I do have fond memories of those colorful, powerhouse late ‘70s Yankees teams.
That’s great. I, too, became a fan in 1977. You have written numerous baseball books that capture my interest. Let's begin with the book on the Yankees and the Red Sox. What do you find to be the most compelling facet of this rivalry? What I love most about it is it has an origin story – the Red Sox sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. It’s true that there was already a healthy competition between the two teams before then, but the Ruth sale really put some drama into it, saddling the Red Sox and their fans with the “Curse of the Bambino,” which took 85 years to reverse.
The classic old baseball question is what would have happened if Ted Williams was traded for Joe DiMaggio? It’s a fun question because there’s the thought that DiMaggio, as a right handed batter, would have done better hitting at Fenway Park with the Green Monster; and the left-handed hitting Williams would have excelled even more than he did with the short right field at Yankee Stadium. On balance, I think the Yankees make out better in that trade, because Williams’s career lasted a lot longer than DiMaggio’s.
Please share with us a little about your book You Gotta Have Heart It’s a book about the history of Washington baseball, starting with amateur clubs who played near the White House in 1859, and ending with the Nats’ 2019 World Series title. It’s mostly a story about futility, with the exception of that ‘19 title and a decade from 1924-33 when the Senators won three pennants and their only World Series title. It also tells the story of a great DC baseball team – the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues, and the Senators’ missed opportunity to integrate by signing Grays superstars Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. And it’s got a lot of politics in it – the foreword was written by Chuck Todd; it features interviews with Nats fans on the Hill such as Mitch McConnell and the late Harry Reid; and has a chapter on presidents throwing out first pitches in DC, going back more than a century.
Did you dream of playing big league ball? When did that dream end for you? (I'm 53-years-old and I haven't given up the dream yet.) Yes! I dreamed of playing shortstop or center field for the Cardinals. The dream died in my teenage years.
There's a lot of talk about baseball needing to be "fixed." Is baseball broken? If you were the Commissioner of Baseball what change(s) if any would you make to the current game? I’d institute a pitch clock immediately. I consider myself a baseball traditionalist, and one thing I’ve loved about baseball is it doesn’t have a clock. However, I think that games have gotten so long that the traditional approach is to take the radical step of a clock to make the games move along the way they used to. Games last more than 3 hours now. When I was a kid a typical game was 2 ½ hours. In the ‘30s and ‘40s it was just a tick over two hours. There’s far too much dead time in baseball.
In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about? I think the former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert would make for a fascinating read.
What, do you believe was the best baseball movie ever? The Pride of the Yankees. I love the way it captures the feel of 1920s and ’30s baseball, and of course tells the story of one of the most iconic baseball players.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers...
What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Cardinals
Who was your favorite player? Ozzie Smith
What is your most prized collectible? Signed baseball from Johnny Pesky that he hit to me during BP; he signed it “To Freddy, Nice Catch. Best Wishes - Johnny Pesky.”
Who is your favorite musical group or artist? The Who
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)? Pizza – Broadway Pizza in Hewlett NY (Long Island)
Fred, this was great. Thanks for participating in this interview. Please keep in touch!