Dec 6, 2014

Former Italian / American Player Turned New York Fire Fighter: Frank Tepedino (1967-1974)

Frank Ronald Tepedino was born on November 23, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York. The five foot eleven left handed hitting Tepedino, attended Wingate high school in Brooklyn.

He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1965 getting picked up in the Rule V draft by the AL New York team.

He made his debut in May 1967 pinch hitting for Whitey Ford in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. He faced pitcher Jim Palmer & grounded out to Luis Aparacio, both Hall of Famers. He was back to the minors by June & spent all of 1968 & 1969 there, except for a September cup of coffee. He made the 1970 team out of Spring Training, batting .315 until the end of June. In 1971 he was traded with Bobby Mitchell to Milwaukee for Danny Walton.

He saw action in 53 games, hitting his first career HR off Oakland’s Catfish Hunter. But he was only batting .198 when the season ended when his contract was sold back to New York. 

In June of 1973 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Pat Dobson. In Atlanta he earned the respect of manager Eddie Mathews, who gave him a chance at being Hank Aarons, back up.

On days when Aaron would sit against right-hander’s, Tepedino would be inserted into the lineup. This came at the exciting time Aaron was chasing the all time HR mark. Even with all the pressure of the record, Hank would always signal to Tepedino in the club house before a game, a thumbs up if he was in the lineup that day.

In 74 games Tepedino batted .304 with 4 HRs 5 doubles & 29 RBIs, leading the NL in pinch hitting. He also lead his team with a .992 fielding percentage.

His biggest baseball thrill was watching Aaron break the all time HR record when he hit #715 in April 1974. That year Tepedino fell to a .231 average, no HRs five doubles & 16 RBIs in 78 games. Things changed in Atlanta the next year, Aaron was gone in 1975 as was manager Eddie Mathews.

Tepedino’s eight year MLB career also ended with a .241 batting average, 122 hits , six HRs 13 doubles a .288 on base % & 58 RBIs.

Retirement: During his playing days Tepedino worked for UPS delivering packages near his new home in Suffolk County Long Island.

After his playing days he first worked at a sporting goods store in Port Jefferson, before starting his second career as a New York City fire fighter.

At first he worked both jobs as he & his wife were raising a family of four children. Eventually the pressures led to him drinking more & then he went for treatment. His two sons also became fire fighters as did his younger brother & nephew.

911: On September 11th, 2001 he watched the television as the World Trade Center was attacked. Frank wanted to get down to Ground Zero to help out, but was the area was in lock down. Later that night he got the call to go down to the site, luckily all his family members were safe.

When the word got out about his story he enjoyed some fame around New York, at a dinner function he said on 9/11 he lost 343 friends, referring to the lost members of the FDNY.

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