Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pepe Frias

Jesus Maria “Pepe” [Andujar] Frias always believed in himself and his abilities, even when others did not.

Released by three minor league teams in successive seasons after failing to bat above the Mendoza line, Frias refused to give up on his dream of playing in the major leagues.

Instead, Frias simply packed up his baseball bat and glove and headed north during the summer of 1969 to play for a Canadian semi-pro baseball team. There, he caught the eye of a Montreal Expos scout, who signed him to a minor league contract. Four years later, Frias made it to the big leagues.

Nicknamed "Harpo" by his teammates because of his resemblance to the silent Marx brother, Frias played in Montreal for six seasons, mainly as a late-inning defensive replacement. Dick Williams, who managed Frias during his final two seasons in Montreal, called Frias "the best middle infield backup in the major leagues." Frias’ stellar play in the field backed up his manager’s high praise. Frias committed just one error in 31 games in 1977 and played errorless ball in 64 games in 1978.

Frias, however, was not satisfied. He wanted an opportunity to play every day and finally got his chance when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves prior to the start of the 1979 season. In 140 games for the cellar-dwelling Braves, Frias batted .259, belted his first and only major league home run and knocked in 44 runs. But, he also committed 32 errors at shortstop, the second most miscues in the National League.

During the winter of 1979, Atlanta shipped Frias along with Adrian Devine to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Doyle Alexander, shortstop Larvell Blanks and $50,000. However, Frias' stay in Texas was not long as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league pitcher Dennis Llewalyn on September 13, 1980.

Frias served as a backup to Dodger shortstop Bill Russell for the remainder of the 1980 season and for most of the 1981 campaign. Frias was released by Los Angeles on August 31 1981, ending his big league career.

A hero is in his hometown in the Dominican, the street where he lives was named "Pepe Frias Boulevard."

1. Picking, Ken, "Braves Continue Juggling At Shortstop With Frias," TSN, April 21, 1979, p. 21. 2. Picking, Ken, "Glove Flash Frias Turning Out to Be Key Atlanta Belter, Too," TSN, August 18, 1979, p. 24.
3. Picking, Ken, "Braves Take New Look at Frias as Shortstop," TSN, December 15, 1979, p. 48.4. Galloway, Randy, "Rangers Hand Shortstop Post to Frias," TSN, May 24, 1980, p. 36.5. Dunn, Bob, "Expos' Frias Shoots Holes in Spare-Part Label," TSN, February 18, 1978, p. 55.6. McCarthy, Colman, "She Taught Sammy, Julio, Rico, Pepe," National Catholic Reporter, October 3, 2003.


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