Baseball Great Went from Rose Hill to Cooperstown

One of Fordham’s First Greats, Frankie “Fordham Flash” Frisch Remains One of the Best


Published: February 26, 2009

Frankie Frisch, known as the “Fordham Flash,” is perhaps the most prolific product of Fordham University athletics. His career in baseball spanned from the Fordham Rams to the St. Louis Cardinals to the chairman of the Hall of Fame Baseball Veterans’ Committee. The list of accomplishments for the “Fordham Flash” is remarkable, making him  deserving of his status as one of Fordham’s greatest alumni.

Frisch played 19 years with the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. He won three World Series as a player and one as a manager. (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Born in the Bronx, Frisch began his baseball career on Fordham Field. Frisch was a four-sport athlete for the Rams, where his versatility gave him his nickname of the “Fordham Flash.” In 1918, Frisch set the single-season record for stolen bases with 35, a record that stood for 67 years.  After graduating from Fordham, Frisch went straight into the Major Leagues in 1919 without spending a day in the minor leagues.

The native New Yorker continued his career in the Big Apple, signing with the New York Giants during the 1919 season.  In 1920, his first full season, Frisch finished third in the National League in stolen bases and seventh in RBI.  Before long, he was named team captain of the Giants by its manager, Jon McGraw.  During his stint with the Giants, Frisch played at both second and third bases before earning a full-time position at second base.  Frisch was a model of consistency, hitting for a .300 average in each of his first six seasons and leading the league in hits, runs and steals at various points in his years in New York.

Frisch was also known throughout his career for his intense competitive nature, a quality that established him as an inspirational team leader. He was an integral part in eight World Series appearances, four with the Giants and four after being traded for Rogers Hornsby to the St. Louis Cardinals. Frisch spent 11 years with the Cardinals in total, including a spectacular 1931 season in which his .311 average and 114 RBI earned him the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

His career statistics reflected the life of one of the greatest contact-hitters in baseball history. Frisch finished his 19-year career with a .316 batting average, 2,880 hits, 1,532 runs, 105 home runs, 1,244 RBI and 419 stolen bases. His accomplishments also included serving in the unique role of being a player-manager for the Cardinals for three seasons. During this time, he was nominated to three All-Star games and led the team, both on the field and in the clubhouse, to a pennant in 1934.

After retiring as a player, Frisch became a full-time manager, but he wasn’t nearly as successful as he had been as a player.  A brief announcing career followed, but a heart attack forced him to step back from his new career path. He was replaced as an announcer by the immortal Yankees’ player and announcer Phil Rizzuto in one of his first announcing jobs.

In 1947, Frisch was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, where he eventually became Chairman of the Baseball Veterans’ Committee.  This influential committee votes on players that have been passed over by the Baseball Writers’ Committee.  Unfortunately, Frisch ran into some controversy as chair of the committee when so many of his former teammates were inducted.

In 1970, Frisch’s career came full circle when he was inducted into the Fordham Athletics Hall of Fame, comprising the inaugural class along with John Coffey and Vince Lombardi.  The legacy of the “Fordham Flash” is alive and well in the athletic tradition of Fordham University.  His contributions at Fordham, along with decades of continued success have earned Fordham the title of most wins of any baseball program in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Frisch is also one of 56 players to move from Fordham’s fields at Rose Hill to the hallowed grounds of professional baseball. Today, Fordham has six players attempting to earn their way through the minor leagues for a chance to play on the major league stage. These include John Mollicone, a catcher in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system, and Rob Semerano, a pitcher for the Tampa Yankees, the Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees.  These young athletes can look to the Fordham tradition behind them and the examples of men like Frankie Frisch as they hope to one day reach the Major Leagues.