Red Sox center fielder Fred Lynn had the greatest rookie season of any player in major league history in 1975. Fred was named the American League’s Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player, and his fielding excellence earned him a Gold Glove. Lynn’s stellar play helped lead the lightly-regarded Red Sox to Game Seven of the World Series.
But when he is asked to name his strongest memory of the exciting 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds he responds with just two words: “We lost.” He goes on to say, “All those individual awards are nice but they only matter if they help your team to win.
“We had a great team and I really thought we would win. I had won in the College World Series three straight years and we won the Little World Series at Pawtucket after that,” he recalls. “Going all the way back to Little League, 1975 was the first time I had ever lost a big series.”
Falling short of the World Championship was hard for Fred Lynn to accept, but he still remembers the 1975 season fondly. “I had some great teammates and we went much further than anyone predicted. I have some great memories from that season,” he says emphatically.
Fredric Michael Lynn was born in Chicago, Illinois, on February 3, 1952, and his family moved to southern California when he was one year-old. His first athletic memory is playing catch with his father Fred at age four. “My dad taught me not to be afraid of the ball,” he says. “My father helped me in all sports and that meant a lot. He was the greatest influence on my life.”
Lynn lettered in football, basketball and baseball at El MonteHigh School, and the New York Yankees selected him in the third round of the 1970 baseball draft. “I never seriously considered the Yankees’ offer,” Fred recalls. “My goal was to be the first person in my family to go to college and I had some attractive scholarship offers.”
Fred Lynn ultimately accepted a football scholarship to the University of Southern California. “Growing up in southern California I had rooted for some great USC football teams. I played freshman football and that first year I played varsity baseball for USC,” he says.
Fred switched his scholarship to baseball before his sophomore year. “After USC won the College World Series in my freshman year I got to tour with the US team in the Pan Am games,” Fred recalls. “That gave me a chance to compete against the best players in the world. I realized I could hold my own and I decided to focus on baseball.”
USC repeated as College World Champions in Lynn’s sophomore and junior years and he was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the second round of the 1973 baseball draft. He began his professional career in New Britain (CT) and he was promoted to Pawtucket to play in the “Little World Series” at the end of 1973. He began the 1974 season with the PawSox, and he was called up in September by the Boston Red Sox, batting .419 over 15 games.
SPRING TRAINING 1975
“I didn’t have a clue how we would do in 1975,” Fred Lynn says, reflecting on Red Sox spring training in Winter Haven, FL, in March 1975. “I had come up to the team in late 1974, and they were going through their worst stretch of the season. So I didn’t know what to expect.
“We had a number of solid veterans. But we also had a lot of young players like myself, Jimmy [Rice], and Cecil Cooper,” he says. “Even guys who had been around for a while like Dwight Evans  and Rick Burleson  were young.
“One thing I remember for sure is that spring no one predicted the kind of season we would end up having. There was a lot of talk about the Orioles. And everyone projected the Yankees to contend,” he recalls. “But nobody predicted that the Red Sox would play all the way to Game Seven of the World Series.”
And what personal goals did Fred Lynn set for his rookie year? “I never set personal goals before the season. Not in my rookie year and not ever,” he insists. “My whole game and approach was geared towards helping my team to win. That was the way I was brought up in the game, and I didn’t want personal goals to get in the way.”
The 1975 Boston Red Sox were deep in outfield talent. In addition to rookies Lynn and Rice, the team had Yaz, Bernie Carbo and Juan Beniquez in left field, Rick Miller in center, with Dwight Evans and Tony Conigliaro in right. But Fred Lynn’s strong play in the spring training exhibition games earned him a spot as the starting center fielder on Opening Day at FenwayPark against the Milwaukee Brewers.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
Fred Lynn went hitless in his first two games in 1975, and after sitting out the next two games, he put together 24 hits over his next 17 games. “It always took me awhile to get going in April,” Fred recalls. “We would be down in the Florida warmth for six weeks and then we would come north where it was cold.”
At the end of May, Fred Lynn was batting .350 and the Red Sox had a four -game lead in the AL East. “Playing 15 games at the end of the 1974 season really helped me, gave me confidence,” Fred Says. “And as the season went on our pitching really came together.”
On June 18, 1975, Fred Lynn served notice on teammates and fans that he was a force to be reckoned with. That evening he had a single, a triple and three home runs, driving in ten runs, in a 15-1 win over the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium.
“I had gone hitless the night before, breaking a 20-game hitting streak, so I came out early to take extra batting practice. I was in a zone all night,” he remembers. “The hardest ball I hit all night was my triple, which missed being my fourth home run by less than a foot.
“By the time that game ended, most of the regulars had showered and left, but my remaining teammates took me to the nicest restaurant in Detroit. When we got there they wouldn’t seat me because I didn’t have sports coat,” he laughs.
