Phils Cast Fryman as Comeback Candidate

Filed under Philadelphia Phillies
May 31, 1968

Health, a new team and guidance from Phillies manager Gene Mauch has made a difference for southpaw tobacco farmer, Woodie Fryman.
It’s a little early to be picking players for Comeback of the Year awards after two months of the season, but the Phillies think they have a bona fide candidate in pitcher Woodie Fryman, the newest member of the Quakers’ corps of starting hurlers. Fryman was the only major leaguer the Phillies obtained in the four-player package they received from the Pirates, when they traded away their mound ace, Jim Bunning, last December. The only reason the Bucs were willing to include Fryman was because the 6-2, 200 pound Kentuckian had been bothered by arm trouble in 1967 and won only three games while losing ten. The season before, as a rookie, Fryman was something of a sensation on the pitching poor Pirates with 14 victories and seven defeats, although he spent more than the first month of his big league career in the bullpen. From the time the Phillies obtained Fryman, Manager Gene Mauch predicted good things for the lefthander. One reason for Mauch’s optimism about his “three game winner” was some plans he had for improving Woodie’s repertoire, something that has come to pass as the manager predicted. The plans involved teaching Fryman how to throw an effective change-up and getting him to follow a pattern of pitching. Of course, the fact that Fryman has been sound physically all year has had something to do with his success, but Fryman now feels he is better equipped to be a winning pitcher than ever before. His early bid for comeback-of-the-year honors stems from the fact that Fryman has matched his entire win total of last season, and he hadn’t really pitched poorly in the games he had lost, including a 1-0 loss to the Mets in which Fryman allowed only three hits.

An interesting note is that when the Phillies made the trade that brought them Fryman, the lefthander was listed as 24 years of age. By the time he won his first game for the Phillies on April 17, he was 28. One of these four years was because he had a birthday on April 12. The three others were added when his birth certificate was unearthed. “When I signed, the Pirates asked me how old I was and I told them I was 25,” Fryman explained. “They knew, because the scout had known me for some time.” “They said, ‘You’re 22.’ I asked why. They said, ‘that’s the way we want it.'” Rex Bowen, the scouting supervisor who was with the Pirates when Fryman was signed, agreed that’s what happened. He explained he was afraid the Pirate higher-ups might not agree to the signing of a 25-year-old to his first pro contract. Fryman had received several offers previously, but he declined because none offered him any bonus. He decided to stay at home in Ewing, Ky. and work his farm, helped by the tobacco subsidy he was then getting from the government. When the subsidy was cut, Fryman decided to give pro baseball a try.

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