Inductee — Bob Friend

bobfriendBob Friend

Class of 1979

Birthplace: Lafayette, IN

Right Handed Pitcher

Biography:

FRIEND, Robert Bartmess (“Warrior,” “Nervous”) – born Nov. 24, 1930, Lafayette; lives in Fox Chapel, Pa. Pittsburgh (NL) 1951-1965, New York (AL) 1966, New York (NL) 1966. P. 602g, 3,611ip, 197-230, 3.58. Debuted April 28, 1951. 6-0, 190, BR, TR

The only pitcher to win two All-Star games, Bob Friend spent 15 of his 16 big league seasons with Pittsburgh. He was the Pirates opening day starter seven times, in 1954, 1956-57-58 and 1960-61-62. Friend holds several other unique distinctions. In 1955 he became the first man to lead the league in earned run average while pitching for a last-place team. He was the winning pitcher in the last game the New York Giants played at the Polo Grounds in 1957. When the Mets played their first game there in 1962, Friend was Pittsburgh’s starter. During an April 1963 game with Cincinnati, he surrendered the first of Pete Rose’s career record 4,256 hits.

Friend came from an athletic family. His older brother, Paul, played outfield for Purdue University and was the Boilermakers’ 1942 MVP. A great high school baseball and football player in West Lafayette, Bob also played basketball and was a golfer. Friend signed with the Pirates in 1950 and compiled a 12-9 record that year at Waco (Big State). One of his wins was a no-hitter against Wichita Falls. Friend finished the year at Indianapolis (American Association), winning two of six decisions.

The Pirates were the National League’s worst team in the years following World War Two, finishing higher than seventh only twice between 1946 and 1957. In 1950 Branch Rickey took over as general manager and began rushing talented young players to the major leagues. Friend joined the Pirates pitching staff in 1951 with only one year of professional experience. In his first four years he won 28 games against 50 losses. Pitching for a last-place team in 1955, he went 14-9 and his 2.84 ERA led the league. Friend had a 2-1 record in All-Star competition. He started and won the 1956 contest and took a loss in relief in 1958. He started the first of two All-Star games in 1960 and earned the victory.

Relying on a fastball and a sinker, Friend led the NL with 22 wins in 1958. He slipped to 8-19 the following season, but his 18-12 record in 1960 helped Pittsburgh win the pennant. Although Friend lost his only two decisions against the New York Yankees, the Pirates won the World Series. In 1961 he struggled to a 14-19 season, but in 1962 he went 18-14. His five shutouts tied for the N.L. lead. Prior to 1966 the Pirates traded Friend to the Yankees, and that June the Yanks sent him to the Mets. Friend was 6-12 with the two New York clubs and retired after the season.

Friend, who earned an economics degree from Purdue, was active in the fledgling players association. He served as the Pirates’ player representative for ten years and was the NL player representative for five years. From 1967 to 1975 Friend served as controller of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County. In 1976 he joined an insurance brokerage, eventually becoming a vice president. Friend was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. His son Bobby toured with the Professional Golfers Association.

From The Encyclopedia of Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players, copyright (c) 2007 by Pete Cava. Reproduced with the author’s permission.