On January 11, 1923, in the Bronx, NY, Frank and Mary Fanovich welcomed the birth of their son, Frank Joseph. The eleventh was a beautiful, winter New York day with the high temperature reaching 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight temperatures fell to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. No snow fell on the city that day. It was without doubt a blessed day in the Bronx.
Frank, Sr. was born in Pesino, Italy on November 27, 1892. He was five feet, eight inches tall, and weighed 161 pounds. His hair was brown, he had gray eyes, and a fair complexion. He worked as a chauffeur. On August 24, 1912 he arrived at the Port of New York aboard the RMS Pannonia, set to start a new life in a new country, one full of opportunity. On March 8, 1927, married and with a young son, his Naturalization papers were submitted.
As a boy, Frank, Jr. played sandlot baseball and grew to love, and become good at, the game. Later in life he was to play professional baseball, reaching the pinnacle, the Major League, if only for a short period of time.
While it appears, Frank did not complete high school, his World War II Draft Card and his enlistment records show him working for Phelps Dodge as a skilled lineman and serviceman. Frank was a tall and lanky young man, standing six feet tall and weighing 160 pounds. He had brown hair and eyes with a ruddy complexion and a scar on his right cheek.
As a member of the “Greatest Generation,” Frank proudly served his country during World War II. He enlisted in the United States Army on November 25, 1942, in New York City as a private in the Signal Corps. His enlistment was “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.” Frank provided his service stationed in England. Private Fanovich returned to the United States aboard the Queen Mary, docking in New York City on July 11, 1945.
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Shortly after arriving home, Frank, Jr. married his childhood sweetheart, Yolanda Franco, who often went by the name Gloria, on February 2, 1946, in Kingsbridge, Bronx. The happy couple were married for 65 years before Frank’s passing on August 27, 2011. Yolanda and Frank do not appear to have had any children, as none were mentioned in Franks obituary.
Shortly after exchanging their nuptials, “Lefty,” as Frank was nicknamed, was signed by the New York Giants as an amateur free agent. The young copule hitched their immediate futures to the whims of the baseball gods; i.e. managers, general managers, owners, and the talent in Frank’s left arm. He played for three different teams during the 1946 season, bouncing between the B and C minor league levels.
In 1947, Fanovich was sent/traded to the unaffiliated Watertown Athletics of the Border League; a team on the C level. Pitching in twenty-three games Fanovich compiled a 16-3 record and recorded a 2.85 earned run average. Playing in multiple positions as required, he played in a cumulative 59 games that season, In 99 at bats he legged out 32 hits for an impressive .323 batting average. Fanovich showed no power as a hitter with only three extra base hits, all doubles.
The Cincinnati Reds saw something they liked in the young pitcher and purchased his contract from Watertown, assigning him in 1948 to their AAA affiliate in Syracuse. For the Chiefs, he produced mixed results, compiling a 9-13 win/loss record for a team with an overall record of 77-73. While Fanovich struck out 120 batters, he struggled with control, walking 110. In a different era of baseball, the young pitcher threw thirteen complete games. With the stronger level of pitching, Franks batting numbers plunged. He hit only .219 in 64 at bats.
Things were looking up for the twenty-six-year-old pitcher as the 1949 season began. He made the roster for the Cincinnati Reds pitching out of the bullpen. He had been a starter during his minor league career but a chance in the majors was too good to overlook.
The season was not what the Reds and Fanovich might have hoped. Fanovich appeared in 29 games, compiling an 0-2 record with no saves, and a 5.40 earned run average. In only 43 innings pitched he logged 27 strikeouts and 28 base on balls. In his defense, the 1949 Reds were a poor team, finishing the season with a dismal 62-92-2 record. Fan support is what might be imagined for a team with a record like this. They finished with the lowest home attendance in the National League at just under 708,000 at Crosley Field.
With a not so grand start to his Major League career, Fanovich found himself back in the minors for the 1950 season, playing for the New York Giants AAA team, the Minneapolis Millers. Despite Fanovich providing an underwhelming 7-12 record, the Millers finished a league best 90-64. An amazing 24 players from the team spent some time in the Majors including Baseball Hall of Fame member Hoyt Wilhelm who led the team with fifteen wins.
Fanovich led a journeyman’s lifestyle for the next couple of years, bouncing around the minors, playing for four different teams before landing back in the Majors in 1953 with the Philadelphia Athletics. For Fanovich the results were much the same as in 1949. In his first game pitching for the A’s, he faced three batters, walking all of them. Pitching in only 26 games he compiled an 0-3 record and an earned run average of 5.55. His control had still not come around, issuing 37 bases on balls to go with only 37 strikeouts. The Athletics were to remain in Philadelphia for only one more season before moving to Kansas City.
The final two years of Frank Fanovich’s baseball career were spent in Richmond and San Antonio in the minor leagues. His stint in San Antonio at the AA level may have been the best of his career. He put up a 14-11 record, a 3.47 earned run average, while striking out 118 and walking only 97. His 210 innings pitched were a career high. He pitched eleven complete games including four shutouts. At age 32 it was a great way to leave the game that he had given so much to.
Fanovich posted a career MLB record of zero wins and five losses in 55 career games. His earned run average was 5.49. Fanovich was to fare better in the minors, compiling a 73-74 career win/loss record including 52 complete games. As might be expected, some minor league statistics from the period are incomplete or unavailable so it is not possible to make a full assessment of his success.
After retiring from baseball, Fanovich went on to a successful career with the New York City Police Department, eventually joining the Manhattan North Narcotics Division. He would work for NYPD for 27 years before he and Yolanda would retire to New Smyrna Beach in 1987.
In his retirement years, Frank enjoyed a good game of golf, often on the Hidden Lakes course near where he and Yolanda lived. He also retained his love of baseball, keeping up with his beloved New York Yankees.
After having led a full life, Fanovich passed away on August 27, 2011 at the age of 88. His remains are interred at Sea Pines Memorial Gardens in Edgewater, FL, in the All-Faiths Mausoleum.
An online memorial to Frank Fanovich may be found HERE. A memorial for Yolanda Fanovich may be found HERE.
Frank Fanovich was able to live the dream of millions of boys and young men. He was good enough to play professional baseball and even make it to the Major League.
To read the stories of other Major League Baseball players associated with Volusia County, click HERE.
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