John Frank “Buck” Freeman was a right fielder who played in the majors, including several years with the Boston Americans, from the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s. During his career he established himself as one of the premier sluggers of his time.
Born in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania on October 30, 1871, Freeman started as a pitcher before evolving into the slugger that he became. His major league debut came on June 27, 1891 with the Washington Statesmen when he faced the Philadelphia Athletics and lost 4-5. He played four more games that season and finished with a 3-2 record.
After the 1891 season ended, Freeman took a hiatus from the majors for seven years. He took a general hiatus from baseball in general for five of those years, and in 1896 he began playing again with Toronto in the Eastern League until 1898.
During his hiatus, Freeman bulked up and developed the skills as a batter that would make him so successful later on in his career. Midway through the 1898 season Freeman rejoined the Statesmen, who had now changed their name to the Senators, where he was moved to right field from the pitchers mound and in just 107 at-bats established how strong he would be as a hitter. That season he batted .364 and had a slugging percentage of .523.
What was perhaps Freeman’s most impressive feat came in 1899 when he hit 25 homeruns. Though he failed to surpass Bobby Wallace’s record of 27 homeruns that was set in 1884, Freemans feat is popularly considered to be the more impressive feat because of the more challenging dimensions of the park he was playing in.
Following the disbandment of the Washington Senators and a season spent with the Boston Beaneaters, Freeman joined the Boston Americans in 1901.
Freeman’s 1901 season was a return to form, and in the season he hit 12 home runs, 114 RBI, and had a slugging percentage of .520. Though his numbers never reached their astronomical heights of 1899, Freeman was an important contributor to the American’s success, which included a win in the inaugural World Series in 1903 and an American League Championship win in 1904.
When he hit 13 home runs in 1903 and 104 RBI in 1903, he led the league in both of those categories, making him the first player in history to have led both the American League and National Leagues in home runs.
Following the success of ’03 and ’04, Freeman’s skills began to decline. In 1906, his last full season, he batted only .250, hit one homerun, and managed only 30 RBI. Though he decided to play one final season after that, he was released after just four games. He was 2-12 at the time, and his career with the Americans and in the majors had effectively come to an end. Check out his full MLB stats below!
For the rest of the 1907 season Freeman played with the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association, and spent the 1908 season with them as well. On June 25, 1929, Freeman passed away at the age of seventy-seven in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.