Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fred Gladding, Tiger & Astro Relief Pitcher - R.I.P.

The website In Memoriam lists that former Tiger & Astro relief pitcher Fred Gladding recently passed away.  Gladding played 13 seasons in the Major leagues.
While with the Tigers
Gladding made his Major league debut with the Tigers on July 1, 1961 when he pitched 2.1 innings in relief in the Tigers 11 - 8 victory over the Orioles.  The first batter Gladding faced, Jim Gentile, hit the second of his two home runs that game, a solo blast to lead off the 5th inning.  Gladding, a 25 year-old rookie then got his first major league victory on July 8, when he pitched an inning in relief in the Tigers 3 - 2 win over the Angels.  During the 1961 season, Gladding appeared in eight games,  and finished the year with a 1 - 0 record and a 3.31 ERA while pitching 16.1 innings.
In the 1962 season, Gladding pitched in six games, all in relief.  He didn't win or loss a games and had an ERA of 0.00 in five innings pitched.  Then in 1963, Gladding pitched 22 games, again all in relief, recording one win with one loss, and seven saves, pitching a total of 27.1 innings and a 1.98 ERA. 
His first baseball card was from the Topps 1964 set, a Rookie Stars issue he shared with Fritz Fisher. 

Topps 1967 Tigers Rookie Stars Card #312

Gladding continued to pitch with the Tigers through the end of the 1967 season.  During the four seasons between 1964 and 1967, Gladding appeared in 181 games, finishing with a record with 24 wins and 10 losses and 26 saves and a 2.78 ERA.  All but one of those appearances were in relief.  The lone start of his career came on August 2, 1967, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Orioles.  Gladding pitched five shutout innings, leaving the game with a 1 - 0 lead.  Pat Dobson replaced Gladding and Dobson was still on the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning, when Frank Robinson's lead off walk preceded Brooks Robinson's two-run game winning home run.

On November 22, 1967, Gladding was sent to the Astros to complete the August 17 trade from earlier in the year, that sent third baseman, Eddie Mathews to the Tigers.  In seven seasons with the Tigers, Gladding compiled a record of 26–11 and a 2.70 ERA in 217 games. His .703 winning percentage is the highest in the Tiger team history for any pitcher appearing in at least 200 games.

Astros' Ace
Topps 1968 Fred Gladding Card # 423
After missing almost the entire 1968 season, Gladding came back in 1969 to lead the National League in saves with 29, while finishing the season with a 4 - 8 record for the 5th place Astros.  On July 30, in a game against the Mets, Gladding entered it in the bottom of the 7th inning with the Astros leading 5 - 3.  In the top of the 9th inning, the Astros exploded for eleven runs, tying a major league record when they hit two grand slams home runs, as Dennis Menke and Jim Wynn each hit a four bagger.  This was a momentous inning for Gladding at the bat, too.  Gladding, who has the distinction of having the lowest non-zero lifetime batting average in major league history, with a career batting average of .016 (1 hit in 63 at bats), got his first and only career hit during the inning.  Gladding's two-out single plated Curt Blefary, for his first career RBI, and then he scored on Wynn's blast, for his only career run scored. 
In 1970, Gladding recorded 18 saves, going 7 - 4, while pitching in a career-high 63 games.  During the 1971 and 1972 seasons, he appeared in a total of 90 games, with a 9 - 11 record and 26 saves.  He retired midway through the 1973 season, after appearing in 16 games with two victories. 
Topps 1973 Fred Gladding Card #17
During his 13 major league seasons, Gladding pitched in 450 games, compiling a 48 - 34 record with a 3.13 ERA and 109 saves.  He ranks fourth all-time in saves among Astros pitcher, with 76, behind Billy Wagner, David Smith, and Brad Lidge.

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