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Ken Frailing, 1948-2022

Though brief in impact, still a notable White Sox figure

When Topps Had Balls

While this mention of Ken Frailing’s death on August 25 will be relatively brief, he was still a notable figure in White Sox history.

Frailing was part of just the second draft class in White Sox history, taken in the fifth round in 1966. While perhaps not an endorsement for the early draft success of the franchise, Frailing was just the third White Sox draft choice (behind Paul Edmondson, taken in 1965, and top Sox pick of 1966, Carlos May) to achieve a positive WAR for the club.

Frailing had a brief but effective tenure with the White Sox, and major league career. While throwing as a starter and never having a particularly outstanding stretch of time on the farm, the lefty debuted as a September call-up in 1972, and got into action right away, getting one out at Yankee Stadium. Three days later, he earned his first career victory, in a win at Comiskey Park over the Twins, again just getting one out. He totaled three innings in four games in 1972, earning 0.1 WAR — not a bad rate at all!

The next year, still serving as more of a lefty specialist out of the pen, Frailing saw more time with the White Sox and again acquitted himself well, earning 0.6 WAR in a mere 10 games. In his very small sample size on the South Side, Frailing clocked a 2.11 ERA — or in context, a 191 ERA+!

When not on the South Side in 1973, Frailing was tearing it up as a member of the Triple-A Iowa Oaks, and his 11-3 record and 2.86 ERA made him a minor but potentially potent piece of the package (along with Steve Stone, Steve Swisher) sent north in the catastrophic White Sox deal for Ron Santo.

On the north side, the Cubs changed his role, moving him into a starter/swingman/long relief spot, where he was less effective. Still, he finished his career in 1978 still holding on to a sub-4.00 ERA (3.96) and even better 3.65 FIP. His 97 ERA+ for his career indicates an essentially average pitcher who could have seen more time in the majors, especially as his career concluded with two new teams coming into MLB. However, he was troubled by nagging shoulder pain and hung his cleats up after one final season back in the White Sox organization, where he pitched to a 3.11 ERA in Double-A.

Frailing was a native of Wisconsin, and kept some perspective on his career by making a habit of visiting Chicago-area children’s hospitals. We send our condolences to his family and friends.