Sunday, January 16, 2011

#81 - Frank Duffy

Here is Frank Duffy looking very Kingman-esque - by that I mean tall and sluggerish - in Oakland (I hope). Frank was actually a pretty big boy for a shortstop back then but was about as far from a slugger - although more of one than his DP partners - as you could get. Taking nothing away from him as a player or a man, Duffy's lasting contributions to baseball are being part of two of the most one-sided trades in baseball history. Still, this card memorializes what was probably Frank's best season and that .263 average and 50 - not 49 - RBI's he put up in '73 are nothing to sneeze at, given he only had 361 at bats and put up those numbers as a shortstop.

Frank Duffy grew up not too far from where this photo was taken and was a Stanford guy who made third-team All-American his junior year of '67. He'd been selected by Atlanta in '66 but passed to stay in school and in the first round of the '67 regular draft he got nabbed by the Reds. He put in a year at Double A and two at Triple A, always just behind Dave Concepcion, which to a degree restricted his playing time. But at both those levels he put up serviceable to good offense and excellent defense, which was about right since he was drafted for the latter quality. He appeared for the Reds briefly in both '70 and '71 before he was traded to the Giants in May of the latter year with Vern Geishert for George Foster in bad trade number one. Frank would get up 28 times for San Francisco the rest of that season, plus once in the playoffs. After it he would be traded with Gaylord Perry to the Indians for Sam McDowell.

The trade to Cleveland was bad trade number two, but at least this time, Duffy was on the good side of it. McDowell would win one game in half a season with the Giants while Perry won 64 the next three seasons for pretty bad Cleveland teams. Plus the Indians got a reliable defensive full-timer in Frank, who would be their starting shortstop the next six seasons. In '72 he supplied the best stability the position had seen in at least five seasons. His '73 was the best seen offensively or defensively - he finished first in AL fielding percentage - at shortstop for the Tribe in over a decade. While he was with the Indians his double play partners were Jack Brohamer (30 career homers) and Duane Kuiper (1 career homer), hence his relative slugging ability. In '74 he topped out at 158 games and 549 at bats, though his offense was generally a discount to '73's and his '75 was very similar to his prior year. In '76 Frank's average tumbled to .212 and he gave away some field time to new guy Larvell Blanks, but he returned to the top of AL in fielding percentage. Frank stayed with Cleveland through the '77 season when his average fell a bit more and Blanks took a few more games. Frank then left in a trade for Rick Kreuger to Boston where he served as a backup to Rick Burleson, hitting .260 in that role in '78. After a season plus in Boston, Frank was released in May of '79 and that ended his career. He finished with a .232 average and struck out in his only post-season at bat. Defensively he is 20th all-time with a .977 lifetime fielding average at shortstop.

Duffy basically relocated full time to Arizona after his time as a player ended. There he has spent a bunch of time involved in real estate.

These are actually pretty cool star bullets and add some color about summer baseball in the States. Wichita had two teams that played semi-pro, the Rapid Transit Dreamliners and the Service Auto Glass. I am not sure for which one Frank played, but the three previous years one of them won the nationals. In '67 Frank was MVP for the Boulder Baseline Collegians which won the summer tournaments in both '66 and '67. One of the teams all the above would play against was the Alaska one for which Tom Seaver and Rich Troedson - and others coming up - played. The last bullet is interesting; led shortstops in what? He WAS the top fielding shortstop that year for the AA Southern League Asheville team; Sparky Anderson was his manager. And he's a southern Cal guy: of course he plays guitar!

Let's hook up these guys away from summer college ball:

1. Duffy and Del Unser '72 Indians;
2. Unser and Tom Seaver '75 to '76 Mets.


  1. wobs,

    I had the same question about "loop" on another card and somebody answered it for me. It's slang for "league," kind of like "circuit" as in "senior circuit." So, he led the "league's" shortstops in 1968, whichever league that was.

  2. In 1966 he played for my favorite team, Wichita Service Auto Glass.