Danny Frisella – 1974 Topps
September 8, 2010
“Mama mia, that’s a-spicy fastball!”
I’m sorry – that’s the first thing I thought of. Danny looks like one of the Mario Brothers here. And about this time frame, Alka Seltzer had an ad campaign using ‘meatball’ instead of fastball. I realize that most all Italian-Americans do not have mustaches, speak in ridiculous accents, or work in a pizza joint, nor do they run numbers for Luigi the Squid.
Of course, I have no idea if Frisella was actually Italian, either!
He is, however, the epitome of the 1970’s relief pitcher.
Danny pitched out of the bullpen, and he normally handled the tough spots (140 high leverage appearances, as compared to 124 low leverage). Many times he had a decent ERA, but that ERA masked some issues.
He converted only 2/3 of his save opportunities, and had only 14 holds in his career. He also allowed 41% of his inherited runners to score.
His career was on the ropes during his two year stint with Atlanta, and he was exiled to San Diego, the Devil’s Island of the NL. That was the tonic, and he then was traded to the Brewers in 1976 (not much of an upgrade, but think of it as medium security instead of solitary). Frisella was 5-2 with 9 saves, sharing time in the pen as closer with Bill Castro and Tom Murphy after Eduardo Rodriguez was moved to starter. I think Alex Grammas had a random-number generator to advise him on his bullpen usage.
Sadly, Frisella passed away in a dune-buggy accident on January 1, 1977. Mike Miley of the Angels was also involved in fatal dune buggy accident that off-season. If you’ve ever seen dune buggies, they were accidents waiting to happen. And lots of fun, of course.
The last two games Danny pitched, he gave up 2 runs in each appearance. Sad that he couldn’t come back in 1977 and redeem himself. But that’s baseball and life.