The day I struck out Jim Fregosi (swinging)

Jim Fregosi (left) on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Jim Fregosi (left) on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

My high school baseball career was little noted nor long remembered, but I can say I struck out Jim Fregosi, six time All-Star, former manager, and a long-time baseball executive who died last week at the age of 71.

Before all that happened, he was a four-sport star at Serra High School in San Mateo, a crosstown rival of my alma mater, San Mateo High. The schools were in different leagues, but we played non-league games against each other for local bragging rights.

(There was another public high school in San Mateo then, Hillsdale, but it was more important to beat Serra. The football coach at Hillsdale during my senior year was a young fellow named Dick Vermeil.)

Fregosi was a top athlete in football, basketball and baseball, and a long jumper on the track team. (He set a school long jump record that was broken many years later by Lynn Swann–yes, that Lynn Swann.)

But he really excelled at baseball, and was red hot at the start of the 1959 season when we played the Padres. I was a sophomore getting a look as an outfielder, and our coach liked my throwing arm enough to give me a chance to pitch. As the old saying goes, I could throw the ball through the side of a barn if I could hit the barn. But I did know how to throw a slider–a rare pitch in those days.

I went into the game as a relief pitcher in the sixth inning with Serra well ahead, and Fregosi was the first batter I faced. He hit my first fastball toward our bench, almost decapitating one of my teammates. He hit the next fastball far and barely foul down the left field line.

Clearly, my heater wasn’t working, so it was time for something else. I tried a curve that was in the dirt, and followed that with a slider right on his fists. Fregosi swung and missed! He gave me a quizzical look as he walked back to the bench, as if he had never seen a slider before.

Fregosi made his major league debut two years later as the shortstop for the brand new California Angels, later the Anaheim Angels, now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I’m sure he forgot about that strike-out by the time the third out was made, but I didn’t.

STAR POWER: In addition to Fregosi and Swann, Serra High also produced Barry Bonds and Tom Brady. Fregosi said he once joked to Bonds that Barry was the second best baseball player to come out of Serra. I doubt Bonds thought it was funny.

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