Oct 6, 2014

Mid Seventies Mets Manager: Joe Frazier (1976-1977)

Joseph Filmore Frazier was born on October 6, 1922 in Liberty, North Carolina.

The right handed hitting outfielder was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 1941.

He served three years Military service during World War II, returning to baseball in 1946 playing with Wilkes Barre at A ball batting .300.

In 1947 he batted .276 at AA Oklahoma City getting called up for nine games with Cleveland going 1-14. He was traded to the St. Louis Browns organization and toiled in the minors for seven seasons having a great year in 1953, winning the Texas League MVP batting .332 with 22 HRs 55 doubles & 113 RBIs. He was eventually traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, finally getting back up to the big leagues in 1954.

He played in 81 games, batting .295, with 3 HRs 5 doubles 18 RBIs & a .388 on base %. His teammate Eddie Stanky “the Brat” called Frazier “the Cobra” because he’d strike like a snake as a pinch hitter.

The next season he hit only .200 in 58 games with a career high four HRs. In 1956 he bounced around with three teams, going from St. Louis to the Cincinnati Reds & Baltimore Orioles batting .245 in 69 games. He went back down to the minors for four more seasons before retiring from his playing career.

His MLB career lasted four seasons playing in a career 217 games with 68 hits 10 HRs 45 RBIS & a .241 average. After his playing days, he scouted for the Houston Colt .45s, and then managed in the newly named Astros' system in 1965 & 1966. Frazier moved on to the Mets organization in the late sixties & managed at all minor league levels.

After three seasons as manager he finished first with the 1971 Visalia Mets of the California League. He then went on to win league championships with AA Memphis (1973) and Victoria (1974) in the Texas League.

Next he won the AAA title at Tidewater in 1975 earning the Minor League Manager of the Year Award. 

That season the Tides won 22 of their last 33 games, tying for first place. Nino Espinosa pitched a four hit shutout winning the title game for the Tides.

Frazier’s team then went on to sweep two playoff series & win the junior World Series four games to one. At the end of the 1975 season the Mets fired manager Yogi Berra & Roy McMillan was promoted from coach to the interim manager. McMillan agrees to take the job but stated he didn’t want the job for the 1976 season.

The Mets surprised everyone that off season when they promoted Frazier from within their organization. At his introductory press conference, Mets GM Joe McDonald said, "Joe Frazier has consistently proved to us his ability to handle players. Winning is what it's all about, and Joe Frazier is a winner."

Frazier himself added, "I'm the type of manager who stresses fundamentals. I think a man should go from first to third on a hit and second to home. I demand hustle. If I have my way, you're going to see a Mets' club next year that will hustle."

In 1976, Frazier became seventh manager in Mets history taking them to a 86-76 record. They finished in third place and stayed in the pennant race up until mid September. Frazier's Mets struggled in the hitting department batting a team .246 ninth in the NL.

His pitching staff was one of the best, leading the league in ERA (2.94) strike outs (1025) shut outs (17) & complete games (53). But they also led in hits, runs & earned runs while serving up the second most walks (419).

The next season after a slow start, the Mets were 15-30 in May, Joe Frazier was let go. He was replaced by Joe Torre who started out as a player/manager.

Everything fell apart for the Mets from there, as Tom Seaver was traded the next month & the team fell into last place for the next few years.

During the Joe Frazier era the team was 101-106, almost at the .500 matk. For Frazier it would be his only big league managerial job.

In 1982 he managed for the last time, with the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the minor leagues, finishing in second place.

Passing: Frazier passed away on February 15, 2011 at the age of 88 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He is survived by his wife, three children & six grand children.

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