Mar 3, 2020

Danny Frisella: Former Italian / American Mets Pitcher (1967-1972)

Daniel Vincent Frisella was born March 4, 1946 in San Francisco, California to an Italian American fire fighter & Irish American mother. The six foot right hander first attended the College of San Mateo, & then Washington State University. 

He became the first player drafted from the school that later produced future Mets John Olerud, Doug Sisk, Mike Kinkade as well as long time Dodger Ron Cey. 

Frisella was first drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1965 but did not sign as he wanted to finish his education. That year he pitched with Tom Seaver for Fairbanks Alaska leading the team to a championship.

Frisella was then drafted by the New York Mets in the third round of the 1966 draft. The popular forkball / curve ball pitcher, was nicknamed Bear & also served as a member of the Air National Guard.

In 1967 he was 11-5 jumping through the ranks of the minor leagues posting a 1.88 ERA. He would bounce back & forth to the minors over the next four years through 1970.  

He made his MLB debut on July 27, 1967 pitching two scoreless innings in relief against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 7-6 Mets loss at Shea Stadium. He got his first career win on August 11, 1967 in a 3-2 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates , pitching into the seventh inning allowing just two runs. He had to leave the ballpark to catch a flight out west where he was expected for Air National Guard duty. By the time the game ended he was at JFK airport, getting the news of his first career win.

But then he lost his next five decisions, ending the year at 1-6 with a 3.41 ERA. 

Tug McGraw Danny Frisella & Ron Taylor
In 1968 he began the season with the Mets as a reliever. On Opening Day he relieved Tom Seaver in the 9th inning of one a run game in San Francisco. Frisella was greeted with a base hit by Nate Oliver & then a walk off game winning double by Jesus Alou.

He blew another save against the Giants later in the week at Shea, when Willie Mays doubled with the bases loaded scoring all three runs. Frisella did earn two saves in the first three weeks of the season and even with the two blow save opportunities had given up just one earned run. 

He remained on the staff through mid July, earning two wins along the way in a starting role. On June 16th he beat the Giants at Shea Stadium & then beat the Phillies on July 7th going eight innings, allowing just two runs on four hits. He was then sent down to AAA Jacksonville where he was 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA the rest of the way. For the 1968 season he was 2-4 with two saves & a 3.91 ERA, while appearing in 19 games. 

Frisella was on the 1969 Mets staff for just three games in July pitching as a reliever, not make the post season roster. At AAA Tidewater he was spectacular using his new pitch, the forkball taught to him by Diego Segui while playing together in Venezuela. Frisella went 11-2 with a 2.76 ERA showing a lot of promise for the future. 

In 1970 Frisella joined the Mets pitching staff as a reliever in July after going 7-3 at AAA Jacksonville. In his first game back, he struck out three Phillies in two innings earning a 5-4 save. Two days later, he got a win over the St. Louis Cardinals, when Ron Swoboda drew a bases loaded 9th inning walk to win the game. That month he earned two wins against the Dodgers & a win over the San Diego Padres.

In his first month back he went 4-0 with a save posting an ERA under two. On August 5th he got his only start of the year, beating Steve Carlton & the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3, pitching into the 8th inning. 

 The Mets fought for the pennant race through September, as Frisella went 3-2 in the month. On September 14th Frisella earned a win, to keep the Mets tied in first place. The team scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning in Montreal off reliever Mike Marshall, giving Frisella the win.

On September 22nd, he blew a save against the Philadelphia Phllies, when Tony Taylor tripled with the bases loaded blowing a 5-2 lead. Tommie Agee then singled in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded putting the Mets back ahead for good 7-6. The Mets remained three games behind the Pirates & faded out of the race in the final week finishing third.

Overall in 1970 he appeared in 30 games, finishing with a fine record of 8-3, posting a 3.02 ERA, striking out 54 batters in 65 innings. 

By 1971 he was emerging as the one of the best relievers on the Mets team, he was the right handed specialist along with left handed specialist Tug McGraw.

On April 10th in the third game of the season, he earned an 11th inning victory over the Cincinnati Reds when Wayne Granger threw a wild pitch that scored Donn Clendenon.

After blowing a win in April, he went on to save eight straight games & win three more before suffering a loss on July 2nd. That day the 1970 Rookie of the Year; Earl Williams won the game for the Atlanta Braves, with a top of the 9th inning HR off Frisella. In the next two months, he went 2-2 but never saw his ERA go above 2.50. 
 He was consistent all season, having a strong September going 2-0 with four saves allowing just two earned runs in 16 innings. He would go on to lead the club in saves with 12 (7th best in the NL) and appearances with 53.

