1980s Yankees relief ace, eventual World Champion George Frazier passes away

Sports Contributor Archive 2020
Sports Contributor Archive 2020 / Ron Vesely/GettyImages

Former New York Yankees reliever George Frazier knew when to finish his big-league career: with a redemptive, championship exclamation point.

Earlier in his MLB tenure, Frazier had set an unfortunate baseball record, taking three losses in the 1981 World Series, the first pitcher to ever do so in a seven-game series. Of course, in order to take three losses in the same World Series, you have to either be a vaunted ace getting three assignments or a trusted reliever. Frazier was the latter, pitching to a 1.63 ERA in 27.2 regular season innings in his first season in the Bronx after being called up from the minors midseason.

Of course he got the ball with several games on the line. It didn't bounce his way. But that was nothing to be ashamed of. Don't believe us? Believe George Steinbrenner, who found Frazier in the locker room immediately after the series loss and calmly told him, “It wasn’t your fault, kid. You’ll be a Yankee next year, don’t worry about it.”

Frazier passed away this week in his native Oklahoma after establishing a second baseball career as a beloved analyst for the Colorado Rockies. According to a tale he told Tyler Kepner in 2011, he never lost that reverence for Steinbrenner and his family at any point along the way.

George Steinbrenner never blamed George Frazier for Yankees' 1981 World Series loss

Frazier reportedly (reportedly!) used to stuff a 12-year-old Hal into trash cans back in the day, but spoke reverently of the way the Boss comforted him through a real-life tragedy, not just that silly on-field stuff.

"In 1983, my dad had a stroke, and I couldn’t get back. He put me on his private airplane and flew me to Missouri. Paid for everything. Picked my kids up in a limousine and had them up to the airport to meet me at Teaneck with my wife.

You’ll never hear me say a bad word about George or Hal or anything about the Yankees."

George Frazier

Frazier returned to Yankee Stadium in 2011 to play in the Old-Timers' Day Game, nearly 25 years after he ended his big-league career with a bang.

The right-hander eventually found his way to ... the 1987 Twins, where he'd throw two scoreless innings in the World Series and come away with a ring. He retired that offseason.

Frazier ended his career a champion. He also inspired this extremely hilarious sound bite from Paul Molitor, who was apparently allowed to say whatever he wanted on the '87 World Series broadcast.

Whether his arsenal was "Staten Island"-inspired or not, Frazier shrugged off the type of ignominy that could end a career before it had even began in the Bronx effectively for two more seasons, survive 10 years in the game, and end with a ring.

His second, third and fourth lives were all baseball-related, and it's lovely the road led him back to Steinbrenner and the Yankees one final time late in his career to put a bow on something that never should've been pinned on his shoulders (and, as The Boss made sure, never was).