Before 27-year-old Ichiro Suzuki brought his talents to Seattle in 2001, Fred Lynn was the only player in major league history to win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the same season. That 1975 season wasn’t the only “first” in Lynn’s career; in 1983, with the Angels, Lynn launched the first Grand Slam in All-Star game history. A stellar fielder and quality lefty bat during his tenure in Boston from 1974-1980, Lynn gradually tailed off after the trade to California, with that 1983 All-Star his last. He managed to play seven more seasons, ending his career with 306 home runs and 1,111 RBIs. For Sox fans of a certain age, however, Lynn’s youthful years are indelible.
On a 1975 Red Sox team full of great players like Dwight Evans, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, and Jim Rice, a rookie center fielder was the best player on the team, and in the league. Following a hot start in the first few months of the season, Lynn and the 34-24 Sox took on the Tigers in Detroit in an innocuous game on June 18th. That evening, Lynn proved his early success was the real deal, ripping five hits, three homers, and ten RBIs. By season’s end, Lynn led the American League in runs (103), doubles (47), slugging percentage (.566), and OPS (.967). Lynn also won the Gold Glove that year adding to his growing legend. He clearly didn’t win the MVP merely due to the novelty of his rookie status. In the tense, drama-crammed postseason, Lynn hit .305, as the Sox missed out on a championship by a single run to the Big Red Machine.
Despite the video quality, it’s not hard to see why Lynn was such a fantastic player for the Sox, especially at the plate.
Though Lynn still played very well in the next five seasons for Boston, neither him nor the Sox ever quite reached the caliber of play of that ’75 season. Lynn made the All-Star squad every season in Boston, and he won three more Gold Gloves from 1978-1980. Two Sox actually finished in the top five of the MVP race in 1979, as Jim Rice at five was a spot behind Lynn, who led the league in Wins Above Replacement that year with 8.8 (as well as batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS, which makes his fourth-place finish a mystery to me). For the team, however, the postseason was always slightly out of reach, despite several 90-plus win finishes. In the Wild Card era, the late-70s Sox almost certainly would’ve contended for several championships, but Lynn and his teammates only had that single opportunity in 1975.
One more postseason chance came Lynn’s way in 1982, when his Angels took on the Brewers in the ALCS. Lynn was named the series MVP in yet another first, as his team lost. An excellent all-around player, Lynn had a knack for making history. He’s a very deserving member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. You can check out his full line of stats here:
Unfortunately for Lynn, age and his reckless abandon style of play cut his career short due to injuries giving him the nickname “Fragile Freddie” from Fenway’s more derisive fans; although as you can still it still couldn’t keep Lynn from being a great player throughout his career.
After baseball Lynn spent some time in charity work along with a stint as a color analyst for ESPN from 1991-1998. He now spends out his retirement in Carlsbad California with his wife enjoying his peace and quiet after a very successful career.