He played from 1974-1990 in a career that took him from coast-to-coast, but Fred Lynn is best known for his stellar seasons with the Boston Red Sox, where he won a batting title and four Gold Gloves.
The definition of an all around athlete, Lynn excelled in four sports as a youngster including baseball, basketball, football and track. Born in Chicago, he was originally drafted by the Yankees out of high school, but opted to attend USC. In his three seasons there, Lynn was a key factor in the Trojans bringing three National Championship trophies home from Omaha, Nebraska.
Selected in the second round of the 1973 MLB Draft, he became the first player in history to win Rookie of the Year, league MVP and a Gold Glove in the same season. He capped quite possibly the greatest rookie season ever by leading his Red Sox team to a World Series appearance that same year. He was named an All Star in his very first season, the first on nine such appearances.
Lynn do it all at the plate, with over 300 career home runs, north of 1,000 RBI and a lifetime average over .280 playing for the Red Sox, Angels, Orioles, Tigers and Padres.
Immensely popular in Boston, he inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2002 and also enshrined in the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Today, he spends much of his energies supporting charities and in particular, animal related groups such as the FACE Foundation. He also makes regular appearances for Major League Baseball, the Red Sox and does corporate speaking engagements. An avid fisherman and golfer, he’s enjoying retirement in California, with his wife Natalie. You can follow him on Twitter, too.
We caught up with him and covered a gamut of topics including his rookie card picture, his impressive mancave and making deals with Topps executives for power tools to add to his collection.
Tony Reid– As a kid, did you ever ask a Big Leaguer for an autograph?
Fred Lynn-I only asked for an autograph one time in my life. I was ten years old. It was Opening Day of Little League. It was 1962. There were two Angels players, Ed Sadowski and Dan Osinski. They were the pitcher and the catcher. I actually have a video of this. They were there in slacks and white shirts and dress shoes. Dan Osinksi was a pitcher and so I was I back then. I asked him to sign my glove and he did. Of course, I still used it. It was the only glove I had. I had the glove for a very, very long time, at least through Pony League. That was the only autograph that I ever asked for. It was kind of cool.
TR–At other end of the coin, do you remember the first time you were asked for your autograph?
FL-I’m guessing it had to be in college when I attended the University of Southern California. We went to Omaha all three years I was there and we won three national championships. There were no televised games back then. Everybody in baseball knew we were winning but the average fan didn’t. It wasn’t like we were household names. Nobody knew who we were. Even in the minor leagues nobody asked for your autograph. Nobody seemed to care or collect then. With today’s TV deals and the media, these kids get asked at a very young age for their autograph but that didn’t happen to me.
TR-Another milestone for a young ball player is seeing yourself on a trading card for the first time. Your rookie card appeared in the classic 1975 Topps set with a number of other great rookies including George Brett and Robin Yount. Do you remember that moment?
FL-I do. Back then, rookies had to share a card. There were four guys on one card. You didn’t get top billing. I remember the guys that were on the card with me. Terry Whitfield came up in the Yankees organization. Played against him in the minors. Tommy Poquette with Kansas City, we were teammates in 1979 with the Red Sox. Ed Armbrister is pretty famous for being the one who interfered with Carlton Fisk in game three of the 1975 World Series. That cost us the game. We lost the game by one run and we lost the series by one game. He was on that card. The first time I saw it I thought it was pretty cool but I don’t remember ever posing for that picture. That is a weird looking picture. They would take pictures of you and you didn’t even know they were doing it. All of a sudden it was on the card. You are thinking ‘Wait a minute. I probably look better than that!’
TR–It is very interesting the picture choice for many of the cards back in the day. What do you attribute those choices to?
FL-It’s because you either got your picture taken in New York or in Chicago. It was always on the road unless you happen to play in those towns. They would just take a picture of you, no matter what you were doing. You might have been taking batting practice or just throwing a ball around. You were hardly ever looking at the camera.
When the cards came out the next year, the Topps guy would come around and you would the sign the contract. They gave you either $250 or they had a catalog. That’s how I got all of my tools. They had drills and all of these kinds of things. I would just roll it over and try to get these tools. Every guy needs tools when you are 21 years old. I would go to New York and talk to Sy (Berger) and say ‘Sy, I am going to roll it over this year. I am really going after that power drill.’ I’m sure it’s a little more lucrative these days. Back then, you had the catalog and if you rolled it over to the next year you got a star. Later you might be able to get to the better stuff. You might be able to get a 19 inch black and white TV.
TR–You recently tweeted about your rookie card, wondering aloud if Topps was hedging their bets on who would pan out when putting so many player son one rookie card.
FL-Yeah that’s right. Terry Whitfield never made it. He went to Japan to play. Ed Armbrister didn’t do much expect mess up our World Series. Topps never knew who was going to pan out. They just put four guys on and see what happens. It would have been cool if (Jim) Rice and I were on the same rookie card. I don’t know who is on his card. If you have two rookies on the same team in the same year that was a bit unusual back then. Why not put them on the same card? That would have been perfect.
TR– Speaking of your and Jim Rice on the same card, you mentioned the Lynn/Rice Sunoco card that was under the radar from back in the day. What can you tell us about it?
FL-Yeah that was a private deal. It was a private signing that Jimmy and I did with the company. Then they made a card of us. They distributed it to their members. They gave us a bunch of them. After I saw that I had one, I have a bunch of stuff I kept of my own, just for my kids and grandkids. I realized I have a stack of those things.
TR–With all of your accomplishments from the Rookie of the Year and MVP, to the All Star appearances, batting titles and on and on. Do you have an area where you showcase and display memorabilia?
FL– Yes. (Laughs) It’s probably about 25×25. When we moved here I had a spare bedroom and I added on because I wanted to have a pool table and game room. That is my man cave. The things that are in there are awards I won, pictures of teammates and action shots and things of that nature. I would say 95% of items in that room are awards I won or items people gave me. There are a lot of trophies. I played four sports, now five counting golf. I have a lot of bats. I have a couple from 1975. I have jerseys and helmets from each team.
I have really cool stuff that fans sent me. A fan sent me a replica in glass of the rookie card. It’s about 4×6. It’s the baseball card etched in glass. There are a lot of one of a kind items and really special things fans wanted me to have. I am thankful for that because I was not collecting. When I was in Little League I collected baseball cards. I was a Giants fan then. I always tried to get all of the Giants cards. My buddy was a Yankees fan. If I got Yankees like Mantle or Maris I would trade them for Mays and McCovey. I had a whole drawer full of those things. When I turned 18 and went off to college my dad sold the house and that stuff just got thrown out. I think about it now, I bet some of those were worth a few bucks. They were in really good shape. I was careful with everything I had.
TR–What are the centerpieces of the mancave and collection?
FL-The MVP and Rookie of the Year from 1975 are pretty special. I was the first person to win them both in the same year. The All American stuff is special. My three rings from the College World Series are special. I would like to have a World Series ring. That would have been the coup de grace for me. That is why I played. That is the one thing that is missing.