Touch ’em all, Mr. Freese!

October 28, 2011

Gene and George Freese

All the excitement about David Freese and his World Series heroics has got me thinking about George and Gene Freese, who were also major league baseball players, though no relatives of David, as far as I can tell. Gene and George were brothers, but they were not the Deans, the DiMaggios, or the Alous. I remember them because they played in the 1950s and 1960s, when I was still reasonably alert, and because I have the kind of mind that retains things such as the names of obscure baseball players.

George Freese appeared in only 61 major league games — “only” being a relative term inasmuch as most of us don’t appear in any — but he hung around the game longer than that as a coach, minor league manager, and scout. I might have remembered him anyway just because he was Gene Freese’s brother, but George has a distinction of his own: he is one of I guess a couple of hundred players who have hit inside-the-park grand slam home runs. I have never seen one, but I recall reading about George Freese’s 1955 homer in Baseball Digest. The writer described an inside-the-park grand slam as the most exciting play in baseball, and while I don’t go in much for hyperbole, I can understand why he would say that. It must seem to the fans as if the earth has stopped turning its axis while they hold their collective breath and watch that ball and the batter racing for the plate.

For many years after George Freese ran his home run home, I thought of his feat as unusual. Certainly, in decades of watching baseball, I had never seen anything like it. But I have learned since that there have been far more such homers than I would have imagined. Even Yankee pitcher Mel Stottlemyre hit one — in 1965. Some players have hit more than one, and some players have hit more than one in one season — for example, third baseman Joe Judge, who did it twice in 1925.

Many of the inside-the-park grand slams were hit during the dead-ball era, and the first one was hit by Harry Stovey of the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1881. Stovey did it again in 1886. It was appropriate in a way that he was the first to turn this trick, because he was the pre-eminent home run hitter of his day and the first player to hit 100 home runs in his career.



13 Responses to “Touch ’em all, Mr. Freese!”

  1. Ron Says:

    There was a memorable inside the park grand slam back in 1989 or 1990 by Toronto’s Junior Felix, in Fenway Park. I think it capped a big comeback. They still show that clip up here a lot, part of Blue Jays lore. (Wonder if the Cardinals get to the World Series with Colby Rasmus and if my team got sold a bill of goods while giving StL a better bullpen).

    Gene Freese was before my time but I can see he was a pretty good player late 50’s early 60’s. I have a book showing every Topps card from the 1960’s and he’s there. I was wondering if David Freese was related too but I couldn’t find anything on it.

  2. Roger Hurm Says:

    I recall watching George in Multnomah stadium when he was with the Portland Beavers in the late 50s . I was a kid and believe that Portland and St Louis were connected Major/minor relationship. When Gene would come to town for the yearly exhibition game it was really cool to see them both. I think that George hit one out against the big club when I was there.

  3. Pat Hayse Says:

    George Freese played a number of games with the old
    Portland Beavers of the PCL. My Dad and I usually sat in
    the left field bleachers. In one game he hit a homer that
    seemed to gradually rise on a nearly straight trajectory. It
    hit a woman square in the face, because she simply could
    not get out of the way.

  4. shoreacres Says:

    I enjoyed game 7 this year, and the Cardinals’ win. What caught my attention was game 6, though – I had no idea who Joe Buck was until then, or that he had a father in the same business. I thought the call at the end was marvelous.

    Slowly, slowly, posts like this one and learning about people like father & son Buck are reshaping my view of the game. The history is more than stats, and exceedingly interesting.

  5. James Freese Says:

    Thank you for the article. Gene and George are my uncles. There was another brother, Elmer, my father. Never made it to the pro circuit, but was just as good. David Freese, as far as I could find, no direct relationship.

    • charlespaolino Says:

      James, it’s great to hear from you. I’m glad you came across the post since it would mean more to you than to most readers. As “Field of Dreams” represented so well, in the case of “Moonlight” Graham, those who have put on the uniform of the pro baseball player achieve an enviable distinction in our culture.

    • Roger Hurm Says:

      Am glad to get these nostalgic reminders of a bygone baseball era. Being a kid in the 50’s, recall pancake breakfasts served by the beavers in the crater of Mt. Tabor park. Especially remember Eddie Basinsky from the breakfast, but George Freese was the big shot for kids. His countenance on the field even brings thoughts today of Killebrew and Ruth–just the physical image he left and the home runs. In a subjective reverie these are great memories shared with my dad. Another chance encounter came in 1967(68?) when our Willamette Bearcats made the yearly pilgrimmage to Caldwell,Idaho to play College of Idaho. George (we were told by manager John lewis)was there scouting us. I knew who that was whether my teammates did or not. I have found out later he may have been waiting for us to leave so his Pioneer league team could practice–:–)) but that day I was pretty proud to be watched by him.
      Simplot Stadium with the stockyard next door and the winds could make another whole short story.

      • charlespaolino Says:

        Thanks, Roger. Your mention of the stockyard and the wind reminded me that Mel Allen once told me that when the team bus was headed for Comiskey Park, he’d run down a window and sniff the outside air and then announce whether it was going to be a hitters’ or a pitchers’ night.

  6. Joseph Krzeminski Says:

    I remember attending this game as a kid. It was a hard line drive to center. (typically a single). The center fielder went to field it on one hop lost his footing, sliding past the ball. It went all the way toward the 457 mark. George easily circled the bases for the HR.

    • charlespaolino Says:

      I wish I had been there, too! Thanks for the recollection.

      • Roger Hurm Says:

        I remember my dad, Joe Hurm, always talking about Vaughn St and the Beavers of the ’40s. He had just come in as an Iowa “immigrant” to the great northwest to work as a molder for Lamson-mobilift over the river on the east side making lift trucks for the air force. When I was born (1950) he bought one share of Beaver stock for me. The memory worth more….:–) but to try and hold the line on the topic…I recall that inside the park home run but hazy as to being there…a dim recollection…and a good imagination perhaps…

      • charlespaolino Says:

        We lived in New Jersey, less than an hour from Yankee Stadium. In the 1950s, a working man could afford to go often. My father bought what was then known as the “combination plan,” which meant all night games (Tuesdays and Fridays) and all Sundays and holidays. Sundays were often scheduled double headers. He bought four tickets — one for his friend Mike — and one each for him, my brother, and me. So when the Yankees were home, we were there three times a week. We saw an awful lot of games — for me, it was roughly between 1951 and 1962.

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