Wednesday, April 3, 2013

#526 - Frank Tepedino

Now here’s a happy guy. Frank Tepedino was having a fine season backing up Mike Lum at first and pinch hitting. Lots of times he’d play when Hank Aaron sat and he’d take Hank’s place in the line-up which was pretty prime. That and his clutch hitting helped produce 29 RBI’s in only 148 at bats. And he didn’t even get there until June, when he was traded from the Yankees. Frank led the NL in pinch hits so maybe he knew that while he was posing at Candlestick. His smile sure does beat Clyde Wright’s air-brushed scowl. 

Frank Tepedino grew up in Brooklyn where he attended Wingate High School and was a football and baseball star. He also played semi-pro ball in the summers with the Cadets, a Broolyn-based AAU team that is still around. His senior year he was drafted by the Orioles in the third round and that summer started with a bang in Rookie ball, hitting .337. In ’66 he moved up to A ball where he hit .288 still at first but with not too much power. After that season both Frank and Charlie Sands were taken by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft, which meant they both had to be on the big league roster the whole following season. So Frank made his debut up top in May of ’67 but in June the Bombers bought pitcher Steve Barber from the Orioles and as a condition of the trade, Frank was allowed to return to the minors. That he did, finishing up the year in A ball where his average fell to .222. In ’68 came some military time around which he hit .248 in Double A and in ’69 he moved up to Triple A where he worked primarily in the outfield and turned into a bit of a slugger, hitting .300 with 16 homers and 61 RBI’s. Those numbers got him some more looks in NY that fall. In ’70 spring training he had a hot bat and after hitting .355 in a bit over a month in Triple A he returned to NY but rarely played around more military work and with Danny Cater and John Ellis ahead of him at first when he was there. Things pretty much repeated themselves in ’71 – though that year he hit only .208 in Triple A – and in June Frank was traded to Milwaukee with Bobby Mitchell for outfielder Danny Walton.

First base at Milwaukee in ’71 was a pretty crowded position, with five guys getting serious starting time there. Tepedino was able to wrangle himself a bit over 20 of those starts the rest of the season which got him by far his most plate appearances until that point in his career. The results weren’t super great so after the season when the Yankees came calling for their homeboy, Frank returned to NY in a sale. He spent just about all of ’72 in Triple A where he hit .282 with 13 homers and 58 RBI’s. He then kicked off ’73 in the same place on pretty much the same tack: .287/3/24 in his first 164 at bats. In June he went to Atlanta with Wayne Nordhagen, Al Closter, and Dave Cheadle for Pat Dobson. In ’74 Frank pretty much reprised his ’73 role but the results weren’t nearly as dramatic as he hit .231 with 16 RBI’s in 78 games. After beginning the season on the Atlanta roster he spent most of it back in Triple A where he hit .270 in 90 games. That would be his last season at any level and he finished with a .241 average with 58 RBI’s in 507 at bats up top and a .280 average in the minors.

Tepedino returned to New York after his career ended, did some work in retail and investment stuff, and then moved on to his next job and passion. He became a fire fighter in NYC and rose to captain. Along the way he had some alcohol issues but then went cold turkey and for many years has done anti-drinking lectures throughout his home area. A lot of them were done for Rusty Torres’ non-profit group until that guy got arrested. Frank raised his profile a bunch when he made an appearance at Ground Zero shortly after the World Trade Center horrors of 9/11. There and elsewhere he made some moving speeches about his lost comrades. He continues to do work for the fire department and resides on Long Island.

Frank’s two uncles are Frank – still around at 94 – who hit .293 during his career from the mid-Forties to the mid-Fifties which got as high as B ball; and John who hit .290 during a shorter run from ’48 to ’51 and reached the same level.

Again the Brewer connection seems the best route:

1. Tepedino and Dave May ’71 Brewers;
2. May and Clyde Wright ’74 Brewers.

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