Fred Lynn was a professional Baseball player who played in the Boston Red Sox, California Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres organization.
This is a transcript of a phone call I had with Fred Lynn.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview for the members of Baseball Nation.
Q: Baseball Nation – Is there one person in your career as a baseball player (fellow player/manager/coach) who had a significant impact on the way you approach the game? Why?
A: Fred Lynn – My dad got me started in the right direction. The man who had the biggest impact on my life in baseball was my college coach, Rod Dedeaux. I went to the University of Southern California and he was there pretty close to 50 years. He won 11 National Titles and when I was there we won 3, my three years that I played there. He instilled in me the fundamentals of the game. We, as a team, were so sound fundamentally that we never beat ourselves. Anytime we came into a big game, a championship game, the team that we would play might have been as good as we were but we never beat ourselves. I pride myself that when I got to the big leagues, I pretty much knew the game already. I didn’t have to learn anything other than the fact of how to play everyday. The winning attitude, he taught us how to win and how to play the game the right way. Rod Dedeaux, USC Baseball Coach was, if you want to say my mentor, yes I would use that word.
Q: Baseball Nation – You had a memorable rookie season. What do you remember most about that year?
A: Fred Lynn – It was kind of a blur. You know when you are a rookie, especially in those days, there was not a whole lot of media attention given to you prior to you getting there. It’s totally different now. Guys get media attention when they are 16 years old. It’s a whole different animal and so guys can be very much intimidated by the big leagues coming from small towns in the South or never played in front of big crowds. Fortunately for me, I told you about my USC career a little bit, but I played internationally as well as a collegian against the Japanese and in the Pan Am games so not only did I play high-level baseball at school but internationally as well. When I got to the big leagues, I had been around a little bit, I’d been to a few cities having played in New York, Detroit and been to Chicago, that part of the deal didn’t awe me much. The fact that I got to play all the time right away, we had a lot of rookies on the team so that made it easier for me to acclimate to the big leagues because there were other guys doing the same thing. The most memorable thing was that we won. We went through the season, we played great as a team. We got to the World Series, actually we knocked off the Oakland A’s, the defending 3x Champs, we knocked them out of the playoffs and then we go to the Series and lost to the Big Red Machine in 7 games without Jim Rice so I think so many things that went on that season collectively, everything is new for you as a rookie, it’s hard to say “well one thing stood out.” What stood out was that we got to the World Series my 1st year.
Q: Baseball Nation – Looking back over your career, what are some of the stand out moments?
A: Fred Lynn – I am one of those kinds of guys that expects to do well so those kinds of thing, when I do well, you know I am supposed to do that, in my mind. The things I remember the most, unfortunately, are the times when things didn’t go my way or my teams way. Probably the 7th game in the ’75 Series where we lost 4-3 to the Reds, that was a big deal. The ’78 playoff game, a one game playoff game with the New York Yankees. We won the coin toss and we got the game in Boston so that was a big edge for us we thought. That’s the game that Bucky Dent hit a 3-run homer, a fence scraper if you will, and Lou Piniella made 2 outstanding defensive plays in right field that he can’t normally make and so they beat us 5-4. That was a killer because both teams knew we were the best 2 teams in all of baseball. Unfortunately there was only one playoff spot available, they got it and they won the World Series. That really stuck out in my career. Plus in 1982, I was with the California Angels and we lost the 1st round of the playoffs to Milwaukee 3 games to 2 having been up 2-0. Losing the next 3 in Milwaukee after beating them twice, drubbing them actually, at our place. That really sticks out to me. You can see where this is going, negative things that really stand out can still keep me up at night.
Q: Baseball Nation – You ended up playing for 5 teams, was there a team you enjoyed playing for the most?
A: Fred Lynn – I enjoyed playing on teams that won so that question is easily answered because with the Red Sox, my 6 years there, I think we averaged 95 wins a year. Even though we didn’t get into the playoffs but one time, that’s a lot of winning. That’s what I was used to and as a professional that’s all there is, to be honest with you, there is no second place. You don’t feel good about second. So I really enjoyed that, I enjoyed my time for different reasons in all my spots that I played but because we won a lot of games, in a pressure cooker if you will, at Fenway Park in Boston, that was very fulfilling.
Q: Baseball Nation – What inspired or pushed you to play baseball professionally?
