Sunday, January 17, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #17: The Bear

"I used to get mad on the mound and I'd stomp around like a bear in a berry patch. He (teammate and catcher Gabby Witucki) started calling me Bear." 

I'm too young to have remembered former Tiger and Astro pitcher Fred Gladding, whose final card during his playing career was in the 1973 Topps set- but from what I've read he was a pretty effective reliever over the course of his career. The '73 season also happened to be the final one of Fred's 13-year big league career.

Mr. Gladding got into coaching following his playing career and was the Tigers pitching coach from 1976-1978. Perhaps you've heard of one of his star pupils: Mark Fidrych? In all, Fred coached for twenty-two seasons.

A few interesting facts from his playing career:

Holds the Tigers team record for highest winning % in career (minimum 200 games pitched): .743

Led the NL in saves the first year it became an official stat (29 for Houston in 1968)

Lowest non-zero batting average (.016 / 1-63)

Player to be named later in the trade that sent Eddie Mathews from Houston to Detroit.

Sadly, Fred Gladding passed away last year (May 21, 2015) in Columbia, South Carolina. I did find one interview conducted with him back in 2012- which you can watch here:

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