Monday, September 1, 2014

Fred Gladding (#192)

Fred Gladding was a relief pitcher from 1961 to 1973. He played his first 7 seasons with the Tigers, and the last 6 with the Astros. In 450 career games, he only made one start. At age 78, he is the oldest living player from the 1966-70 era that I haven’t featured on my blogs yet.

Gladding was signed by the Tigers in 1956, and pitched in their farm system from 1956 to 1960, mostly as a starting pitcher. Fred also spent most of the ’61 and ’62 seasons in the minors, but was used more and more as a reliever.

Fred made his major-league debut in July 1961, making 8 appearances in July and August. He also played 6 games early in 1962 before returning to the minors.

He returned to the Tigers for good in late-July 1963, and manned Detroit’s bullpen for the next 4 ½ seasons. Gladding was always behind either Larry Sherry or Terry Fox (or both) until 1967, when he led the team with 12 saves. (Wow, that seems low by today’s standards!) He also had a 1.99 ERA that season.

Fred missed out on the Tigers' 1968 championship team, as he was sent to the Astros after the 1967 season to complete an earlier trade for Eddie Mathews.

Gladding missed all but 7 games in 1968, but returned the following season to head up the Astros’ bullpen. At age 33, he was the oldest player on the roster, and managed to lead the NL with 29 saves.

Although he never again duplicated his 1969 numbers, he continued to lead the Astros in saves from 1970 to 1972.

Fred began the 1973 season where he left off in ’72, but after pitching in 16 games by early June, he spent the 2nd half of the season in the minors, and was released in October.

From Wikipedia:
“Gladding has the distinction of having the lowest non-zero lifetime batting average in major league history. For his career he batted .016 (1 for 63).”

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