Lynn’s three-home run-game propelled him into the national spotlight and helped fuel a “write-in” selection to the American League All-Star team. “Making the All-Star team was a huge thrill,” he says.
“My father and uncle made it to the game, which was nice. And I remember being so nervous that I could barely hold the bat when I pinch-hit. The thing I remember best is Manny Sanguillen [Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star catcher] coming over to me rubbing my uniform saying ‘you’re so hot I want some to rub off on me.’”
When play resumed after the All Star break, the Red Sox led the AL East by four games over the New York Yankees. When the two teams squared off in New York for a four-game series on July 25, the Red Sox had increased their lead to eight games.
The rivals split the first two games and met on Sunday for a crucial doubleheader before 53,631 fans. Bill Lee held the Yankees scoreless and the Red Sox were clinging to a 1-0 lead with one out in the ninth inning when Yankees’ Graig Nettles hit a line drive to deep left-center field.
Fred Lynn had been shading Nettles to right-center and he vividly remembers what happened next. “I ran the ball down, dove, went tumbling, and came up with the ball in my glove. We ended up winning 1-0, and pretty much knocked the Yankees out of contention.”
Does Fred Lynn consider that acrobatic catch his best ever? “It was an important catch. That’s what I remember about that catch. I took a lot of pride in my defense—as much as I did in my hitting,” he emphasizes.
The Red Sox held first place in the AL East for the remaining three months of the season. But there was one late-season game that stands out for Fred Lynn.
In mid-September, with Baltimore making a bid for the AL East crown, Luis Tiant defeated the Orioles and Jim Palmer 2-0, to effectively eliminate the O’s from contention. “Playing center field behind Luis was such a treat,” he recalls.
“What I remember best is in the middle of his windup he would be looking directly at me. It was a little distracting for me. I can only imagine what it was like for the hitter!” he chuckles.
The Boston Red Sox eliminated the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics in three straight games in the 1975 AL Championship Series. “What I remember best,” Fred says, “is how well everyone played.” Lynn, who had four hits in the ALCS, goes on to say, “We got great pitching and timely hitting from just about everyone.”
After their surprising AL East championship, and their unexpected sweep of the A’s, the Red Sox were cast as underdogs against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati. “It seemed like we were underestimated all season,” Lynn says.
The seven-game contest against the Reds is considered to be one of the most exciting World Series ever played. Joe Morgan and Pete Rose for the Reds and Carlton Fisk for the Red Sox are the most remembered heroes, but Fred Lynn was a major factor as well. He fielded flawlessly and rapped out seven hits, including a three-run home run that gave the Red Sox an early lead in the epic Game Six at FenwayPark.
Fred Lynn may be best remembered in the 1975 World Series for a spectacular catch he almost made in the fifth inning of Game Six. Ken Griffey, Sr., hit a line drive to left-center with two Reds on base that Fred leaped for and just missed. After hitting the wall, Fred fell to the warning track.
Forty years later Fred remembers, “I was barely conscious and for a minute I couldn’t feel my legs.” In his box behind home plate, Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey turned to assistant general manager Haywood Sullivan and said, “Pad that wall.”
FRED LYNN TODAY
Last May 5, Fred Lynn and 25 of his 1975 Boston Red Sox teammates were honored in a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the American League Championship. Dressed in 1975 uniform jerseys, the players were introduced to the crowd and trotted to their former positions before that evening’s game against TampaBay.
Interviewed immediately after the ceremony, Lynn said, “That was such a nice response from the crowd. Red Sox fans are great. They were terrific when I played here and they are still terrific.
“And it was fun to catch up with all my former teammates. I hadn’t seen a few of them in forty years,” he says. “Everything about this reunion has been wonderful.”
Today Fred Lynn and his wife Natalie live in their long-time home in Carlsbad, CA. Fred returns to Boston six or seven times a year and he is a familiar sight in the Legends Suite at FenwayPark. “I really enjoy coming back and talking with the fans,” he says.
Fred has two grown children, Jason and Jennifer, from a prior marriage. And he has three grandsons: Tyler, 16, Hayden, 12, and Carter, 5.
Reflecting on his seven seasons with the Red Sox, Fred says, “I really enjoyed my time in Boston and I especially enjoyed the fans. You knew they supported their team come hell or high water.
“And Red Sox fans are the most knowledgeable fans of all,” he insists. “They could get on you pretty good if you fell short, but you accepted that as a player.
“What I remember best about Red Sox fans is their intensity. I don’t think I truly appreciated their focus until I played for other teams and it wasn’t there. As professionals you are always prepared, but the intensity of Boston fans made it easier to keep your edge.
“Thank you Red Sox fans!”
FRED LYNN IN 1975
On Base + Slugging
Extra Base Hits
AL Most Valuable Player
Portions of this article originally appeared in Red Sox Magazine. To subscribe to Red Sox Magazine click here.