A: Fred Lynn – As a kid I was a 4-sport kid, I ran track, I played football, I played basketball and I played baseball. I grew up in Southern California in a suburb of LA and I was what you would call a seasonal athlete. Whatever the season was, that was the game that I played. I did that all through high school. I played 3 sports in high school. I couldn’t do track because it was a direct conflict with baseball but when I went to college, I played football there too. I actually went to USC on a football scholarship. I didn’t really start to think of baseball as a career until after my freshman year at USC. We won the National title, I was on the all-tournament team in Omaha, played on the Pan Am team that year and I was the best player on the Pan Am team. So I’m thinking I am 19 years old, I have seen all the best collegians in the country already my first year and if I am not the best player, I am right there. That’s when I decided to concentrate on baseball and I quit football after my freshman season at USC.
Q: Baseball Nation – What do you miss most about playing the game?
A: Fred Lynn – I think it’s a couple things. I enjoy the sport, I’m an athlete. I enjoyed competing. I enjoyed the game of baseball, I enjoyed everything about it, especially the defensive side, but you miss the guys. You are with these guys for 8 months, day in and day out and when that part of your life is over you miss it. You can’t replace that atmosphere of being in the clubhouse or just being on a plane or bus with the guys, you just can’t replace it with everyday life, there’s nothing that replaces that. So that is what I miss, I miss playing the game but I think I miss being around the guys a lot more.
Q: Baseball Nation – What is your view on autographs? How do you feel when people stop you on the street or try to acquire your autograph TTM?
A: Fred Lynn – Well I am almost 60 and people on the street in my neighborhood, they know who I am, I live just north of San Diego, and I am not a big guy so I can go pretty much unnoticed. That’s pretty cool. On the left coast it’s more about movie stars and those type of people. They get all the media attention, TMZ and that thing, you know, that’s not me. I am very happy to autograph things in the mail as long as they are not baseball memorabilia. That’s a whole different deal. I always sign something and send it back to people, if someone wants an autograph they’ll get one. It may not be a baseball or a bat or any of those types of things, that has become a business and I treat that like that. That’s just they way it morphed, we didn’t think that was going to happen, certainly I didn’t when I was younger, but that’s how its morphed, that’s a separate entity but I will always sign an autograph for somebody.
Q: Baseball Nation – Players who took steroids and broke records…what do you think? Leave them alone? Give them and asterisk?
A: Fred Lynn – The asterisk is not going to work. You heard about all the guys who supposedly did or are accused of and all that stuff on this report and that report. I have to believe it was more prevalent than even that. I believe there were just probably handfuls of guys who didn’t do it for whatever convictions led them down that road because in professional sports you are always trying to get that edge. If it’s a pitcher he might take some sandpaper out there and rub up the ball, cut the ball, do this. Hitters have been known to cork their bats although that’s not very prevalent anymore. Scuffing of the ball was a big deal for pitchers to get an edge. So guys were always trying to do that. The steroid deal, I’m glad that era is over by the way. It tarnished records that guys held before them and I know a lot of those guys who held a lot of these records and these guys just blew by them. You have to understand that there were a couple things that happened here with the steroids. Not only were guys getting bigger and stronger, both pitchers and hitters, but ballparks got smaller and the balls got harder. It was like hitting superballs in a sandlot park. Ballparks are tiny compared to the 70’s. So the balls were just flying everywhere and the records got skewed unfortunately. You can’t say, unless a guy is proven to have taken steroids, you can have these allegations all you want. You can say “Well I didn’t do it, it was a tainted test result”, whatever. You can’t prove it. In the court of public opinion these guys are being hung out to dry, especially when it comes to the Hall of Fame, so there’s not much you can do about those records. To me the Home Run King is Hank Aaron!
Q: Baseball Nation – You raised over $17,000 for the FACE Foundation. What is the Foundations goal?
A: Fred Lynn – Let me tell you what FACE is all about. It’s a local organization here in the Sand Diego area. How we heard about it, my wife was looking through a magazine and saw an article about this organization and how they save animals. She was very interested in that because we love animals. We did some research on them and checked them out and we happened to see them at a fundraiser and we like what they do. What they do is this: Everybody has pets, most people do, and in my family, like in everybody else’s family, they become part of the family. When the pet goes down, something is seriously wrong or they need serious attention, medical attention (surgery), the FACE Foundation, what they do is help people who can’t afford this. This is predominately a military town, San Diego, so a lot of these military guys are overseas and something happens to their animals and they can’t afford it, FACE steps in and helps them out.