Frisella went 8-5 posting a fantastic 1.99 ERA, striking out 93 batters in 90 innings. The ‘71 Mets combo of McGraw & Frisella out of the bullpen was arguably one of baseball’s best relief duos. 

In 1972 he didn’t make an appearance until the end of April. In May he got his first win of the year against the San Francisco Giants pitching just one inning & benefiting from a Jerry Grote game winning single. Frisella also posted four saves on the month with no losses. The rest of the year was ok but didn't go as well as his start for him or the team, the Mets finished third. Overall he went 5-8 with nine saves posting a 3.38 ERA, striking out 46 batters in 67 innings pitched in 39 appearances.
Frisella was a good hitting pitcher as well, in 1970 he hit .308 (4-13) then followed batting .286 (2-7) in 1972 with an RBI in each season. Frisella had three straight seasons where he drove in at least one run, and did it in four of six seasons with the Mets. He finished up with a lifetime .179 batting average. Danny is also one of only three Met pitchers to steal two bases in a single season. 

As Tug McGraw emerged as a dominant reliever and the Mets sole closer, the team decided to part ways with Frisella. On November 1st 1972, he was traded along with Gary Gentry to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher George Stone and second baseman Felix Millan. Both key players in the 1973 Mets pennant season. In his Mets career Frisella was 24-26 with 22 saves & a 3.08 ERA in 158 games pitched. 

With Atlanta in 1973 Frisella led the club in saves with eight, but nine other pitchers also recorded saves. He finished the most games on the club (24) making 42 appearances with a 4.20 ERA.

In April 1974, he was in the bullpen fighting for Hank Aaron's all time record setting 715th HR, as it landed near the Braves pitchers. Fellow reliever Tom House caught the ball. That season, Frisella was second on the club to House in saves with six, going 3-4 with a 5.18 ERA. 

In November 1974 he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Cito Gaston, and went 1-6, with nine saves in his only season there. In 1976 he began the year in St. Louis with the Cardinals, but then after just 18 games got traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. He became the closer for the 1976 Brewers going 5-2 with nine saves and a 2.74 ERA. He was a team mate of Hank Aaron for the second time that season, as Aaron finished his career where it began in Milwaukee. 

Passing: On New Year’s Eve 1977, Frisella was riding a dune buggy close to his home outside of Phoenix Arizona. Although he was riding at a slow speed, he lost control of the vehicle and it over turned. 

As Frisella was attempting to jump out of the vehicle his foot got caught & his head crashed into the ground getting hit by the vehicle. His neck was broken & he was tragically killed, at the young age of 30. 

Quotes: Former roommate Rod Gaspar said “He was a friend of mine and we had a lot of fun together. Danny was a good guy.” 

 In his ten year career Frisella pitched in 351 games, going 34-40 with 57 saves. He made 17 starts in 351 appearances with 471 strikeouts & 286 walks while posting a 3.32 lifetime ERA. 

 Pam Frisella: Pamela Marshall was born in Detroit Michigan and worked for General Motors for two years, She moved to New York City & played in the professional woman's football league. 

In New York she met Danny Frisella, they got married & eventually moved to Phoenix, Arizona. She had one son with Danny & was pregnant with another when he passed away. Danny Jr. was born on what would have been his father’s 31st birthday. 

Pam Frisella 1972
Pam Frisella: After being widowed in 1977 Pam Frisella moved to Foster City, California, with her newborn son Daniel and three year old son Jason. Foster City is a quiet the Bay Area town located in San Mateo County between San Francisco & San Jose. 

Quotes: "They embraced me and brought me into their city & I will be forever thankful." Pam became very active in the community, starting in the 1980's as she helped campaign to build Sea Cloud Park.

In 2005 she successfully ran for Councilwoman, starting a nine year run. In 2008 she served as Mayor & in 2009 was elected to another four year term as Vice Mayor of Foster City. She just recently stepped down from her political career.

Pam Frisella 2015
Pam was known for her sense of humor, lightning the mood during stuffy political meetings. She is also very personable & is known for her friendliness. 

She also helped reconstruct Serra High School Baseball Field and named it the Danny Frisella Memorial Field. She was inducted to the Parks Sports Hall of Fame as well.

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